From the beautiful Chicago River, ‘love-them-or-hate-them’ sports teams, beautiful skyscrapers, and jam-packed summers, Chicago is a great city for many things. Chicagoans have much to be proud of, but it’s the food scene that takes things to another level.
Exactly what is Chicago’s most iconic dish, anyway? We searched high and low for Chicago’s top food staples — interviewing restaurants, talking to co-workers, and speaking with our clients. We’ve narrowed it down it down to the top three contenders, ranked by popularity. Finally, we’ve listed out our favorite local hotspots to go chow down!
The Italian Beef Sandwich
- Thinly shaved roast beef
- Mozzarella Cheese
- Sweet Or Hot Peppers
- Au Jus gravy (The Juice)
- Dipped, Wet, or Dry
Not to be confused with a French dip, the Italian Beef is a staple hot sandwich With no definitive origin, there are a handful of theories around the rise of this infamous sandwich. The most widely accepted theories involve the desire to take a rougher cut of meat, shave it razor thin, add juices and spices, and make a tasty, hearty meal out of it. Chicagoans generally agree that the juicer the sandwich, the better. And most will argue that sweet or hot peppers are a must have. Often served with a side of ‘Au Jus’, this juice is really the part of the sandwich that brings it all together (or in our case, makes the sandwich literally fall apart).
Our personal favorite Italian Beef joints can be found at: Portillo’s, Al’s Beef, Buona Beef, Johnny’s Beef (a Zerocater Italian Beef catering favorite), Jay’s beef, and many, MANY more.
Chicago Style Hot Dogs
- Poppy-seed bun
- Yellow mustard
- White onion
- Sweet pickle relish with mint
- Sport peppers
- Kosher dill pickle spear
- Celery salt
The Chicago Style Hot Dog has been a topic of much controversy. Notice how ketchup is not on the list? Ketchup has long been a taboo topping for hot dogs in the city of Chicago, and there are many different reasons why. Ketchup on a hot dog is considered disrespectful and bad etiquette.
There are hundreds of places in Chicago to grab a hot dog in many styles, but our favorites are: Portillo’s, Jimmy’s Red Hots, Superdawg, Johnny O’s, Wiener Circle, Franks ‘n’ Dawgs, Johnny’s Beef, Allium, and more.
Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
- Bottom layer: DEEP crust
- Middle layer: Copious amounts of cheese
- Top layer: Chunky tomato sauce
- Additional layers: Any topping you’d like
Deep Dish Pizza is practically synonymous with Chicago. You really cannot discuss the Chicago food scene without discussing this unique pie. Yet another mixed origins story, we can pretty much agree that Pizzeria Uno started it all. Small differences include chunky or non-chunky sauce, buttered, cornmeal or even caramelized crust, and toppings under or on top of the pizza (often called ‘stuffed’). What most people don’t realize is that one slice is usually enough, so leftovers are often in order. Whether you’re visiting the city or just looking for a hearty meal, you can’t go wrong with pizza in Chicago —it’s science.
Each time a top list of pizza places in Chicago gets published, it’s followed by uproars of disagreement. You can debate on who takes the crown, but here are our picks: Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, Pizzeria Uno, Pequod’s, Gino’s East, Pizano’s, The Art Of Pizza, Burt’s Place, and more.
What’s your favorite Chicago food staple? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @Zerocater!