Local Flavor  » Chicago, IL

Local Flavor Edition in Chicago, IL

Chicago is one of the most exciting culinary destinations in the country. The Windy City attracts a diverse population, as evident by the abundance of food offerings.
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Carnitas Don Alfredo

Carnitas Don Alfredo is another fantastic Mexican destination in the Chicagoland area. There are two outposts of this tiny taqueria, and each serves up delicious fresh tacos, tortas, enchiladas, and quesadillas. The food prepared is in the Michoacan tradition.

This particular location of Don Alfredo is next to a Citgo gas station, and it is easy to miss it. But to skip eating here would be denying yourself some of the most delicious roasted then fried pork in the area. The menu changes on the weekends, boasting some exciting additions such as whole barbecued pig and fragrant traditional soups.

Walk in, pay cash, grab a number and get ready for an authentic Mexican meal you won't soon forget. You'll be craving another visit to Don Alfredo the minute you walk out.

Gibson's Steakhouse

Long before Chicago was the home to amazing taquerias on most street corners, it was the capital of steakhouses, and it still bears that title. Chicago, the heart of the Midwest, is a great town to get a bloody, dry-aged steak.

There are many well-regarded steakhouses in Chicago, but arguably the most famous one is Gibson's with its shiny red booths and its efficient yet sassy waiters. The bat at Gibson's is the destination to see and be seen as you sip traditional cocktails after sweating to carvfe out a little room at the bar.

The bone-in rib eye steak, known as the Gibson's, is absolutely amazing. And the twice baked potato with all the trimmings is well worth courting a heart attack.

Giordano's Pizza

Chicagoans are so passionate about their deep dish pizza that I hesitate to even broach the subject. Cornmeal crust vs. wheat, sausage vs. pepperoni, the debates are epic about Chicago's signature dish. And the demand is epic as well, with waits for tables that exceed an hour the minute the restaurant opens. Considering that a deep dish pizza takes almost an hour to cook, grabbing a slice of pizza can be quite an undertaking. Thankfully, one of the most popular deep dish pizza destinations, Giordano's, has spawned a number of outposts to make indulging in deep dish pizza a little easier.

You'll need a decent sized party to demolish even a small deep dish pizza pie. Each slice is a meal in itself. But then of course, with a bunch of friends at the table, the debate over whether this is the best pizza in town will rage again.

Greek Islands Restaurant

Greektown stretches a few blocks in the Near West Side of Chicago. There are dozens of Greek restaurants with dazzling white and blue facades to choose from there to have a memorable Greek meal. If you ask any Chicagoan of Greek descent for a recommendation, chances are that they will direct you to Greek Islands, the destination for those in the know.

You have to begin with their cold platter for two, a delicious spread of seafood, cold spreads, olives, beets, peppers and cheese, as well as their grilled octopus salad, and their avgolemono soup, an addictive combination of rice, lemon, and egg.  And if by some miracle, you still have room for a main course, then opt for the Arni Fournou, the Colorado baked lamb.

By the end of your meal, you'll be shouting "Opa!" with all the Greektown regulars.

Johnnie's Beef

It doesn't matter if it is raining, snowing, drizzling, or freezing, there is always a crowd waiting to eat at Johnnie's Beef. The cars are lined up to enter the parking lot and people drive from far away to get their hands on what many claim is the best Italian Beef sandwich in town. Thinly sliced seasoned slices of beef are carefully folded in a long bun and topped with peppers, relish, and onions: Johnnie's Beef is truly a must have Chicago experience.

Diners must be coming for the food, because the decor is non-existent. You can either take your hot dogs, Polish sausage, and Italian Beef  sandwiches to go, or you can eat them standing up at the counter, gloating at the poor sods still standing on line. In the summer, there are a couple of picnic tables outside that add to the ambiance.