Contrary to popular opinion, The Chicago food scene is not just about deep-dish pizza and hot dogs. There is actually much more to the city’s culinary scene, a testament to its history of diversity. From savory to sweet, here are five unique local dishes that you won’t want to miss when visiting the Windy City.
1. Italian Beef Sandwich
The Italian beef sandwich is a Chicago classic that can be found all over the city. It’s made with thinly sliced roast beef that’s been slow-cooked in a seasoned broth, then piled high on a soft roll and topped with sweet peppers or spicy giardiniera. It’s messy, juicy, and absolutely delicious. One of the best places to try an Italian beef sandwich is Roma’s Italian Beef and Sausage located in Irving Park. The homemade giardiniera really sets this one apart from the rest.
2. Chicken Vesuvio
Another classic Chicago dish is chicken Vesuvio, which is a hearty and flavorful chicken dish that’s cooked with garlic, oregano, white wine, and plenty of olive oil. The chicken is usually roasted with potatoes and served hot, making it the perfect comfort food for a chilly Chicago night.
The Vesuvio at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, named after the famous Cubs announcer, is top tier. Their version of the dish is served with crispy potatoes and a side of sautéed spinach for a well-rounded meal.
3. Rainbow Cone
Chicago summers can get pretty hot, so it’s no surprise that the city has some amazing ice cream shops. One of the most iconic is Rainbow Cone in Beverly, which has been around since 1926. Their signature cone features five different flavors of ice cream (chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio, and orange sherbet) all stacked on top of each other.
It might sound like an overwhelming combination, but the flavors all work together beautifully. Plus, the texture of the ice cream is incredibly creamy and smooth. Don’t miss out on this Chicago staple!
Another great Chicago food innovation is the jibarito. This Puerto Rican sandwich is made with fried green plantains as the “bread”, then filled with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and garlic mayo. The result is a crispy, savory, and slightly sweet sandwich that’s unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted.
Borinquen in Humboldt Park invented the jibarito and still serves one of the best versions to this day. They also offer other Puerto Rican staples like mofongo, arroz con gandules, and more.
Finally, let’s talk about baked goods. Paczki are Polish doughnuts that are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). However, you can find them year-round in many bakeries throughout Chicago.
Paczki are sweeter and heavier than regular doughnuts, and they’re often filled with jam or custard. One of the best places to try them is Delightful Pastries in Jefferson Park. They offer a wide variety of flavors, from raspberry to lemon to Nutella.
Aside from these 5 dishes, Chicago is a full-fledged culinary melting pot. You can find a dish for every palate, from nearly anywhere in the world somewhere in the city. Don’t be afraid to try something new and explore all the amazing dishes that Chicago has to offer, whether local or beyond.