Food & Drink

The best places to get Chicago's 12 most classic dishes

Published On 08/20/2014 Published On 08/20/2014
Mike Gebert
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Margie’s Candies 
Mike Gebert
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1. Pizano's Pizza 61 E Madison St, Chicago, IL 60603 (Loop)

This Chicago mini chain comes from a line of pizza royalty -- as the story goes, Rudy Malnati Sr. is one of the people credited for inventing deep dish at Pizzeria Uno, and his son Rudy launched Pizano's while his other son Lou founded Lou Malnati's. Pizano's uses a recipe similar to that of the original Uno -- the pies are made with a biscuit-like shortbread dough and topped with cheese then chopped tomatoes. If a thousand calorie slice of deep-dish isn't what you're in the market for, you'll find just as satisfying a meal in Pizano's thin-crust pies and pasta specials.

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2. Burt’s Place 8541 Ferris Ave, Morton Grove, IL 60053

The pizza at Burt's is simply the freshest you'll get this far out of the city. It's a celeb favorite, adorned with unique trinkets, and's got an impressive accompanying beer menu.

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3. The Art of Pizza 3033 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

This simple and unfussy counter-serve pizzeria in Lakeview serves quality deep-dish pizza without the tourists and crowds. The Art of Pizza gets everything right, from the flaky crust to the brightly spiced tomato sauce on top, and even serves pan pizza by the slice for those who don't want to commit to the entire thing. Even though the spot is known for its deep-dish pies, it also makes thin-crust and stuffed pizzas.

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4. Lem's BBQ House 311 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619 (South Chicago)

Lem's has racked up throngs of fans since it opened in 1954 thanks to its juicy BBQ ribs, which are served out of a retro roadside stand complete with a tall, neon-lit sign. This South Side institution still tops its meats -- from hot links and rib tips to chicken and shrimp -- with the original spicy BBQ sauce that late owner Myles Lemons created back in the 1940s. Prepare for large portions at small prices, and to take your order with you -- this tiny counter doesn't have seating.

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5. The Parthenon 314 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661 (West Loop)

If you couldn't already tell by the name, this place is Korean. WE KID, obviously, it's Greek, and it's doling out some impeccable Saganaki, flaming cheeses, and generously poured cocktails.

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6. Bavette's Bar & Boeuf 218 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

More a promise than a clever name, Bavette's Bar & Boeuf unapologetically delivers an abundance of whiskey and slab-after-slab of expertly prepared meat. Bavette's 24 oz. bone-in ribeye may be the best piece of meat your money can buy in Chi-town, but, if steak's not your thing, they also offer fresh oysters, Southern-style fried chicken, and double-cut Berkshire pork chops. And because nothing goes together better than a rare steak and a fine whiskey, Bavette's offers more than 50 whiskeys to stir into classic cocktails like mint julips, rye Old Fashioneds, and modern alternatives like spicy picklebacks.

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7. Margie's Candies 1960 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

To put it in blunt terms, you simply haven't lived the true Chicago life until you've been to the legendary Margie's Candies. Serving Bucktown since 1921, this generations-old candy shop offers every confection imaginable, all made by hand every day. The ice cream, scooped into homemade waffle cones and delicately dipped in a rich chocolate sauce, is so decadent that both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles have ventured here after shows to satisfy their (brown) sugar cravings.

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8. The Drawing Room 937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611 (Near North Side)

The Drawing Room has got top-notch cocktails as well as a dish entitled "Bacon 'Squared'", which needs to be consumed by you, like, right now.

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9. Bacchanalia 2413 S Oakley Ave, Chicago, IL 60608 (Pilsen)

A Pilsen staple that's been drawing pilgrims from all over the city since 1979, Bacchanalia guides its diners through a narrow, unpretentious bar area that’s coated in old neighborhood charm. Still family owned, it’s hearty Italian classics like veal scallopini and chicken vesuvio are homestyle recipes that founder Belfonte Pieri brought with him from Tuscany in 1958.

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10. Ron of Japan 230 E Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60611

This is THE primo spot in Chi to order a plate of shrimp kogane-yaki (as well as myriad other delicious Japanese options), which is fried shrimp topped with a gooey, mayonnaise-y confection.

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11. Mario's Italian Lemonade 1068 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607

Brain freezes are a necessary evil at Mario’s Italian Lemonade in University Village, the local favorite for Italian shaved ice treats. Armed with both a spoon and a straw, the tropical fruit-flavored Italian ices at Mario’s will make a frozen warrior of you, as long as you don’t leave your cash at home (no cards are accepted here). With flavors like cantaloupe, lime, piña colada, and watermelon, it’s fitting that Mario’s is only open during the summer months.

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12. Alinea 1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Alinea, the three-star Michelin restaurant in Lincoln Park, is a pinnacle of technique and creativity. If the ticketed reservation system tells us anything, it’s that a night at Alinea is more than just a meal: it is an unforgettable culinary experience featuring modern molecular gastronomy at its finest. And if its slew of accolades tells us anything -- namely that it is consistently included in the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants List” -- it’s that Alinea is one of the best restaurants in the world. The revolutionary restaurant on Halsted is the brainchild of acclaimed Chef Grant Achatz -- who cut his teeth under Thomas Keller -- and the dining room is his stage to fuse art and science into dynamic, sensory-evoking menus. Deep pockets required.