“I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.” ―H. L. Mencken
Oh, Chicago. You really did it this time. We were warned that we’d love you but we didn’t think we’d be making plans to return before we’d even left. Your streets are lovely, your people are kind AND your pizza is pretty darn good (more thoughts on this later).
There’s a whole lot to cover but here’s a start: 5 Food Places to Try. (In no particular order).
1. Lou Malnati’s Pizza $$
Is it surprising that our first order of action upon arriving to Chicago was…deep dish pizza? A long day of travel means you get to treat yourself to a tray of deep-dish cheesy goodness.
Unbeknownst to us, people in Chicago have STRONG feelings when it comes to their pizza. We get it. Though Lou Malnati’s ranks highly on most Chicago travel sites, locals will tell you to stay away – the lines are long and Lou usually brings in crowds of tourists.
Our take? It’s a fantastic first option for a deep dish pizza. There’s a ton of Lou Malnati’s around the city, it’s easy to get to them, and the pizza is actually pretty darn delicious.
We ordered the small, “Malnati Chicago Classic,” Made with Lou’s lean sausage, some extra cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce on a butter crust base. Tasty, cheesy & filling. Bravo!
2. Lou Mitchell’s $
Imagine this: Popping into a local diner and being handed warm donut holes as you wait to be seated. That’s Lou Mitchell’s for ya: a homey, feel-good diner where locals gather to bask in Chicago’s finest comfort food and hospitality. It’s a no-frills place but it serves up a mean brunch.
Not to mention – their chocolate-chip banana pancakes are among the BEST we’ve had. Hands down. We sat by the counter and ordered a big, hearty brunch and succumbed to the subsequent food coma. Can you blame us? Whatever you do, make sure you order a glass of their freshly squeezed OJ.
3. Firecakes Donuts $
Two words: Sprinkles Donut. It’s the best one we’ve ever had. Hands down. We stumbled across this place sort of by accident and thank god we did. Firecakes Donuts has mastered the art of donut-making and their Sprinkles Donut is the ultimate testament: moist, fluffy, and just the right amount of sweet. We loved it so much, we came for seconds. Sometimes, it’s best to keep things simple.
4. Margie’s Candies $-$$
If there’s one place that captured our hearts, it’s Margie’s Candies. We’ve been to a lot of old-school soda shops but something about this place just feels so authentic. While we sat at our booth sharing laughs and a (HUGE) turtle sundae, it was easy to imagine Margie’s Candies in its glory. It was once a neighborhood place where locals came to share sundaes, dates, and memories to last a lifetime. Check out their story:
“A venerable Chicago institution known far and wide, Margie’s Candies has delighted young and old with our homemade sundaes, shakes and hand-dipped candies for more than 90 years. Our love story with everything sweet and decadent began in 1921, when Peter George Poulos opened an ice cream parlor on the North Side. The shop became known as Margie’s Candies in 1933, when Poulos’ son George Peter Poulos married his sweetheart, Margie Michaels. ” – Margie’s Candies
Did we mention their ice cream, candy and hot-fudge are all home-made? It doesn’t get any better than that, folks.
5. Manny’s Deli, $$
Take a moment to look at this photo. See that beautiful tower of flowing, pastrami goodness? That’s ONE sandwich. That’s right! ONE sandwich! Unbelievable. The minute we stepped in here, we were reminded of Katz Deli in NYC. Both are charming classics steeped in history and rich meats.
We ordered the Pastrami Sandwich, the Potato Pancake & the Blueberry Pie and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Pro tip? Served best with Manny’s own mustard.