Traditional recipes

Epitomizing Chicago's Trendy Food Scene

Epitomizing Chicago's Trendy Food Scene

If it weren’t for the touristy, Michigan Avenue locale, The Purple Pig would epitomize everything that's currently trendy in the Chicago food scene. There’s the nose-to-tail cooking philosophy, the communal dining experience, and the tapas-sized portions, not to mention the no reservation policy.

Thankfully, the restaurant wears most of these trends well, save for the two-hour Saturday night waits. Bar-height tables and rustic colors elevate the dining room, making the place feel slightly more “wine with the girlfriends” rather than “beers with the guys.” Yet there’s a formidable manliness to the menu; after all, Cajun-mecca Heaven on Seven’s Jimmy Bannos Jr. heads the kitchen.

Bannos' ever-popular braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes is the best comfort food outside of mom’s kitchen, so tender you only need a spoon and two orders. Spanish ham, mushroom, and fried duck egg on bread would, in retrospect, be a perfect hangover cure. There’s even a turkey leg confit, though it’s too large and too dry to be worth it. All this is served up amidst decorative piggy banks and established twenty-somethings ordering plates of roasted bone marrow (brightened with fresh cilantro, onions, capers, and a bowl of sea salt).

Dessert, of all things, should not be rushed or ignored. Sugar-dusted nutella paninos are popular, but the Sicilian Iris, a fried brioche bursting with ricotta and chocolate chips, is an indulgence to fight over. Frying turns the brioche into supple, chewy dough; combined with melted ricotta and chocolate, it’s brilliantly simple and deserves time to savor.

The bustling crowd doesn’t dim until closing, and you can easily spend two hours slowly moving through the multi-faceted (though sadly, not seasonal) menu. The wait may be long, but at least nothing here is harried, as patrons go through bottles of wine and Simon & Garfunkel croons over speakers.


Giardiniera: Chicago’s Condiment

Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town
Chicago, Chicago, I’ll show you around (you’ll stay around)
Bet your bottom dollar you lose the blues in
Chicago, Chicago, the folks who visit
All want to settle down (all want to settle down in my hometown)

In a way, this verse from the classic performed by ol’ blue eyes Sinatra describes what I hope to bring you with Chowhound’s new “Cities” content. Whether you’re a local who’s true-blue Chicago, a transplant who migrated after college or a job transfer, or an occasional visitor, I hope to “show you around,” help you “lose the blues,” and allow you to “settle down” in the city of broad shoulders. From my point of view, this means treating you to the inside scoop regarding the area’s food scene. You see, for me, food creates a feeling of comfort, of home. Its nourishing aspects bring contentment and satisfaction that lead you to unwind, relax, and feel at ease. Call me biased, but Chicago is an unparalleled food location: plentiful options, without the absurd crowds (for the most part) diverse cultural representation world-class culinary adventures and local traditions. Chicago truly is a toddlin’ town because it has it all. It’s also, for these reasons, why the sentiments of the song ring so true. So, sit back, relax, and take a taste of Chicago.

When you think of Chicago food, what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you probably gravitate to the staples, like pizza, hot dogs, and, maybe, steak. If I pushed further, you might think of Italian beef, Indian food on Devon (northside), Greek food or Mexican food on Halsted, or Italian food on Taylor (near westside), or Chinese food off Cermak (near southside), and Argyle (northside). You might throw in Chicago-style fried chicken joints like Harold’s (southside), Uncle Remus (westside), or sleeper pick, The Chicken Shack (Evanston). Then again, you could go in the completely opposite direction and talk about our James Beard or Michelin-starred restaurants. Mention any of these things and you wouldn’t be wrong. Chicago is a rich food landscape, full of tastes and history to match the city itself.

Today, I’m going to leave the aforementioned alone and focus on something else: a condiment. Huh? That’s right, a condiment. Now, you might be wondering if I’ve lost my mind. I haven’t. Part of what makes Chicago such a great food destination is that it takes the details seriously. Chances are, you put stuff on your hot dogs, burgers, and sandwiches, like mustard, mayo, or ketchup (no ketchup on a Chicago hot dog, please!). Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but condiments help create the taste you crave, and the taste that delivers wonderful satisfaction. They’re details, but the details matter in taking something from good to spectacular. So, today, we focus on a real-deal Chicago condiment: giardiniera.

If you’re from the Chicagoland area, you’ve encountered this wonderful concoction of spicy, pickled veggies, covered in oil, on your Italian beef, sub sandwich, Italian sausage, or even pizza. You know this to be a Chicago-staple, underappreciated as it might be. If you’re not from Chicago, you may have never heard of it. Either way, I thought I’d delve deeper into what it is, where you can find it, and how it took hold in Chicago. Chicagoans will likely be interested to know a bit more about this genuine and unique Chicago foodstuff. Out-of-towners might be interested to get introduced to a condiment that’s been delighting Chicagoans for decades . Heck, next time you’re in town you might even order your beef sandwich with hot peppers (how locals order giardiniera on a beef sandwich) instead of plain, or even buy a jar online for your cupboard. After all, if the people of Chicago think it’s good, maybe it’s worth a try!

To get the goods on giardiniera, I touched base with Liz Lombardo Stark. She, along with her siblings and father, own and operate the Gibsons Restaurant Group. This is the same group known for Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, LUXBAR, Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar, and the new Gibsons Italia. Disclaimer: Liz is my wife’s cousin. Given this, before I proceed, I’d like to clarify a few things. First, I’ve had a soft spot for Gibsons for longer than I’ve known my wife, or the Lombardos. In fact, in early correspondence with the then-almost-stranger who later became my wife, I remember emailing about our favorite steakhouses (I know, I know, I’m such a catch), and including Gibsons as one of my go-to spots. Second, Gibsons Restaurant Group operates Chicago institutions. The original restaurant is consistently the top-grossing independent restaurant in the city and top 10 in the country. Third, they use giardiniera at multiple locations, from their high-end Italian steakhouse (Gibsons Italia), to their authentic, Italian small plates concept (Quartino), to their original old-school steakhouse (Gibsons). I say all this to specify that even if I were Joe Schmo, with no connection whatsoever, I would have been smart to talk to the folks at Gibsons. They know Chicago, they know their food, and they know giardiniera!

Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get on with it. After contacting Liz, I was referred to Daniel Huebschmann, Corporate Executive Chef at Gibsons Restaurant Group. The following back-and-forth represents what I learned about giardiniera from Dan:

What is giardiniera, and what are its origins?

[It got its start in Italy as] a combination of garden vegetables canned or jarred with vinegar. Early 20th century giardiniera got a foothold in Chicago and morphed into what we know it to be, a spicy blend of pickled vegetables packaged or preserved in oil, not vinegar. [It] literally translates to “mixed pickles.”

How is it typically used?

In Chicago, we use it to complement, most notably, Italian beef, Italian sausage, and hot dogs. Many Chicagoans enjoy it on their pizzas, as well. Giardiniera, in its original form (pickled vegetables high in acidity), is a great complement to cured meat, or any meat for that matter. It brings a balance of crunch and acidity to ingredients that are rich and have a fair amount of salt.

How did giardiniera become such a Chicago-style condiment?

It is attributed to the Italian immigrants who came to the United States and settled in Chicago in the mid-19th century. Italian food is a large part of Chicago’s heritage, and this is a common condiment, with widely varying preparations, so it been a staple of Chicagoans’ diet for over 100 years.

How big is giardiniera outside of Chicago?

[It’s] a staple in Italy. While you can find it in other parts of the United States, you have to seek it out. In Chicago, it’s usually just a stone’s throw away.

What sets the giardiniera at GRG apart?

We prepare our giardiniera by hand in small batches. We use the freshest ingredients and hand cut the vegetables. It is always made fresh and served fresh. The pickling process and preservation in oil give giardiniera a long shelf life, though we go through it quickly at Gibsons.

If I wanted to make my own, how difficult would it be?

It is relatively easy. Select your favorite garden vegetables, a high quality vinegar, and depending on your preference of style, a high quality olive oil.

Which GRG restaurants serve it?

It is available at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Quartino, Gibsons Italia, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, and LUXBAR. Basically, it’s available at all of our restaurants.

After hearing from Dan, I did a little more digging. Here are a few more interesting tidbits about Chicago’s condiment. Italians tend to enjoy giardiniera as more of an appetizer than as a condiment. As Dan mentioned, the vinegar-based version works great with cured meats —think a salumi plate. Additionally, as Dan pointed out, there are many variations in preparations to giardiniera. The key distinguishers are the amounts and types of vinegar, oil, and vegetables. Common vegetables include cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell peppers (mild), sport peppers (hot), and cucumbers/pickles. In Italy, not only will you see more varieties prepared in vinegar, you’re more likely to see the use of bell peppers for milder and sweeter variety. In Chicago, on the other hand, you’ll encounter a greater use of oil and sport peppers.

Now that we know what giardiniera is, let’s dive in to where you can get it. Generally, it’s all over The Second City, from big-time restaurants to hole-in-the-wall joints. That said, when I have a hankering for fresh giardiniera, I stick with Gibsons or Quartino. For lunch, the original location offers a prime rib French dip that’s phenomenal. Accompanied with a traditional au jus and their fresh, house-made giardiniera, this sandwich is out of this world. For an added kick, here’s a little trick I’ve picked up along the way: Order a side of creamy horseradish, then, triple dip your sandwich in au jus, giardiniera oil, and horseradish cream. The best. Don’t sleep on Quartino, either. The meatball sliders with a side of giardiniera make for a great lunch, or a wonderful accompaniment to your dinner.

For a meal that’s a bit more on-the-go, I have two spots with knockout giardiniera that I think are worth your time : Portillo’s and Potbelly. Each came from independent, humble beginnings — the former, a modest hot dog stand, and the latter, a Lincoln Park (northside) sandwich shop —and erupted into remarkably successful chains. Because of their massive respective success, you might liken visiting each for their giardiniera to visiting McDonald’s for their secret sauce. This would be a mistake. You might not get the made-to-order freshness in the giardiniera found at Gibsons, but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, the extra oil and salt (likely necessary for preservation) add a great element to a sandwich. The Portillo’s variety is made by another Chicago institution—Marconi Foods—and the Potbelly variety is a house brand simply labeled as “hot peppers.”

Finally, if you’re an out-of-towner, or even an in-towner, who now finds yourself craving a little giardiniera at home, you’re in luck! You can buy it in-store, or get it online via Amazon. Try the Marconi stuff here , or the Potbelly stuff here . Of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also make it yourself. For recipe ideas, peruse different varieties here , and go crazy! Then, try it on pizza, hot dogs, Italian sausage, Italian beef, French dip sandwiches, subs, hoagies, pizza, eggs, or burgers. Basically, try it on anything you think could benefit from some heat!

Chicago is a wonderful city with a voluminous food tradition. And yes, part of that tradition lies in a condiment—albeit, no ordinary condiment. So, the next time you’re enjoying an Italian beef-and-sausage combo with hot peppers, or French dip at Gibsons, remember you’re indulging in a true Chicago staple. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed being “shown around.” Maybe we can do it again sometime.


CHOICE TABLES Latin Accents Heat Up Chicago's Dining Scene

A HUGE immigrant population of Hispanics from all over Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean thrives in Chicago. Like deep-dish pizza and the blues from other worlds, Latino food and music are part of the city's soul.

Chicago has long been blessed with wonderful Mexican restaurants, from the world-class Topolobampo to countless storefront taquerias. But the growing influence of non-Mexican Latinos is showing up in a new kind of restaurant flourishing beyond the few long-established Cuban and Argentine neighborhood cafes. A couple of these newer places are purists others mix traditional styles with more global influences.

These favorites of mine are each quite different in atmosphere and clientele. Two are in the center of the city, three in easily reachable and pleasant neighborhoods. If you can understand Mayor Richard M. Daley's version of English, you'll do fine without knowing Spanish or Portuguese at any of these Chicago destinations.

A combination restaurant and lounge, Coobah bounces with a raucous Latin beat, especially at night when a D.J. is on hand. One draw of the hip young crowd is that Jimmy (Tasty J) Madla, chef and co-owner, is a former drummer for the Chicago alternative-rock band Veruca Salt. Coobah's two rooms and their black-painted tables are softly illuminated by large tortoise-shell-shaped copper fixtures. A thin eye-level mirror along the wall above the banquettes allows diners to catch the action behind them.

Reflecting his own heritage, Mr. Madla mixes Latino and Filipino cuisines. My attention is always drawn first to his seafood appetizers. On my most recent visit, the finest was a charred lobster and grouper ceviche that benefited from the light tropical sweetness of mango. Spicy Brazilian-style shrimp piri-piri were scrumptious atop a salad of green papaya, cucumber, peanuts and fresh herbs. Seared scallops on pimentón-infused white been purée with crisp Serrano ham and watercress also satisfy. Arepas, typical Venezuelan and Colombian griddle corn cakes, are delicious topped with queso blanco and served with mashed avocado topped with manzanilla olives.

Many diners fashion a tapas-style meal from the many delectable starters, but the entrees are equally worthwhile. The main course our cheerful young waitress recommended, for good reason, was pork Bicol. Pork tenderloin is stuffed with shrimp, bacon and pineapple and glazed with coconut adobo. Served with spicy mashed yucca, the dish comes from a region in the Philippines known for its peppers and coconuts. My wife, Carol, loved the pork, but I preferred the lamb shank adobo braised in cider and coconut milk, garlic and ginger served with spicy mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. For such a boisterous place, desserts are surprisingly genteel: espresso crema catalana with brandied blueberry peach compote and a caramelized apple lumpia with warm dulce de leche.

On Sunday night mojitos are half priced, Red Stripe beers from Jamaica are $3, and Jesse de la Peña spins Latin funk and a dance hall Afro-beat.

While Coobah is trendy, Rumba is a retro-classic nightclub with a smartly attired Latino clientele coming to dine and dance or take in the show. There is also a contingent of River North professionals dropping by after hitting the gym and tennis courts at the nearby East Bank Club, where Oprah Winfrey sometimes tapes her physical fitness segments.

The owner, Edwin Rios, has outfitted his urbane room with polished wood and granite-topped tables set with Moroccan beaded candle holders and tapered candles. A display of vintage Argentine movie posters includes one with a tuxedoed Jimmy Durante and James Cagney looking ready to step down and tango with the glamorous brunettes in the room. Booths are flanked with illuminated congas, and the view of the central dance floor and the bandstand near the open kitchen is unobstructed everywhere.

Israel Calderon, the chef, knows the rhythms of pan-Latino cuisine. Sancocho, a satisfying Puerto Rican soup with lots of Caribbean root vegetables, shrimp and squid, is beautifully seasoned. Along with first-rate caipirinhas and mojitos, Carol and I always share the ceviche trio of shrimp, bay scallops and whitefish, each made with different seasonings and presented in a partitioned white tray. Arepas are served stacked, layered with savory chicken. Almost a main course, the churrasco salad is an array of thinly sliced sirloin on top of mixed greens, cucumber and jicama sticks with chimichurri sun-dried tomato dressing.

Main courses, listed with a recommended wine by the glass or bottle, also entice. Scampi de langosta offers chunks of lobster sautéed in a rich white-wine sauce with shallots and garlic, accompanied by fried tostones al mojo and julienned vegetables. I approach a dish with the unlikely moniker of beef Provençal à la Latino with a skeptical eye, but whatever its provenance, it is good: a filet mignon crusted with yucca and cilantro served in a savory gravylike roasted garlic sauce with garlicky mashed plantains. Among the enjoyable sweets are a Puerto Rican rum flan and an almond cake topped with chocolate cappuccino mousse with orange sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Live entertainment ranges from Latino pop and jazz bands to Afro-Cuban singers to sensual professional dancers. When the white-tuxedoed members of Julian Lugo's Tropicanos perform, Rumba feels like the Coconut Grove in its heyday. Their sets begin with drummers moving from booth to booth beating the congas as the band strikes up joyful Latin rhythms.

After a full dinner here, we found cups of Caribbean coffee spiked with dark rum and Tia Maria liqueur helped us stay attuned to the show late into the evening.

Just as Chicago's Italians invented deep-dish pizza, Puerto Rican immigrants invented the jibarito (little bumpkin) sandwich. Instead of bread, jibarito sandwiches are made with chewy slabs of fried plantains topped with garlic.

I like the ones cooked on the open griddle next to the bar in the Winds Cafe, a welcoming spot in Logan Square, a few blocks off the Kennedy Expressway connecting O'Hare Airport and downtown. At this combination neighborhood tavern and back-room restaurant with a half-dozen plastic-covered tables, jibaritos are typically filled with thin-sliced steak, but you can also get the sandwiches with jerk or honey-lime chicken or even a vegetarian patty. All come with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and optional cheese and a side of crispy plantain chips or French fries.

The Winds Cafe is one of those rare spots in Chicago that serve draught Guinness stout and Bass ale at the proper cellar temperature either is splendid with a jibarito.

Colombian cuisine, which merges influences from the Andes and Pacific Coast as well as the Caribbean, is not as common in Chicago as other Latin American styles. The popularity and quality of La Fonda is changing that. This cozy restaurant north of the Loop on the border of Edgewater and Andersonville is modestly outfitted in the basic Chicago storefront attire of tin ceiling and raw brick with soft earth tones. Families flock here for the fine Colombian cooking of the chef and owner, Herbert Delgado, and knowledgeable service from a small staff headed by his wife, Beatriz.

Carol loves the arepa topped with a pair of jumbo bacon-wrapped shrimp and served with a lively red pepper aïoli. We share the picada sampler of beef empanadas, coarse-textured pork sausage, morcilla and crisp pork rind with green plantain, fried cassava and avocado sauce. We also can't overlook the pincho de res, robust grilled beef kebab with grilled onions and chimichurri sauce.

Everything on the mixed grill of churrasco -- beef steak and chicken breast with five garlic shrimp served with black bean and corn salsa and plantains -- was cooked just right. Arroz marinero, yellow rice laden with red snapper and shellfish, gains flavor from green olives, onions and sweet peppers. Flan with blackberry sauce is far better than usual storefront custards, as were fresh figs with custard ice cream. The short, inexpensive wine list includes eight Chileans, but I like La Fonda's shakelike juices in exotic flavors such as mora, maracuya and lulo.

Brazilians are giving the big Chicago steakhouses a run for their money with this sleek River North churrascaria. As packed nightly as famous local beef emporiums like Chicago Chop House and Gene & Georgetti, Fogo de Chão ('ɿire on the ground'' in Portuguese) combines an excellent salad bar with a carnivore's jamboree. Men in gaucho attire, many of them trained at sister Fogos in São Paulo, patrol the room brandishing skewers of 15 kinds of meats slowly roasted over open-flame pits. They bring them to your table to carve as fast and as long as the chip in front of you is turned to its green, rather than red, side.

At a set price of $46.50, Fogo de Chão, with its wide variety of delicious and constantly replenished meats, easily competes with the top steakhouses and their $30-plus à la carte prime cuts. But the merely hungry can quickly be overwhelmed. I have to pace myself carefully and keep an eye on which color my chip is showing. And I have to be careful not to overindulge early on in the engaging offerings from the buffet, which is decked out like a tropical forest.

The salad bar is a feast in itself, with fresh mozzarella balls and smoked salmon as well as an array of greens and vegetables -- 30 items in all. Every table also groans with family-style platters of polenta, fried bananas and mashed potatoes, as well as rich cheese puffs called pão de queijo, so light and savory I inevitably eat too many.

With a bottle of Argentine malbec on our table and a second helping from the buffet on side plates, we turn the chips from red to green. The onslaught is awesome. The meats are lightly seasoned the natural flavor of smoky spit-roasting comes through. My favorites are dense and juicy rump steak, top and bottom sirloin, beef ribs, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, leg of lamb and linguiça (robust pork sausages). I am not fond of the dryish pork loin, served plain or with a Parmesan coating but simply seasoned and succulent pork ribs made me ask why barbecue sauce was invented. When, sated, we turned our chips to red, a solicitous waiter advised that the crema de papaya dessert would help us digest all that meat.

These restaurants take major credit cards and allow smoking in the bar. Coobah, Rumba and the Winds Cafe have late kitchens on weekends.

Coobah, 3423 North Southport Street (773) 528-2220. Brunch Saturday and Sunday, dinner nightly. Dinner for two is about $95 with wine.

Rumba, 351 West Hubbard Street (312) 222-0770. Dinner Tuesday to Saturday (live music Wednesday to Saturday). Dinner for two, about $120 with cocktails and after-dinner coffee drinks or a bottle of wine.

The Winds Cafe, 2657 North Kedzie Avenue (773) 489-7478. Lunch Thursday, Friday and Saturday dinner Tuesday to Sunday. Jibarito sandwiches are $6.95 to $7.95.

La Fonda Latino Grill, 5350 North Broadway (773) 271-3935. Lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday. Dinner for two, about $75 with wine.

Fogo de Chão, 661 North LaSalle Street (312) 932-9330. Lunch Monday to Friday, dinner nightly. Prix fixe dinner, $46.50 a person $19.50, salad bar only lunch, $28 not including drinks.


Epitomizing Chicago's Trendy Food Scene - Recipes

Founder: Soo Park // Photo: Melissa Diep Photography

Made in Korea. Raised in Chicago. Soo (@fabsoopark) moved to Chicago when she was 3 years old, where her parents unlocked her appreciation and love for food by exposing her to a variety of cuisines. While there is no food she loves more than her mom’s authentic Korean cooking, Soo has indulged in the food scene from all of Chicago’s top Michelin-rated restaurants to trendy hot spots and quaint neighborhood gems. From fast casual to fine dining, Soo loves trying new foods and exploring new cultures.

Soo has 17 years of marketing and branding experience, including over a decade in the magazine publishing industry where she worked on Chicago, Chicago HOME, Ebony and Jet. Soo developed an enjoyment for writing as co-editor of a national home décor magazine for kids as well as spending two years as a wedding fashion blogger.

One month before her wedding, Soo got into a car accident while recovering from major back surgery. She had to learn how to walk again and recovery was hard. Her husband encouraged her to quit her corporate job to focus on her health. During that time, she contemplated on her next career move and eventually decided to pursue her passions – food, writing, photography and all things Chicago – and Fab Food Chicago was born in September 2015. With a passion for Chicago businesses, Soo also launched her marketing consultant company to help local restaurants and businesses grow through social media, content development, influencers’ events, and more.

In addition to eating great food, Soo enjoys exploring the world with her husband and daughter (@fabfoodbaby), spending time with family and friends, playing with her 8 nieces and nephews, fashion (Crain’s Chicago Business Model), and all things Hello Kitty.


Reposting the best of the best, this account is great because its photos are not all original. This creates a satisfying mixture of pictures, from accounts and chefs less well known to popular pictures you may see plastered elsewhere. By not going to every restaurant themselves, picture turn-around and posting is a lot faster as well as geographically spread out.

High quality pictures, all from an iPhone 6, this foodie photographer and Daily Meal editor knows what she's doing. Regularly featured on the aforementioned account and mastering the art of taco pictures, this account is sure to make you drool.


5 classic Chicago foods

If you’re craving a classic Chicago experience, then trying the city’s most iconic foods is a must. Sure, we’ve got an acclaimed fine dining scene and more Michelin-starred spots than you could fit into just one trip — but we still love our deep dish pizza, mile-high ice cream cones, and Chicago style hot dogs (preferably enjoyed in a ballpark).

Deep dish pizza

Giordano’s Pizza

Forget too-thin crusts and skimpy toppings. This beloved comfort food is as hearty as they come, with a thick crust baked in a deep pan that’s traditionally filled to the brim with cheese and topped with a layer of chunky tomato sauce. The result is a piping hot, gooey mountain of pizza goodness that’s a true Chicago classic.

Want to taste it for yourself? You’ve got plenty of options. There’s long-time favorite Uno Pizzeria and sister establishment Pizzeria Due in River North. Some say this is the birthplace of the deep dish pizza, invented in 1943 by the pizzeria’s founder. Today, they use their signature spice blend to craft a flavorful sauce that tops all their ultra-deep dish pies.

With locations throughout Chicago, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is another great stop. Pizzas are made with hand-selected ingredients like fresh mozzarella cheese sourced from the same small dairy they’ve used for more than 40 years. Insider tip: Don’t skip their famous buttercrust. You can also get fresh-made frozen pizzas to bake at home.

Giordano’s, with restaurants all over the city, adds its own twist to the classic Chicago-style pizza by doubling up on the crust and stuffing it with cheese. Every slice oozes the moment you pull it apart.

And at the original Gino’s East of Chicago, close to The Magnificent Mile, you’ll find deep dish pies with a golden, flaky crust and mounds of cheese and tangy tomato sauce — and an interior that’s almost as beloved as the pizza itself. Don’t forget to leave your mark on the walls scrawled with patrons’ graffiti. You’ll find more Gino’s East pizzerias located in River North and the South Loop.

Chicago style hot dogs

The classic Chicago style hot dog got its start as a cheap bite during the Great Depression. While they may not cost a nickel anymore, you can try the (still cheap) street food staple for yourself all over Chicago.

So, what exactly is a Chicago style hot dog? Here’s how to do it right — an all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, lots of relish, diced onions, tomato wedges, a pickle spear, sport peppers, a dash of celery salt — and most importantly, no ketchup.

Another hallmark of a classic Chicago dog — that all-beef hot dog came from Vienna Beef. Founded in 1893, the company first debuted their frankfurters at the Chicago World’s Fair. It was an instant hit. Today, you can try their original family recipe at their Factory Store & Cafe.

Hit all the reliable go-tos scattered throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods, like Portillo’s in the Loop and South Loop, The Wiener Circle in Lincoln Park, Jim’s Original in Little Italy, and Redhot Ranch, with locations in Bucktown and Lakeview.

You can also try one (preferably with a cold beer) at a Chicago White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field or cheering on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Italian beef

You can get it hot (with giardiniera peppers) or sweet (with sweet peppers) dry (no gravy), wet (extra gravy on top), or dipped (the whole sandwich takes a bath). No matter how you order it, you’ll be getting a taste of one of Chicago’s most famous creations — the Italian beef sandwich. The delicious (and messy) sandwich consists of a crusty Italian roll piled high with thinly sliced and seasoned roast beef, plus your choice of peppers and au jus sauce (or gravy, as some places call it).

There’s a fierce debate among locals as to who has the city’s best Italian beef. Al’s Beef in Little Italy claims to be the inventor of the sandwich, and has won countless awards since it opened in 1938. They’re also advocates for the “Italian Stance,” the only way to eat an Italian beef sandwich — elbows on counter, feet 18 inches from counter, and mouth wide open (the most important part). Besides their original location, they have four outposts throughout the city.

Another popular spot is Mr. Beef on Orleans in River North. It’s a small eatery with a dive vibe, but it’s definitely big on flavor. Whether you eat standing at the counter or sitting at the communal table, you’re in good company: Even Jay Leno has sung the praises of this place. Just remember to bring cash (there’s an ATM if you forget), be quick with your order (service is speedy), and bring a very big appetite.

Garrett Popcorn

The Garrett Mix at the famous Garrett Popcorn Shop is a salty-sweet taste of local history. The secret family recipe includes a blend of Garrett’s classic CaramelCrisp and CheeseCorn popcorn flavors, so you get a bit of sweet and savory all in one bite. The mix has been a local favorite since the shop first opened in 1949. You’ll find multiple Garrett’s locations throughout Chicago, each offering tons of different popcorn flavors in their signature blue-striped tins.

Original Rainbow Cone

The Original Rainbow Cone tastes just as good as it looks. The classic Chicago treat is a cake cone piled high with chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet (in that order). It’s a local summertime staple and Instagram-worthy dessert that’s remained virtually unchanged since it was first scooped in 1926. Visit the original location in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood or the Original Rainbow Cone’s second location at Navy Pier.


You shame my culture's food — then make it trendy

When I'm craving comfort food, I'll take my father's ngau lam over mac and cheese any day. Although it takes the better part of a day to prepare, his Cantonese braised brisket stew always soothes my stomach and my soul.

I love the cooking process almost more than the flavor. My father cuts a square of cheesecloth and adds cinnamon, star anise, cloves, peppercorn, ginger, orange peel and a sweet root with no English name to its center. He ties it into a neat bundle and lets me hold it to my nose before dropping it into a rich broth in which brisket, tripe and tendon simmer for hours until tender.

Before all the ngau lam ingredients converge in a giant pot, the brisket, tripe and tendon must be blanched. It gives off a hot, heavy stench that permeates every room of the house and adheres to every fiber.

My childhood home in suburban Chicago always smelled like whatever we were cooking. Visiting us meant cloaking yourself in the scent of haam daan ju yoke beng, a dish of steamed pork and salted egg, or the perfume of mapodoufu, tofu and minced pork with a spicy chili and fermented black bean sauce.

I didn't mind the smells growing up because I wasn't aware of them. That is, until a high school friend declared my house smelled of "Chinese grossness."

The comment clung to me like the smell in my home. My embarrassment hit a peak when my father installed a 5-foot-long fish tank in our family room so he could steam fish at home — extra fresh. I tried to pretend the blue fish swimming around in the murky green water were pets, but the lack of tank accessories gave away our true intentions, stunning my white friends.

My hunger for my family's food was overpowered by my desire to fit in, so I minimized Chinese food's role in my life and learned to make pasta instead. Little did I know that Americans would come to embrace the dishes and cooking styles that once mortified me. The Cantonese foods of my childhood have reappeared in trendy restaurants that fill their menus with perfectly plated fine-dining versions of our traditional cuisine. In some cases, this shift has been heartening. But in too many others, the trend has reduced staples of our culture to fleeting fetishes.

The shame associated with immigrant foods (until they become foodies' favorites) isn't unique to me or Chinese dishes. In her new book, "Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking," Korean cook and YouTube star Maangchi writes fondly of Korean soup soy sauce. In South Korea, all of her neighbors would boil their own. In the United States, though, the soup was received differently:

"I remember boiling my Korean soup soy sauce when I lived in Missouri, and my apartment manager knocked on my door. 'What's that smell? I got a complaint from your neighbor.' I was so embarrassed that I didn't make soup soy sauce again for a long time, even after I moved back to Korea."

Even now, as an accomplished cook in New York City, Maangchi doesn't boil soup soy sauce in her home. Instead, she takes it to a creek at the base of the Henry Hudson Bridge and boils it in a portable gas burner "where no one will complain."

This experience is so universal that it recently became canonized in pop culture. New York chef Eddie Huang retold the story of his daily lunchroom shaming in a scene from "Fresh Off the Boat," an ABC sitcom based on his memoir. When young Eddie takes a carton of noodles out of his lunchbox, his white classmates react with disgust: "Ying Ming's eating worms! Dude, that smells nasty!" Back at home, Eddie demands his parents start packing him "white people lunch."

The lengths to which immigrant families have gone to hide the way we feed ourselves break my heart. But something has changed. In cities big and small, Asian dishes and flavors have become popular among foodies at chic eateries. Foods that were once considered too strong, too spicy, too smelly or too obviously-from-an-animal for my white friends are now on Restaurant Week menus nationwide.

A month ago, I saw a kimchi burger on the menu at Macintyre's, a new bar in Washington's upscale Woodley Park neighborhood. It's just two miles north of Drafting Table, which sells a duck-and-hoisin-sauce grilled cheese. And a few blocks from there is Masa 14, which features crispy chicken wings and meatballs on its "Dim Sum" menu. Downtown, Wolfgang Puck's The Source offers lobster bao buns and "Chinoise-style" chicken salad.

In one way, this is a positive change. Now that I've gotten over my fear of stinking up my kitchen, the growing number of Asian grocery stores means I don't have to visit home to get ingredients for homemade Chinese food. Greater acceptance of international eateries allows immigrants, professional chefs and otherwise to explore their culture and dual identity proudly, instead of behind closed doors or at the edge of the Henry Hudson Bridge.

Gravitating toward "new" cuisines is understandable, and when done well, immigrant food can provoke discussions about personal history and shared diasporas. I've seen this happen at restaurants such as China Chilcano, which describes the history of Chinese and Peruvian fusion that influences its menu, a bare minimum that many restaurants ignore.

But while some eateries get it right, the United States's take on "ethnic" food often leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


More in Maps

Chicagoans on the Northwest Side head to Pho 5 Lua for a hot bowl of noodles. Jeffy Mai/Eater Chicago

Arguably the city’s best pho can be found on the Northwest Side in a nondescript strip mall. Pho 5 Lua is a favorite among Vietnamese locals and its eponymous dish stands above most other local versions. A complex and aromatic broth is accompanied by add-ins like fatty wagyu beef, hunks of oxtail, brisket, tripe, meatballs, and more. Diners are also encouraged to garnish their bowls with as much basil, bean sprouts, and cilantro as they want.


5 Trendy Chicago First Date Restaurants

First dates, and first impressions on dates, can fizzle or ignite interest in 20 minutes or less, according to a Texas University study. And a 2009 speed-dating survey from the University of Indiana showed decisions about pursuing a love-thing (or sample and move on), are made within seconds. Who pays is still a sore spot: In an NBCnews.com study of more than 17,000 singles, 44 percent of men said they would dump a woman if she didn’t offer to chip in on dates, and 44 percent of women were annoyed(!) when asked to pay. Here’s a novel solution: Settle that up front.

Those stats shocked us. But we kept wondering where these people coupled up. Now, this is unscientific, but doesn’t it figure that the way to gain some evolutionary advantage on the first meeting-of-the-minds is a stellar venue? Natch. And Chicago has them in spades.

Confession: These selections are whittled from dozens of potentials or this would have ballooned into a Zagat guide if your favorite is absent, it’s not personal. From the Fulton River District to Lincoln Park, we tried to accommodate a menu of date vibes: hip, young, fun and a wee bit loud is represented quiet rooms for handholding and gazing sophisticated cuisine for the experimental vegetarians, we thought of you, too (you’ll find something delectable and meatless).

One caveat: These five aren’t bulletproof that is, we can’t guarantee that great food and superb ambiance can overcome date bombs like flirting with the cutie at another table, licking your plate, self-absorbed chatter about your exes, or texting-while-wooing. Barring that (please), perhaps one of these spots could nudge you into the Second Date Finals and not exiled (yet) to the “friend” zone.

Sepia in Fulton River District

Sepia is built in an 1890 print shop and it's filled with Old Chicago memorabilia and photos. This Michelin Star outfit is Chef Andrew Zimmerman's invention and it's an instant classic. Choose this for a big date night dining experience of wine, conversation and an American cuisine menu with striking entrees. Must-tries include the roasted poussini with Roman gnocchi and wilted chicories. Is the date out of the danger zone? Then order the flourless chocolate cake with tequila gelee for dessert. Located at 123 N. Jefferson St.

Named after an Asian trade route, it's not unusual for Lady Gaga or Mark Wahlberg or director Michael Bay to drop in Sunda, one of the most popular spots on the scene. Pick this for an adventurous date and the fusion of Southeast and East Asian plates from the talented and funny Chef Jeff DeGuzeman. Vegetarians are covered with this chic, inventive menu (Veggie Q Sushi Rolls). Here's an idea (and you'll score major originality points): Plan a date for the Monday Maki Sake class ($25 a head) and learn to make sushi and sip on TyKu sake. Thinking about it, aren't you? Located at 110 W. Illinois.

Hub 51 in River North

Party central: The menu is a mad sprout of sushi, burgers and tacos. Try the filet mignon steak tacos and charred salmon, and imbibe your pick of sake, wine or a wide beer selection. We'd choose this for a casual "we're just hanging for a minute" date. But if the date has morphed into crash-and-burn, do not despair! This place has a built-in escape hatch during the weekends where you can flee to Sub 51 for lounge action and DJs helping you dance off the date willies. (DJ Koncept spins every Saturday night.) See how that worked out? Hub 51, 51 W. Hubbard.

North Pond in Lincoln Park

You will be burned into your date's memory if you choose this romantic gem on a bluff with views of the gentle Lincoln Park pond. This is a restaurant steeped in the Arts and Crafts tradition, from the 1912 building to the fresh, local, seasonal produce from small farms that are a staple of Chef Bruce Sherman's kitchen. The pan-browned duck breast with charred peaches and compote just rules. This is a place for whispers, private toasts and the clever double entendre. Float right in. Located at 2610 N. Cannon Dr.

Grab neo-Japanese eats in a bar inside the tallest residential tower in this hemisphere. Rebar has the Lake Michigan views, the upscale heat and the prices ($11 bucks for a rancic hand roll, $22 for 8 pieces of shrimp Tempurah). This is the Trump, so we suggest you use this as the perfect launch pad for the evening. (Thinking to self: Yeah, this could work. To date: "Let's head over to . "), or a pass/fail testing ground to keep your options for the remainder of the night open ("Would you look at the time!"). Nothing wrong with a little strategy deployed with skill. Located at 401 N. Wabash Ave.


With travel and cocktail happy hours and CorePower Yoga and all the other things we usually occupy our time with us currently inaccessible to us, we’ve been spending more time escaping into other eras. Bingeing Great British Bake Off and Bridgerton has led to the rise cottagecore and the foods that go with it. And if we’re not recreating the bakes from our favorite period TV shows, we’re delving into the flavors from our childhood. Sugar cookies bars are a top 10 recipe right now in the New York Times Cooking section and

Trader Joe’s Everything But The Elote Seasoning


Watch the video: DJ Chase B Discovers Chicagos Unique Food Scene. InstaChef (January 2022).