Here’s our list of the top street food vendors and street foods of Chicago:
Best Street Food of Chicago
Although it is found worldwide and is a very common food, you must try pizza once in Chicago. Chicago is synonymous with delicious deep-dish pizzas. The deep-dish pizza is cheesy and filling. It comes with various toppings that you can choose from. It is an iconic Chicago street food and can be found all over the city.
Where to try: The best place to try authentic Chicago-style pizza is Pizzeria Uno. The deep-dish pizza was popularized by this then-tiny restaurant at 29 E Ohio St., Chicago. Other great places for pizza in Chicago are Pequod's, Labriola, Nancy’s Pizzeria, and Lou Malnati’s.
2. Buttermilk Doughnuts
Doughnuts are a classic breakfast food. Buttermilk doughnuts in Chicago are sweet, crunchy soft treats that are sugar-glazed on the outside and soft when you bite them. You can coat them with chocolate, vanilla, sprinkles and pair them with coffee for the perfect American breakfast. Doughnuts can also be enjoyed as a snack or dessert
Where to try: You can get the best Chicago-style buttermilk doughnuts at Do-Rite Donuts and Coffee at Randolph Street. They also serve burgers, coffee, etc. The Doughnut Vault located at Franklin Street is another great doughnut shop.
3. Italian Beef SandwichesItalian beef sandwiches were invented in Chicago and are uncommon outside the city. They are a very important part of the Chicago street food scene. Therefore you must try it if you are in Chicago. This juicy sandwich can be found at many vendor stalls.
Where to try: Al’s Beef is the most famous place to sell Italian beef sandwiches. Stands in Portage Park have great Italian beef sandwiches. Jay’s Beef, Portillo’s, and the Original Chickies are known for these Chicago-style sandwiches as well.
Chicago is known as the meatpacking capital of the world. You can find steakhouses and fine dining restaurants that serve the most delicious stakes all over Chicago. It is smoky, peppered, and has a velvet-like center. Chicago steakhouses are known for their unique cooking methods. Many dry-age their steaks for over 4 weeks to retain the special flavour.
Where to try: RPM Steak, located on the River North, is extremely popular amongst tourists and locals alike. Their Cowboy Steak is a must-have. Prime & Provisions adds its unique twists to steaks and has many innovative items on its menu. Chicago Chop House on Ontario Street is also excellent for enjoying steak.
5. Polish Sausages
Maxwell Street used to serve Polish sausages with a Chicagoan twist. However, the iconic Maxwell Street Polish sausages were forced to shut down due to annexation. Thankfully, there are still a few places left where you can enjoy these delicious sausages. They are served in a bun with mustard sauce, grilled onions, and peppers.
Where to try: You can get these at Jim’s Original located at 1250 S. Union Avenue.
Popcorn is usually just seen as a plain and simple snack, however, Chicago has reinvented it and made it unique. It is the perfect snack for munching that will boost the energy that you need while sightseeing. Chicago has unique popcorn flavours that you cannot find elsewhere. Chicago-style popcorn is iconic because the family recipe passed through generations is still used by Chicago popcorn sellers who make it in old-fashioned copper kettles. Chicago-Mix is the most famous popcorn flavour here, which you must try at least once.
Where to try: Garrett Popcorn is an iconic popcorn seller that has unique, flavored popcorn. They have all sorts of popcorn, from crisp caramel to almond popcorn. Located downtown Chicago, they serve the best-handcrafted kettle popcorn with quirky flavors.
Tamales are steamed Mexican street food with pork, chicken, or cheese packed in cornmeal and lard. They are best enjoyed with a salsa sauce. They are one of the most unique street foods in Chicago. Tamales are made by “Tamale Guys” who usually go from bar to bar and serve delicious snacks.
Where to Try: You can find “Tamale Guys” patrolling the streets of Chicago at night, or at bars, usually those that do not already serve food.
Elotes are corn on the cob that is garnished with butter, herbs, spices, and mayonnaise or cheese. It has a tangy taste and is a perfect snack to enjoy while taking a stroll. They are sold by street vendors, locally referred to as eloteros. Apart from elotes, they also have sliced up mangoes covered with lime and chili.
Where to Try: Eloteros are usually found in parks and streets such as Humboldt Park and Clark Street.
Jibaritos is a unique type of sandwich with fried bananas instead of bread. It is made with flattened, fried plantains. The saucy filling includes garlic mayonnaise, chicken or pork, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. Jibaritos are perhaps the most unique sandwiches found amongst the street foods of Chicago.
Where to try: Humboldt Park is a hub of mouth-watering Puerto Rican street food. Jibaritos are commonly served by food trucks. Food trucks here also serve various Puerto Rican dishes including Lechon, a type of roast pork, and morcilla, a blood sausage.
10. Rainbow Cone
As the name suggests, a Rainbow cone is a colorful tower of scoops of many ice cream colours- strawberry pink, chocolate brown, mint green, etc. It is pleasing to look at, and even better when eating.
Where to Try: It can be found at the many ice-cream trucks roaming about in the streets of Chicago, in parks, and popular tourist destinations.
11. Italian Ice
Italian Ice is a dessert made with crushed frozen fruit. It is cold and colorful and comes in many flavors such as guava, cucumber, and the classic lemon. Even those who are lactose intolerant can enjoy this cold treat as it is entirely dairy-free. You haven’t truly enjoyed the Chicago street food experience without trying this icy dessert.
Where to try: The best place to get Italian Ice is Miko’s, which has two locations in Chicago- Logan Square and Irving Park. 15.
Chicago has excellent Mexican street food to boast about, thanks to its large Mexican population. Cemita is another Mexican snack that can be found on the streets of Chicago. It is a sandwich made up of avocado, Oaxacan cheese, and meat. It is finally dressed with chipotle sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Where to try: You can enjoy cemitas at Cemita Puebla at 817 W, Fulton Market. Tacos Puebla at Addison Road and Golden Village at Humboldt Park also serve cemitas.
13. Hot Dogs
Chicago street food is well-known all around the globe. Many tourists associate Chicago with hot dogs, and rightfully so! Chicago has some of the best hot dogs you’ll ever eat. They are seasoned with spicy and sweet sauces, herbs, and spices. Hot dog stands are commonly found in tourist spots, parks, malls, near bars, and hotels, etc.
Where to try: Superdawg Drive-In, Wiener Circle, and Gene & Jude’s have the best hot dogs in all of Chicago.
14. Rib Tips
Chicago is famous all over the world for its saucy meat-based dishes and snacks. Rib Tips are one of them. They are saucy, chewy, and smoky. You must try Rib Tips if you enjoy eating meat.
Where to try: Leon’s, Uncle John’s, Lem’s, and Fat Willy’s Rib Shack are the most preferred places by locals for some slow-cooked, Chicago-style rib tips.
15. Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnamon Rolls are another glazy and sweet snack that Chicago has perfected. They are freshly made in the oven and drenched with a creamy glaze. They have a very-sweet smelling aroma and the sugar is great for you to be able to carry on with the rest of your day.
Where to try: Ann Sather’s sells some fresh, aromatic Cinnamon Rolls at many locations in Chicago including Belmont, Broadway, and Granville.
Best Street Food Vendors In Chicago
16. Edible Balloon Dessert at Alinea
When it comes to out-of-the-box and creative food, no one can top Chicago. Alinea, an iconic Chicagoan restaurant, has a unique item on its menu: a transparent edible balloon made from green apple taffy. It is one of the most peculiar foods that Chicago has to offer.
Address: 1723 N Halsted Street
Timings: Mon-Sun 5-10 pm
17. Food Trucks
Eating from food trucks is one of the best ways to truly experience the street food in Chicago. In Chicago, food trucks tend to be found around the Loop area. You can choose from a wide palette of food options such as empanadas, tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, and ice-creams. You can also try cuisines from different cultures at these food trucks like Korean delicacies, Cajun food, Indian curries, snacks, etc. The Chicago street food scene is represented accurately by these diverse food trucks.
Address: The Loop, downtown Chicago
Timings: Mon-Fri, 9 am- 5 pm
18. Taco Loco of Pilsen
Taco Loco of Pilsen is a street vendor that sells Mexican street food like tacos and quesadillas. They make their salsa sauce from scratch so it is authentic and full of flavor. There is a liquor store next door so you can pair your food with drinks. It is a cheap lunch or dinner option.
Address: 2022 S Leavitt St
Timings: Thursday and Sunday 1- 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 1 pm- 1 am
19. The Fat Shallot
The Fat Shallot initially started as a cook-on-board food truck and they sold “big, bomb sandwiches”. They added their own gourmet twist to classic sandwiches that became popular all over Chicago. They now have a restaurant in Lincoln Park that offers a more extensive menu and alcohol. They also have burgers, wraps, shakes, and Belgian fries.
Address: 2468 N Clark St., Lincoln Park
Timings: Tues- Sun, 11 am – 9 pm
20. Malbec Beef Empanada
Malbec Beef Empanada is perhaps the most popular item on Chicago’s food trucks. It is a mix of shredded Angus beef which is slow-cooked in red wine. Malbec Beef Empanadas has a roasted texture and is enjoyed with a side of chimichurri sauce. They are easy to carry and munch on while sightseeing, making it the perfect street food. The best place to enjoy a Malbec Beef Empanada is the 5411 Empanadas truck.
Address: 2850 N Clark St.Tasting a city’s food is the rawest and the most real way to truly experience the city’s culture. Chicago's iconic foods and dishes aren’t something that just came to be, it has a history, stories, experiences, and struggles attached. The food showcases the city’s diversity and complexities as it is made by the people who make Chicago the city that it is. All the above-mentioned foods have been handcrafted and capture the very essence of Chicago and its people. If you visit Chicago, you must try as much of them as possible to make your visit more special and memorable.
Timings: Sun- Thu 11 am – 9 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am - 10:30 pm