Home Chicago Explorer A Foodie’s Guide to Chicago: Must-Try Dishes and Where to Find Them

A Foodie’s Guide to Chicago: Must-Try Dishes and Where to Find Them

Chicago, a city renowned for its bold architecture and fierce winds, is also a powerhouse of culinary delights. With a diverse population and a rich food culture, the Windy City offers a range of iconic dishes that you can’t leave without trying. From deep-dish pizza to exotic delicacies, here’s a foodie’s guide to the must-try dishes in Chicago and the best places to find them.

1. Deep-Dish Pizza

What it is: Unlike any other pizza, Chicago’s deep-dish pizza is characterized by a thick crust that rises high at the edges, allowing for copious amounts of cheese and chunky tomato sauce. Where to try: Lou Malnati’s is arguably one of the best places to get a taste of authentic deep-dish pizza. Their buttery crust and exclusive sausage topping keep locals and tourists coming back.

2. Chicago-Style Hot Dog

What it is: This is no ordinary hot dog. The Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. Where to try: Head to Portillo’s to enjoy this classic Chicago staple. Their hot dogs are as authentic as they come, complete with all the traditional toppings.

3. Italian Beef

What it is: This sandwich is made with thin slices of seasoned roast beef, simmered and served au jus (known locally as 'gravy’) on a long Italian-style roll. The bread soaks up the juice, and the sandwich is typically topped with Chicago-style giardiniera or sautéed green Italian sweet peppers. Where to try: Al’s Beef is legendary in Chicago for serving up some of the best Italian beef sandwiches. Opt for the dipped version if you don’t mind a bit of a mess.

4. Jibarito

What it is: A unique Chicago creation, the jibarito is a sandwich made with flattened, fried green plantains instead of bread. The plantains sandwich layers of steak, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and garlic-flavored mayonnaise. Where to try: Papa’s Cache Sabroso in the Humboldt Park neighborhood offers one of the best jibaritos in the city. The flavors are authentic, and the plantains add a delightful crunch.

5. Garrett Popcorn

What it is: A Chicago tradition since 1949, Garrett Popcorn is known for its blend of caramel crisp and cheese popcorn, which locals call „The Mix.” Where to try: Visit any Garrett Popcorn shop around the city, especially the ones on Michigan Avenue, to grab a bag of this addictive snack.

6. Paczki

What it is: These Polish pastries are doughnuts filled with fruit or cream and are especially popular around Fat Tuesday as Chicago has a large Polish community. Where to try: Head to the Bridgeport neighborhood and stop by Weber’s Bakery to get some of the fluffiest and most flavorful paczki in Chicago.


Chicago’s food scene is as diverse as its population, offering an array of flavors that mirror the city’s multicultural background. Whether you’re craving something savory or sweet, traditional or unique, this guide will help you navigate the city’s culinary landscape. So, come hungry and leave happy, knowing you’ve experienced the true taste of Chicago.

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