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A Taste of Chicago: Exploring the City’s Must-Try Foods and Iconic Dishes

When it comes to culinary experiences, Chicago is a treasure trove of mouthwatering dishes and diverse flavors. From the famous deep-dish pizza to the legendary Chicago-style hot dog, the Windy City offers a seemingly endless array of tasty delights that will satisfy any foodie’s cravings. In this article, we’ll take you on a gastronomic journey through Chicago’s iconic dishes and must-try foods that you simply can’t miss on your next visit.

  • Deep-Dish Pizza: A Windy City Classic

Deep Dish Pizza from Giordano'sNo trip to Chicago would be complete without indulging in its most famous culinary creation: deep-dish pizza. This hearty pie boasts a thick, buttery crust filled with layers of gooey cheese, flavorful tomato sauce, and your choice of toppings. The dish is baked to perfection in a deep pan, resulting in a pizza that’s more akin to a savory pie than a traditional flat slice.

While many establishments serve deep-dish pizza in Chicago, head to local favorites like Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East, or Giordano’s to get a true taste of this iconic dish. Be prepared to wait for your pizza, as it typically takes around 45 minutes to bake – but trust us, it’s well worth the wait.

  • Chicago-Style Hot Dog: A Fully-Loaded Treat

The Chicago-style hot dog is a masterpiece of flavors and textures, served in a steamed poppy seed bun. This fully-loaded frankfurter is typically topped with yellow mustard, neon green relish, chopped onions, tomato wedges, a kosher dill pickle spear, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt. Its origins date back to the Great Depression when vendors began adding a variety of toppings to make a filling and inexpensive meal. One thing you won’t find on a true Chicago-style hot dog is ketchup, which is considered a major faux pas in the Windy City.

To enjoy an authentic Chicago-style hot dog, visit iconic spots like Portillo’s, Superdawg, or Wiener’s Circle, where you’ll be treated to a delicious and satisfying taste of Chicago’s culinary history.

  • Italian Beef Sandwich: A Juicy Delight

Another Chicago staple is the Italian beef sandwich, featuring thinly sliced, seasoned roast beef that’s been slow-roasted and then simmered in a savory jus. The Italian beef sandwich was created in Chicago in the 1930s by Italian immigrants, who wanted a flavorful yet budget-friendly meal. The tender beef is piled high on an Italian roll and topped with your choice of sweet peppers or spicy giardiniera. For an even more indulgent experience, ask for your sandwich “dipped” – the entire roll is submerged in the flavorful jus, making for a delectably messy meal.

Head to Al’s Beef or Mr. Beef to sample some of the city’s finest Italian beef sandwiches, and don’t forget to grab a stack of napkins – you’ll need them!

  • Jibarito: A Unique Chicago Creation

The jibarito is a unique sandwich that was created right here in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. This innovative dish swaps out traditional bread for crispy, flattened plantains, which are then filled with seasoned meat (typically steak), lettuce, tomato, cheese, and garlicky mayonnaise. The result is a deliciously crunchy and flavorful sandwich that’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.

To try an authentic jibarito, visit Borinquen Restaurant in the Humboldt Park neighborhood or Papa’s Cache Sabroso, both of which serve up delicious versions of this one-of-a-kind creation.

  • Garrett Popcorn Mix: A Sweet and Savory Snack

A sweet and savory popcorn combination from the famous Garrett Popcorn Shops, featuring a mouthwatering blend of caramel and cheddar popcorn. Established in 1949, Garrett Popcorn Shops have become a beloved institution in Chicago, with locals and tourists alike lining up to get their hands on this addictive snack. Visit one of their multiple locations throughout the city to satisfy your popcorn cravings.

  • Chicago-Style Pizza Puff: Deep-Fried Goodness

A deep-fried pocket of pizza dough filled with cheese, tomato sauce, and various toppings, this snack is a popular choice at many local pizzerias and fast-food joints. While its exact origins are unclear, the pizza puff is believed to have been created in the 1970s by a local food distributor. To try this delicious treat, stop by spots like D’Amato’s Bakery, Father & Son Pizzeria, or Fatso’s Last Stand.

  • Pierogi

A nod to Chicago’s strong Polish heritage, these delicious dumplings are filled with ingredients such as potatoes, cheese, sauerkraut, or fruit and are typically served with sour cream. Pierogi have been enjoyed in Poland for centuries and were brought to Chicago by Polish immigrants. For a taste of authentic pierogi, visit traditional Polish restaurants like Kasia’s Deli, Smak-Tak, or Pierogi Heaven.

  • Chicken Vesuvio

A flavorful Italian-American dish originating in Chicago, Chicken Vesuvio features roasted chicken and potatoes cooked with garlic, oregano, white wine, and olive oil. The dish is believed to have been created in the 1930s at the Vesuvio Restaurant in Chicago. To sample this Chicago classic, head to Italian restaurants like Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse or Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap.

  • Shrimp DeJonghe

Shrimp DeJonghe is a classic Chicago dish with a rich culinary history that dates back to the early 20th century. This scrumptious recipe features succulent shrimp bathed in a garlic, butter, sherry, and breadcrumb sauce, baked to perfection and served bubbling hot. Its unique blend of flavors and textures creates an unforgettable dining experience that has made it a beloved staple of Chicago’s culinary scene.

The origins of Shrimp DeJonghe can be traced back to the DeJonghe Brothers’ Hotel and Restaurant, which opened its doors in Chicago in 1901. Over the years, Shrimp DeJonghe has become synonymous with Chicago’s culinary heritage. Its mouthwatering combination of tender shrimp, aromatic garlic, rich butter, and crispy breadcrumbs offers a delightful contrast of flavors and textures that has enchanted generations of food lovers. While many restaurants have their own unique twists on the dish, the essence of Shrimp DeJonghe remains true to its roots.

To experience this iconic Chicago dish for yourself, head to establishments like The Drake Hotel, where Shrimp DeJonghe has been a menu staple since the 1930s, or try it at local favorites like The Signature Room at the 95th or Shaw’s Crab House. No matter where you choose to indulge, Shrimp DeJonghe is sure to be a highlight of your Chicago culinary adventure.

  • Paczki

A Polish treat that’s especially popular during Chicago’s annual Paczki Day celebrations, these deep-fried pastries are filled with fruit preserves, custard, or sweet cheese and topped with powdered sugar or icing.