6 (or 8) Chicago Restaurants that Scream “Chicago!”

Al's Beef - Chicago, IL

If someone asked me to name the best food city in the US, I’d know my pick without even having to think twice: Chicago. Surprised? Well, you shouldn’t be! Chicago is home to some of the best, trendiest, most innovative, and most sought after restaurants and chefs in the country and the world. It seems that new restaurants are popping up weekly and the Chicago food scene is only continuing to grow and become even better and more widely known. If we’re talking best mid-range restaurants (ie, somewhere you could go and spend $75-100/couple on a nice dinner), Chicago definitely does it better than anywhere else.

If you’re planning to travel to the Windy City, I urge you to do your research and find some of the best trendy spots in town. Like I said, new ones are popping up all the time. But then there are also those restaurants that have been around forever and are the places that really make Chicago feel like home. So, if you’re planning to visit Chicago (or even if you live there), make sure you add some of what I would call the 6 (8) restaurants that are Chi-Town legends to your agenda/list. It’s these restaurants that will make you realize you’ve found yourself in somewhere very special and it’s these restaurants that you’ll keep coming back to time and time again (listed in no particular order):

  • Pizzeria Uno/Due:You can’t say you’ve been to Chicago unless you’ve tried their famous deep dish pizza… And, I don’t think you can say you’ve tried deep dish unless you’ve tried Pizzeria Uno or Due, two classic Chicago deep dish favorites (Due was opened across the street from Uno after it became so popular it needed to expand – hence the names meaning Pizzeria one and two!). The pizzas take 45 minutes to cook, but they are worth every second of the wait. My personal favorites are sausage and/or spinach.
  • Manny’s Delicatessen: Manny’s is THE New York style Jewish deli of Chicago serving up some of the best deli sandwiches, matzoh ball soups, breakfasts, hot entrees, desserts, sides, and… you get the picture. Their menu is huge and everything is good. I’m always partial to a good pastrami/corned beef combo sandwich, but hey, that’s just me.
  • Gibson’s Steakhouse/Hugo’s Frog Bar: If you want a great steak, check out Gibson’s. If you’re more into seafood (think lobster) then Hugo’s is for you. The best part though, is that when visiting the Chicago locations (which are conveniently right next door to each other) you can order from either menu at both restaurants. Hello surf and turf! These are two perfect special occasion restaurants in Chicago.
  • The Wiener’s Circle: When one thinks of late night dining in Chicago, The Wiener’s Circle is often the first place that comes to mind. Typically packed at night with tourists and locals alike, this place is known for their attitude maybe even more than their hot dogs. To see what I mean, you’ll have to go see for yourself. Make sure to check it out after a long night at the bars to get the full experience.
  • Portillo’s: For me, when I think of Chicago, I think of Portillo’s. It was one of the first places I tried when I moved there and I make sure to go back every time I visit. When I’m on my own, I go for the chopped salad. It’s one of my favorite salads in the world (probably because it’s topped with pasta and comes with the best dressing ever). When I’m with my husband, we go for the Italian beef (with sweet and hot peppers), the char grilled Italian sausage, or if we’re feeling really crazy, the combo beef and char-grilled sausage. It’s delicious, cheap, and definitely a Chicago institution.
  • Al’s Beef: At Al’s, you go for one thing – their famous Italian beef sandwiches. I like mine “wet” and with all the peppers I can get (hot, sweet, giardiniera). They also do some good Italian sausages, but since I don’t go very often, I tend to stick to the basics.
  • The Bongo Room: Maybe not as “classic Chicago” as the rest of the spots on this list, but The Bongo Room is serving up some of the best breakfast dishes I’ve had. They’re  known for their sweeter breakfast options, but anything and everything I’ve tried there has been great (and also very decadent).