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In this article, we’ll uncover the most famous Chicago food items that you absolutely should not miss! Warning: don’t read this one while hungry!

Whether you’re a Chicago native or a visitor wanting to know the best things to eat in Chicago, the popularity of these famous Chicago foods speaks for itself.

Call them iconic or simply culinary masterpieces; these signature Chicago dishes will pack a whole lot of love into your overall Chicago experience.

Don’t miss a chance to try each one of these famous Chicago foods the next time you visit the Windy City!

Find out the famous Chicago food that you don't want to miss when visiting there - from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Chicago skyline

Famous Chicago Food

My family LOVES Chicago.

We have been multiple times during the peak of heat in the summer as well as the freezing cold winter.

Believe it or not, we find the seasons equally enjoyable and have crafted both a 3-day Chicago itinerary for summer and a perfect 3-day Chicago itinerary for winter!

If you’re wondering what Chicago is famous for, start with its architecture, bridges, the Bean, the Cubs, and the multiple attractions at Navy Pier – just to name a few.

But, you know the one thing that you can do at any time of year? EAT. And if you like to eat, you’ve picked a great place to visit. Chicago is also known as one of the nation’s best cities for food!

Whether you’re a culinary enthusiast or a foodie newbie, be sure to add these iconic Chicago foods to your Chicago food bucket list the next time you visit Chicago!

Now, onto the food!

We’ll be discussing and reviewing these famous Chicago foods:

  1. Chicago deep-dish pizza
  2. Chicago hot dog
  3. Italian beef sandwich
  4. Chicago style popcorn
  5. Fried Chicken
  6. The Original Rainbow Cone
  7. Jibaritos
  8. Tamales
  9. Palmer House Brownie…and more!

1. Deep Dish Pizza

Rivaling the dollar-slice-pizza of New York City – the most famous food in Chicago is the Chicago-style deep dish pizza!

The main difference between Chicago deep-dish pizza and other forms of pizza is that the crust is very deep, creating a thick pizza that resembles a pie.

The thick layer of toppings used in Chicago pizza requires a longer baking time (typically 30-45 minutes), which could burn cheese or other toppings if they were used as the top layer of the pizza.

Due to this, toppings are assembled basically “upside-down” from their typical order.

The order is as follows:

  • Thick crust
  • Cheese
  • Meat and veggies
  • An uncooked, zesty tomato sauce, typically made from crushed canned tomatoes (this chunky tomato sauce is my favorite feature!)

The ‘sauce on top’ gives Chicago deep-dish pizza its unique, bright red look.

Though there is much debate on which restaurant in Chicago serves the best deep-dish pizza, you can’t go wrong with either Giordano’s or our favorite, Lou Malnati’s (which is, historically, the most famous pizza if you’re eating in Chicago).

Find out the famous Chicago food that you don't want to miss when visiting there - from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Famous Lou Malnati’s is probably the most famous stop for Chicago pizza. It was delicious!

Each one has several convenient locations sprinkled throughout Chicago, each that will leave you feeling stuffed!

For lesser-known pizza joints, Eater Chicago recommends Uncle Jerry’s, Burt’s Place, and Angelo’s Stuffed Pizza. 

Additional planning tip: Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s are especially busy on weekends and in the summer. During peak times, you will experience long waits to be seated.

Many people choose to pre-order their pizza while they are waiting due to the already long bake time required for Chicago-style pizza.

Craving pizza now?

You can order Lou Malnati’s Pizzas to be delivered to your home!

2. Chicago Hot Dog

The next famous Chicago food that you absolutely must try is famous Chicago hot dogs.

Chicago hot dogs are a local legacy, and once again, one may argue which restaurant or street stand serves up the best Chicago dog.

Regardless, the classic version of the Chicago hot dog is a Vienna beef hot dog on a steamed poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, relish, diced white onions, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, spicy sport peppers, a dash of celery salt — and most importantly, no ketchup.

Though it sounds like an interesting (and perhaps surprising) mash-up of ingredients, the flavor combinations of the Chicago hot dog are impeccable.

Find out the famous Chicago food that you don't want to miss when visiting there - from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Chicago hot dog from AD&B – yum!

Loved by both kids and adults, the best restaurants to grab a Chicago hot dog are America’s Dog & Burger (AD&B) located on Navy Pier, at Harry Caray on Magnificent Mile, or one of the three Portillo’s located in downtown Chicago.

As one of the most kid-friendly restaurants in downtown Chicago, Portillo’s also happens to be rated one of the 10 best fast-casual restaurants in the country.

If you’re wondering how to eat a Chicago hot dog with all those toppings, never use a fork and knife.

Instead, always use your hands, and don’t worry about the mess!

3. Italian Beef Sandwich

While deep-dish pizza and hot dogs are definitely amazing, my favorite pick for the best street food in Chicago are the Chicago Italian beef sandwiches!

No visitor (or local) should pass these up!

This sandwich consists of roasted sirloin cooked in a seasoned broth that is then stuffed inside a thick Italian-style roll to really soak up the meat’s juice.

The sandwiches are customized – you can order yours “dry” with just a touch of gravy, “wet” with extra gravy, or “dipped,” which is dripping wet.

I usually get a dry sandwich so I can enjoy it while walking around the city.

In classic Chicago style, you can also load these seasoned roast beef sandwiches with tons of toppings. Choose from a variety of cheeses, sweet peppers, or a hot giardiniera.

Though there are numerous restaurants around the city to feast on this signature Chicago food, Al’s Italian Beef is consistently voted the best.

If you’re not near one of the 4 Al’s locations, consider getting this famous Chicago food at Bob-O’s, Mr. Beef & Pizza, Marco’s Beef & Pizza, or Jay’s Beef.

4. Chicago Style Popcorn

If you’re looking for the best snacks in Chicago, hit up one of the many Garrett Popcorn shops!

A Chicago tradition since 1949, there is literally no other gourmet popcorn on Earth that compares to Chicago’s famous Garrett Popcorn. We stop there every single time we are in the city!

However, be prepared to wait, as people stand in long lines to get their hands on this special treat. While they have many flavors to choose from, they are most known for their Garrett Mix – a sweet and savory blend of Caramel Crisp popcorn and Cheese Corn flavors.

This famous Chicago popcorn is so prolific it’s known worldwide as “Chicago mix.” 

Find out the famous Chicago food that you don't want to miss when visiting there - from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Garrett Popcorn Shop at Navy Pier

With 16 Garrett Popcorn Shops located around the city (with the Navy Pier and Michigan Ave. location being the most convenient for tourists), the popcorn can be purchased in different sizes and prices of bags or tins.

Tip: Take-home tins of Garrett popcorn make great famous Chicago food gifts!

5. Fried Chicken

Another one of the best Chicago foods is mouth-watering fried chicken.

Not just any fried chicken, however, as Harold’s Chicken Shack is the most popular spot to go to when it comes to Chicago’s iconic foods.

There are multiple Harold’s found across town, the majority of which are found on the South Side of Chicago.

Head to Harold’s Chicken Shack for the standard fried chicken dinner.

This plate includes made-to-order chicken with fries, coleslaw, and two slices of classic white bread.

Just as beloved as the crispy chicken itself is Harold’s Mild Sauce.

This sweet and tangy dipping sauce can even be ordered to take home by the gallon or by the bottle.

Find out the famous Chicago food that you don't want to miss when visiting there - from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Believe it or not, Chicago has the best fried chicken!

6. The Original Rainbow Cone

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning an integral part of Chicago’s culinary world – the Original Rainbow Cone.

This classic Chicago food is an ice cream cone stacked with five layers of delicious flavors. 

Another key factor is that each layer of ice cream is sliced, not scooped. 

In its traditional form, the cone looks like this:

  • Orange Sherbert
  • Pistachio
  • Palmer House (vanilla with walnuts and cherries)
  • Strawberry
  • Chocolate

Equal parts tasty and colorful, this culinary confection is ALMOST too beautiful to eat. 

To taste this sweet treat, I highly recommend that you visit the original Rainbow Cone ice cream stand. Dating back to 1926, this stand originates in Chicago’s South Side. 

Today, however, you can try an original rainbow cone at thirteen different locations or from one of their traveling food trucks. 

7. Jibaritos 

Another favorite Chicago food is the Jibarito, a Puerto Rican sandwich filled with a variety of delicious toppings. 

The most unique quality of this sandwich is that the bread is actually replaced with deep-fried green plantains that are flattened until sturdy and crispy. 

They hold up surprisingly well for all the toppings to come!

Common types of Jibaritos include:

  • Pollo – Grilled chicken
  • Carne – Thinly-sliced steak (my favorite!)
  • Pernil – Slow-roasted pork
  • Vegetarian – Vegetables and cheese

Jibaritos are topped with all the classic fixings of lettuce, tomato, and mayo. 

You can find Jibaritos around the city at any Puerto Rican restaurant. For the most authentic eats, head to the Humboldt Park neighborhood – the Puerto Rican capital of the Midwest!

Top spots include Jibaritos y Más and El Picosito Jibaro.

Additional planning tip: Try Casa Yari for their vegan options!

8. Tamales

While Tamales have Mexican roots, Chicago’s vibrant Mexican community has cemented the dish as a Chicago classic. 

Tamales are made from masa that is filled with delicious seasoned ingredients. They’re then wrapped in corn husks and steamed for a comforting dish. 

When visiting the city, you need to try this popular street food, made in endless varieties, including pork, chicken, and vegetarian. 

Grab a tamale from the Tamale Guy and enjoy your dish topped with housemade salsa. 

Additional planning tip: The Mother-in-Law sandwich is a Chicago fast food legacy made from a tamale stuffed in a hot dog bun, topped with chili. Try one at Fat Johnnie’s Famous Red Hots.

9. Palmer House Brownie

Rounding off this Chicago food guide is a little slice of history – the Palmer House Brownie!

This historic dessert dates back to the 19th century, when the Palmer Hotel’s pastry chef created a new dessert for the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. The rest is history!

The Palmer Brownie holds the prestige of being the first ever American brownie, named so in the 1898 Sears Roebuck Catalog. 

The brownie itself is classic, created with tons of chocolatey goodness, along with mandatory walnuts. Its original form also includes a layer of apricot glaze and chocolate ganache on top. 

You can taste this brownie at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel or make them at home with this recipe they provide!

What Food is Chicago Known For?

Along with these iconic Chicago dishes, there are several other must-eats in the Windy City.

Some honorable mentions for must-eat Chicago foods are:

  • Cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather
  • Flaming Saganaki
  • Chicago rib tips from Lem’s Bar-B-Q

Other tasty Chicago dishes include:

  • Italian-American dish of Chicken Vesuvio
  • Bitter spirit Malört
  • Maxwell Street Polish Sausage

Finally, I can’t forget to mention Chicago’s famous tavern-style pizza!

Photo courtesy of Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria

In addition to Chicago’s deep dish pizza, a whole other set of restaurants are famous for their thin, crunchy crust pizza that is cut into squares – otherwise known as ‘tavern-style.’

Places like Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria, Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, Professor Pizza, and Middle Brow Bungalow have a huge following of their own!

You’ll just have try both deep dish and tavern style to see which you like best. 😉

Bring Your Chicago Staples Home

Want to learn more about the best Chicago food?

Here are some handy resources for designing your own Chicago food tour, as well as discovering the iconic restaurants and famous foods that people have grown to know and love.

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Find out the famous Chicago food that you don't want to miss when visiting there - from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Want to know what food Chicago is known for?  Check out our list of famous Chicago foods that you need to try when visiting the Windy City!  #bestfoodinChicago #famousChicagofoods #ChicagoIL

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