Travel blogger Mhde Askar hits Chicago this week, bringing his readers the insider tips that make for a memorable trip. Today, he explores all the Windy City has to delight the taste buds. From budget bites to fine dining, Chicago has several signature dishes that you just can’t leave without trying.
Mhde Askar breaks it down with the Five Essential Places to Eat in Chicago.
PEQUOD’S PIZZERIA. The rivalry between the New York slice and Chicago deep dish is legendary. Deep dish pizza is more like a casserole made of traditional pizza ingredients, eaten with a fork. Don’t choose your side until you’ve visited Lincoln Park and tried Pequod’s famous deep dish with “caramelized crust” – extra cheese sprinkled around the perimeter of the pie and seared until crunchy. You haven’t arrived in Chicago until you have a bite of this in your belly.
MAPLE and ASH. Chicago was famous for its bootlegging industry during Prohibition. Maple and Ash, located in the Gold Coast neighborhood, is where you go to eat like a gangster. If you have money to burn, the over-the-top decor will transport you to a time of conspicuous consumption. Al Capone would feel right at home. Steakhouses are huge in Chi-town, and Maple and Ash serves up sumptuous slabs of beef in that tradition. The $155 tasting menu features an exquisitely candid title that is pure Chicago.
PORTILLO’S. If your wallet is feeling light, don’t despair. Chicago has raised street eats to a delicacy with two flavorful additions unique to the Second City. You can sample great examples of both at River North cafeteria joint Portillo’s. First, there is the Chicago Dog. Not just any hot dog will do. It has to be all-beef and feature a very specific set of toppings – chopped onion, pickle spear, electric green relish, sliced tomato, pickled sport peppers, yellow mustard, and a sprinkle of celery salt. No substitutions, no omissions. Then there is the Italian Beef – savory slices of steak piled on a huge crusty roll, topped with sweet and spicy peppers and dipped in “gravy” (a.k.a. beef au jus). For extra credit, order a chocolate cake shake like the locals do.
JIM’S ORIGINAL. Related to but not the same as the Chicago Dog is the Polish Sausage. Locals have flocked to Jim’s Original since 1938 for a taste of “the Original Maxwell Street Polish Sausage Sandwich.” Snap your teeth through the skin into the juicy beef or pork sausage served on a bun topped with onions, sport peppers, and yellow mustard. Perfection.
THE PUBLICAN. If you are a vegetarian or pescatarian, don’t despair. Chicago is notoriously meaty. A West Loop pork-and-beer cookery, the Publican certainly delivers on that reputation. However, the menu also contains seafood and vegetable treasures, all of them creative and superb in quality. Even on a plant-based diet, you can join the extroverted Chicago fun at this upscale casual dining room, where guests are seated Medieval-banquet-style at massive communal tables.