21 Signature Foods to Eat in Chicago

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Signature Foods to Eat in Chicago

United States

Chicago is known across the continent as the Windy City, thanks to the frigid breeze that sweeps through the city. But what Chicago is even more famous for, is the number of iconic dishes it has to offer. From the Deep Dish Pizza to the delectable Popcorn, here is a list of Chicago favorites that attract food enthusiasts around the globe.

21 Signature Foods to Eat in Chicago

1. Chicago Style Hot Dog

A quintessential item, Chicago-Style Hot Dog has an all-beef, seasoned smoked sausage tucked into a soft bun specked with poppy seeds. This dog is wildly popular among sports fans, and rightly so, for it has snazzy toppings of sweet green pickle relish, tomato wedges, onion, pickle spear, sport peppers and celery salt. Fair warning, if you dare to top the dog with ketchup instead of yellow mustard, there may be dire consequences involving angry, windy bois.

2. Tacos

A taco is a traditional Mexican celebration of flavors in the form of corn or wheat tortillas filled with versatile combinations of meat, veggies, beans and condiments such as salsa, guacamole, or sour cream. Chicago’s love for tacos is obvious in the ubiquity of taquerias in the city. Right from classic combos to bold Asian spins, tacos in the city should definitely not be missed out on.

3. Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago’s ultimate signature fare, Deep Dish Pizza is the food equivalent of a steamy affair that one never truly gets over. It is baked in a pan which gives the pizza a characteristically high edge, and thus, extra room for cheese and chunky, tangy tomato sauce. Sink your teeth in the irresistible crust and feel yourself falling head over heels with this cult classic.

4. Kuma Burger

Kuma’s Corner, the place of origin of the famous Kuma Burger, is an absolute heaven for hardcore foodies. Serving inventive sandwich amalgams such as bourbon poached pear, roasted poblano pepper and the like, the food joint has topped itself with the Kuma Burger that consists of 10 ounces of prime ground beef with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. As though all of that wasn’t sufficient, a fried egg is added, making it the most appetizing mountain of a food ever.

5. Nachos

If you think nachos cannot be the showstopper, Chicago will convince you otherwise. Restaurateurs in the city are well versed with thinking out of the box, thus allowing for crafty toppings over nachos that go beyond the usual cheese and jalapenos. To paint a picture, imagine a plate of tostada chips topped with pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and/or pulled pork. And that’s just a singular example. Explore the diversity of toppings and you won’t be disappointed.

6. Bao

Bao is a velvety soft steamed white bun traditional to Chinese cuisine. Typically filled with pork, this warm, savory treat is served as a quirky sandwich through the city. Be prepared to find exclusive, drool-worthy flavor bombs such as Korean-style beef, chicken doused in Thai peanut sauce, or pork belly luxuriously glazed with hoisin sauce.

7. Italian Beef Sandwich

Hands down the best of all sandwiches served in Chicago, the Italian Beef Sandwich has full potential to make your mouth water simply based on description. Roasted sirloin is sliced and cooked in a perfectly seasoned broth, and then stuffed in a thick Italian roll. And the highlight, you get to choose whether you want your sandwich to be dry with only a touch of gravy, wet with generous applications of gravy, or dripping wet with gravy-licious deliciousness.

8. Classic Cheese Burger

While the city plays an exciting medley of trendy food-joints, the old-school cheeseburger strikes a memorable note. Crisp beef patties wholesomely layered with American cheese, mayo-based house sauces, zingy relish and raw onion are sandwiched between rollicking buns, forming a yum, meaty mountain too tempting for words.

9. Pepper and Egg Sandwich

The Pepper and Egg Sandwich is a ravishing Spring tradition in Chicago. Sautéed red and green peppers are whisked into soft, delicate scrambled eggs and piled into a crusty Italian roll. This seasonal breakfast is so good that it will keep you hooked through budtime.

11. Garrett Popcorn

Yes, popcorn has been included in the list with a completely sane mind. If you are thinking of the regular, salted kernels, stop right there. Garrett Popcorn has an array of flavors for freshly made kettle popcorn that will absolutely blow your mind. Running a swift business since 1949, it serves a range from cheesy cheddar to crème brûlée.

12. Churros

A Spanish dessert that features delicately fried dough dusted with cinnamon and/or sugar, Churros are a warm, loving cuddle for the tummy in the Windy City. They have a crisp surface and a soft center, and are commonly paired with dipping sauces such as salted caramel, chocolate, or cookies and cream. This is a dessert you will certainly enjoy sinking your teeth in.

13. Tamales

Tamales are Mesoamerican corn-based masa, or dough, treats filled with meats or beans and wrapped and cooked in corn husk or banana leaves. In Chicago, the steamy corn Tamales popularly take care of the late-night hunger pangs, especially when drinking and partying is involved. The saucy fusion of cheese and chicken in these snacks hits you in the sweet spot.

14. Frozen Custard

Quite similar in appearance to ice cream, Frozen Custard is a cold dessert made from cream, sugar, and eggs. This decadent treat comes in sensational flavors such as peppermint candy, German chocolate cake, eggnog, and so on. Frozen Custard is the kind of sinful dessert that everyone loves to indulge in.

15. Elotes

Fundamentally corn-on-the-cob, Elote is one of the trendiest foods that Chicago has to offer. Moving beyond the classic formula of mayonnaise-brushed corn with dashes of butter, chili and lime, chefs in the city have come up with inventive renditions of the dish, experimenting with both flavor combinations and cooking techniques.

16. Old Fashioned Doughnut

Nothing beats delectable, sweet classics; and the old-fashioned doughnuts are no exception. They are fluffy, pillow-soft on the inside and have a delightful crunchy texture on the outside, coated in a rich vanilla-bean glaze. Especially when dunked in coffee, these doughnuts serve you a literal taste of perfection.

17. Jabirito

Vibrance of the Puerto Rican community has seeped right through to the Jibarito. It is an original Chicago sandwich that… wait for it… has no bread! Layers of meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato are instead sandwiched together between crispy plantains, with generous quantities of garlic mayo. Jabirito makes for an unforgettable bite that you must experience at least once in your life.

18. Polish Sausage

Polish Sausage, or Kielbasa, is a course, U-shaped smoked sausage that has made itself a comfortable home in Chicago eateries. It is a meaty classic, served on a bun dotted with poppy seeds with a hearty dash of yellow mustard. Chicago puts its own spin on it with zesty toppings of caramelized onions, Piccalilli relish, tomatoes, pickle, celery salt, and/or sport peppers.

19. Cupcakes

Chicago has a sweet tooth, and the assortment of cupcakes available in the city is a testament to that. Moving beyond the usual combinations, brace yourself for the thrill of Chocolate Caramel Pretzel, Chocolate and Vanilla Buttercream, or Crème Brûlée compressed into dainty cupcakes.

20. Lechon

Lechon is a Spanish term for roasted suckling piglet. If you are looking for an exemplary, exotic, meaty main course, Lechon is just the right dish for you. The distinct citrusy notes of orange and lime from the marinade make for an intriguing aromatic affair that will make you want to dig in straight away.

21. Cinnamon Rolls

This is a warm, sticky, sugary treat that happens to be a breakfast staple in Chicago. Here in the city, perfect, doughy rolls packed with a cinnamon and brown sugar filling are glazed with heavenly toppings such as bourbon and vanilla bean cream cheese frosting for a tantalizing, quirky twist.

Read also22 Best Desserts You Must Try Out in Chicago


bao / chicago style hot dog / churros / cinnamon rolls / classic cheese burger / cupcakes / Deep Dish Pizza / elotes / frozen custard / Garrett Popcorn / italian beef sandwich / jabirito / kuma burger / lechon / nachos / old fashioned doughnut / pepper and egg sandwich / polish sausage / Tacos / Tamales

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