Chicago Dining

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Chicago Dining
Chicago’s award-winning chefs serve farm-fresh cuisine, artisan gelato, classic deep-dish pizza, and handmade chocolates. Hungry visitors return to Chicago again and again simply to sample the city's amazing eats.
By Kaitlyn Barrett, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Alyssa Riley
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    Chicago's Deep-Dish Pizza
    Uno Pizzeria invented Chicago-style pizza, which is characterized by its tall crust filled with gooey cheese and chunky tomato sauce. Uno’s is franchised in 20 states, but the original restaurant still stands at the corner of Ohio and Wabash, and visitors still line up to get in. Giordano’s locations are spread around the city, too, and they specialize in an extra-tall stuffed pizza with even more ingredients than the deep dish. Lou Malnati’s, also with multiple locations, is the oldest pizza name in town and has yet to franchise outside the state of Illinois.
    Photo by Alyssa Riley
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    Rockin' Burgers
    In 2010 Lady Gaga tweeted that she loved Kuma’s Corner on Belmont, and today there are still lines out the door. Fortunately, Kuma’s burgers—with heavy metal-inspired names like Iron Maiden and Lair of the Minotaur—are worth the wait. They’re topped with succulent, crunchy, spicy, messy heaps of delectable ingredients sourced from local purveyors. And, appropriately, they're served to the sounds of Black Sabbath in the background. For a deceptively simple burger cooked perfectly and topped with pickles and Dijonnaise, go to Au Cheval on Randolph; and for the Chicago version of the Juicy Lucy, a burger with cheese cooked inside the meat and topped with caramelized onions, go brave the lines at The Anthem on Division.
    Photo by Kyle Monk/age fotostock
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    Chicago’s Classic Diners
    Classic diners serving crispy hash browns and pancakes as big as a plate are a Chicago specialty, and the most famous of them all is Lou Mitchell’s. Lou Mitchell’s has been a popular place since the heyday of Route 66, which began right outside its door. Modern-day visitors can still expect Milk Duds to tide them over while they wait for omelets served in cast iron pans, freshly baked breads, and homemade desserts. For another old school diner, try White Palace Grill on Canal Street, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The Chicago Diner on Halsted is a vegetarian version of the classic diner where visitors with gluten or dairy allergies can order with confidence.
    Photo by Jeff Greenberg/age fotostock
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    Elegant Weekend Brunches
    A sunny Saturday calls for a luxurious brunch and The Publican is an ideal location for just that. Executive Chef Paul Kahan has several other restaurants in the Chicago area, and The Publican is his take on rustic farmhouse fare. Order the mouth-watering maple braised bacon and the smoked sablefish scramble. Residents of the River North neighborhood swear by the quinoa cakes with poached eggs at Beatrix on St. Clair, just a few blocks off the Magnificent Mile. For a great brunch in the Wicker Park area, be sure to order the BLT Benedict at Bongo Room on Milwaukee.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Upscale Mexican Street Food
    Award-winning chef Rick Bayless has three Mexican restaurants on the corner of Clark and Illinois Streets: Frontera, Topolobampo, and XOCO, a street food stand with another location in Wicker Park. Try a torta, eat guacamole with bacon, and don’t leave without sampling the churros and chocolate. For great tacos, go to Big Star in Wicker Park and order the taco al pastor, with its winning combination of pork shoulder, pineapple, and cilantro. Birrieria Zaragoza on Pulaski specializes in juicy, slow-roasted goat served on handmade tortillas, and Cemitas Puebla on West Fulton Market is a family-owned restaurant serving Poblano food, including an incredible sandwich that layers meat, avocado, and chipotle peppers on fresh sesame bread.
    Photo by John Joh
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    Enticing Sweet Treats
    Mindy’s HotChocolate offers an abundance of chocolate options to satisfy any sweet tooth. Choose from Mexican chocolate mixed with chai, French chocolate made with 72 percent cacao, and the "Half and Half" blend of espresso and dark chocolate. Mindy's dessert menu changes regularly, so you can try something new every time you visit. Doughnut lovers will want to get up early and brave the 8:00 a.m. lines at The Doughnut Vault on Franklin because their their tiny gingerbread doughnuts dusted in spiced sugar are hugely popular and sell out quickly. On steamy summer days, head to Wicker Park to visit Margie's Candies, an ice cream parlor and soda fountain serving icy treats for the last 90 years.
    Photo by Stacy Howell/age fotostock
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    Fine Dining on Michigan Avenue
    The chefs of top Chicago restaurants Spiaggia, Mia Francesca, and Heaven on Seven collaborated to create The Purple Pig, a popular restaurant on Michigan Avenue. Specializing in house-made charcuterie and Mediterranean food served tapas-style, The Purple Pig also features an extensive wine list. But don't equate upscale with uppity: An entire section of the menu is dedicated to food such as deviled eggs and chorizo-stuffed olives. For more great eating, go to NoMI, a cool oasis on Park Hyatt Hotel’s seventh floor, and try the NoMi Futomaki roll, a fresh mix of shrimp tempura, salmon, and avocado; or splurge on a luscious pasta dish at Spiaggia, a James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Restaurant.
    Photo by Kaitlyn Barrett
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    Chicago-Style Hot Dogs
    Chicago hot dogs are piled high with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and pickles, and they look like they’ve been dragged through a garden. Several places around town do a great Chicago dog, including Wiener Circle in Lincoln Park, where the dogs come with lots of yelling between customers and staff. Nobody takes it personally; in fact, there are online fan pages devoted to this notorious late-late-late-night joint. Other authentic Chicago dogs can be found at Portillo's, which is Chicago's most franchised hot dog stand and is also famous for its Italian Beef, and Superdawg drive-in on Milwaukee, which is decorated with 12-foot hot dogs. Not one to mess with tradition, they haven't changed their trademark Superdawg recipe since the 1950s.
    Photo by Adam Alexander/Choose Chicago
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    Restaurant Row on Randolph Street
    Chicago’s Restaurant Row is a stretch of several blocks on West Randolph Street that features restaurants by chef luminaries Paul Kahan and Stephanie Izard. Izard’s Girl and the Goat has been packed since the minute it opened; all the food is outstanding, but the wood-fired pig face deserves special mention, as does the sugo with gooseberries. Just a block-and-a-half away is Paul Kahan’s flagship restaurant, Blackbird. It’s a small space filled with draped white tables where the staff serve an incredible tasting menu; impeccable service makes it the perfect date night restaurant. Alternatively, try the exquisite Grace. After dinner, go across the street to Maude’s Liquor Bar for a cocktail that’s smashed, shaken, or stirred.
    Photo by John Joh
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    Great Breakfasts around Town
    Every neighborhood in Chicago has a good breakfast spot, but there are some popular joints that visitors should make an effort to visit. Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner on West Randolph shows her passion for delicious, well-cooked comfort food with a twist. Order the Fat Elvis Waffles with peanut butter, bacon, and banana, and the tempura mashed potatoes. Longman & Eagle in Logan Square serves a fantastic PBR breakfast, with creamy grits and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon; Orange in Lincoln Park offers its signature orange-flavored coffee alongside an incredible pancake flight with flavors that change daily.
    Photo by age fotostock