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Chicago, Culinary Capital of the Heartland

Chicago, Culinary Capital of the Heartland

America being a big country, American food is actually a mix of many regional cuisines. With distinct and diverse ethnic populations, US cities often develop their own food cultures. New York, New Orleans, St. Louis and San Francisco have all made contributions to America’s culinary heritage. Chicago is a Midwestern gastronomic powerhouse, and while some specialties have stayed local, others have taken their place in the pantheon of American cooking.

A Top Food Town

As America’s third-largest city, Chicago unsurprisingly boasts some of the country’s best restaurants. The food scene features everything from Michelin starred meals by world-renowned chefs to authentic eats in ethnic enclaves. Whether it’s steaks in a skyscraper or cakes from a neighborhood bakery Schaumburg, Chicago’s countless cooks can satisfy anyone’s cravings.

Chicago-Style Pizza

While New York pizza is known worldwide, Chicago deep-dish gives New Yorkers a run for their money. Unlike New York’s thin crust, deep-dish crust is extra thick to support the extra cheese. Also, the sauce is dolloped on top of the cheese and other toppings. Baked in a tall pan, or “deep dish”, the result is Chicago’s most famous food item.

Street Eats

Chicago was historically a working-class town, with food vendors catering to busy shift workers. Hotdogs are popular across America for hungry customers in a hurry. A Chicago hotdog is a steamed, all-beef sausage in a poppy seed bun, topped with tomatoes, pickles, peppers and onions. Traditional condiments are a special “neon relish” and yellow mustard, but most Chicagoans consider ketchup a cardinal sin. Whether you’re a Cubs or White Sox fan, Chicago-style hotdogs are available in both baseball stadiums, as well as the numerous pushcarts, small stands, diners and drive-ins throughout Chicagoland.

Chicago’s hotdog stands commonly sell other sandwiches too. Among the typical offerings is Chicago’s answer to Philadelphia’s cheesesteak: the Italian beef sandwich, composed of thin-sliced roast beef in its own gravy, served with sweet peppers or hot relish on a long roll.

Chicago’s food has always reflected the roots and traditions of its immigrant communities. As new arrivals establish themselves, the city’s cuisine continues to evolve.

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