There’s so much I love about Chicago, and I’ll openly admit that their famous Chicago food is on the top of my list of reasons why!
Every major city has its “thing,” but no place beats Chi-Town when it comes to the number of signature foods that they can claim as their own. In fact, there are probably more than you think!
Pssst, heading to Chicago? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
Whether you plan on sprinkling in some classic Chicago food tastings while you explore the town, or your main goal is eating your way through Chicago with a DIY food tour, I’ve put together my list of favorite famous Chicago foods you have to try!
Famous Chicago Food Guide
1. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
This one tops the list because let’s face it, it’s one of the main reasons to visit Chicago in the first place–if not the main reason! No dish is more iconic Chicago than a deep-dish pizza.
What is it about the famous Chicago deep-dish pizza that makes it so irresistible? The thick, buttery crust?
The gooey, delicious strings of melted cheese that stretch from every gigantic slice? Or maybe it’s that zesty, perfectly-seasoned tomato sauce?
Suffice it to say that the combination of all three is enough to make anyone’s mouth water. My personal favorite spot for deep-dish is Pequod’s Pizza, but Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s, Burt’s Place, and the Art of Pizza are delicious and popular spots to try.
2. Chicago-Style Hot Dog
Yes, Chicago has managed to make the classic all-American hot dog into a Chicago style all its own. So what is it about the Chicago-style dog that makes it so uniquely Chicago?
First, it must be an all-beef frank in a steamed poppy seed bun. Next come the must-have toppings—green sweet pickle relish, chopped onions, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, or sport peppers and mustard.
Notice that ketchup is not on the list. Chicago dogs have a strict “no ketchup” rule, so please don’t try to mess with tradition or you will face consequences! Mustard is ok though. 😉
3. Italian Beef Sandwich
It’s not a roast beef sandwich, and it’s not a French dip sandwich either. Leave it to Chicago to give these classics a twist and create their own version that’s now a well-known famous Chicago food–the Italian beef sandwich.
Made with paper-thin slices of roasted lean beef soaked in beef-based stock and then layered on a thick Italian bread loaf to sop up all the juicy goodness, the Chicago Italian chopped sandwich is every bit as sloppy and delicious as it sounds.
The sliced beef is topped with sweet peppers and giardiniera, a mix of pickled veggies that needs no explanation to true Chicagoans.
Depending on where you go, you can also have the entire sandwich dipped in juice for that extra touch of soppy and flavorful.
I guarantee you’ve never tasted a beef sandwich quite like this, so it’s a famous Chicago food you have to try. Don’t be shy about asking for extra napkins–you’re gonna need them!
4. Chicago Barbecue Rib Tips
Although barbecue certainly isn’t unique to Chicago, you may be surprised to know that Windy City has its own barbecue scene that takes pride in its unique styles and dishes like the smokeless roast. However, the most iconic BBQ dish of all is Delta-style rib tips.
Rib tips are cartilage-heavy strips of pork meat which can be described as “pork belly with cartilage” and are usually the part of spare ribs that get thrown away, but not in Chicago!
In Chi-Town, they get smothered in sauce and served with white bread on top. They’re messy but worth every finger-licking bite!
Just as you’d expect in any Midwestern city, there are lots of BBQ joints to choose from. But if you’re looking for the best places to try some rib tips, some of the top options include Leon’s Barbecue and Honey 1 BBQ.
5. The Original Rainbow Cone
Chicago may not be able to claim ice cream as uniquely theirs, but they can surely claim the Original Rainbow Cone, Chicago’s most iconic dessert destination since it opened its doors in 1926.
The Original Rainbow Cone consists of five flavors. The full rainbow stack, from top to bottom, consists of orange sherbert, pistachio, Palmer House (vanilla with walnuts and cherries), strawberry, and chocolate.
Not only are these the only flavors you can get at this famous spot but they’re the only flavors any customer has been able to get for almost 100 years!
It’s hard to find a place anywhere that’s remained that consistent with their menu for that long, so indulging in this ice cream dessert is like reliving a piece of sweet Chicago history in a cone!
Like many major US cities, Chicago has a thriving Latin American population. As such, you’ll find some amazingly delicious Latin American food, of which tamales are among the most popular.
I mean, who doesn’t love a good tamale? When you think of tamales, the traditional Mexican type is probably the first to come to mind.
However, Chicago celebrates its Latin American diversity and it shows with all of the types of tamales you’ll find in the city. These range from Mexican, Cuban, Delta-style, Guatemalan, Venezuelan, Tex-Mex, and more.
There’s also the Chicago tamale (of course) which is a cornmeal package filled with spiced meat and wrapped in paper instead of corn husks. At first glance, you may think it’s a hot dog, which makes sense because hot dog stands are exactly where Chicago tamales are sold.
You’ll find plenty of places to try authentic and variations of tamales throughout the Windy City. Some of the best are Manolo’s Tamales, Chilo y Chela, La Casa del Pueblo, and then there’s always the famous Tamale Guy, Claudio Velez, who’s been an icon of the Chicago food scene for over 20 years.
7. Chicago-Style Popcorn
Chicago has its own style of hot dogs, tamales, pizza, so it’s probably not too surprising that they have a style of popcorn too! This famous Chicago popcorn is made up of a dynamic duo of flavors–cheese and caramel.
It may seem strange, but omg does this sweet/salty combo work! The reason why Chicago claims the cheese/caramel popcorn mix is uniquely theirs is because it was made famous by Garrett’s Popcorn, a local staple that’s been in business since 1949.
Garret’s Popcorn Shop has since exploded and now has stores in nine countries including corporate offices in Chicago, Tokyo, and Singapore.
When you’re in Chicago, you have to try it and see for yourself what the hype is all about. I bet you’ll find it’s well worth it!
8. Flaming Saganaki
This now-famous Greek dish was invented in the Parthenon. No, not the one in Greece but the iconic restaurant, the Parthenon, in Chicago’s Greektown.
Sadly, the restaurant closed in 2016 after almost 50 years in business, but its spirit lives on in the famous Chicago dish, the flaming saganaki.
If you have no idea what flaming saganaki is, no worries, neither did I. But it’s basically a Greek appetizer of flour and egg-dipped cheese that’s fried via open flame in a shallow pan served with bread.
A squeeze of lemon extinguishes the flame, and you’re left with an ooey, gooey pan of cheesy deliciousness.
Those that stay true to the original will use kasseri cheese, a type of sheep milk cheese–the only kind that the originators ever used.
Oh, and if you hear cries of “opa” as the dish is served, don’t be alarmed–it’s kind of a thing!
Invented sometime in the 1990s, the jibarito is another testament to Chicago’s flair for turning ethnic cuisine into something uniquely their own.
Whether the jibarito was actually invented in Puerto Rico or the Windy City is uncertain, but Juan C. “Pete” Figueroa takes the credit for its fame in the city.
What is the jibarito? It’s a “plantain sandwich” meaning that bread is substituted for flattened, crispy, fried plantains.
Piled inside, you’ll get your choice of seasoned meat (beef, chicken, or pork), lettuce, tomato, cheese, and garlic mayo. If you love plantains, this combo is fire!
Originally served by Borinquen Restaurant in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, the best jibaritos are served throughout many Puerto Rican and Cuban restaurants around the city.
10. Cinnamon Rolls
Okay, so chances are that you’ve had a cinnamon roll before. However, if you’ve never had one from Chicago icon, Ann Sather, your taste buds are in for a cinnamon-y treat of a lifetime!
Ann Sather’s cinnamon rolls are nothing short of divine. After one bite of that thick, chewy, oh-so buttery dough dripping with that perfectly sweet glaze, it’s easy to understand how they came to be known as an A-lister of iconic Chicago foods.
It’s also no wonder why Chicagoans have kept frequenting this place since 1945.
You can find other delicious foods at Ann Sather’s too, but I guarantee that nothing can beat those made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls.
Your mouth will be watering at the sweet aroma that wafts through the place the second you walk through the door!
Is your mouth watering yet? Because mine is at the thought of all those yummy foods you can only find in the Windy City.
I can’t wait to go back! hope you’ll try these famous Chicago foods next time you’re in the city because you will not be disappointed!
If you end up trying any of these amazing and delicious snacks tag me on insta @wtfab. I love seeing what you all decide to do.
Heading to Chicago? Be sure to explore my other Chicago travel guides here.
Chicago Travel Guide
Where to Stay in Chicago
Chicago 3 Day Itinerary
Gwen Hotel, Chicago
Day Trips From Chicago
Top 11 Chicago Black-Owned Restaurants
22 Best Indoor Activities Chicago Has to Offer
20 Fun Things to Do in Chicago at Night
18 Most Instagrammable Places in Chicago
The food Chicago is most known for are:
– Deep-Dish Pizza
– The Rainbow Cone
– Chicago Barbeque
– Flaming Saganaki
The best time to visit Chicago is in the spring or fall when the weather is the best.
You should definitely spend between 3 to 4 days in Chicago to really explore the city and try all the famous Chicago food.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.