The 23 Most Iconic Chicago Dishes You Must Try at Least Once
Gooey, cheesy, chocolatey and so much more
It’s no secret that Chicago is an uh-mazing food city, home to both up-and-coming chefs and old-school icons. Good thing we love to eat, because there’s a lot of food to be eaten. Here, 23 of the most quintessentially Chicago food items ever.
RELATED: 18 Pasta Dishes in Chicago You Must Eat Before You Die
Banana Split at Margie’s Candies
In business since 1933, Margie’s is a glorious trip back in time, replete with homemade chocolates, ice-cream sundaes and all the hot fudge you can handle. You’ll never regret ordering the banana split.
Multiple locations; margiesfinecandies.com
Wiener schnitzel at The Berghoff Restaurant
The Berghoff Restaurant has been doing its part to give German food the good name it deserves since 1898. That’s a long, long time. Bring on the Wiener schnitzel.
17 W. Adams St.; 312-427-3170 or theberghoff.com
The Rainbow Cone at Rainbow Cone
Orange sherbet, pistachio, strawberry, chocolate and something called “New York vanilla.” Whatever it is, it’s just so beautiful.
840 E. Grand Ave.; 773- 238-7075 or rainbowcone.com
Chicken Vesuvio at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse
No one is more Chicago than Harry Caray, and nothing stands out at his eponymous restaurant like the Chicken Vesuvio. A succulent, hearty portion of chicken baked alongside potatoes and peas make for the ultimate comfort meal.
33 W. Kinzie St.; 312-828-0966 or harrycarays.com
Double Cheeseburger at Au Cheval
By now, every burger-loving Chicagoan has a story about the absurd wait times for a table at Au Cheval. But we all know it’s busy for a reason—all it takes is one bite into the world-famous burger to understand why.
800 W. Randolph St.; 312-929-4580 or auchevalchicago.com
Pastrami Sandwich at Manny’s Deli & Cafeteria
Stamped with Obama’s seal of approval, the corned-beef sandwich at Manny’s Delicatessen—a no-frills take on the classic lunchtime order—is everything you want in a midday meal (nap not included).
1141 S. Jefferson St.; 312-939-2855 or mannysdeli.com
Garrett’s Mix at Garrett Popcorn
If we have to explain why this buttery, cheesy and caramel-y trifecta of perfectly popped kernels makes the list, we need to have a serious discussion about your duties as a Chicagoan.
Multiple locations; garrettpopcorn.com
Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel Gelato at Black Dog Gelato
We consider ourselves experts in the field of gelati, so take it from us: no one does offbeat flavors better than our hometown heroes at Black Dog Gelato. Get the goat cheese cashew caramel, because duh.
859 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-3116 or blackdogchicago.com
The Lou at Lou Malnati’s
As Chicagoans, it’s our civic responsibility to defend the honor of deep-dish pizza at all costs. Lou Malnati’s does it up right with the namesake pie, stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and a metric ton of mozzarella.
Multiple locations; loumalnatis.com
Steak Jibarito at EL NUEVO BORINQUEN
Who needs bread when you’ve got fried plantains? This genius take on a sandwich was invented at this Humboldt Park mainstay, and we’re so happy we get to reap the delicious benefits.
1720 N. California Ave.; 773-799-8390 or nuevoborinquen.com
Smoked Salmon from Calumet Fisheries
Calumet Fisheries has earned both a Michelin star and a passionate advocate in one Anthony Bourdain, but the small restaurant on Chicago’s southern outskirts couldn’t care less. Its smoked fish is as exquisite as it is unrefined, and it's known that from day one.
3259 E. 95th St.; 773-933-9855 or calumetfisheries.com
Original Cheesecake from Eli’s Cheesecake
We love our cheese, we love our dessert, and we love our ability to enjoy both at once. Enter Eli’s cheesecake, the most quintessential slice of Chicago there is.
6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr.; 800-354-2253 or elicheesecake.com
Magic Beans at Girl & The Goat
Words cannot fully capture our love for these legumes, so deeply do they transcend language. Cashews, fish sauce and the oh-so-perfect crunch have us in a permanent state of heart-eyed smiley face over these magic beans.
809 W. Randolph St.; 312-492-6262 or girlandthegoat.com
Pizza Puff at Albano’s Pizzeria
Did somebody say puff puff, pizza? This creation is as Chicago as they come, all fried dough and cheesy goodness made for late-night snacking.
5913 W. Roosevelt Rd. or 708-863-0060
Mr. G at JP Graziano Grocery & Sub Shop
The house specialty is a bona fide masterpiece, with imported provolone, hot sopressata, prosciutto, salami and truffle mustard. It’s time to take your lunch to the next level.
908 W. Randolph St.; 312-666-4587 or jpgraziano.com
Plain Glazed at Doughnut Vault
Brendan Sodikoff, the brain behind Au Cheval and Bavette’s, continues to knock it out of the park with the always-packed Doughnut Vault. The cake donuts are amazingly fluffy in any variation, but we’re partial to the sweet and simple plain glazed.
401 N. Franklin St.; doughnutvault.com
Peking Duck at Sun Wah BBQ
This Uptown eatery is known the city over for its generous, expertly seasoned Peking duck. Bring friends—a one-woman meal this is not.
5039 N. Broadway St.; 773-769-1254 or sunwahbbq.com
Buttercream Cupcakes at Sweet Mandy B’s
Whether you opt for the jumbo or mini version of these delectable desserts, your taste buds are in for a major treat. We’re partial to the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, pictured above and introduced right in time for the start of the school year.
1208 W. Webster Ave.; 773-244-1174 or sweetmandybs.com
Italian Beef at Portillo’s
Hot peppers, sautéed onions, thin slices of roasted beef all on a crispy yet soft baguette—these are the essentials of a basic Italian beef sandwich. But Portillo’s contends there’s no wrong way to order one. Try it with a side of giardiniera or dipped in gravy. You’ll love it all.
Multiple locations; portillos.com
Cinnamon Rolls at Ann Sather
Dear every other brunch place on earth, please take note: It doesn’t hurt to include a side of two gigantic cinnamon rolls with pretty much every menu item. You can eat one with your meal and take one home for later.
Multiple locations; annsather.com
Saganaki at The Parthenon
This is the birthplace of flamin’ cheese (well, in Stateside, at least).
312 S. Halsted St.; 312-726-2407 or theparthenon.com
Pork Tamales from the Tamale Man
The Tamale Man is Chicago’s very own Santa Claus, showing up with delicious gifts just when you need him most. Whether he saves you after a long night of karaoke or a work-sanctioned happy hour, the tamales are always bar none.
Follow him at twitter.com/tamaletracker
Char Dog at The Wiener Circle
No list of Chicago-style cuisine would be complete without the mention of our absolutely iconic hot dog, hold the ketchup, and perhaps no purveyor is quite as infamous as The Wiener Circle. The staff will give you a hard time, but we know they love repping the Windy City and upholding our exceedingly high standards for encased meats.
2622 N. Clark St.; 773-477-7444 or wienercircle.net