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A table full of birria, consommé, and sides.
Birrieria Zaragoza’s goat is among the city’s GOATs.
Jaclyn Rivas/Birrieria Zaragoza

Chicago's Most Iconic Dishes

Classic foods every local needs to try at least once

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Birrieria Zaragoza’s goat is among the city’s GOATs.
| Jaclyn Rivas/Birrieria Zaragoza

Chicago has a rich culinary history and a myriad of unique foods. Many of the city’s famous bites have gained national recognition for captivating taste buds across America. The following map celebrates 20 of Chicago’s most iconic dishes, spanning from the North Side to the South Side. Old-school street fare makes up much of the list, but the landscape continues to evolve over time thanks to the ingenuity of local chefs. The latest additions include Weber Bakery’s Atomic Cake, Calabria Imports’ Freddy sandwich, and birria from Birrieria Zaragoza.

As of August 20, the city has mandated that everyone wear facial coverings while indoors. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Lou Malnati's

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6649 N Lincoln Ave
Lincolnwood, IL 60712
(847) 673-0800
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Deep dish pizza: Chicago is synonymous with deep dish and Lou Malnati’s is one of the style’s gold standards. The heavy blend of cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce inside a thick crust holds a special place in Chicagoans’ hearts. The “Malnati Chicago Classic” improves upon the classic recipe with a layer of lean sausage patty alongside an oh-so-good buttercrust. Place online orders here.

2. Great Sea Restaurant

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3253 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 478-9129
Visit Website

Lollipop Chicken Wings: This storied Chinese Korean restaurant provides one of the best examples of a Chicago invention: the Asian-style lollipop chicken wing. The sauce is sweet and spicy, and the wings a specially hacked, based on a classic Korean-Chinese dish. These wings were created in Albany Park in the 1980s and demonstrate immigrant ingenuity. Place online orders here.

3. Gene & Jude's

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2720 N River Rd
River Grove, IL 60171
(708) 452-7634
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Depression Dog: The classic Chicago-style hot dog — a Vienna Beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun topped with mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes, sport peppers, pickle spear, and celery salt — is among the most revered foods in the Windy City. Legendary suburban stand Gene & Jude’s offers a variant, the “Depression Dog,” that withholds some traditional ingredients but tosses a heap of fries on top of the whole thing. Many critics and fans have hailed it as the finest of its kind.

Two Depression Dogs.
Long lines are the norm at River Grove’s celebrated hot dog stand.
Gene & Jude’s [Official Photo]

4. Jibaritos y Mas

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3400 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 799-8601
Visit Website

Jibarito: The jibarito is a Puerto Rican sandwich first created at Borinquen Restaurant in 1996. Jibaritos y Mas offers a textbook version of the original recipe — sliced steak, lettuce, tomato, and cheese are stacked between two pieces of fried plantain. Two additional outposts are located in Lincoln Park and Dunning. Place online orders here.

A jibarito sandwich.
The bread is replaced by fried plantains on this Chicago icon.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

5. Johnnie's Beef

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7500 W North Ave
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
(708) 452-6000

Italian beef: There’s much debate over the best way to eat an Italian beef. Hot or sweet peppers? Dry or au jus? Johnnie's two locations boast a small menu but everything is executed to perfection. For an even meatier option, try the combo — an Italian sausage topped with shredded beef.

6. Bangers & Lace Wicker Park

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1670 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-6499
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Tamales: Claudio Velez has endeared himself to Chicagoans for the past decade. The city has many tamale vendors and restaurants that serve a wide variety of the item, including ones with Mexican, South American, and Mississippi Delta roots. Velez, affectionately known as “the Tamale Guy,” peddled his pork, chicken, and cheese varieties at bars across the city before the pandemic. They were transported around in a plastic cooler and would emerge as hot sustenance for hungry drinkers. Velez recently found a new home and is operating out of Bangers & Lace in Wicker Park. Online orders can be placed here.

Two people standing up and taking a selfie. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

7. Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House

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1024 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 640-0999
Visit Website

Shrimp DeJonghe: Shrimp DeJonghe was invented in Chicago near the turn of the 20th century. It's a simple casserole of shrimp, garlic, breadcrumbs, and either wine or sherry. Many Italian and seafood restaurants in the area offer it but Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House’s version is one of the best.

8. Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse

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33 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 828-0966
Visit Website

Chicken Vesuvio: The origins of the dish remain murky, but most agree it's a Chicago creation. The recipe features chicken, potato wedges, and peas sautéed in white wine sauce, and Harry Caray's version is a solid introduction for both locals and tourists alike. Online ordering is available here.

A plate of chicken Vesuvio.
Steaks aren’t the only standouts at Harry Caray’s.
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse [Official Photo]

9. avec

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615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 377-2002
Visit Website

Chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates wrapped in bacon: It’s nearly impossible to resist ordering the dates at One Off Hospitality’s Mediterranean-inspired hotspot. Bathing in a bright red picquillo pepper sauce, four Medjool dates are stuffed to the brim with smoky chorizo sausage and held together with bacon. The prized appetizer is a perfect blend of savory and sweet. A second avec outpost is located in River North. Order online here.

10. Greek Islands

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200 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 782-9855
Visit Website

Saganaki: Flaming saganaki originated in Chicago, dating back to the late ‘60s at the now-shuttered Parthenon. The dish is a spectacle that involves servers bringing out a platter of white cheese (sheep’s milk cheese is commonly used), setting it on fire at the tableside, and yelling “opa!”

11. Jim's Original

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1250 S Union Ave
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-7820
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Maxwell Street Polish: While hot dogs get all the glory, the Maxwell Street Polish — a kielbasa sausage topped with mustard, grilled onions, and sport peppers — is a low-key favorite that was first sold at Chicago’s old Maxwell Street Market.

12. Birrieria Zaragoza

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4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 523-3700
Visit Website

Birria: Long before quesabirria tacos swept the nation, this beloved mom-and-pop operation was introducing Chicago to traditional Jalisco-style birria. The fragrant, mouth-watering stew is made with organic goat meat that’s been steam-cooked for hours, marinated in an ancho-based mole, and then finished in the oven. It arrives to the table accompanied by corn tortillas, cilantro, onions, fire-roasted salsa, and a side of consommé so that diners can assemble what are arguably the most exceptional tacos in town. Online ordering is available here.

A table full of birria, consommé, and sides.
Goat is the specialty at this Mexican spot.
Jaclyn Rivas/Birrieria Zaragoza

13. Harold's Chicken Shack

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1208 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 752-9270

Fried chicken with mild sauce: A favorite among locals and celebrities, Harold’s dishes out what many consider to be the best fried chicken in the city. The chicken’s distinctive flavor is a result of being cooked to order in vegetable oil and beef tallow. Mild sauce is also a condiment of utmost importance, a sweet and tangy liquid that locals abide by. Even though quality can vary from restaurant to restaurant, a Harold’s half chicken dinner covered in mild sauce is a quintessential Chicago meal. The popular chain oversees dozens of locations in the area, with a majority on the South Side.

14. Weber's Bakery

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7055 W Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 586-1234
Visit Website

Atomic Cake: Born on the city’s South Side, this lesser-known dessert is an indulgent combination of banana, yellow, and chocolate cake. The three layers are separated by glazed strawberries and sliced bananas with Bavarian custard, and topped with rich fudge and whipped cream frosting. Long-standing Weber’s Bakery calls its version a “Banana Split Torte.”

15. Lem's BBQ House

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311 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 994-2428
Visit Website

Rib tips: Rib tips are an often overlooked barbecue specialty but they’re the main attraction at this old-school joint. The tender, flavorful cuts are cooked in a customized aquarium smoker — the largest in the city — and slathered in a sweet sauce so expect to get a little messy. While pork is what Lem’s is famous for, turkey tips have risen in popularity in recent years at other places.

16. Stony Sub

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8440 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 978-4000

Gym Shoe: It’s unclear where the sandwich was created but this South Side shop is one of its most well-known purveyors. Despite the odd name, the gym shoe is a tasty trifecta of roast beef, gyro meat, and corned beef. That’s not all, though, as the meat is mixed with giardiniera, sweet peppers, onions, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, mayo, and Swiss cheese.

17. Vito & Nick's

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8433 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60652
(773) 735-2050
Visit Website

Tavern-style pizza: Deep dish is what outsiders associate with Chicago pizza but tavern-style is just as, if not more, important to the city’s culinary identity. This essential pizzeria makes arguably the finest thin crust in town, topping the crispy dough with ingredients like sausage, sliced beef, shrimp, and giardiniera. And in true Chicago fashion, the pies are best enjoyed with a cold pint of Old Style.

A thin crust pizza.
Vito & Nick’s is an exemplar of tavern-style pizza.
Vito & Nick’s [Official Photo]

18. Rainbow Cone

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9233 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60643
(773) 238-7075
Visit Website

Rainbow Cone: Why settle for one flavor when there are several to try? This South Side institution has been scooping colorful frozen treats for over nine decades. The namesake dessert is a combination of orange sherbet with chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), and pistachio ice cream that both adults and children love.

19. Calabria Imports

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1905 W 103rd St
Chicago, IL 60643
(773) 396-5800
Visit Website

The Freddy: Italian sausage is king in Chicago but this South Side sandwich showcases it differently. Instead of being encased, the meat is formed into an oblong patty, tucked in a long roll, and topped with sweet peppers, melted mozzarella, and housemade tomato sauce. Though many pizzerias on the South Side offer it, a standout version can be found at Italian restaurant and deli Calabria Imports in Beverly. Online ordering is available here.

20. Home of the Hoagy

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1316 W 111th St
Chicago, IL 60643
(773) 238-7171
Visit Website

Sweet steak: Chicago’s counterpart to the Philly cheesesteak is a sweet variant from the South Side. While it’s not as widely known as Italian beef, this hoagie — featuring coarsely-chopped rib eye, tomatoes, bell peppers, and a signature sweet sauce — has earned loyal fans in Morgan Park.

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1. Lou Malnati's

6649 N Lincoln Ave, Lincolnwood, IL 60712

Deep dish pizza: Chicago is synonymous with deep dish and Lou Malnati’s is one of the style’s gold standards. The heavy blend of cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce inside a thick crust holds a special place in Chicagoans’ hearts. The “Malnati Chicago Classic” improves upon the classic recipe with a layer of lean sausage patty alongside an oh-so-good buttercrust. Place online orders here.

6649 N Lincoln Ave
Lincolnwood, IL 60712

2. Great Sea Restaurant

3253 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Lollipop Chicken Wings: This storied Chinese Korean restaurant provides one of the best examples of a Chicago invention: the Asian-style lollipop chicken wing. The sauce is sweet and spicy, and the wings a specially hacked, based on a classic Korean-Chinese dish. These wings were created in Albany Park in the 1980s and demonstrate immigrant ingenuity. Place online orders here.

3253 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

3. Gene & Jude's

2720 N River Rd, River Grove, IL 60171
Two Depression Dogs.
Long lines are the norm at River Grove’s celebrated hot dog stand.
Gene & Jude’s [Official Photo]

Depression Dog: The classic Chicago-style hot dog — a Vienna Beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun topped with mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes, sport peppers, pickle spear, and celery salt — is among the most revered foods in the Windy City. Legendary suburban stand Gene & Jude’s offers a variant, the “Depression Dog,” that withholds some traditional ingredients but tosses a heap of fries on top of the whole thing. Many critics and fans have hailed it as the finest of its kind.

2720 N River Rd
River Grove, IL 60171

4. Jibaritos y Mas

3400 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
A jibarito sandwich.
The bread is replaced by fried plantains on this Chicago icon.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Jibarito: The jibarito is a Puerto Rican sandwich first created at Borinquen Restaurant in 1996. Jibaritos y Mas offers a textbook version of the original recipe — sliced steak, lettuce, tomato, and cheese are stacked between two pieces of fried plantain. Two additional outposts are located in Lincoln Park and Dunning. Place online orders here.

3400 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

5. Johnnie's Beef

7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park, IL 60707

Italian beef: There’s much debate over the best way to eat an Italian beef. Hot or sweet peppers? Dry or au jus? Johnnie's two locations boast a small menu but everything is executed to perfection. For an even meatier option, try the combo — an Italian sausage topped with shredded beef.

7500 W North Ave
Elmwood Park, IL 60707

6. Bangers & Lace Wicker Park

1670 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
Two people standing up and taking a selfie. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Tamales: Claudio Velez has endeared himself to Chicagoans for the past decade. The city has many tamale vendors and restaurants that serve a wide variety of the item, including ones with Mexican, South American, and Mississippi Delta roots. Velez, affectionately known as “the Tamale Guy,” peddled his pork, chicken, and cheese varieties at bars across the city before the pandemic. They were transported around in a plastic cooler and would emerge as hot sustenance for hungry drinkers. Velez recently found a new home and is operating out of Bangers & Lace in Wicker Park. Online orders can be placed here.

1670 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622

7. Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House

1024 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

Shrimp DeJonghe: Shrimp DeJonghe was invented in Chicago near the turn of the 20th century. It's a simple casserole of shrimp, garlic, breadcrumbs, and either wine or sherry. Many Italian and seafood restaurants in the area offer it but Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House’s version is one of the best.

1024 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611

8. Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse

33 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654
A plate of chicken Vesuvio.
Steaks aren’t the only standouts at Harry Caray’s.
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse [Official Photo]

Chicken Vesuvio: The origins of the dish remain murky, but most agree it's a Chicago creation. The recipe features chicken, potato wedges, and peas sautéed in white wine sauce, and Harry Caray's version is a solid introduction for both locals and tourists alike. Online ordering is available here.

33 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654

9. avec

615 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

Chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates wrapped in bacon: It’s nearly impossible to resist ordering the dates at One Off Hospitality’s Mediterranean-inspired hotspot. Bathing in a bright red picquillo pepper sauce, four Medjool dates are stuffed to the brim with smoky chorizo sausage and held together with bacon. The prized appetizer is a perfect blend of savory and sweet. A second avec outpost is located in River North. Order online here.

615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

10. Greek Islands

200 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661

Saganaki: Flaming saganaki originated in Chicago, dating back to the late ‘60s at the now-shuttered Parthenon. The dish is a spectacle that involves servers bringing out a platter of white cheese (sheep’s milk cheese is commonly used), setting it on fire at the tableside, and yelling “opa!”

200 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60661

11. Jim's Original

1250 S Union Ave, Chicago, IL 60607

Maxwell Street Polish: While hot dogs get all the glory, the Maxwell Street Polish — a kielbasa sausage topped with mustard, grilled onions, and sport peppers — is a low-key favorite that was first sold at Chicago’s old Maxwell Street Market.

1250 S Union Ave
Chicago, IL 60607

12. Birrieria Zaragoza

4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632
A table full of birria, consommé, and sides.
Goat is the specialty at this Mexican spot.
Jaclyn Rivas/Birrieria Zaragoza

Birria: Long before quesabirria tacos swept the nation, this beloved mom-and-pop operation was introducing Chicago to traditional Jalisco-style birria. The fragrant, mouth-watering stew is made with organic goat meat that’s been steam-cooked for hours, marinated in an ancho-based mole, and then finished in the oven. It arrives to the table accompanied by corn tortillas, cilantro, onions, fire-roasted salsa, and a side of consommé so that diners can assemble what are arguably the most exceptional tacos in town. Online ordering is available here.

4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632

13. Harold's Chicken Shack

1208 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615

Fried chicken with mild sauce: A favorite among locals and celebrities, Harold’s dishes out what many consider to be the best fried chicken in the city. The chicken’s distinctive flavor is a result of being cooked to order in vegetable oil and beef tallow. Mild sauce is also a condiment of utmost importance, a sweet and tangy liquid that locals abide by. Even though quality can vary from restaurant to restaurant, a Harold’s half chicken dinner covered in mild sauce is a quintessential Chicago meal. The popular chain oversees dozens of locations in the area, with a majority on the South Side.

1208 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615

14. Weber's Bakery

7055 W Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60638

Atomic Cake: Born on the city’s South Side, this lesser-known dessert is an indulgent combination of banana, yellow, and chocolate cake. The three layers are separated by glazed strawberries and sliced bananas with Bavarian custard, and topped with rich fudge and whipped cream frosting. Long-standing Weber’s Bakery calls its version a “Banana Split Torte.”

7055 W Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60638

15. Lem's BBQ House

311 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619

Rib tips: Rib tips are an often overlooked barbecue specialty but they’re the main attraction at this old-school joint. The tender, flavorful cuts are cooked in a customized aquarium smoker — the largest in the city — and slathered in a sweet sauce so expect to get a little messy. While pork is what Lem’s is famous for, turkey tips have risen in popularity in recent years at other places.

311 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619

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16. Stony Sub

8440 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60617

Gym Shoe: It’s unclear where the sandwich was created but this South Side shop is one of its most well-known purveyors. Despite the odd name, the gym shoe is a tasty trifecta of roast beef, gyro meat, and corned beef. That’s not all, though, as the meat is mixed with giardiniera, sweet peppers, onions, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, mayo, and Swiss cheese.

8440 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60617

17. Vito & Nick's

8433 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60652
A thin crust pizza.
Vito & Nick’s is an exemplar of tavern-style pizza.
Vito & Nick’s [Official Photo]

Tavern-style pizza: Deep dish is what outsiders associate with Chicago pizza but tavern-style is just as, if not more, important to the city’s culinary identity. This essential pizzeria makes arguably the finest thin crust in town, topping the crispy dough with ingredients like sausage, sliced beef, shrimp, and giardiniera. And in true Chicago fashion, the pies are best enjoyed with a cold pint of Old Style.

8433 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60652

18. Rainbow Cone

9233 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60643

Rainbow Cone: Why settle for one flavor when there are several to try? This South Side institution has been scooping colorful frozen treats for over nine decades. The namesake dessert is a combination of orange sherbet with chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), and pistachio ice cream that both adults and children love.

9233 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60643

19. Calabria Imports

1905 W 103rd St, Chicago, IL 60643

The Freddy: Italian sausage is king in Chicago but this South Side sandwich showcases it differently. Instead of being encased, the meat is formed into an oblong patty, tucked in a long roll, and topped with sweet peppers, melted mozzarella, and housemade tomato sauce. Though many pizzerias on the South Side offer it, a standout version can be found at Italian restaurant and deli Calabria Imports in Beverly. Online ordering is available here.

1905 W 103rd St
Chicago, IL 60643

20. Home of the Hoagy

1316 W 111th St, Chicago, IL 60643

Sweet steak: Chicago’s counterpart to the Philly cheesesteak is a sweet variant from the South Side. While it’s not as widely known as Italian beef, this hoagie — featuring coarsely-chopped rib eye, tomatoes, bell peppers, and a signature sweet sauce — has earned loyal fans in Morgan Park.

1316 W 111th St
Chicago, IL 60643

Related Maps