A look at the Chicago food scene

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th November 2014

As the  Michelin Guide Chicago is out this week, it’s time to take a closer look at the Chicago food scene, including its regional specialities and restaurants.

With the first edition published in 2011, Chicago was one of six American cities to be chosen for a Michelin Guide - the others were New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The latter two of which have now been discontinued.  Chicago is also the third most populous city in the United States, after New York City and Los Angeles.

Like many other large cities in the US, Chicago has a varied food scene thanks to its ethnic districts such as Little Italy, Chinatown, Little Seoul, Little Vietnam and Mexican American, Puerto Rican and Polish neighbourhoods.

Regional dishes of Chicago

The city’s ethnic and working class roots can be seen in its three main regional specialities. The first being the famous Chicago deep-dish pizza, known best for its tall crust and extra cheese. Nobody truly knows exactly who first came up with the idea of a deep-crusted pizza, but one of the most popular stories is that it was invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943. 

Also from the city is the Chicago-style hot dog. The ingredients for a Chicago-style hot dog are Chicago-style_hot_dog_2very specific; it starts with an all-beef frankfurter (steamed or boiled) to which is added a great many toppings: yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green relish, a pickle spear, wedges of tomato, sport peppers and celery salt. All served in a poppy-seed bun, which is steamed instead of toasted. The use of ketchup is frowned upon.

Completing the trifecta of Chicago-style foods is the Italian Beef, a sandwich made from thin slices of roast beef, cooked in a broth ("gravy") and seasoned Italian-style with garlic, oregano and spices and served in an Italian-style roll. Known for being spectacularly messy, especially if the bread itself is dipped in the juices, it’s often served with giardiniera, an Italian-American relish made from pickled vegetables in oil or vinegar.

Two other signature dishes are Chicken Vesuvio, an Italian-American casserole of chicken on the bone sautéed with garlic, oregano, white wine and olive oil and then baked until crisp, and Shrimp DeJonghe, a casserole of shrimp in garlicky bread crumbs named after its birthplace, DeJonghe’s Hotel and Restaurant, back in the 1920s. Fried shrimp and seafood are also specialities in Chicago, thanks to the city’s waterfront location. 

Michelin Guide Chicago 2017

The Michelin Guide Chicago 2017 saw approximately 298 restaurants included, with 19 being awarded one star, five with two stars and just two restaurants with the highest award, three stars.

Here’s a pick of the best restaurants the city has to offer:



Alinea has held three Michelin stars since the guide launched. It has also ranked highly in The World's 50 Best Restaurants, currently listed at No. 21 in this year's list. Head chef Grant Achatz is part of the molecular gastronomy movement, a science-based approach to cooking popularised here in the UK by chefs such as Heston Blumenthal. Unusually, the restaurant features three 'experiences': The Salon Menu, which consists of a 10-12 course tasting menu; The Gallery Menu on the first floor, with a 'multi-sensory' menu of 16-18 courses; and The Kitchen Table, a private and immersive experience priced at $385 per person (plus service and tax).


Gracein the West Loop neighbourhood, was first awarded three Michelin stars in 2016 and retained this rating in last year's guide. Having previously worked at Alinea as chef de cuisine, and as head chef at Avenues - the two star flagship restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel - Curtis Duffy opened Grace in December 2012. He had told the Chicago Tribune earlier that year:  "I want to obtain that third Michelin star.” The restaurant offers two tasting menus: 'Flora' and 'Fauna', priced at $235 per person each. 


Formerly located in Streeterville, Tru opened in 1999 and was featured in the very first Chicago guide. After six years, they were awarded a second star in the Michelin Guide Chicago 2017 under executive chef Anthony Martin. Part of the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises group, Tru announced early last month that they would be closing, with their last service on Saturday, October 7 2017.


Oriolean intimate restaurant and bar hidden away in an alleyway, was awarded two Michelin stars in last year's guide, having only been in business for a year! Executive chef and owner Noah Sandoval's extensive 15-course tasting menu features produce from around the world including Japanese A5 wagyu served with carabineros sabayon, fennel and saffron and Jamon Mangalica with black walnut, egg yolk and quince. The menu is priced at $190 per person with wine pairing available from sommelier Aaron McManus at an additional cost.

Bib Gourmands

Outside of wallet-busting fine dining, Chicago’s list of Bib Gourmand-winning restaurants for 2018 includes 54 achieving the award for good value food, up two from last year. These include new entries: Giant, HaiSous, Longman & Eagle, Mango Pickle, Mi Tocaya, Pleasant House Pub, Quiote and True Food Kitchen. Longman & Eagle's inclusion sadly means that they have lost their Michelin star in 2018.

The full Michelin Guide Chicago 2018 list is due for release this Friday, October 20, 2017. 

Just being home to two of the world’s greatest restaurants makes Chicago a top destination for foodies, but it is clear that its melting pot of cultures offers a great selection of cuisine for all tastes, from Michelin star level to the hearty and affordable. 

By Stuart Armstrong & Jenna Lloyd

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th November 2014

A look at the Chicago food scene