Chicago is a big, exciting city with so much to do, but you may not realize just how much of a rich culinary history the city has. On your next trip, you are definitely going to want to eat that these fun and unique restaurants in Chicago! Here are some of the best places to eat in Chicago on your next family vacation.
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Best Asian Food in Chicago
If you love Asian cuisine and are looking for a trendy, casual spot, I’ve got just the place for you! And by the way, the food is amazing!
Wow Bao serves hot asian buns, rice and noodle bowls, and potstickers.
The Wow Bao website says that they focus on “healthy and fresh,” and you can definitely taste the difference.
Wow Bao has several locations around Chicago—some of which are fully few tech-enabled, cashless locations in the city. We were able to place our order on a touchscreen kiosk and our meals appeared in a numbered cubbie when they were done, seemingly without any human interaction. Although, there were helpful staff members on hand to answer questions and they kept checking in the dining area to see if anyone needed help.
We literally tried some of everything on the menu—and it was delicious! I can honestly say that this was the best Asian cuisine that I have ever eaten!
In fact, I am thrilled to see that Wow Bao actually has a location in Cleveland at the airport (much closer for me here in Ohio)! The atmosphere of the restaurant was trendy and fun—and the best part was, the prices were very affordable! A must-try restaurant in Chicago!
Southern Food in Chicago
There are a lot of iconic foods that come to mind when we think of Chicago (and we’ll get to those in a bit), but if you are looking for a southern flair for your next meal, we’ve got you covered!
Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
Fried Shrimp Po Boy, fried chicken, hush puppies… southern comfort food, y’all… in Chicago! Ina Mae’s Tavern had yummy food, a fun atmosphere, and live entertainment. What a fun find on our trip!
If you are looking for some casual, southern comfort food in Chicago, Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods is the place to go! There was also a small loft in the back of the restaurant, from which LIVE music was played.
Chicago q is quaint and upscale, yet warm and inviting, with a flair of southern charm! We had a delicious BBQ lunch… and found out that everything is made fresh daily. And you can definitely taste the difference! Everything is made on-site—from the homemade bread and butter pickles and seasoned potato chips that each table gets to snack on while you are waiting for your order, to the juicy, brined chicken dinner.
We had so much good food here, but I think the kids liked trying the fried alligator the best… and it only sort-of tastes like chicken!
I’m all about trying new things, but I think that my favorites were a bit more classic—the bacon and cheddar hush puppies (served with a chipotle aioli) and prime brisket burnt ends with cole slaw were something that I just couldn’t get enough of! And the pickles that they serve to every table definitely reminded me of the homemade pickles that my grandma used to make!
And my teenage son was quite excited to try “The Pit” sandwich, which had a taste of everything on it—prime brisket, pulled pork, a hot link, cole slaw, and a mild sauce. It was stacked a mile high, but my ever-hungry teenage son was up for the challenge!
We visited during spring break, which was kind of chilly weather, but Chicago q has a nice patio area that looks like it would be so nice to sit out and relax on a warm summer evening!
Chicago Food Planet Walking Food Tour
One of the best ways to taste a lot of the great flavors of the city is to take a food tour. We decided to go on the Best in Chow Food Tour, which had lots of iconic dishes—such as deep dish pizza, a Chicago-style hot dog, Italian beef sandwich, popcorn, and brownies—which I knew my kids would love! While the food was all so good on this tour, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of Chicago history and facts that we also learned on this tour!
This is something that you definitely need to plan ahead of time though because tour group sizes are limited and fill up quickly. Chicago Food Planet offers several food tours in different areas of the city. The tour that we went on, the Best in Chow, is downtown and was about a mile and a half in total walking distance.
You’ve probably heard of classic, deep dish Chicago-style pizza… and Lou Malnati’s is definitely one of the best! This franchise is still family-owned after all these years and focus on every detail in making their pizza, right down to the type of water that is used in the dough! And another little secret about the dough that makes it so good is that they use butter in it! (These are just some of the fun and interesting facts that we learned while on our Best in Chow Food Tour, which I highly recommend!)
But this isn’t your typical thin slice of pizza though… it is a meal in itself! From the thick crust to the layers of toppings, cheese, and sauce on top, you will get full after eating just a piece or two!
Al’s Italian Beef
You’ve probably never had a beef sandwich like this before! But what makes Al’s Italian Beef sandwich so different? First of all, it is dry roasted in their secret blend of seasonings and natural juices. Then, the beef is shaved very, very thin. You can add homemade sweet or spicy peppers or provolone cheese, but the star sandwich ingredient is the “gravy.”
It’s called gravy, however, it is more closely related to an au jus sauce rather than the thick type of gravy that you associate with mashed potatoes. Whatever you want to call it, it’s good. And you are going to want it on your sandwich! Al’s menu features different levels of gravy from a light amount to dipping the entire sandwich in it! But if you go all in with the gravy, get ready to take the “Italian Stance” when eating your sandwich so you don’t ruin your shoes!
Of everything that we did on our trip, I have to say that the hot dog from Portillo’s was the most memorable! I know that sounds really silly because, well, what could possibly be memorable about a hot dog?? I’m an Ohio girl, so I’ve always had a hot dog with ketchup and mustard, and maybe some relish. I have never had a Chicago-style hot dog. And now that I have, I may never be able to go back to the ketchup and mustard version.
If you are like me, and have no idea what a Chicago-style hot dog is, it is a hot dog with seven toppings! A Chicago-style hot dog with everything, includes mustard, relish, celery salt, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers, all on a poppy seed bun. Chicagoans call this “dragging the dog through the garden.” I really don’t eat hot dogs that often, but I have to say that having all of these tasty, fresh ingredients on a hot dog made it delicious! I truly enjoyed this classic food in a whole new way!
This gourmet popcorn is another iconic Chicago favorite! Garrett’s popcorn is handmade each day in old fashioned copper kettles. And because Garrett’s focuses on fresh, no preservatives are added! Honestly, I can taste the difference! While this may be an indulgent sweet treat, I like the fact that I can get something a little healthier—with no preservatives, gluten free, zero trans fats, and non-GMO kernels.
We tried the Garrett Mix, a blend of sweet and savory—cheddar and buttery caramel popcorn. So good separately, but even better together!
Copper Fox Gastropub
Did you know that the brownie was born in Chicago? I didn’t—that is, until I went on the Best in Chow food tour! It was food and a history lesson! As the story goes, Bertha Palmer asked a chef at her hotel to create a dessert that wasn’t a cake, and wasn’t a pie, but was easy to transport, to serve at the World Expo in 1893—and the brownie was born! Our last stop on this walking food tour was at the Copper Fox to enjoy another Chicago classic—a brownie.
This brownie was very light tasting, has crushed walnuts in it, and served with a boozy caramel sauce. Again, not like the brownies that I’m used to, but so good!
Fun andUnique Restaurants in Chicago
If you want a dining experience that is totally different, Chicago has a few restaurants that you will want to go to. As a mom, I am always looking for fun and exciting things to do that my kids will also enjoy. Of course, these restaurants are fun for adults too…
Are you ready for your mission, spies? Find the password, search for recon… your family is definitely going to be entertained while you are waiting for your food at SafeHouse, a spy-themed restaurant!
There is even a fun #stealthyselfie photo booth where you can take fun pics and have them emailed or sent right to your phone via text! It’s free and it’s a fun little souvenir from your visit too!
The cuisine is classic American—burgers, mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese, meatloaf, and more.
And the fun is still not over… you get to exit in true spy fashion by answering a cryptic phone call and then very stealthily going through a lasermaze…
Texas de Brazil
If you’ve never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you definitely need to go to one! Texas de Brazil is unique in that you can enjoy the rodizio-style menu— salad bar and a fire-roasted “parade” of meat. The good news is, if you want to try everything, you can! So instead of deciding on just one main dish, you can try several different meats.
The salad bar was beautifully displayed…and had several items that I’ve never had before—like heart of palm tree!
And then the main dish comes out one-by-one— steak, chicken, lamb, ribs…
You can also try some authentic, Brazilian drinks while you are there: Caipirinha for the adults, and some Guaranca (Brazilian soda) for the kids!
Money Saving Tip: The Chicago location also offers a ‘savings’ of Sunday Funday, special children’s prices, and lunch deals. You can get the same great food and dining experience, and save a little bit of money by visiting at the special times. Each location has it’s own offers, so make sure to check out their website to find out what deals are offered at the location nearest to you.
Looking for a trendy bar to relax in for a bit after-dinner? Cranberry mule, anyone?!
We stayed at the Springhill Suites Downtown Chicago River North, which was so fun to be right in the middle of the action of this big city! The hotel was really nice and clean… and having the suite was great. When you have three kids, you really need that extra sofa bed and bigger space that a suite offers! Holloway’s is a casual, yet up-scale bar on the main floor of the hotel—perfect to have a little drink before going to bed.
So many good foods and delicious restaurants in Chicago, the only problem you will have is trying not to gain weight!