8 Iconic Dishes to Eat in Chicago

By Kenya Barrett

Chicago is known as the windy city of the Midwest, but is also surprisingly famous for its unique cuisine. You may already know a few including specialty hot dogs and pizza, but there are some more we think you should know.

Sweet or savory, here are eight iconic dishes you must try when you travel to Chicago!

Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago definitely gives New York a run for its money in terms of pizza. This style of pizza is probably one of the most famous dishes that hails from this city and it can be prepared in several different ways. Typically, the dough is layered into a high-sided pan and covered with an assortment of cheeses and a meat of your choice before it’s covered in tomato sauce and baked. It’s hard to enjoy just a slice of this heavenly goodness, so it’s best to grab a pie of this cheesy delicacy. A few solid locations to grab a deep dish pizza from include Pizzeria Uno, Lou Malnati’s, and Pequod’s!

The Chicago Hot Dog

Chicago’s franks have become a staple in the city due to the area’s influx of European immigrants during the Great Depression Era. Initially, Jewish immigrants from Germany introduced the residents of Chicago to all-beef dogs since the meat was relatively cheap at the time. Soon thereafter, the dogs became a hit at baseball games and became a regular meal in the city. Today, if you purchase a classic Chicago dog, you can expect a beef frank stuffed in a poppy seed bun and topped with chopped onions, tomatoes, green relish, peppers, a pickle spear, and yellow mustard! Two places that you can stop in to grab a dog are Byron’s and Portillos.

Chicago Popcorn

You can’t make a trip to Chicago without sampling the city’s famous popcorn! Garrett Popcorn opened its first shop in Downtown Chicago back in 1949, flooding the streets with smells of caramel corn and butter. Since then, the popcorn shop has been popping a bunch of new flavors, including the famed Garrett mix. This consists of a 50/50 blend of cheddar popcorn and caramel popcorn. This savory sweet combo is a popular choice for Chicagoians and tourists alike. Feel free to stop in to any of the locations scattered around the city!

Rainbow Cone

This sweet treat has been a fan favorite in Chicago since its creation in 1926. Imagine a cake cone piled high with fresh chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream, as well as pistachio and orange sherbet – hence the name, “Rainbow Cone.” You can enjoy this topped with cherries and walnuts for an extra added flavor. Head down to the Beverly neighborhood or the Navy Pier to get your rainbow cone fix!

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich

Legend has it that Al Ferrari introduced Chicago to the Italian beef sandwich back in 1938 during the Great Depression. His technique included shaving thin slices of beef and layering it onto thick sliced loaf of Italian bread. Throw some toppings such as olives, cheese, peppers, and onions on top and boom – you’ve got yourself a Chicago Italian beef sandwich. To add a little more flavor, you can enjoy the sandwich dipped in jus – a delicious broth from the roasting of the beef. If you’re looking to try Al’s original, check out the Brick and Mortar in Little Italy! If not, feel free to stop by Johnnie’s Beef, another honorable mention!

Flaming Saganaki

While the name sounds a bit intimidating, Flaming Saganaki is well worth a try during your time in Chicago. This Greek inspired dish originated from the now defunct Parthenon Restaurant, but has been picked up by other chefs and continues to live on in the area. The dish consists of a slab of white cheese that is covered in flour, drenched in oil, and is lit on fire in a small pan. The flame is then extinguished with fresh squeezed lemon juice and is ready to eat. Consider stopping by a Greek Islands Restaurant if you’d like to sample this fiery cheesy delicacy!


This Puerto Rican-inspired sandwich can be found all over the city due to its flavorful taste and high demand. The very first jibarito originated in Humboldt Park, and is much more than your average sandwich. Plantains serve as the “buns” of this sandwich, which is crafted with a meat of your choice, veggies, and cheese. Most jibarito's are accompanied with garlic mayo, which gives it an extra kick! One of the most popular spots to grab one of these tasty Puerto Rican creations from is the Jibarito Stop in Pilsen.

Chicago Barbeque

If you think BBQ is only restricted to the South, you are sadly mistaken. Of all things, Chicago has become renowned for its barbeque eateries that are conveniently scattered around the city. Certain spots utilize smokers to cook up their meats while others prefer the good ole fashioned grill method for that authentic charcoal taste. If you’re interested in rib tips slathered in a memorable sauce, stop by Lem’s Bar-B-Q. If you have a taste for baby back ribs or brisket, make your way to Soul & Smoke. For BBQ with a bit of Texas flair, definitely hit up ATX Bodega!


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