5 Ways to Taste Chicago

by Community Manager on ‎06-22-2015 11:46 AM - last edited on ‎06-30-2015 10:43 AM by Lithium Technologies (4,379 Views)

One of the best ways to get to know a city is to spoon up its culinary delights—and Chicago knows how to fill up its fans.


From pizza and hot dogs to five-star culinary delights, Chicago’s dining scene is stuffed with mouthwatering meals. So, dig in! We found five delicious ways to get a taste of the Windy City.



Sample Local Specialties

Chicago didn’t become the City of the Big Shoulders by chowing down on kale chips; its specialties tend toward the rib-sticking side. Exhibit A: Chicago-style pizza, a cheesy behemoth famed for its depth, girth and deliciousness. There are two types: “deep-dish,” with a thick layer of toppings beneath a spreading of tomato sauce, and “stuffed,” which is distinguished by a thin layer of crust just beneath that top sauce layer. Sample some deep-dish (pictured) at AAA Two Diamond-rated Lou Malnati’s Pizzeriaand try the stuffed variety at AAA Two Diamond-rated Giordano’s


The city’s other hallmark—the hot dog—might not sound so special to visitors who picture a plain frankfurter. But that’s before they see one done Chicago-style—swathed in mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, sport peppers, celery salt and a pickle. The first name in Chicago dogs: AAA One Diamond-rated Portillo’s, a tasty value for a Windy City classic.



Explore Deliciously Diverse Neighborhoods

In the city’s more than 100 vibrant neighborhoods, representing cultures from around the world, ethnic food abounds: the Mexican delicacies of Pilsen, the Swedish specialties of Andersonville, the Indian and Pakistani dishes of Devon Avenue. On the Near West Side, Greektown lures diners with delicious promises of saganaki (fried cheese) and skordalia (a creamy potato dish); both are on offer at AAA Two Diamond-rated Greek Islands, a festive restaurant where cheerful cries of “Opa!” punctuate the air (pictured).


Farther south, in Chinatown, sits AAA Three Diamond-rated Phoenix Restaurant, a bustling second-floor eatery known for its dim sum—small savory or sweet snacks served from carts. Among the most popular are the pink, steaming-hot shrimp dumplings (each thinly swathed in translucent dough) and the sweet, pillowy barbecued pork buns.



Get a Guide

When time is limited, a guided food tour is the best way to cover a lot of ground—and, more important, eat a lot of things. Tastebud Tours’ Taste Chicago Food Tour offers walking tours that stop for snacks at historic downtown classics such as The Berghoff (pictured), a German eatery that’s one of the city’s oldest family-run restaurants. Chef Rebecca Wheeler’s Chicago Food Tours offer a more focused experience, with neighborhood tasting tours designed around ethnic cuisines. Her Southeast Asian tour features the chance to try banh mi, a kind of French-Vietnamese po’ boy, while wandering through Chicago’s Vietnamese quarter, a small and tasty neighborhood centered on West Argyle Street in Uptown.


Of course, some people prefer a sit-down meal. Several lake-going ships offer dinner cruises that allow visitors to enjoy fine dining and admire Chicago’s skyline at the same time. Aboard the newly renovated Odyssey Chicago, guests relax and mingle on the breezy rooftop lounge before tucking into entrees like maple mustard-glazed chicken and cauliflower steak.



Dine with a View

In Chicago, the views are often as sumptuous as the cuisine. That’s especially true in the many upscale restaurants on or near the Magnificent Mile (the retail-rich portion of Michigan Avenue that that runs south from between the Chicago River and Oak Street).


One such: AAA Three Diamond-rated The Signature Room at the 95th, which sits on the 95th floor of the 100-story John Hancock Center. There, dishes such as rack of lamb with brie semolina vie for attention with stunning views of the city, which include the Lake Michigan shoreline and the soaring Willis Tower. For those who’d rather enjoy their lofty experience alfresco, the city’s many rooftop options include AAA Four Diamond-rated theWit Hotel and AAA Four Diamond-rated Shanghai Terrace, where diners are treated to high-end Chinese cuisine and views of the hustle and bustle below.



Eat Like a Celebrity

Celebrity chefs seem to flock to Chicago like so many gourmands to a block of brie. One of the most established is TV’s Rick Bayless, who introduced regional Mexican cuisine to the masses. Now the masses congregate at AAA Two Diamond-rated Xoco, Bayless’ casual River North spot, for an empanada, a bowl of pozole, or (most often) a sugary churro and some thick hot chocolate.


And then there’s AAA Three Diamond-rated Table Fifty-Two, where Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef Art Smith oversees the Southern-centric menu. Think buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and Berkshire pork chops (pictured). And with a bevy of sweet treats on the menu—from Art’s Hummingbird Cake to Southern pecan pie—you won’t want to skip dessert.


AAA has a collection of vacation packages for families and couples. Visit your local AAA Travel Consultant to book a trip. And don’t forget to consider AAA Diamond-rated hotels when planning your next trip to Chicago.


A version of this story appears in the July/August 2015 issue of AAA Living magazine.


Image credit/source: Franz Marc Frei/Age Fotostock; Adam Alexander Photography/Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria; A.AlexandeR/ChooseChicago; Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group; The Signature Room at the 95th; Kipling Swehla/Table Fifty-Two


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