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Patio dining in one of Chicago’s vibrant neighborhoods

Illinois

Chicago, Illinois: Neighborhood Food Culture

By: Zaida Rios

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  • States:
    Illinois

Stunning architecture, a collective of museums and a remarkable skyline, along with a friendly Midwestern vibe keep people coming back to Chicago, Illinois.

Sure, you’ll want to take a selfie at the “Cloud Gate” sculpture (affectionately known as the Bean) and stroll down The Magnificent Mile, but there’s something else that makes Chicago such a beloved destination – its eclectic neighborhood food culture. Whether it’s a hip gastropub or a classic tavern, come eat and drink your way through some of Chicago’s most lively – and local – culinary experiences.

Inside Chicago’s Food Scene

Discovering this thriving food culture is easier than you think. Just follow Chef Kevin Hickey, owner of The Duck Inn and proud Chicagoan. Of course, deep dish pizza has its merits, but Chef Hickey touts the Chicago dog – featuring tomato slices, relish, onions, mustard, a pickle spear, sport peppers and celery salt on a poppy-seed bun, plus no ketchup – as the revered Chicago delicacy. In spring, he recommends a visit to the nationally-renowned Green City Market at the south end of Lincoln Park. Market goers are treated to local organic produce, farm-fresh goods and gourmet staples.

For other delectable eats, follow Chef Hickey’s advice and make your way into the neighborhoods. In Pilsen, Latin flavors reign supreme, from Colombian at arepas Efebina’s Café to authentic tacos at Taqueria Los Comales. In Chinatown Square, try the dim sum at Cai or the slurp-worthy noodle bowls at Strings Ramen. And the reinvention of Bridgeport has given rise to craft breweries, upscale coffee shops and organic eateries, making locals and visitors especially happy.

Hot dogs with a variety of toppings at Taste of Chicago, including the signature Chicago dog

Hot dogs with a variety of toppings at Taste of Chicago, including the signature Chicago dog
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Neighborhood Tavern Hop

While in Bridgeport, sample the chef-driven menu at Hickey’s own The Duck Inn. Thanks to his innovative direction, you’re bound to have an unforgettable meal. Sustainable and seasonal, the food is ever-evolving with the exception of the signature rotisserie duck, served with duck fat potatoes, baby kale and cherries drizzled with rosé vinaigrette and duck jus. For a note-worthy splurge, opt for the five-course tasting menu. It’s not just the food that will win you over. A cozy, retro-styled atmosphere make things warm and inviting for everyone who walks in the door.

Ready for a drink? Nothing feels more local than a neighborhood tavern. Pop into The Gage, an upscale pub located on Michigan Avenue. Besides fantastic views of Millennium Park, there’s an expertly curated cocktail menu. An enormous, funky mural greets you at the stylish Black Iron Tavern in River West, but it’s what’s on the menu that counts. You can’t go wrong with the Black Iron Nachos and a cold pint of pale wheat ale. At the Side Door, step into the historic McCormick Mansion in River North, where upscale décor meets hearty pub food. Laugh it up at a Second City comedy show, then head upstairs to the 1959 Kitchen & Bar for craft beer and cocktails artfully paired with a small plates menu. For a laid-back time, venture to The Monkey’s Paw on a quiet corner in Lincoln Park, where patrons can enjoy craft brews, whiskey and farm-to-table fare in a cozy setting.

Delectable menu items at The Gage, which offers an upscale Michigan Avenue vibe

Delectable menu items at The Gage, which offers an upscale Michigan Avenue vibe
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Getting There

Chicago serves as Illinois' and the Midwest’s major transportation hub, with two international airports offering worldwide service. Fly in to O’Hare (ORD) or Midway (MDW); both airports offer multiple transportation options into the city, including trains, shuttles and rental cars.