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While you might start your exploration of Chicago’s food scene with an iconic deep-dish pizza or a Chicago-style hot dog, that's just the beginning. The city has been influenced by Polish, Italian, and Greek cultures, and the result is an array of traditional and fusion eateries. Here are some of the Windy City’s must-try dishes.
Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is the city’s most prized culinary treasure. Layered with mounds of cheese, meat, vegetables, and tomato sauce, the inches-thick pie is baked in a pan until its buttery crust reaches a satisfying level of crunch. Due to their heft, slices often have to be eaten with knife and fork.
Chicago does hot dogs like nowhere else. The city’s signature dog can be found on street corners and in restaurants all across town. To qualify as a traditional Chicago dog, an all-beef frankfurter must be served on a poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, chopped onions, bright green relish, hot peppers, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, and a dash of celery salt—with absolutely no ketchup.
In one telling of its origins, the Italian beef is a result of thrifty ingenuity. Scala's Original Beef and Sausage Company claims it started thinly slicing beef and loading it onto gravy-soaked bread to feed more people at weddings around 1925. The idea caught on, and today the Italian beef sandwich, loaded with peppers, served on French bread, and dipped in au jus, is one of Chicago’s most sought-after eats.
The Maxwell Street hot dog stand has been serving the same Polish sausage recipe since 1939. Loaded with sweet grilled onions and yellow mustard, the Maxwell Street Polish is a staple at hot dog stands and eateries throughout the city.
The Original Rainbow Cone is one of the oldest ice cream shops in Chicago, and its signature cone is piled high with a rainbow of flavors. Each cone is layered with a curious combination of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (a flavor made of vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbert.
Chicagoans have always been serious about their fried dough. Quality doughnut shops from old-fashioned bakeries to gourmet pastry shops are found in nearly every neighborhood around town. The cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather’s Swedish diner are another Chicago food favorite.