If you are expecting this Chicago food guide to only contain a list of places to grab some deep dish pizzas and other quintessential American foods, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Don’t worry, I’ll guide you through the most iconic dishes you should try while staying in the Windy City–and which joints cook them best.
El Nuevo Borinquen: 1720 N California Ave.
Since the first migrants settled in the city in the 1930s, Puerto Ricans have long been involved in the cultural makeup of Chicago. When it comes to food, one of the most significant contributions is El Jibarito–a sandwich where tostones (fried green plantains) are used in lieu of bread.
Whether you add shrimp, ham, chicken or steak to your jibarito, it will always be crispy, garlicky, and riquisimo!
Indian Food. Period.
Along Devon Ave., West Rogers Park
As a result of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, an increased number of Indians came to Chicago. Nowadays, Devon Avenue (between Damon & California Ave.) could be called Little India.
Whether it’s Uru-Swati’s vegetarian samosa chaat; Mysore Woodlands’ tear-jerking-hot cilantro tamarind soup rasam; or Tiffin’s mild chicken tikka masala, any Indian food joint you choose along Devon will make your taste buds’ day.
Cemitas Puebla: 817 W. Fulton Market, West Loop
You can’t go wrong with Mexican food in Chicago. Mexicans, in fact, make up the largest Hispanic group living in the city.
There is one particular Mexican delicacy that has become a Chicago institution: cemitas or Mexican-style sandwiches. Standing out in the crowd? The three-meat cemita atomica with Oaxacan cheese, avocado, and smoked chipotle sauce.
Italian Beef Sandwich
Johnnie’s Beef: 7500 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park
Spicy Italian beef sandwich, topped with sweet peppers, then dunked in its own juices. Now that’s a classic Chicagoan food.
Who does it best, though? It’s down to Al’s Beef (presumptive 1938 creator), Johnnie’s Beef, and Portillo’s. Shockingly, even chain restaurants dish out amazing food in Chicago.
I’d go to Johnnie’s though, as getting to this local diner is part of the experience.
Chicago-style Hot Dog
Gene & Jude’s: 2720 River Rd., River Grove (cash only)
To qualify as a Chicago original, a hot dog must be 100 percent beef and in its casing for a nice snap; lay on a poppy seed bun; and be topped with tomato slices, chopped onions, sport peppers, relish, mustard, celery salt, and a pickle spear. You could stretch it by only having the onions, peppers, mustard, and relish as toppings.
Please, don’t ask for ketchup. Not only is it seen as an insult, but in some cases, the restaurant will simply not have it available!
No deep dish pizza. Sorry.
Don’t mention a “Chicago-style deep dish pizza” to locals either–many of them will likely roll their eyes. An authentic Chicago food list would not include such a travesty, they’d say.
Proceed at your own risk!