The Haute Seeker

6 Chicago Must-Haves: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Local Eats

When it comes to satisfying your taste buds in Chicago, nothing quite compares to indulging in some of the city’s iconic dishes. Whether it’s biting into a Chicago-style dog on a hot summer day or enjoying a warm slice of pizza on a chilly winter night, there’s just something about these classic foods that make them irresistible.

From neighborhood delis to old-school drive-ins, locals have been enjoying these culinary creations for years, and it’s easy to see why. If you’re curious about the city’s food history or want to know which restaurants are the most popular, check out our list below of the 6 must-eats when visiting Chicago. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

What Food is Chicago Famous For?

Whenever my friends and family ask me where to eat in Chicago, I always recommend some of the city’s most delicious and iconic dishes. There’s just no denying that when it comes to food, Chicago has some of the best offerings in the world! And of course, I never miss an opportunity to indulge in these tasty treats myself!

1. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Every reputable Chicago food list mentions the famous deep-dish pizza(my favorites include Peqoud’s and Giordano’s), and for good reason–it’s delicious. It’s probably the most well-known food in Chicago and what every tourist orders. If you want to eat like a Chicagoan, though, you should try tavern-style pizza instead. These pizzas are much thinner and cut up into small squares. It makes it easier to hold a pizza in one hand and a beer in the other! Check out Italian Fiesta Pizzeria or Candelite Chicago if you want to try local favorites!

2. Chicago-style Hot Dog

First up on our list is the well-known Chicago-style hotdog. These delicious dogs have tons of toppings on them–onions, pickles, mustard, tomatoes, and more–all wrapped up in a poppy seed bun. Never ketchup, though! Chicagoans have strong opinions about adding ketchup to their hotdogs, and some places might not even offer it to customers. The best place to get a Chicago hot dog depends entirely on who you ask, but some of the most popular places are Portillo’s, Superdawg, and Gene & Jude’s, which have all been around since the mid-1900’s. 

3. Italian Beef Sandwich

A long-time favorite of Chicago locals, the Italian beef sandwich recently started to gain more popularity among visitors thanks to FX’s, The Bear, which featured it on their show. Thinly sliced beef, a mix of hot and sweet peppers, and drizzled with herbs and gravy make for a delicious and comforting meal. You can try the classic sandwich at Johnnie’s Beef and Al’s Italian Beef or embrace Chicago’s diverse cultures and get one with Lebanese or Vietnam influences at Phodega.  

4. Pierogies

Speaking of diverse cultures and cuisines, let’s not forget the beloved pierogi! While Chicago is not the only U.S. city famous for its large slavic populations and pierogies, these dumplings are nonetheless a fan-favorite and must-eat for visitors. There are so many different restaurants and delis where you can find homemade pierogies with a wide variety of fillings–each with their own loyal fanbase! Check out Kasia’s Deli, Shokolad, or Staropolska to try some during your visit.

5. Chicago-style Fried Chicken

Crispy chicken, mild and tangy sauce, and tons of lemon pepper make for delicious Chicago-style fried chicken. Everyone has their own personal favorite chicken shop, but locals swear that Harold’s. There has even been recent debate online about their rankings after TikTok food influencer Keith Lee posted his review of the three. Harold’s was his favorite, but loyal customers of Shark’s and Uncle Remus weren’t convinced! Check them out yourself to decide which one is best!

6. Garrett Popcorn

Chicago-style popcorn is a blend of cheddar and caramel popcorn, all mixed together in one bag. You get a little bit of salty and sweet in every bite! Ask any local where to get it, and they’ll tell you to go to Garrett’s Popcorn. They first opened up in 1949 and created the Chicago-mix after their customers kept mixing the two flavors themselves! Garrett’s now has multiple store locations, a drive-thru option, expanded into Midwestern grocery stores, and can even be ordered online. If you become hooked on the popcorn after your visit, you can always order some when you’re back home.

These are just 6 classic Chicago must-eats in a city with millions of people and thousands of restaurants. Your food options here are endless! The next time you find yourself in the windy city, try some of the items from this list to get a taste of what the locals are always eating! 

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