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In this article, we’ll uncover the most famous Chicago food items that you absolutely should not miss!
Whether you’re a Chicago native or a visitor wanting to know the best things to eat in Chicago, the popularity of these 5 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!
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Famous Chicago Food
We love visiting the city of Chicago as a family so much that we visit there during summers (when it’s warm), and during winter (when it’s cold).
If you’re wondering what is Chicago famous for, start with its architecture, bridges, the Bean, the Cubs, and the multiple attractions at Navy Pier – just to name a few.
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 5 iconic Chicago foods to your Chicago food bucket list the next time you visit Chicago!
Oh, and psst…We LOVE Chicago so much that we’ve written several other guides to help you plan your trip!
- Our Complete 3-Day Chicago Family Vacation Itinerary
- What to do in Chicago in Winter (+ 3-Day Itinerary)
- What to Wear in Chicago: A Visitor’s Guide for Every Season!
- Top 5 Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Downtown Chicago
- 25 Things to do in Chicago at Night
- A Complete List of Things to do at Navy Pier Chicago
1. Deep Dish Pizza
The most famous food Chicago is known for its 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.
Because of this, the toppings are assembled “upside-down” from their usual order on a pizza.
The order is as follows:
- Thick crust
- Meat and veggies
- An uncooked 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).
Each one has several convenient locations sprinkled throughout Chicago, each that will leave you feeling stuffed!
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.
Order famous Lou Malnati’s Pizzas to be delivered to your home, here!
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.
Loved by both kids and adults, the best restaurants to grab a Chicago hot dog are at America’s Dog & Burger (AD&B) located on Navy Pier, at Harry Caray on Magnificent Mile, or at 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.
Additional planning tip: 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
Chicago Italian beef sandwiches are the best street food in Chicago that no visitor or local should pass up.
Sounds simple, but this sandwich consists of roasted sirloin cooked in a seasoned broth that is stuffed inside an Italian-style roll thick enough to soak up the meat’s juices.
The sandwiches are customized by ordering them “dry” (only a touch of gravy), “wet” (extra gravy), or “dipped” (dripping wet).
In classic Chicago style, you can also load them with toppings that include 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.
Most known for their Garrett Mix – a sweet and savory blend of CaramelCrisp popcorn and CheeseCorn flavors – people stand in long lines to get their hands on this special treat.
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.
(Take home tins of Garrett popcorn make great famous Chicago food gifts!)
5. Fried Chicken
Last but not least, 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 iconic foods.
Head to Harold’s for the standard fried chicken dinner, which includes cooked-to-order chicken with a side of fries, coleslaw, and two slices of white bread.
There are multiple Harold’s found across town, the majority of which are found on the South Side of Chicago.
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.
What Food is Chicago Known For?
Along with Chicago-style deep dish pizza, the Chicago hot dog, its Italian Beef Sandwich, Garretts Popcorn, and Fried Chicken, there are several other must eats in Chicago.
Some must eat Chicago foods that didn’t make our list are the Original Rainbow Cone (ice cream), Flaming Saganaki, and Chicago rib tips from Lem’s Bar-B-Q.
In addition, Tamales from the Tamale Guy, cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather, and Jibaritos at Jibaritos y Mas are also local favorites!
Finally, I can’t forget to mention Chicago’s famous tavern-style pizza!
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!
If you’ve had either of these foods that Chicago is known for, please comment below and let us know if they’re worth trying!Jen
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.
- Purchase the book The Chicago Food Encyclopedia: Experts pay tribute to an expansive and still expanding, Chicago food history that helped build Chicago into what it is today.
- Purchase the book Iconic Chicago Dishes, Drinks and Desserts: A Chicago native pays tribute to famous Chicago foods, famous places to eat in Chicago, and Chicago food recipes.
- Looking to take home food from Chicago where they’ll do the cooking? Order famous Lou Malnati’s Chicago Deep Dish Pizzas to be delivered to your home!
If you like our open review of the famous food in Chicago, click here to read our related posts to help plan your trip:
- The Ultimate Chicago Family Vacation: 3 Days in Chicago With Kids
- 25 Exciting Things to Do in Chicago at Night!
- Chicago in Winter (Best Things to Do + 3-Day Itinerary)
- What to Wear in Chicago: A Visitor’s Guide for Every Season
- Top 5 Kid-Friendly Downtown Chicago Restaurants that Your Family Will Love
- Top 10 Things to do at Navy Pier Chicago with Kids
- Christmas in Chicago: 11 Festive Things to Do
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*