As a Chicago native (now living in California for many years) I often get asked about restaurants and food in Chicago. I’ve been gone a long time but when we go back these are some of the places and restaurants we think about. I don’t know how much time you will have there but I’m going to give you the places that people go to and talk about that know Chicago food (I’m sure I’m missing a few so am open to more current suggestions too :-)).
Look for RICOBENE’S PIZZA near downtown on the south side (but don’t buy pizza; buy one “BREADED STEAK SANDWICH” to split). It is full of delicious cheese and is a lot of food for a normal human being and as long as you’re comfortable to share is plenty for two. Don’t go there on a first date there; it is messy. http://www.ricobenespizza.com/ Really good; You should love this.
If you want to have dinner and a cool Chicago experience go to TUFANO’S VERNON PARK TAP in the old Italian neighborhood of Taylor Street. It’s an old Italian restaurant and is really authentic Italian food. Warning: They don’t take credit cards (at least they didn’t used to). Order anything Italian. It’s all good. https://sites.google.com/site/tufanosrestaurant/
After either of these two places, you will be in the TAYLOR STREET AREA (after dinner and if it is summer) go out right nearby for an ITALIAN ICE AT MARIOS: http://www.eatmarios.com/ . It is very close to Tufano’s or Ricobene’s – You can almost walk there from Tufano’s but it might be better to do a cab or Uber (it’s very close). You’ll love that Italian ice. I crave it. – MARIO’S ITALIAN ICE – 1068 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607 – The neighborhood is an old Italian neighborhood and is good but don’t stray too far out of that neighborhood walking.
For lunch, find either a PORTILLO’S OR AL’S BEEF – (and don’t buy a hot dog). http://www.alsbeef.com/locations.html or http://www.portillos.com/locations/ – Order a “WET BEEF” and fries. This is a specialty that you can pretty much only find in Chicago. There are Portillo’s and Al’s all around Chicago and the suburbs. Italian beef is a real Chicago specialty. There is a Portillo’s in Buena Park, CA though and me and my wife go there often.
Try Giordano’s for pizza. https://www.giordanos.com/locations/all-locations/ – It’s a chain but pretty good for Chicago pizza. Other good pizza places downtown are Uno’s and/or Due’s Pizzeria’s – They’re both good. You can try their DEEP DISH PIZZA. It’s really good but usually gives me heartburn because I eat too much.
About hot dogs… Almost anywhere you see a little hot dog stand will usually be good but some that we especially like are:
- In Cicero: HENRY’S HOT DOGS on Ogden Avenue
- On the north side of Chicago: I remember going to JIMMY’S HOT DOGS on Grand and Pulaski as a kid. 4000 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60651. They were good. Be careful of the neighborhood though.
- On the south side of Chicago: I remember a few hot dog stands named “NICKY’S”. I used to love them.
- Some Suburbs: In River Grove: A lot of people talk about GENE & JUDE’S. I haven’t been there but hear it is good.
Before you leave Chicago, stop somewhere to have a GYRO SANDWICH. There are stands everywhere in Chicago. They’re almost always good and they serve them with a delicious white sauce. Buy the ones that are fresh sliced off the vertical rotisserie. Those are the best and are plentiful in Chicago. These are a favorite for me and a little more difficult to find in California.
Last! I’ve been gone a long time and if you know that I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’m always interested in where to eat when I come back to Chicago.