Ryan Bluestone

The Chicago Food Scene

Ryan Bluestone discusses how Chicago’s food scene offers a little bit of everything for everyone on its menu.

Chicago too often plays second fiddle to its big-city cousins New York and Los Angeles — especially when it comes to its restaurants and eateries.

However, that has been changing as of late. In 2017, Bon Appétit magazine named Chicago the best restaurant city in America, and it’s not just for deep-dish pizza. In the five years since then, Chicago has remained an epicenter of culinary delights and diversity.

Whether it’s casual late-night eats — pizza, italian beef sandwiches, hot dogs dressed Chicago-style with tomatoes — or a showcase of the art of molecular gastronomy (aka expensive dishes that combine science and cooking), Ryan Bluestone notes that Chicago’s food scene offers a little bit of everything for everyone on its menu.

And yes, tomatoes are actually popular on Chicago hot dogs, but never ketchup.

Windy City’s Intriguing Eats

There’s a lot to see in Chicago — and a lot of food to experience along the way.

Through the city’s 77 neighborhoods, visitors and residents can sample authentic Mexican, Southern soul food, crispy samosas, and, yes, the legendary sausages and meats associated with the city’s extensive Eastern European influence.

There are as many low-key dining options as there are unique fine dining choices. Chicago is even home to Kasama, the only Filipino restaurant in the world that is Michelin-starred.

Where to start? How about a steakhouse, which has long been popular among both locals and tourists.

Chicago rivals New York for not just the amount of steakhouses, but their variety as well. In and around Chicago, one can find Artango Bar & Steakhouse, which offers traditional steaks with an Argentinian twist, or Maple and Ash, putting a twist on the old-school steakhouse feel of the Gold Coast. Bavette’s in River North is the steakhouse of choice for many Chicago first timers and Chicago natives alike, but is quite the difficult reservation to get!

A side note: The burgers in Chicago are mouth-wateringly top-notch. The burgers at Au Cheval and the Loyalist were each named the best burger in the entire U.S.

Ryan Bluestone

Ethnic Flair

Mexican food is experiencing a renaissance of sorts in Chicago. While chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill remains the best-known Mexican food purveyor in the city, other chefs are bringing their own distinctive flair to traditional Mexican flavors, such as chef Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya Antojeria.

That’s just a sample of the variety of restaurants and types of food that make Chicago a culinary landmark. Genie Kwon and Tim Flores, the chefs and owners of the aforementioned Kasama, were jointly named Best Chef in 2021 by the James Beard Foundation.

Another incredible award, The Emerging Chef Honor, went to Damarr Brown of Virtue in Hyde Park, which focuses on Southern specialties.

Neighborhoods to Eat Through

Each neighborhood in Chicago sports massive culinary differences, each hosting their own incredible restaurant scene.

The West Loop is home to Au Cheval, Girl and the Goat, run by Top Chef champ Stephanie Izard, Japanese spot Momotaro, and avec, which specializes in Mediterranean shared plates.

Pilsen, with its large Latino community, is where to head for the best tacos, but this neighborhood is also home to HaiSous, a Vietnamese kitchen. Creole cuisine is easy to find in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood as well.

Upscale foodies may feel most at home in Lakeview and Lincoln Park, where rustic gastropubs like DryHop Brewers and tapas spots like Café Ba-ba-reeba! await them.

But where can one find the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago? The answer is simple: everywhere!

By Ryan Bluestone

Ryan Bluestone