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Five Delicious Chicago Food Traditions

March 23, 2012 Le Cordon Bleu Chicago 0 Comments

Five Delicious Chicago Food Traditions

Chicago takes second place to no one when it comes to food, not even New York City. Its combination of upscale dining and traditional ethnic foods makes it a must-eat destination for foodies from all over the world.

Bill Swerski’s Superfans from Saturday Night Live may have made the city famous for “Da Bears” and “Polish sausage”, but there’s much more to eating in Chicago than that. We’ve put together a list of five of the most famous Chicago food traditions for you to, uh … chew on. Enjoy!

Deep Dish Pizza

Many New York pizza traditionalists won’t even call Chicago deep-dish pizza at all. Once you’ve tasted the thick layers of cheese, sauce, tomatoes, and other toppings (particularly sausage), you’ll wonder what else to call it. A Chicago pie is baked in a deep pan and is usually 2 to 3 inches thick, making it very different from its more famous thin-crusted, New York cousin. A knife and fork are required tools for downing a slice of deep-dish. There’s no folding here. Sorry New Yorkers.

Italian Beef

Kind of like Chicago’s answer to the French dip or Philly cheese steak, an Italian beef sandwich is made up of thin strips of seasoned roast beef, flavorful meat drippings, and a long Italian-style roll. The sandwiches are served either with sautéed bell peppers or giardiniera, a spicy combination of pickled vegetables. They’ve been serving these spicy beauties in Chicago since the 1920s. Stop in at Al’s Beef to taste the original.

Chicago Hot Dog

What do you get when combine an all-beef hot dog, yellow mustard, bright green relish, tomato wedges, a pickle spear, hot peppers, celery salt, and a poppy seed bun? A Chicago-style hot dog, of course. And to hear most Chicagoans describe it, the Chicago-style hot dog is a little slice of heaven. You don’t have to eat your hot dogs that way in Chicago, but you’d better never put ketchup on one. Ketchup is for kids and French fries they say.

Ferrara Pan Candy

You may not be old enough to have grown up in the days of penny candy, where everything in the candy counter cost a single penny, but you’ve probably eaten a Lemonhead or two, and certainly an Atomic Fireball, if not Boston Baked Beans. These along with Jaw Busters, Red Hots, Black Forest Gummy Bears, and Ferrara Chocolates are made in Chicago by the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. Founded in 1919 by Salvatore Ferrara, the company is still a family-run business.


For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, Chicago was a beef town. The Union Stock Yards was the largest meat processing facility in the world. Much of what it processed was beef. It was no accident then that Chicago became famous for its steaks. Even though The Yards have been closed since 1971, Chicago still holds to its beefy roots. Some of the countries best steakhouses are located there, including Gibson’s, Keefer’s, Smith &Wolensky’s, and Harry Caray’s. For a visual treat, stop in to the Weber Grill Restaurant and watch as your steak cooks on one of their giant Weber grills.

In addition to these delights, Chicago is also one of the best destinations in the U.S. for Mexican, Polish, and Soul foods. Whatever your fancy, Chicago has a food for it.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Chicago, Illinois. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Chicago for more information. 

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures. Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.


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