Lifestyle Travel

The Chicago Series: The Most Iconic Food in Chi-town

Chicago Food Series

So here I am in the Midwest. Chicago. Chicagi. Chi-town. I adore it.

There’s something to The Windy City that goes quietly unnoticed in the rest of the states, let alone the world. It’s totally underrated and its level of awesomeness is just formidable

Like New York but more chill, with the vibe of San Francisco but less expensive, and a kind of small-town charm you’d never expect in a capital city. Chicago’s got a lot going for it. In a nutshell, it’s got spunk.

I’ve really embraced everything there is to it. So, this post is the first in a three-part series. And today, it’s all about the food scene.

We’ve really taken it upon ourselves to sample the city’s best and most quintessential cuisine. Have I enjoyed every minute? You betcha. Have my jeans become a little tighter? Irrelevant.   

Anyway, taking inspiration from friends, locals and walk by’s, here’s what made the list:

We need to talk about Deep Dish Pizza

Want to make a friend in Chicago? Just ask them what their favourite deep dish pizza is. You’ll get a passionate response every time. Pequod’s, Lou Malnatis and Giordano’s are the top three contenders all vying for the best deep dish in Chicagoland and every Chicagoan will try and convince you why their choice is the best.

Striving to seek the ultimate truth we decided to conduct a thorough investigation, throwing Gino’s East and Pizanos into the mix. Now with five solid contenders, we could really go to town with this investigation slash deep dish bonanza slash get fat fast scheme. I mean, if this isn’t investigative journalism at it’s best, I don’t know what is. 

Deep dish is an experience – a must do in Chicago. We really covered all bases here but our findings were inconclusive. Simon preferred Giordano’s and I loved Pequods. However, we both felt Lou Malnatis wasn’t given a fair go as we ordered delivery but ate the others in the restaurant. I know what you’re thinking – the only logical thing to do here would be to re-open the investigation. And I completely agree.

deep-dish pizza

The infamous Italian Beef

For those of you, who like me, hadn’t been exposed to such a delight here’s how it goes down with an Italian beef sandwich…

You’ve got your long Italian-style bread roll packed to the brim with thin yet juicy slices of seasoned roast beef. These sirloin slices have been wet-rosted in garlic and oregano broth for hours – with the broth becoming a ‘jus’. You then top this off with cheese and your choice of either sweet or hot peppers (or both – no judgement).

Cool, got it, thanks for my samboyou say. Oh no, we are not done here. What you’re gonna do is dip the sandwich INTO the sweet, sweet jus which the meat is cooked in. And sometimes, you’re gonna double dip. 

Boom, mic drop, thank yiewww.

You want one of these you gotta go to the best place in town. Portillos

portillos italian beef

Burgers for days

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt here it’s that the Americans know how to do good burgers. Bad political choices but good burgers. And the burger game is strong in Chi-town. 

Hands down, the best burgs are found in Bucktown at Small Cheval. Don’t be put off by the queue. There’s ALWAYS a queue. But the wait is worth every minute. 

What comes out is a ridiculously good looking burger, house style with pickles, onions and mustard. Oh and the golden fries are just as pretty. Plus if you’re looking to put away another thou calories or so, the milkshake’s your jam. You’ll forget all about the calorie intake as soon as you take a sip. 

Best burgers in Chicago

Hawt Dawgs

So you know how in every movie growing up the hot dog stand owner yells hawt dawgs, get your hawt dogs!  They’re probably all set in Chicago.

To say that every diner and food joint in Chi-town has the Chicago Classic Hot Dog on the menu would be an understatement. Because every joint in Chi-town really does have the Chicago Classic Hot Dog on the menu. Here’s what goes into it so don’t you even think about any variations son: pickles, mustard, relish, onion, pickled peppers, tomato wedges and celery salt. 

Chicago Style Hot Dog

Polish Pierogi

Well, with a Polish population boasting numbers as big as Warsaw, it’s no wonder Pierogi are on this list. And whilst there is no shortage of ‘Polskie Restauracje’ in this great city, not all of them are the real deal. I have the authority to make such a call.

Podhalanka is a truly authentic dining experience with a salad trifecta (buraczki, mizerja and salatka), cherry kompot and so many photos of Pope John Paul II, it felt like PJPII was right there dining with us. The only thing missing was the liquor license which meant no Belvedere to wash it all down with.

Whaddabout the Donuts?

Meanwhile, for that sweet, sugar hit you really can’t go past Stan’s Donuts. Constantly busy and always fresh. These puppies make Krispy Kreme look like an amateur in the doughnut game. I don’t know who this Stan is but I do know one thing – I’m nuts for his doughnuts.

Stan's Donuts

Cuppa Joe

Good coffee outside of Melbourne? Yes, it’s possible as we found out.

When I discovered there are La Colombe cafes in Chicago I almost peed my pants. 

I’m joking. But I did get very excited. Normally I’d go for a straight up cuppa joe but here they serve what’s known as a Black N Tan which is basically like the Guinness of coffee. Smooth, rich and super tasty.

However, our absolute favourite coffee joint here is a relatively new, super cool spot called Purple Lama which coincidentally opened almost the same day we moved to Wicker Park. Joel and Kevin own the cafe and place as much emphasis on the tunes that are cranked each day as they do on the coffee. And both are exceptional. 

La Colombe Coffee

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