20 Best Food To Try In Chicago

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Chicago is a city where the wind whispers culinary secrets around towering skyscrapers, and every nook and cranny cradles a taste bud symphony waiting to be played. It's a city where Michelin stars waltz with hole-in-the-wall joints. 

Visiting Chicago for the first time can be overwhelming when it comes to food. The question arises, 'What's the best food in Chicago?' From the original Chicago sandwiches to hot dogs, the following are the top 20 curated list of must-try dishes while in the Windy City. 

1. Eli's Cheesecake

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Among hundreds of fun things to do in the Windy City, the culinary hunt always remains on the top for food enthusiasts. In that case, sweet lovers can't miss trying Eli's Cheesecake.

Since 1980, this iconic bakery has been weaving a spell of sugary enchantment, captivating palates with its ethereal cheesecakes. Each slice is a meticulously crafted masterpiece, a testament to the culinary alchemy that transforms simple ingredients into exquisite symphonies of flavor and texture.

Where: 6701 W Forest Preserve Drive

2. Deep-Dish Pizza at Lou Malnati's

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If you ask the locals where you can get a delicious Deep-Dish Pizza, they might point you to the Lou Malnati's. This family-owned local chain for Italian classics has been in business since 1971.

Even if you're not a big fan of deep-dish pizza, Lou Malnati's will change your mind. Their crust is buttery and flaky, while the cheese is gooey with perfectly seasoned sauce.  You can get all the classic toppings, like sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms, or try something more unique, like spinach.

Where: 805 S State Street

3. Chicago-style Hot Dogs at Portillo's

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Portillo's is the best place to find the best Chicago-style hot dogs in the area. They have all-beef frankfurter tucked into a steamed poppy seed bun, topped with chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, and more. 

Not to forget, ketchup is not allowed in Chi-town-style dogs. Instead, try one with mustard sauce, you'll feel out of this world. So, when do you plan to step into Portillo's to try the famous food from Chicago?

Where: 100 W Ontario Street

4. Buttermilk Old-fashioned Donut at Do-Rite Donuts

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Do-Rite Donuts is a Chicago institution, and for good reason. Their donuts are simply divine with a variety of options, sure to fit your taste. And the signature is the Buttermilk Old-fashioned Donut.

It's a classic cake donut with a crispy exterior and a pillowy-soft interior. The buttermilk glaze is the perfect finishing touch. If you're a chocolate lover, they also have Chocolate Old-Fashioned, made with the same cake batter but dipped in a rich chocolate glaze. 

Where: 233 E Erie Street

5. Edible Balloon Dessert at Alinea

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Alinea, the first three-starred Michelin star restaurant in Chicago offers edible helium balloons for desserts on the table. It sounds strange, but it is one of the most incredible innovative foods in Chicago ever!

They make this dessert from green apple taffy. Get your camera ready to capture the moment. Besides, Alinea pushes the boundaries of what's possible now and then. That's one of the reasons it has been consistently named among the Top 50 restaurants in the world.

Where: 1723 N Halsted Street

6. Rainbow Ice Cream at The Original Rainbow Cone

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The Original Rainbow Cone believes life's too short for just one flavor. So, they came up with rainbow ice cream cone, a symphony of five flavors that paint your taste buds with every lick.

First, a blushing layer of strawberry, and then a ribbon of orange sherbet, bright like a burst of sunshine. Next, a scoop of pistachio, its emerald flecks hinting at nutty intrigue. Following that, a generous dollop of chocolate, and finally, crowning the whole joyous mess, a swirl of Palmer House.

Where: 9233 S Western Avenue

7. Chorizo-stuffed Medjool Dates at AVEC

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Are you even in Chicago if you haven't tried the authentic chorizo-stuffed medjool dates yet? If that interests you, visit AVEC Restaurant in the West Loop neighborhood. 

This dish has been a staple on AVEC's menus for years now. It's a customized dish where sweet Medjool dates are stuffed to the brim with chorizo cheese filling and wrapped in savory bacon. Whatever they serve, it's always on top, no wonder this place has been Chicago's favorite for over two decades.

Where: 615 W Randolph Street

8. Garret Mix at Garret Popcorn

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Garret Popcorn has been serving more than just a microwaved bag of dry kernels since 1949. They feature handcrafted,  freshly made kettle popcorn with cheddar and caramel crisp. 

So, the next time you find yourself in Chicago, seek out a Garret Mix tin and let the symphony of savory and sweet wash over you. You might just discover that popcorn can be much more than just a snack.

Where: 26 W Randolph Street

9. Braised Tofu in StonePot at Lao Sze Chuan

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Nestled in the heart of the Windy City, Lao Sze Chuan is a temple of Sichuan cuisine, where fiery flavors ignite the senses. Among its culinary masterpieces, Braised Tofu in StonePot is a gem.

The journey begins with the vessel: a traditional clay pot heated to a mesmerizing sizzle. As the lid is lifted, a cloud of aromatic steam billows forth, carrying the intoxicating scents of star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and chili oil. For your information, they also have an AYCE buffet on Mondays.

Where: 520 N Michigan Avenue

10. Taffy Apple Cake at Brown Sugar Bakery

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Taffy Apple Cake is a must eat in Chicago, and Brown Sugar Bakery has the best of it. Owner Stephanie Hart serves a slice of decadent cakes, cupcakes, and puddings using grandma's recipe. 

Brown Sugar Bakery is a place where generations have come to savor the flavors of home. And the Taffy Apple Cake is its crown jewel, a taste of the city's soul, a reminder that sometimes, the simplest pleasures are the most profound.

Where: 328 E 75th Street

11. Chicago Barbeque at Smoque BBQ

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In Chi-town's vibrant tapestry of culinary offerings, Smoque  BBQ is a temple of slow-smoked sorcery, where flames whisper secrets to meat. Bring your appetite to relish Chicago Barbeque, one of the famous eats in Chicago.

Smoque's stage is a steel sanctuary adorned with oak-burning smokers that hum like dragons asleep. Inside, meat transforms through the ancient ritual of smoke, its aroma a siren song that lures hungry souls from blocks away.

Where: 3800 N Pulaski Road and 125 S Clark Street

12. Shaved Ice at Mario's Italian Lemonade

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A Windy City summer wouldn't be the same without the shaved ice from Mario's Italian Lemonade. This icy ice cream will make you forget the clunky snow cones for a good reason.

But the artistry goes beyond texture. Mario's paints its icy canvas with a vibrant palette of flavors. Classic lemon reigns supreme, its tangy melody a timeless favorite. The real adventure lies in the unexpected: juicy peach, vibrant watermelon – each scoop a burst of color and taste.

Where: 1068 W Taylor Street

13. Italian Beef Sandwich at Al's Beef

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Opened in 1938, Al's Beef is the first Italian stand in Chi-town, serving famous Italian beef sandwiches. It has three locations in the city, yet the one on Wells Street is mostly crowded.

The Italian beef sandwich is made with thinly sliced roast beef that is dipped in a savory gravy and then piled onto a long Italian roll. The sandwich is then topped with giardiniera, a spicy pickled vegetable relish, and melted cheese. This place is known for its generous portions and friendly service.

Where: 548 N Wells Street

14. Steak at Gene & Georgetti

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Craving a great steak that's truly a cut above the rest? Step into Gene & Georgetti, an old-school steak house that's both elegant and intimate.

Forget fancy Wagyu and dry-aged snobbery. Here, prime Midwestern beef takes center stage, meticulously chosen for its marbling and marination in tradition. Each bite is a love letter to the art of charring, the open flame whispering secrets of caramelized crusts and juicy interiors.

Where: 500 N Franklin Street

15. Classic Cheeseburger at Au Cheval

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Chicago takes patrons to different zones with local flavors when it comes to classic cheeseburgers. Au Cheval welcomes you seven days a week to taste Classic cheeseburgers, more than just a burger.

A thick hand-formed patty seasoned with half and pepper sears on a screaming hot griddle boasts juicy seasoned beef. Crisp lettuce, tangy pickles, and a dollop of house-made dijonnaise orchestrate a chorus of textures and flavors, making every bite a revelation.  

Where: 800 W Randolph Street

16. Pumpkin Hummus at Ema

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Have you ever tried Pumpkin Hummus at Ema in Chicago's River North area? Walking into Ema is like stepping into a sun-drenched courtyard in Santorini. 

Pumpkin Hummus starts with white beans and pumpkin, which are pureed with lemon, seasonings, and spices. Ema adds the twist with toasted pepitas, nutmeg, and brown butter. This seasonal masterpiece won't be around forever, so grab your spoon and head to Ema soon!

Where: 74 W Illinois Street

17. Jibarito Sandwich at La Bomba

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La Bomba's name comes first in mind when it's about Puerto Rican fare and soft drinks. And they have the best Jibarito Sandwich, a Chicago legend!

Want to know the one element that sets this sandwich apart? There's no bread. It's all about crispy plantains that hold together this layer of meats, cheese, lettuce, and more. This unique dish is created by a vibrant Puerto Rican community in Chi-town.

Where: 3221 W Armitage Avenue

18. Butter Toffee at The Fudge Pot

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Try butter toffee at the Fudge Pot, a Chicago legend! Imagine a symphony of textures and flavors, where buttery notes pirouette with the rich, deep caramel of the toffee. Each bite is a delightful dance on the tongue, the crisp toffee yielding to a luxurious melt-in-your-mouth creaminess. 

Those who frequent the Fudge Pot know the toffee as an artisanal masterpiece, hand-crafted with the finest ingredients. It's not just candy; it's an experience, a decadent escape from the ordinary. So, if you find yourself on Wells Street, don't resist the siren song of the butter toffee. 

Where: 1532 N Wells Street

19. Fried Chicken at Harold's

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Looking for the best food in Chicago downtown? Look no further than Harold's to try their world-famous fried chicken. The chicken, marinated to melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, surrenders its soul to the first bite, releasing a torrent of savory perfection. 

Not just the locals and tourists, but renowned faces like Kanye West and Change the Rappere have been to this Chicago institution. Just remember, at Harold's, the line might be long, but the wait is worth it. Your taste buds will thank you for the crispy serenade.

Where: 612 S. Wabash Avenue

20. Cinnamon Roll at Ann Sather

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Wondering what's that which is alluring the customers to come through the doors of Ann Sather for over eight decades? It's their Cinnamon Roll, made oven-fresh with layers and layers of cinnamon-rolled buttery dough.

The final look seems yummy after it's dripped onto a sweet vanilla glaze, totally mouth-watering! If you're looking for a hearty and delicious breakfast or lunch, Ann Sather is a great option. They are open seven days a week from 7 am to 3 pm.

Where: 909 W Belmont Avenue