Trying new food is definitely one of my favorite things to do whenever I visit a new place. Food is a great way to learn about a new environment, and a great way to bond with people. Plus, you get to eat it, which is... also great.
Since we’re all stuck inside right now, it’s probably a bit more challenging for most of us to experiment with new foods. A couple weeks ago, I suggested that you all give Chicago’s food a try and have some deep-dish pizza shipped to you from Chicago. However, there is another way to get to know Chicago through food: making some of our most well-known foods for yourself!
Below I’ve picked five classic Chicago options for you all to try out. But before you fire up your stove or oven, let me just say one thing: these are unlikely to taste exactly like they would if you were to actually come to Chicago. Many of these foods are made by iconic establishments that have their own specific recipes. But hopefully you’ll be able to get close and have some fun!
Now... I’m hungry. Let’s get started!
- Deep-Dish Pizza. I, of course, had to start with deep-dish. It’s one of the foods that Chicago is best known for. I really love cheese in general, so the fact that there is even more cheese than normal in deep-dish really pushes this type of pizza over the top for me. As I’ve said before, two of the most iconic places that are known for deep-dish in Chicago are Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s, but in this post from a couple weeks ago, my colleague Brandon mentioned a place called Pequod’s, which I’ve never tried before but sounds amazing. If you want to give deep-dish a try on your own, you can find a recipe here.
- Chicago-Style Hot Dogs. While I will admit that I am a little more partial to pizza than hot dogs, you really can’t go wrong with the second item on this list. It’s true that there are many different ways to prepare hot dogs, and that you could probably find them almost anywhere, but Chicago-style hot dogs are truly special. There’s a long list of places in Chicago where you can buy this iconic food, but one that always sticks in my mind because it was the first place that was ever recommended to me is Portillo’s. I found a pretty simple recipe, which you can hopefully try pretty easily at home, here.
- Garrett’s Popcorn. It’s true that there are Garrett’s Popcorn locations outside of Chicago, but Chicago is where this company originated so I definitely wanted to include it on the list (also, I love popcorn). For those of us lucky enough to live in Chicago, this popcorn is a great go-to gift that we can give to people for pretty much any occasion. And they make it pretty easy—you can grab some at the airport as you’re making your way out of town. Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make this exactly the same at home, but you can try out this “copycat” recipe here.
- Eli’s Cheesecake. I definitely have a sweet tooth, and so I always have a healthy appreciation for any type of dessert food. And Eli’s Cheesecake is no exception. This place is a Chicago institution. It’s been around for a long time, and their wide variety of cheesecakes is simply to die for. Like other items on this list, cheesecake isn’t exactly specific to Chicago, but I thought that Eli’s deserved a spot, especially given how well known it is. I found a recipe that you can try out here.
- UChicago $1 Milkshake. This might not be something that Chicago is known for, but it is certainly something that UChicago is known for, so I was legally obligated to include it. For those of you who may not know, each Wednesday on UChicago’s campus is $1 Milkshake Wednesday, when you can—you guessed it—buy a milkshake for a dollar. You can choose between vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and you can mix and match toppings that include cherries, Oreo crumbles, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream. Making a homemade milkshake actually isn’t too complicated (it’s basically just ice cream and milk), but you can find a recipe here if you need it!
Thinking about all of this food and looking up all of these recipes has made me unbearably hungry, so I’m going to have to stop here. I hope you have fun making these dishes—whenever you can safely get around to it! Hopefully you can also visit Chicago someday and try the real things for yourself! Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you next week!