There is great food to be had in Chicago, but the two dishes that the city truly calls its own are pizza and hot dogs. It may not be haute cuisine, but I promise you've never had anything quite like the city's spin on either of these indulgences.
We have three pizza styles in Chicago: Chicago style, also known as deep-dish, which is thick-crusted and often demands a knife and fork; stuffed, which is similar to a pie, with a crust on both top and bottom; and thin crust.
Three of the best places to try the classic Chicago deep-dish are Pizzeria Uno, Pizzeria Due, and Gino's East. In River North, Lou Malnati's Pizzeria, 439 N. Wells St. (at Hubbard St.; tel. 312/828-9800), bakes both deep-dish and thin-crust pizza and even has a low-fat-cheese option. Edwardo's is a local pizza chain that serves all three varieties, but with a wheat crust and all-natural ingredients (spinach pizza is the specialty here); it's in the Gold Coast at 1212 N. Dearborn St. (at Division St.; tel. 312/337-4490). Another popular chain -- known for its stuffed pizza -- is Giordano's, with downtown locations off the Magnificent Mile at 730 N. Rush St. (at Superior St.; tel. 312/951-0747), at 223 W. Jackson Blvd. (tel. 312-583-9400), and at the Prudential Plaza, 130 E. Randolph (near Millennium Park; tel. 312/616-1200).
For a unique twist on the deep-dish phenomenon, head to Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder, 2121 N. Clark St. (between Webster and Dickens aves.; tel. 773/248-2570), a few blocks from Lincoln Park Zoo. Here the "pizza potpie" is baked in a bowl and then turned over when served. This neighborhood spot stays popular year after year, so plan on showing up early for dinner to avoid a long wait.
The classic Chicago hot dog includes a frankfurter by Vienna Beef (a local food processor and hallowed institution), heaps of chopped onions and green relish, a slather of yellow mustard, pickle spears, fresh tomato wedges, a dash of celery salt, and, for good measure, two or three "sport" peppers, those thumb-shaped holy terrors that turn your mouth into its own bonfire.
Chicago is home to many standout hot-dog spots, including Gold Coast Dogs (at Union Station, 225 S. Canal; tel. 312/258-0212). Portillo's is another local chain that specializes in hot dogs but also serves tasty pastas and salads (520 W. Taylor St., tel. 312/667-4560). The Wieners Circle, in Lincoln Park at 2622 N. Clark St. (btw. Wrightwood Ave. and Drummond Place; tel. 773/477-7444), is a late-night favorite where rude order-takers are part of the shtick.
If you've got a car, head up to Superdawg Drive-In, 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave. (at Devon Ave.; tel. 773/763-0660), on the northwest side of the city (look for the giant hot dogs dressed as Tarzan and Jane on the roof). This classic 1950s-style flashback has been run by the same family for three generations, and, yes, they still have carhops who bring out your order.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.