City guides

Iconic restaurants in Chicago

Embark on a culinary journey through Chicago's legendary dining establishments, each telling a unique story of the city's rich food heritage and cultural tapestry.

September 19, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 12
A view of the Chicago skyline, with the Chicago river in the foreground.

Chicago, with its rich history and diverse culinary scene, boasts some of the most iconic restaurants in the country. These establishments have not only stood the test of time but have also played a significant role in shaping the city's food culture. Let's dive into some of these legendary spots that have left an indelible mark on the Windy City.

Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen

Operating for over eight decades, Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen is a cornerstone of Chicago's culinary scene. This prominent Jewish deli offers an authentic cafeteria-style dining experience that transports patrons back in time. The highlight, undoubtedly, is their famous corned beef, generously stacked on freshly baked rye bread, a testament to their commitment to quality. But the gastronomic journey doesn't end there. Their pastrami, perfectly seasoned and cooked, is a must-try. The potato pancakes, crispy on the outside and soft within, and the comforting matzah ball soup, are dishes that have warmed the hearts of many over the years. 

Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Al’s #1 Italian Beef is not just a restaurant; it's a piece of Chicago's rich culinary history. Tracing its roots back to 1938, Al’s on Taylor Street is the birthplace of the iconic Italian beef sandwich. The classic recipe, perfected over the years, involves simmering thin slices of seasoned roast beef in a rich, aromatic gravy. This succulent beef is then generously loaded onto crusty French bread. Patrons have the choice of accompanying their sandwich with either sweet or hot peppers, adding a layer of complexity to the flavors. It's a symphony of textures and tastes, making every bite memorable. 

The Green Mill

More than just a cocktail lounge; The Green Mill is a portal to Chicago's vibrant past. Stepping into this establishment is like taking a journey back to the Prohibition era, with its vintage decor and ambiance. The lounge is renowned for its live jazz performances, attracting both local and international talents. Legends like Billie Holiday have graced its stage, leaving an indelible mark on its history. And for those who appreciate a touch of mystery, Al Capone’s old booth awaits. It's said that the notorious gangster frequented this spot, and if you're lucky, you might just snag a seat in his favorite corner. 

The Berghoff Restaurant

The Berghoff Restaurant is a culinary gem in the heart of Chicago. With a history spanning over 120 years, it stands as a testament to the city's rich culinary and cultural heritage. This German restaurant offers more than just food; it offers an experience. Known for its cold, frothy pints of beer and hearty plates of wiener schnitzel, sausages, and other German delicacies, every meal here is a celebration. The ambiance, with its wooden interiors and vintage decor, adds to the charm, making diners feel like they've traveled back in time to a cozy tavern in old-world Germany. 

Calumet Fisheries

Nestled by the serene Calumet River, Calumet Fisheries is a paradise for seafood aficionados. This revered smoke shack, with its rustic charm, has been serving mouth-watering seafood dishes for decades. From the smoky aroma of their smoked salmon to the crispy, golden fried shrimp, every dish promises a burst of flavors that dance on the palate. Their commitment to quality and taste has not gone unnoticed. With its recognition as an American Classic by the prestigious James Beard Foundation, it's not just a restaurant; it's a Chicago landmark. Whether you're a local or a tourist, a visit to Calumet Fisheries is a must.

Jim’s Original

Jim’s Original is more than just a food stand; it's a Chicago institution that has been delighting palates for generations. Nestled in the heart of the city, Jim’s is a beacon for UIC students, late-night foodies, and anyone craving a taste of Chicago's street food legacy. The star of the show is the iconic Maxwell Street Polish sausage. Grilled to perfection, this sausage is topped with tangy mustard, caramelized grilled onions, and fiery hot peppers. Each bite is a harmonious blend of flavors and textures, making it a gastronomic delight. Whether it's after a night out or a midday snack, Jim’s Original promises a satisfying treat. 

Lou Mitchell’s

Lou Mitchell’s is not just a diner; it's a slice of American history. Strategically located near the starting point of the legendary Route 66, this diner has been serving hungry travelers and locals alike for decades. The ambiance is reminiscent of classic American diners, with cozy booths and a bustling counter. Their menu boasts jumbo omelets, made with the freshest ingredients, and fluffy pancakes that melt in your mouth. But what sets them apart are their house-made baked goods, each crafted with love and care. And as a sweet gesture, patrons are treated to complimentary doughnut holes and Milk Duds, making every visit special. 

The Original Rainbow Cone

The Original Rainbow Cone is a testament to Chicago's love for ice cream. Established over a century ago, this ice cream parlor has become synonymous with summer in the city. Their signature Rainbow Cone is not just an ice cream; it's a work of art. With vibrant layers of ice cream and sherbet, each flavor distinct yet harmoniously blending with the next, it's a treat for both the eyes and the palate. From the tangy orange sherbet to the rich chocolate, every layer tells a story. Whether you're looking to beat the summer heat or indulge in a sweet treat, The Original Rainbow Cone is the place to be. 

Gene & Georgetti

In a city renowned for its steakhouses, Gene & Georgetti stands out as a beacon of culinary excellence. Established in 1941, this steakhouse has been serving Chicagoans and visitors alike with its impeccable wet-aged steaks. The ambiance is classic and timeless, with dark wood interiors and vintage photographs adorning the walls. Each steak is cooked to perfection, seared on the outside and juicy within. But it's not just about the steaks. Their extensive menu offers a range of dishes, each crafted with the same dedication to quality. Dining at Gene & Georgetti is not just a meal; it's a quintessential Chicago experience. 

Superdawg Drive-In

Superdawg Drive-In is a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Established in 1948, this drive-in restaurant transports patrons to a bygone era of classic American dining. Adorned with twelve-foot hot dog mascots, the establishment is hard to miss. Their signature beef hot dog is a culinary masterpiece, grilled to perfection and topped with a unique assortment of toppings. Each bite is a burst of flavors, from the tangy relish to the spicy sport peppers. Served in a retro-themed box with crinkle-cut fries, it's a meal that promises both taste and memories. Whether you're a local or a visitor, Superdawg Drive-In is a must-visit.

Chicago's iconic restaurants offer more than just food. They provide a journey through the city's rich culinary history. Each establishment, with its unique story and flavors, contributes to the tapestry of Chicago's vibrant food scene. So, the next time you're in the Windy City, make sure to savor the tastes of these legendary spots!


*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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