Chicago is a huge city, full of ethnic and religious diversity. It is also known as “The Windy City”, or “The Second City”, on account of being the second largest city in the United States, after New York City.
With its imposing architecture and skyscrapers, Chicago has many attractions to offer visitors, from parks to beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan. It also houses several internationally recognized museums, and much more.
Chicago has it all! And that goes for its wonderful food culture too. The city of Chicago is a culinary marvel, offering unparalleled fusion-based cuisine.
Hence the growing popularity of Chicago’s food circuit among tourists. Taking a Chicago Food tour – visiting the best restaurants in town and getting to know its fantastic signature dishes – is one of the most sought-after tourist activities of recent times.
Gastronomy in Chicago
Chicago’s food scene has an excellent reputation both nationally and abroad. It is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, and some of the best chefs in the world.
Everything is on offer here, from classic American fast food to the most delicious gourmet cuisine in the country. And the menu goes way beyond typical dishes like the veal hot dog and deep dish pizza.
Chicago’s cuisine has strong ethnic influences, as dozens of groups of people immigrated to the city and left their mark on its gastronomic culture. This explains why most of the city’s typical dishes are effectively hybrids of both US and international culture, influenced by countries like China, Mexico, Italy, Thailand, Poland and Japan, among others. Fusion fans will feel right at home.
This lends an unprecedented variety to the food on offer in Chicago, which has come to be known as a culinary fusion hotspot. Its reputation is increasingly acknowledged by food-loving tourists, many of whom decide to travel to the Windy City in order to take advantage of its outstanding Food tour Chicago offers.
Chicago’s signature dishes
As we mentioned, Chicago is not defined by hot dogs and deep dish pizza alone. There are many other typical dishes which you should definitely try to sample, given the chance. Here are some of the essential dishes to check out when passing through the city:
Jibarito: This sandwich originated in Chicago, popularized by immigrants from Puerto Rico. Unusually for a sandwich, the bread is removed altogether and replaced with fried green bananas. Fillings can include vegetables, seafood, and roast beef or pork, topped with garlic mayonnaise. It’s a one-of-a-kind recipe!
Italian beef sandwich: This dish is said to have been invented during the lean times of the Great Depression. Extremely tender meat is placed on French bread, and bolstered by sweet or spicy green peppers, cheese and veal drippings.
Barbecues: Chicago is a fantastic city for meat, and you shouldn’t miss out on its famous barbecues and grills. One such establishment is Gene & Georgetti’s, which was founded in 1941 and holds the distinction of being Chicago’s first steakhouse.
Chicago Pizza: Deep Dish pizza is one of the Windy City’s most emblematic dishes, along with its signature hot dog. Its dough is crispy and buttery, molded into the shape of a pan and acting as a base for the rest of the ingredients. Toppings are similar to those of typical Italian pizza, but are added in reverse order: mozzarella comes first, then sausage, green peppers, onions and mushrooms, and tomato sauce last of all.
Chicago Hot Dog: Unlike other hot dogs, this one is made with beef, and dipped in water but not boiled. The “dog” is then placed on a poppy seed bun and seasoned with mustard, green sauce, tomato, onion, pickles, hot peppers, and celery salt.
Fusion Cuisine: Chicago has gained international recognition for its creative fusion and molecular cuisine. Many of its restaurants are world-renowned and have won Michelin stars and awards. Next and Alinea are two of the city’s restaurants which are considered among the best in the world.
Shrimp de Jonghe: A Chicago classic, created over a century ago. This helping of garlic prawns in a sherry sauce, served with butter and toast, was allegedly invented by a pair of Belgian brothers who worked at DeJonghe’s restaurant at the beginning of the 20th century – another example of the multiculturalism on display in Chicago.