What food is native to Chicago?

What Food is Native to Chicago?


Chicago is known for its rich culinary scene and unique food offerings. The city has a diverse food culture, with influences from various ethnic groups that have settled in the area over the years. From its famous deep-dish pizza to its iconic Chicago-style hot dogs, there are several foods that are native to the city and have become staples of Chicago cuisine. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular native foods of Chicago and learn about their origins and significance.

Table of Contents

  • The Deep-Dish Pizza
  • Chicago-Style Hot Dogs
  • Italian Beef Sandwiches
  • Garrett Popcorn
  • Rainbow Cone

The Deep-Dish Pizza

When it comes to Chicago’s native food, the deep-dish pizza takes center stage. This thick-crusted, cheesy delight is a must-try for any visitor or resident of the city. Unlike traditional Italian pizzas, which have thin crusts, deep-dish pizza features a buttery and flaky crust that is filled with an array of toppings. The pizza is baked in a deep pan, which gives it its signature shape and allows for a generous amount of cheese and sauce.

The origins of deep-dish pizza can be traced back to the 1940s when Pizzeria Uno, one of Chicago’s oldest pizzerias, created this unique style of pizza. Today, there are numerous pizzerias in the city that serve their own versions of deep-dish pizza, each with its own twist on the classic recipe. Whether you prefer sausage, pepperoni, or a vegetarian option, you can find a deep-dish pizza that suits your taste buds in Chicago.

Chicago-Style Hot Dogs

Another iconic food native to Chicago is the Chicago-style hot dog. This all-beef hot dog is served on a poppy seed bun and topped with a variety of condiments that give it its distinctive flavor. A true Chicago-style hot dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers, a dill pickle spear, and a sprinkle of celery salt. Ketchup is often considered taboo when it comes to Chicago-style hot dogs, so make sure to keep it on the side if you’re a ketchup lover!

Chicago-style hot dogs can be found at hot dog stands and restaurants throughout the city. They are a favorite among locals and are often enjoyed at sporting events or during summertime cookouts. If you want to experience an authentic taste of Chicago, be sure to try a Chicago-style hot dog during your visit.

Italian Beef Sandwiches

Italian beef sandwiches are another beloved native food of Chicago. This sandwich is made from thinly sliced roast beef that is slow-cooked in seasoned broth until tender. The beef is then piled high on an Italian roll and topped with sweet or hot peppers and dipped in the flavorful cooking juices.

Italian beef sandwiches have their roots in the Italian-American community in Chicago and have become a staple of the city’s food scene. They are often served with a side of giardiniera, a spicy pickled vegetable mix, which adds an extra kick to the sandwich. Whether you prefer your Italian beef sandwich dipped or dry (without the juice), this hearty and flavorful sandwich is a must-try when in Chicago.

Garrett Popcorn

No trip to Chicago would be complete without trying Garrett Popcorn. This gourmet popcorn brand has been a Chicago institution since it first opened its doors in 1949. Known for its addictive combination of sweet and savory flavors, Garrett Popcorn offers a variety of popcorn flavors, including the famous “Chicago Mix.”

The Chicago Mix is a blend of caramel corn and cheese popcorn, creating a unique and delicious taste. The caramel corn provides a sweet and crunchy base, while the cheese popcorn adds a savory and slightly salty flavor. It’s the perfect combination of flavors that keeps locals and visitors coming back for more.

Rainbow Cone

If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to try the Rainbow Cone, another native treat of Chicago. This ice cream cone features five different flavors stacked on top of each other: chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (a New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet. The combination of flavors creates a colorful and delightful dessert experience.

The Rainbow Cone has been a beloved dessert option in Chicago since it was first introduced at the original Rainbow Cone ice cream shop in 1926. Today, you can find Rainbow Cones at various ice cream parlors and stands throughout the city. It’s the perfect treat to cool down on a hot summer day or indulge in any time of the year.

Key Takeaways

  • Chicago is known for its unique and delicious food offerings.
  • The deep-dish pizza is a must-try when visiting Chicago.
  • Chicago-style hot dogs are topped with a variety of condiments, excluding ketchup.
  • Italian beef sandwiches are a flavorful and hearty native food of Chicago.
  • Garrett Popcorn offers a tasty blend of sweet and savory flavors.
  • The Rainbow Cone is a colorful and delightful ice cream treat.


What makes deep-dish pizza different from other pizzas?

Deep-dish pizza has a thick and buttery crust that is filled with toppings, resulting in a hearty and satisfying pizza experience. Unlike thin-crust pizzas, deep-dish pizza is baked in a deep pan and requires a longer cooking time to ensure the crust is fully cooked and crispy.

Why is ketchup not allowed on Chicago-style hot dogs?

Ketchup is not traditionally used on Chicago-style hot dogs because it is believed to overpower the other flavors and disrupt the balance of the toppings. The combination of mustard, onions, relish, pickles, sport peppers, and celery salt provides a perfect harmony of flavors that is best enjoyed without ketchup.

Where can I find the best Italian beef sandwich in Chicago?

There are several restaurants and delis in Chicago that serve delicious Italian beef sandwiches. Some popular spots include Al’s Beef, Portillo’s, and Mr. Beef. Each place has its own unique take on the sandwich, so it’s worth trying them all to find your favorite.


Chicago’s native foods are a testament to the city’s vibrant culinary scene and diverse cultural influences. From the deep-dish pizza to the Chicago-style hot dogs, these iconic dishes have become synonymous with the city and are a must-try for anyone visiting or living in Chicago. Whether you’re craving a cheesy slice of pizza, a loaded hot dog, or a flavorful Italian beef sandwich, Chicago has something to satisfy every palate. So next time you’re in the Windy City, be sure to indulge in some of these delicious native foods.

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