Narrowing the focus of your restaurant exploration in Chicago can be a daunting feat. With more than 7,300 restaurants in the city, Chicago has a culinary scene that is as expansive as it is delicious. But, if you want to be led on a tour of the very best in classic establishments and lesser known dining joints, you'd do well to check out Tastebud Food Tours.
Founded in 2009 by Lynn Jaynes (below) and his wife Karon, Tastebud Food Tours gives visitors a whirlwind tour of Chicago and its historic neighborhoods, with the city's most treasured eateries serving as the key destinations along the way. Creating a very familial, personalized atmosphere, Jaynes and his squad of friendly Tastebud guides lead small-sized groups on four different 3-hour walking adventures around the city, experiencing history, architecture and food.
Led by Jaynes and hyper-knowledgeable guide Annalynn Keller (pictured at top, far left), I embarked on the Taste Chicago Food Tour. Starting at Pizano's Pizza on Madison Street downtown, Jaynes gave our group a primer on this storied Chicago haunt, known equally for its buttery-crust deep dish pizza and celebration of dining with friends and family.
Our tour moved on to experience the mouth-watering Italian beef sandwiches at Al's Beef; the heavenly sweet cupcakes of Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique (above) and decadent Fannie May Chocolates; and culminated with German bratwurst and homemade root beer at The Berghoff (below).
Though that may sound like a lot of food in a 3-hour span, Tastebud Tours did a great job of mixing in stops at Palmer House Hotel, the Chicago Cultural Center and its Tiffany glass ceiling (the world's largest), and of course Millennium Park. On a gorgeous day, you completely forget you're burning calories as you traverse Chicago's streets. Food samples at each restaurant are manageable and keep you comfortably full throughout, while the pace of the tour is just right for any walking speed.
Make sure to peruse the four different Chicago food tours - Flavors of Chicago, Taste Chicago, Chicago's Underground, 1893 World Columbian Exposition Food Tour - to see all participating restaurants and select the one that best suits your palate. Check online at Tastebud Tickets for their current schedule and ticket availability. And always, always come hungry!
Photos by Christine Pundavela