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5 Things to Eat in Chicago

Chicago is one of the world's great cities, and when there's a great city, there's usually great food. People in Chicago love good food, and this can be seen across the thousands of places that there are to eat at, offering food from all over the world.

Whether its traditional, simple food or something more innovative and cutting edge, Chicago has you covered.

This list of 5 things to eat in Chicago barely scratches the surface of what the city has to offer, but as a starting point, it gives you 5 great delights that will be sure to leave you more than content. In no particular order, here they are.


Cheeseburger, Au Cheval

People line up for the cheeseburger at Au Cheval, which as been voted as one of the best burgers in America. One taste and you'll soon realise why. Two W.W. Johnson Farms prime beef patties, 2 slices of Kraft American cheese, Dijonnaise (lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard) and housemade pickles all find their home in between a bun that's been toasted on both sides.

The fried egg and thick-cut peppered bacon are optional extras but if you want the full experience, you best be making sure you add both to your order. If you're really feeling indulgent, you can even get a slab of foie gras in there too.

The humble cheeseburger might be one of the simplest things out there but at Au Cheval, it's perfection.

Deep Dish Pizza, Gino's East

Many people have a love/hate relationship with deep dish pizza, with this controversial Chicago delicacy dividing many over the years. While we tend to agree that this isn't a pizza (it's more of a pie), that doesn't change the fact that a deep dish pizza, when done right, is a whole lot of delicious.

The thick bready base, the gooey mozzarella layer and those toppings (always make sure you get some Italian sausage in there) combine with red tomato sauce to create something obscenely indulgent. 

There are several places in town that do a great deep dish pizza but for us it's hard to go past the offering at Gino's East, which even brews its own craft beers on site, many of which can only be found at the restaurant. If you can't get to Gino's East, Lou Malnati's is another favourite of ours.

Donuts, Doughnut Vault

The humble donut is another one of those food items that's undergone a renaissance in recent years. The doughy, oily donuts of the past have been tossed aside by a new breed of individuals who have focused their efforts on getting their donuts just right.

Doughnut Vault

is one of the best of the new breed of donut shops that have popped up around Chicago and only make a small number of donuts each day. The shop closes once they sell out, so make sure you get there early.

What makes these donuts so appealing? Well they're not greasy, the bread isn't dougy and they don't leave you feeling uncomfortable after eating them. A really good example of how focusing on technique and quality ingredients can take something simple to the next level.

Hot Dog, Portillo's

Ask someone who isn't from Chicago for an example of Chicago food and the first thing they'll say is "Deep DIsh PIzza". Number two, however, will generally be the Chicago-style hot dog.

Portillo's has been going strong since 1963, and is still one of the best places in town to get your hot dog fix. What exactly is a Chicago-style hot dog? It's an all-beef frankfurter with mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a steamed poppy seed bun.

You might have noticed that ketchup isn't in the list of ingredients above and that's not a mistake. The Chicago-style hot dog does not contain ketchup, and if you ask for ketchup you'll receive stares and rolling eyes. It's just not done in Chicago, so don't.

BBQ, Smoque

Smoque offers proof that you don't need to go south to enjoy great American BBQ. Unlike many places that try to recreate the BBQ of a particular region, Smoque differs in that they aim to create BBQ that they enjoy, which takes influences from all of the great BBQ traditions in America.

Texas-style beef brisket is served along with Memphis-style ribs and Carolina pulled pork. Smoque are very proud of the quality of the meat that they serve and have created specific sauces to go with each type of meat, in specific quantities. It's all about balance and this attention to detail is clear across the entire menu.

There might not be such a thing as "Chicago-style BBQ" yet, but if Smoque's food is any indication of what it could look like, consider us sold on the idea.

Au Cheval,
Gino's East,
Doughnut Vault,
Portillo's Hot Dogs,
Smoque BBQ

About the Author


I'm Paul, founder and editor-in-chief of online food and travel magazine "The City Lane". I love to explore the world and its cities, and discover the best places to eat and travel experiences to be had, whether they are new or old, popular or hidden.