Having lived in the Windy City for longer than five years, I know exactly those dishes that make up Chicago’s gastronomic culture. I’ve decided to show you four of them: you might know them already, or you might read about them for the first time and not be fully convinced. However, I assure you these are dishes that you have to try!
Deep Dish Pizza
The Deep Dish Pizza, or Chicago-Style Pizza, it’s probably the most well known Chicago dish out of all of them. It’s a rather thick pizza, similar to a savory pie, but taller. The puff pastry base is covered in melted cheese, which then gets covered by another layer of puff pastry. On top of this second layer, a layer of tomato sauce is added. The result is a mix between a regular pizza and a savory pie, with tons of calories. You have to try it once in your lifetime. You can add various toppings to any Deep Dish Pizza, such as pepperoni, spinach, bacon and sausage, but the “simple” version with just cheese is completely fine too.
Where to eat Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago
There are many restaurants in Chicago that serve their own version of Deep Dish Pizza, but only a few of them are considered the most important pioneers of this gastronomic tradition. Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due are great, they’re located right downtown and always create a wonderful atmosphere inside the restaurants. Nevertheless, Chicagoans will ask you to choose a side between Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s: the first one offers a crispier and thinner version of this kind of pizza, while the second one makes a more stuffed and thicker version. In any case, true Chicagoans will reveal you that the best Deep Dish pizza is actually from a restaurant/pub in Lincoln Park called Pequod’s, where only the locals go. I’ve tried it not too long ago, and I really enjoyed it. However, it’s a well kept secret, so keep it for yourself!
I have to say, it’s not “Italian” at all, but this sandwich is definitely a Chicago favorite. While being one of the greasiest things ever, the Italian Beef is nothing but a roast beef sandwich where the meat marinates in a greasy, seasoned meat juice called “gravy” by locals (though it’s not the Thanksgiving kind of gravy). The toppings available are once again many: I love adding provolone, grilled onions and mayonnaise. I know, it sounds disgusting, but it’s also amazing at the same time, especially after 2am of a night out. The most famous recipe, however, only adds hot giardiniera and sweet peppers. A version that’s not necessarily any lighter than mine. On top of that, in many Italian Beef restaurants and kiosks, you can get your sandwich “wet, aka you can add even more gravy to it: they basically dip your sandwich in the juice. Healthy, right?
Where to eat Italian Beef in Chicago
You can find Italian Beef at Al’s Beef, a Chicago restaurant chain, or even at Portillo’s, a casual and very picturesque restaurant downtown that’s still furnished with its 1950’s décor.
Chicago Style Hot Dog
In my opinion, hot dogs are the ultimate American food. We’ve seen them in movies, cartoons and commercials, and I have to say, even in real life, since they were at every single cookout I’ve ever attended. However, Chicago has a very specific recipe for its hot dogs. The most important rule is this one: never, ever, ever put ketchup on your hot dog. A Chicago Style Hot Dog is usually made up of a poppy seed bun, a Vienna Beef wiener, and topped with yellow mustard, diced white onion, tomato slices, pickled peppers, relish, and a long dill pickle wedge.
Where to eat Chicago Style Hot Dog in Chicago
If you’re curious about this dish, you can actually find it pretty much anywhere in the city, from restaurants to kiosks – even Al’s Beef and Portillos. However, I recommend Hot Doug’s, one of the most famous hot dog restaurateurs in the city, but also Devil Dawgs, my personal favorite. If, for some reason, you’re in the mood to be insulted and offended, you can also go to Wiener’s Circle, a kiosk that’s known for the employees’ verbal abuse towards customers, something that’s now used as a marketing tool. Somehow, there’s always a line to be insulted while eating a delicious hot dog. Hot dogs in Chicago are, in fact, usually delicious and absolutely worth trying. But I warn you, if you do want to add ketchup to them, do it secretly: Chicagoans do take it personal!
Garrett Popcorn: Chicago Mix
Ah, popcorn, another symbol of American gastronomy! This famous snack is always on our minds when we think of the United States. Chicago however possesses a particular popcorn recipe that is well-known all over the country: it was created by Garrett Popcorn in 1949. Basically, the famous Garrett Mix, also known as Chicago Mix, includes cheddar popcorn and caramel popcorn mixed together, in the same bag. In fact, these two flavors that are apparently so different, work extremely well together. It sounds disgusting, but it’s delicious: you have to try it, and once you do, you’ll agree with me!
This list of food items and flavors that are so different from ours probably sounded extremely weird to you, but I hope it sparked your curiosity and that you’ll come visit me in Chicago soon! In the meantime, you can find me at Milano To Chicago (www.milanotochicago.com) or on Instagram. See you soon!
Just a couple words to introduce myself: my name is Caterina, I’m 22 years old, and five years ago I moved from Milan, Italy, to Chicago in the US. Since then, I’ve studied PR and advertising and I’ve explored the city through its many, many restaurants. Nevertheless, I keep up with Milan and its culinary scene. I usually do that by following this blog, A Milano Puoi, among others. When Francesca asked me to write about my “adoptive city” for her, I didn’t hesitate, so here we are.
This post was written and translated by Caterina.