By any measure, Chicago is a great food city. I’ve been there two times now, and have barely scratched the surface of what’s available. On this last trip, I made a point of rounding out my dance card of Chicago favourites. First stop shortly after touching down: the Billy Goat Tavern for a “cheezborger”
Drawing its fame jointly as the backdrop to a famous SNL skit as well as the source of the curse that has kept the Cubs out of the World Series, it’s a great humble bar tucked on the lower level of Michigan Avenue. The cheeseburger (I ordered a triple) was a perfect old fashioned delight and I enjoyed sitting at the bar and talking baseball with the bartender.
Later in the trip, I headed for Al’s Beef, home of the iconic Italian beef sandwich. There are many outlets of Al’s around Chicago, and fortunately for me (unfortunately for my waistline) there was one close to my River North hotel. The Italian beef at Al’s has tender shaved beef on a soft, freshly made roll. I got mine dipped in beef jus which adds all kinds of flavour while making it virtually impossible to eat without committing to an after lunch shower to clean up. The key to this sandwich is the giardiniera, a pickled relish condiment that adds a spicy/tangy flavour. This is up there with the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.
I had precious little time on this trip to eat everything I wanted to. One of the things I had to sacrifice was a second Chicago-style deep dish pizza. On my first visit four years ago, I visited Lou Malnati’s for what is arguably one of the best versions of this classic. The other reason I visited there was they were the only place I could find with a gluten free option for my wife. The gluten free version had a crust made of pressed sausage. Honestly! Even harder to believe, it was “better for you” than the regular deep dish pizza with its butter laden crust. Mine was delicious and I remember not having to eat for the rest of the day:
My last night in Chicago, I chose to eat decidedly down market in style and headed to Portillo’s for a couple of Chicago-style hotdogs. Although I had hotdogs at the baseball games on this trip, I wanted to try what many natives consider the best in town. I’m so glad I did – the dog itself was great with a nice snap to the casing and the toppings were fresh – tomato, onion, hot peppers, mustard and neon relish. A simplistic and delicious final meal for this visit to Chicago.