Sweet home, Chicago. There is no better city in the world to me. From the downtown skyline to the cool beaches, Chicago has so much to offer and will always be my home base. With a large metropolitan area, Chicago boasts some of the best restaurants around the city and surrounding areas. The diverse population in and around Little Italy, Jew Town, Chinatown, Andersonville (known for its Swedish roots) and hundreds more neighborhoods has created a burgeoning food scene, yet I am not locked in by any of these boundaries. I enjoy trying foods from all over the city and there are always new ones cropping up every week. Being in New York now makes me miss my local stops, but that shouldn't prevent those of you in the Windy City from all the tastes in town. Here are a few of my Must-Have eats whenever I'm in Chicago:
- Chuck's Manufacturing- 224 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL. 312-334-6700
I stumbled upon Chuck's for a lunch meeting with some of my MBA classmates before I got to New York. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the restaurant with the misleading name. The décor consists of white PVC pipes as handrails with white polyurethane tables and bright colored chairs and couches. The space is very large to accomodate large groups and they offer a wide array of dishes, along with the ability to “Manufacture Your Own Lunch”. I decided to do just that ($18) and I put together a delicious plate that included “Carrie’s Mac”, their Roasted Pepper Soup of the Day, and a Turkey Club. All in all, this is definitely one of my new favorite locations for lunch. They close at 11pm every night so head there for happy hour or a late night meal.
The best Cajun food I have encountered outside of Louisiana. The minute you step inside you will feel like you are at a Bourbon Street restaurant because of the Louisiana-inspired decor, Mardi Gras beads, and tantalizing aroma that fills the space. With an average plate ringing out at about $11 for lunch and $17 for dinner, this establishment is not skimpy on the portions. The menu consists of a variety of Cajun-inspired pastas, soups, omelets, crab cakes, and more. Their motto is "not everything is spicy" so do not fear this place if you can't handle spicy foods. I would suggest going here with a few people so you all can get entrees and taste several different dishes at once.
This quaint restaurant and bar is situated on the corner of 13th and Wabash and has plenty of outdoor seating for when we get good weather in Chicago (still waiting on that). I chose to highlight this one because the majority of patrons that frequent this restaurant are regulars and live only a few blocks away. This neighborhood is full of people walking around because of the local shops, grocery stores, and parks. Last time I took a friend here for his birthday and ordered the Black Bean Burger topped with avocado, sour cream, onions, and red peppers. It was one of the best burgers I have had in a while. The Fish-n-Chips platter boasts huge pieces of fried fish and plenty of fries.
- Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles- 3947 S. King Drive, Chicago IL, 773-536-3300
This spot is all about down home Southern cooking in the heart of Chicago. Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles is a small restaurant that is always packed yet worth the hour-long wait to be seated. My favorite dish on the menu is the Carol's Treat, which includes 1/4 dark fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions with 2 waffles. This combination is filling and bursting with flavors that satisfy your craving for sweet and savory at the same time. You can also order classic Soul Food dishes here ranging from fried chicken, mac and cheese, greens, and beans n rice. Make sure you order Grandma's Peach Cobbler, too.
This list wouldn't be complete if it didn't include a pizza place. Of course, when you think of Chicago pizza your mind goes to the famous Gino's East deep dish pizza, or Lou Malnati's. However, Toppers Pizza is my number one for a small neighborhood pizza joint. Toppers is open late, they deliver, and they have all different types of pizza choices. My favorite is the Philly Cheesesteak pizza covered in steak, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. They also offer a mac-and-cheese pizza, gyro pizza, and a taco pizza. This is why I love this place. You can also get half and half of these specialty pizzas so you can try two at once.
While visiting Chicago make sure you stop at as many of these restaurants as you can during your stay. Of course, there are hundreds of fabulous places to dine in the city, but these are my Top 5 Must Eats.
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