Your foodie friend is here to serve the details on classic Chicago eats and famous Chicago foods.
Want to know what foods Chicago is best known for? I’m dishing them up in this ultimate guide to classic Chicago eats. These are restaurants that started right here in the Windy City with popular foods that have been pleasing Chicagoans for decades.
Famous Chicago Foods to Try
Billy Goat Tavern
📍 60 E. lake St. or 430 N Michigan
Who hasn’t seen the SNL skit from 1978? Cheezborger! Cheezborger! A trip to Chicago would be incomplete without sampling one of the famous Chicago foods that has captivated taste buds.
Billy Goat has great-tasting hamburgers with no frills. The thin patties are well seasoned and fresh.
The Owner, Billy, got the moniker when a goat fell off a passing truck and wandered inside the tavern. Butt in anytime for the classic Cheezborger!
The buns are thick and that’s ok because they’ll wash down with the drinks. There is a full bar and quite a sports atmosphere and you may find yourself cheering the Sox or Cubbies with fellow fans.
The bathrooms were VERY clean. Nostalgic photos decorate the walls along with witty quips.
By the way, if you are going to have a Chicago Style hotdog, don’t ruin it with ketchup. That’s now how we roll in the Windy City.
📍 4 E. Madison St or 625 N. Michigan St., Chicago
You can’t visit Chicago without a trip to Garrett’s. They’ve been poppin’ for over 70 years!
You can smell this gourmet Chicago-style popcorn in the air while shopping in the Loop or Michigan Ave. Garrett mix is the most popular selection and kids will love it!
It is a mix of Carmel Crisp and Cheese Corn and absolutely the best combination of sweet and savory tastes.
A bag of popcorn is good for about 34 hours and if you get a sealed tin, it’s good for two weeks.
When enjoying the Garrett Mix, Chicagoans have an unwritten rule — always eat one caramel popcorn with one cheese popcorn. From a cheesy mix to seasonal specialty flavors of mouthwatering popcorn, the city boasts an array of famous Chicago foods to satisfy any popcorn craving.
📍 6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr., Chicago
Eli’s Cheesecake is the #1 dessert at the annual Taste of Chicago. You can also find them in select groceries around the Chicagoland area. Can’t make it to the Taste or the store, you can still buy it online.
Everyone has their favorites, but Strawberry-topped Cheesecake, Chocolate Chip, Turtle Cheesecake, and Original Plain are among the top.
There is no such thing as too many selfies with Eli’s. They also expanded products to offer gluten-free and vegan cheesecakes.
Try the Pumpkin Cheesecake for Thanksgiving…you’re welcome!
If you are in town during the Cheesecake Festival don’t miss this event. The kids will love it.
Parking might be a tiny challenge but that is because this event draws everyone to the world of cheesecake. There is no cost for admission and there are small samples of cheesecake.
They also host a classic car exhibition, culinary demos, kiddie rides, and carnival games.
Can’t make it to the Taste of Chicago or Eli’s store? Shop online and have it shipped to your front door!
Al’s #1 Italian Beef
📍 1079 W. Taylor St., Chicago
Mamma Mia! Italian beef sandwiches are among the famous Chicago foods that have gained worldwide recognition.
Al’s has been rated #1 by Chicagoans, Al’s has been serving their iconic Italian beef sandwich for over 75 years!
The meat is roasted for 3.5 hours with secret seasonings, sliced paper-thin, and served with mild peppers.
How would you like yours? Wet or dipped? Either way, we love it with giardiniera peppers and you will love every juicy bite!
Bring momma dollar and papa dollar because they only accept cash. Al’s is one of Chicago’s best gems.
The location is in the heart of Little Italy and our favorite spot but there are others in the Loop area.
📍 1250 S. Union St., Chicago
Exploring the diverse neighborhoods allows you to discover hidden gems serving up their own famous Chicago food. Jim’s is located not easily accessed on the tourist route. His fame began in 1943 and is known as the Original Maxwell Street Polish Sausage Stand.
Jim’s is open 24 hours a day and they are quite busy serving up sandwiches late at night. We recommend the pork chop sandwich, a polish with grilled onions, or a hotdog.
At Jim’s, you’ll find delicious Chicago style hot dogs cooked perfectly and everything is topped with a generous heap of onions, mustard, mustard, and more mustard.
Jim’s is so beloved in Chicago that we will stand in line day or night, rain or shine.
The service is efficient, and you’ll be glad to know that a golden delicious bag o’ fries comes with every order.
Winning! This establishment takes cash only, so stop at the ATM before you park the car.
If you don’t have a car, the best way to get there is to take the Orange, Green, or Red Line to Roosevelt. Then take bus #18 west to Roosevelt & Jefferson, then walk 5 minutes south on Union Street to Jim’s.
📍 909 W. Belmont St.
This restaurant is one of the originals in the Wrigleyville neighborhood.
If you haven’t stopped here for breakfast, what are you waiting for?
Ann Sather has all the home-cooked feels and they are servin’ lovin’ from the oven. The soft and moist baked rolls with a sweet buttery cream glaze are a must!
Since 1945, this Swedish bakery has been serving its famous cinnamon rolls, the pecan rolls are epic!
We also recommend French Toast Fantasy (mascarpone-filled cinnamon rolls battered, grilled, and topped with granola and seasonal fresh berries).
Ann Sather’s is one of our picks for great Chicago brunch spots.
📍 835 N. Michigan, Chicago
We’ve tasted donuts from across numerous states, but Do-Rite takes the lead from all.
These aren’t just pretty cakes (we’ve seen quite a few)…these cakes are PDG …pretty darn good! Pistachio Lemon is one of our favorites.
The Blueberry Crumb will have you wanting another dozen to take home.
Bacon lovers beware, their classic Maple Bacon donut is always delicious and is topped with two pieces of candied breakfast meat on top and the portions are generous.
You can’t do wrong with Do-Rite! Gluten-free and vegan varieties are also available. Donut fans should consider a self-guided tour of donuts in Chicago.
You know you want one! Stop at other locations (181 N. Morgan or 233 E. Erie St.) for the delicious combination of Do-rite donuts and fried chicken.
It’s a thing here in Chicago and we love it! Breakfast is served all day and you can make any sandwich on a donut for just an extra dollar (this is not available at the Michigan location)!
The spicy chicken sandwich with the donut bun is a game changer!
📍 The Jibarito Stop – 1646 W 18th St., Chicago | Jibaritos y Más – 3400 W Fullerton Ave., Chicago
There are many amazing Latin-American dishes and chief among them is this Chicago original.
Juan “Peter” Figueroa is the father of the jibarito (hee-bah-ree-toh) and introduced this delicious sandwich to Chicago-area residents at his Borinquen Restaurant.
Today, you’ll find many Puerto Rican restaurants serving this well-loved dish. It is a plantain sandwich filled with steak and topped with aioli, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.
We recommend The Jibarito Stop in the Pilsen neighborhood or Jibaritos y Más in the Humbolt Park community. The meat is well seasoned, and the rice and beans are quite good.
Chicago Style Hotdog
You can eat a hotdog in any city, but this famous Chicago food was birthed here and it’s a rite of passage for every local and visitor.
You can enjoy them at a baseball game, numerous Chicago hot dog stands, delis, and restaurants throughout the city.
Anatomy of a Chicago Style Hotdog
- A steamed poppy seed bun. The seeds add a subtle crunch and enhance the overall texture of the hot dog.
- All-beef Vienna beef to ensure juiciness in the base flavor.
- Yellow mustard
- Green sweet pickle relish. Don’t let the brightness alarm you, it’s because of the pickling process.
- Diced onions
- Tomato slices
- Pickle spear
- Sport peppers
- Sprinkle of celery salt
Each ingredient adds a unique element, from the tanginess of the mustard to the crunch of the pickle. And when you bite it, there is a symphony of flavors and textures in your mouth.
Adding ketchup to a Chicago hot dog is like wearing a Cubs jersey to a White Sox game. It will raise some eyebrows!
There is probably not a more famous Chicago food than deep-dish pizza. Chicago pizza is known for its deep, thick, and buttery crust. The crust serves as a foundation for all the delicious toppings and provides a substantial base that can hold the layers of ingredients.
The fillings are hearty. It’s common to find a variety of ingredients, including Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and more. These robust fillings create a flavorful and satisfying eating experience.
There are plenty of great places for pizza in Chicago, too!
Final Thoughts on Famous Chicago Foods
The city has a diverse culinary offering, but the famous Chicago foods are a definite highlight! In addition to visiting the Starbucks flagship store, all the great Chicago tours, coffee shops, diverse neighborhoods, and world-famous buildings, you can explore the culinary culture and get a the best tastes.
Although all foods are not available, you can find some for purchase online to have it shipped to your front door.
When it comes to great food, the city has made indelible marks, and now you know what foods Chicago is best known for! When visiting the City of Big Shoulders, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in the famous Chicago foods.