The influx of diverse cultures into the area during Chicago’s history has made the city’s food some of the best in the nation. The historic Chicago Union Stockyards once produced most of the United States’ meat, and the railroads brought grain through Chicago from America’s heartland. The stockyards aren’t there anymore, but their legacy lives on in the plentiful, robust, hardy fare that the immigrants brought to this land of plenty.
1. The New Maxwell Street Market
The New Maxwell Street Market is where you come on Sundays to shop the outdoor stalls and get great tacos and hotdogs. The all-beef Chicago hot dog was created at the old Maxwell Street Market. Now visitors can get an authentic taste of Mexico here with cuisine of Mexican states from Oaxaca to Jalisco available at the outdoor vendors’ stalls.
2. Frontera Grill
In 1987, Rick Bayless started a food empire by introducing authentic Mexican food to North Americans. Ever since then, Frontera Grill has been winning awards and pleasing visitors and locals alike. Try street fare like Mushroom/potato huaraches, wood-grilled duck, pork, or catfish tacos.
3. The Publican
The Publican features rustic dishes and international beer in a casual farmhouse style decor. An eclectic menu features many items produced by Illinois’ Slagel family — from beef shortribs to pork rinds. Seafood specialties also abound.
4. The Billy Goat
In the 1970s a skit on the television show Saturday Night Live made the Billy Goat Tavern famous. The original Billy Goat Tavern was opened by Greek Immigrant William Sianis, who renamed the venue after a goat who fell off a passing truck and wandered inside. In 1945 the Chicago Cubs were cursed never to win another World Series when the billy goat was not allowed on Wrigley Field. Although the goat has subsequently been let back onto the field, the Cubs have never won a World Series since then.
If you want to get something to eat at the Billy Goat Tavern, try the triple cheeseburger with chips. Yum!
5. The Berghoff
Chicago’s oldest restaurant is a product of the city’s strong German heritage. Herman Berghoff started the restaurant in the late 1800s when the city wouldn’t give him a permit to sell his beer at a sidewalk stand. Since then, The Berghoff has been preparing traditional German fare for Chicagoans. Lately, the restaurant closed and re-opened with a revamped menu that caters to modern, lighter tastes as well as preserving its German heritage.
Grace is a graceful presence very near the New Maxwell Street Market and Publican. Born form Chef Curtis Duffy’s “thoughtfully progressive” micro-seasonal cuisine, Grace is the place where you can get Australian winter truffle prepared with ricotta, absinthe, and chive blossom, or simply a plate of Miyazaki beef.
There are literally hundreds of other great places to get great eats in the Windy City. Wherever you stay in Chicago, make sure you try the local cuisine.
Top Photo courtesy of Linda Hughes via Shutterstock
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor’s, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn’t really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.