Chicago may be referred to as the “Second City” in reference to existing in the shadow of the Big Apple, but it refuses to play second fiddle to any culinary locale in the world thanks to its eclectic ethnic makeup which makes it truly one of the biggest melting pots in the world.
For those that visit, the smell of boiled hot dogs sans ketchup and deep dish pizza which more closely resembles a quiche than a traditional pizza pie can intimidate even the most daring eaters.
While those traditional classics do in fact make up the backbone of the Chicago culinary tradition, there are plenty of other signature dishes that may have roots elsewhere, but have entrenched themselves alongside the Vienna Beef legend and tomato-sauce-laden sombrero as certifiable classics.
When inside the city limits and your stomach begins to rumble like the EL running overhead, look no further than these 10 dishes.
Deep Dish Pizza
2207 N. Clybourn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
While there is probably no wrong answer when it comes to grabbing deep dish in the city – whether it’s Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East, Uno’s or anything else that easily rolls off the tongue – Pequod’s is a “local’s” favorite.
If a recent TripAdvisor post is any indication of the type of consistency Pequod’s in churning out, patrons can expect lines up to two hours long for the chance to overdose on buttery crust, gooey mozzarella and sauce that evokes imagery of Italian tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine.
Where: Chicago’s Dog House
816 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
Legendary Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko once put it, “Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians” as it relates to putting ketchup on a Chicago-style hot dog.
While there is no shortage of places serving up the Vienna beef classic coated in mustard, relish, sport peppers, pickles, tomatoes and celery salt, relative newcomer Chicago’s Dog House (which opened in 2009) has already earned the distinction of being named the third best hot dog by Chicago Eater in 2015 and is viewed as the “spiritual successor to Hot Doug’s.”
Where: Johnnie’s Beef
7500 W. North Ave.
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
For those that live in Chicago, the phrase “Italian beef” is as natural a pairing as salt and pepper. Featuring a simple construction which includes a fresh sandwich roll and thinly sliced roast beef “dipped” in its own liquids from the cooking process – and the option of cheese or hot or sweet peppers – it certainly fills the void when lunch needs to be a person’s biggest meal of the day.
While you can’t go wrong with other places like Al’s or Joe Boston’s, Johnnie’s Beef was named Illinois selection for “the best thing to eat in every state” by Thrillist.
Where: Central Gyros
3127 N. Central Ave.
Chicago, IL 60634
Established in 1979, original Central Gyros has been providing the Chicago area with some of the best Greek food around.
Officially pronounced “YEE-ros” which is Greek for “spin,” the taste of Greece is a mixture of beef and lamb, conveniently wrapped in a velvety soft piece of pita and topped with onions, tomatoes and Tzatziki sauce.
Where: Taqueria Los Barrilitos
3518 W. 25th St.
Chicago, IL 60623
Similar in nature to how a gyros is sliced from a vertical rotisserie, the chili-stained tacos al pastor at Taqueria Los Barrilitos in the Little Village neighborhood (dubbed the beating heart of Chicago’s taco scene) satiates all the salty and tangy desires when one bites into a taco.
Where: Papa’s Cache Sabroso
2517 W. Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
The Jibarito is a traditional Puerto Rican sandwich where the bread has been replaced with flattened, fried green plantains and loaded with a filling of meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato.
Unlike other dishes, the Jibarito is native to Chicago and traces back to Chicago restaurateur Juan Figueroa who introduced it at his Borinquen Restaurant in Humboldt Park in 1996.
Although the original location is still churning out sandwiches, Papa’s Cache Sabroso has taken the uniquely-Chicago dish to a whole new level by reinterpreting it as a twist on another culinary classic; the Philly cheesesteak.
Where: Community Tavern
4038 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60641
Thanks to John Belushi and Saturday Night Live, the “cheeseburger” has also become synonymous with Chicago as well.
Named “best new restaurant in 2015” by Chicago Magazine, Community Tavern’s interpretation on the classic includes two patties, aged cheddar cheese, pickles, red onion and house-cut fries – and can be consumed in a trendy local where birdcage chandeliers hover over its cozy 35-seat bar.
Where: David Burke’s Primehouse
616 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Nothing says “steak perfection” like a time-tested aging process that isn’t muddled with sauces and other gastronomy techniques. Simply put, the meat should “speak for itself.”
At David Burke’s Primehouse, each cut of meat is aged between 28 to 75 days with Himalayan rock salt and features cuts one would expect like a filet, T-bone and Kansas City strip – resulting in marbleized, tender beef with a rich depth of flavor.
Where: Au Cheval
800 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607
While the burger at Au Cheval certainly rivals the aforementioned selection at Community Tavern, it’s their golden french fries made with a twist that will really knock your socks off.
Featuring a fried egg placed on top to add to the already creamy perfection achieved from being drizzled with a creamy mornay sauce and garlic aioli, these taters will certainly cause your heart to work overtime.
Where: Parson’s Chicken and Fish
2952 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Parson’s Chicken and Fish in Logan Square doesn’t try to reinvent fried chicken. Rather, they ensure that every step of the process is done right – from the lightly-battered crust to the succulent poultry that is always juicy and never dry.
- Main image: The Infatuation