Guide

Iconic Chicago Foods

by Fernanda DeSouza

posted on October 27, 2017

Photo Courtesy: Giordano's

Chicago might be known for fine dining these days, but this town's still a good bet if you're on the hunt for a greasy spoon. Take a look at this list of gut-busting spots for pizza, hot dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches so you're ready for your next Chicago-style craving.

Chicago-style Hot Dogs: These regional franks have been an institution in this ketchup-hating city for as long as anyone can remember, but were probably invented during the Great Depression, when you could buy one for a nickel. Seriously though, don't ask for ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago. It's pickles, neon green relish, tomatoes, onions and the brightest yellow mustard you can get your hands on served on a poppy seed hot dog bun, or you're not getting anything on it. It's a controversial combination that out-of-towners might scratch their heads at, but in Chicago, it's just right.

Deep Dish Pizza: While there's debate these days as to whether deep dish is just tourist food and not worthy of most locals' time, it's certainly not going anywhere. Its exact origins are shrouded in mystery, but the story goes that deep dish pizza was invented by a Neapolitan chef (called Rudy Malnati...) at the original Pizzeria Uno in the 1940s. Since then, deep dish has changed a lot, now frequently featuring stuffed crust or toppings like barbecue chicken. But people's fervor for this giant tomato pie hasn't died down a bit.

Italian Beef Sandwiches: This truly Midwestern cousin of the French Dip might be a little sloppy and unattractive with its soggy bread and piles of meat, peppers, giardiniera, and onions, but boy is it tasty. Sold at many of the same stands that sell the curious Chicago hot-dog, these slow-roasted off-cuts were likely invented by some of the same people because the less-tender beef used to make them was far more affordable in those dire days.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder exudes such a sense of time and place that you'll expect to see Al Capone seated at one of the wooden booths. You can't say you've run the Chicago pizza gamut until you've tried one of their pizza pot pies. Cash only.

Checkout: Pizza pot pie, Mediterranean bread.

Pequod's Pizza

Pequod's seems like any other deep dish spot. Do not be deceived. The pizza lines here get so long that they opened a bar around the corner just so people would have somewhere to wait. Put your name on the list. We promise you'll be back.

Checkout: Customizable pan pizzas (especially the pepperoni), wings, cheesy garlic bread

Portillo's

The Streeterville location of this Chicagoland counter-service franchise serves classic Chicago fare (think Italian beef sandwhiches and Chicago-style hot dogs) along with decadent original menu items, such as the can't-miss chocolate cake shake.

Checkout: Italian beef sandwich, Chicago-style hot dog, chocolate cake shake, lemon cake

Superdawg Drive In

Since 1948, this road side stand has served Chicagoans unmistakable pickle-topped “dawgs” and crinkle cut fries in paper boxes. Let the kids stretch their legs at the new indoor dining space, or keep it retro and have car hops bring your meal to you.

Checkout: Superdawg, Whoopercheesie (cheese burger), Whoopskidawg (Polish-style sausage)

Luke's Italian Beef

Not only does Luke's serve up one of the city's best Italian beef sandwiches alongside a menu of Chicago cheap eats including pan pizza, hot dogs and burgers, its walls are covered in cartoonish murals that pay homage to the greasy dishes.

Checkout: Italian beef sandwiches

Art of Pizza

The iconic deep dish pizza is alive and well at Art of Pizza. The menu at this easygoing counter-service eatery is jam-packed with deep dish and thin crust pies, ribs, salads, footlong subs and pastas. The best part? Deep dish served by the slice.

Checkout: Art's Meaty Delight, Baked meat ravioli, Full slab rib dinner, Cannoli

Tony's Italian Beef

Since 1975, Tony’s Italian Beef has been serving South Siders hot, drippy beef sandwich, complete with a chickpea-studded giardiniera. Dive into your sandwich at the bare bones counters, or take it to go, along with a wad of napkins.

Checkout: Italian beef sandwich, Pepper & egg sandwich, Pancakes,

Giordano's

Giordano’s claims to be one of the first restaurants to bring stuffed pizza straight from Italy to Chicago. Despite numerous locations, the quality stays consistent. It's a must when sampling deep dish pizza, though the thin crust isn’t bad either.

Checkout: Bacon bbq chicken stuffed deep dish pizza, Chicago classic stuffed deep dish pizza, Cannolis

Lou Malnati's

Lou Malnati’s flagship location has been serving deep-dish pizza since 1971, and with restaurants all over the Chicago area, shows no signs of stopping soon. The Malnati Classic is truly a slice of Chicago, with meat, extra cheese and Buttercrust.

Checkout: Malnati Chicago classic, the Lou, Chocolate chip pizza

Chicago's Dog House

Get your Chicago-style hot dog fix at this counter service spot, or try specialty dogs like the French Poodle, topped with brie and pear slices, or the Snoop Dog, smothered in chili. Sausages, burgers and "frips" (chip-like fries) are also available.

Checkout: French Poodle hot dog, Snoop Dog hot dog, Chihuahua hot dog

Wiener's Circle

Don't go to Wiener's Circle expecting just great hot dogs. Go for the entertainment too. The stand's infamous surly staffers serve Chicago-style hot dogs with a side of sass. Order the chocolate shake, a secret menu item known only to the locals.

Checkout: Chocolate shake, Vienna Red Hot, Char burger, Cheese fries

Al's Beef - Near West Side

Forget the veggies and bite into history at Al's Beef. Thinly sliced beef and thick Italian bread soaked in gravy is simplicity at it's finest, and once you try Al's big beef sandwich, you'll understand what you've been missing out on.

Checkout: Al's Big Beef, Hot Dog with Fries

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