With numerous Michelin Bib Gourmand designations and
Michelin-rated restaurants, it's no wonder that Chicago is renowned as a
culinary destination. The real draw, however, is its indigenous foods. From the Chicago-style hotdog and deep-dish
pizza to the famed Italian beef sandwich, Chicago has many different types of
food and restaurants that are original to the city. Plan an outing for clients
at one of these memorable spots, and give them a real taste of Chicago.
1250 S. Union Ave., Chicago
At this Chicago institution, which opened in 1939, the Polish
sausage is king. Just like its cousin, the Chicago-style hotdog, the Polish
sausage sandwich calls for a very specific method for being served. It starts
with a white hotdog bun smeared with yellow salad mustard, then a third-pound
grilled beef and pork polish sausage made with Jim's recipe, followed by a heap
of the caramelized onions and topped with two hot sport peppers.
100 W. Ontario St., Chicago
Dick Portillo opened up The Dog House - a tiny hotdog stand - in 1963 in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park. In just a few years, The Dog House achieved much success. It remodeled and renamed itself as Portillo's in 1967. Today, what began as a hot dog stand has grown to include 17 Chicago locations. The business remains operated by its founder, Dick Portillo.
6363 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Established in 1948, newlyweds Maurice and Florence
Berman developed their own special dog to stand out from other hot dog vendors.
With their secret recipe and unique structure - a small building topped with
two 12-foot hotdog statues named Maurie and Flaurie - the two began serving
their famous Superdawg®. The Superdawg®, whose name was inspired by popular
comics of the 1940s, is not a wiener - not a frankfurter - not a red-hot - but
their own exclusive creation. Aside from a few additions to the building and
the menu, not much has changed at this family-owned Chicago favorite spot. The
secret recipe and carhop service continues to be the core of the business,
making it a nostalgic place for many who visit it.
2501 N. Damen Ave., Chicago
No visit to Chicago would be complete without trying an eponymous Chicago-style hot dog: an all-beef hot dog nestled in a steamed poppy-seed bun, topped with mustard, relish, chopped onions, tomato slices on one side, a pickle on the opposite side, and two sport peppers on top of the relish and onions, finished with celery salt. Vienna Beef originally introduced the hot dog to Americans at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, and the love affair with hot dogs has continued ever since. To this day, they proudly serve the Chicago-style hot dog.
ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES
The Italian beef sandwich was born during the Great Depression when meat was in short supply and people were looking for ways to stretch their dollar. The sandwich allowed for use of cheaper kinds of meat by seasoning and roasting it before slicing it thinly so there could be more to go around. These thin slices of beef were then soaked in a warm beef broth or gravy before being placed on a bun. Diners can choose to have it served dry (the beef is pulled from the broth with most of juice dripped off before placing it on the roll), wet (the beef is placed into the roll without letting the juices drip off, and a scoop of juice is poured on top of the beef in the roll), or dipped (once the beef is in the roll, the entire roll is dipped into the broth). Many Chicagoans will claim the latter is the proper way to eat an Italian beef. The beef can either be hot or sweet - "hot" refers to hot peppers or giardiniera, and "sweet" refers to roasted green bell peppers. Italian beef stands and restaurants are plentiful in the Chicago area, but these are just a few establishments that have been synonymous with this Chicago original.
Al's Italian Beef
Multiple locations, original at 1079 W. Taylor St., Chicago
Opened in 1938, in the Little Italy neighborhood, Al's Italian Beef is the oldest establishment serving Italian Beef. The menu also includes other Chicago originals like the Chicago-style hot dog and Polish sausage. Today Al's Beef is still family-operated and has grown to include numerous locations in the Chicago area.
666 N. Orleans St., Chicago
In 1978 Mr. Beef joined the Italian Beef competition, by opening its one and only location in the River North neighborhood. Mr. Beef cooks its beef onsite and has received national exposure when The Tonight Show host Jay Leno proclaimed it as his favorite place in Chicago and when it won against Al's Beef on the Travel Channel's Food Wars. Unlike its competition, Mr. Beef has only one location.
ONLY-IN-CHICAGO DINING INNOVATIONS
The Signature Room at the 95th®
875 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Opened in 1993, The Signature Room is located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center, the 100-story anchor of The Magnificent Mile. The restaurant is best known for its unobstructed views of the city and Lake Michigan.
The Walnut Room at Macy's on State Street
111 N. State St., Chicago
Opened in 1907, The Walnut Room was the first restaurant in a department store. The 17,000-square-foot Walnut Room is outfitted with imported wood from Russia and Austrian chandeliers. The restaurant is open year round, but it becomes an even more popular and magical destination during the holiday season when its sparkling Christmas tree is on display at the center of the dining room.
For more than 50 years, this classic pizzeria has been dishing out delicious deep-dish pizzas, such as the original pan sausage pizza and ultra gooey cheese pizza, alongside classic Italian dishes. The pizzeria got its start when Jim Stolfe traded his 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire to open the first Connie's storefront on Chicago's South Side. Today, there are numerous locations.
Multiple locations, original at 162 E. Superior
Opened in 1966, Gino's East's deep-dish pizza quickly
became popular with locals and visitors alike. Although there are now numerous locations
in the Chicago area, its flagship restaurant continues to be an attraction for
many visitors not only for its pizza, but also for the experience of scribbling
their names on the restaurant's wood and stucco walls that still have writings
from years past.
Northern Italian immigrant brothers Efren and Joseph
Boglio opened their own restaurant in Chicago's South Side in 1974. Their
inspiration for their stuffed pizza was a family recipe that dates back more
than 200 years - a double crusted, ricotta cheese stuffed Italian pie served at
family celebrations. Although the original location is now closed, Gordano's
now boasts numerous Chicago locations.
Lou Malnati's Pizzeria
Multiple locations, original at 6649 N. Lincoln Ave, Lincolnwood
Lou Malnati's is one of the oldest names in Chicago pizza history. In 1943, Lou helped run Pizzeria Uno where he created his own pizza recipe. In 1971, he opened his own pizzeria in the nearby suburb of Lincolnwood, featuring his Chicago-style pizza recipe. Its signature butter crust, secret sausage recipe and high-quality sauce made from the finest California tomatoes distinguish Lou Malnati's pizza from competitors.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill
29 E. Ohio St., Chicago
Opened in 1943, Uno lays claim as the birthplace of Chicago-style pizza. With a buttery crust touting tall edge like a pie, the recipe combined Italian spices and quality tomatoes with an abundant amount of cheese - the signature hallmark of a Chicago-style pizza - and called for high temperatures for an extended period of baking time. From the time of its inception, lines of pizza loving customers have become a permanent fixture at this iconic restaurant.
Aside from the Italian beef sandwich, Chicago also is the
birthplace of some other sandwich innovations.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Multiple locations, original at 2264 N. Lincoln
In 1977, a young couple running an antique shop decided
to serve toasted sandwiches for lunch to its customers as a side offering.
People loved the idea of this unique lunch setting, and at times, there were
lines out the door to buy the sandwiches. As time passed, the antique shop
evolved into Potbelly Sandwich Shop, named after the potbelly-shaped stoves.
Potbelly is known for its toasted sandwiches, malts, shakes and quirky décor,
which nods to its beginnings as an antique shop. The shops often feature live
music from local musicians, giving each restaurant a neighborhood feel.
6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr., Chicago
Founded by restaurateur Eli Schulman, Eli's Cheesecake made its public debut at the first Taste of Chicago food festival in 1980. Since then, Eli's cheesecake has become a symbol for Chicago. Visitors can experience a slice for themselves at Eli's Cheesecake World, a bakery, café and shop on Chicago's northwest side, offering Eli's Tasting and Traditions Experience every day at 1 p.m., which includes a free slice. Group tour packages are available.
Garrett Popcorn Shops
Opened since 1949, Garrett Popcorn has become a symbol
for Chicago, with many visitors flocking to its shops for the most popular
flavor, the Chicago Mix: a sweet and salty combination of its CaramelCrisp® and
Palmer House Hilton Hotel
17 E. Monroe St., Chicago
At the iconic Palmer House Hilton Hotel in the heart of
downtown, visitors can savor a delicious brownie created from the original
recipe in 1893. Bertha Palmer, wife of Chicago magnate Potter Palmer and
president of the Board of Lady Managers at the 1893 World's Columbian
Exposition, charged the Palmer House's pastry chefs to create a small and
lady-like dessert that could fit into the boxed lunches for the fair. Although it wasn't called the brownie until
later on, the dessert they created was hugely popular. The Palmer House continues
to serve the brownie and happily shares the original recipe, which they still