Most people associate Chicago cuisine with three things: pizza, hot dogs and steak. They wouldn't be wrong. The Windy City has an ongoing rivalry with New York City over who can serve up the better slice – while New Yorkers prefer wide and flat, Chicagoans like their pizza with a deep crust that can carry loads of toppings. For hot dogs, New Yorkers like their hot dogs simple with potato buns and ketchup, mustard or relish, while Chicagoans enjoy their beef franks on a poppy seed bun with yellow mustard, chopped white onion, tomatoes, dill pickles, pickled peppers and a dash of celery salt.
Chicago is also known for its steakhouses – the Loop and the North Side are littered with fine dining establishments that serve prime cuts of beef. Some of the most reputed steakhouses include Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab and Benny's Chop House just off The Magnificent Mile and Bavette's Bar & Boeuf in the River North area. Just be warned: A good steak doesn't come cheap in this town.
Another Chicago dish that's popular with locals but not as well-known to tourists is the Italian beef sandwich. Created by Chicago's Italian immigrant community in the early 1900s, this seasoned roast beef sandwich soaked in meat drippings and topped with spicy giardiniera or sweet Italian peppers is found on many hot dog stand and restaurant menus. But, if you want to enjoy an authentic Italian beef sandwich, locals recommend visiting Portillo's. Two locations – one on West Ontario Street in River North and another on West Taylor Street near the South Loop – are available in the downtown area.
If you're looking to save on dining (but don't want to survive on pizza, hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches alone), move away from the downtown area into Chicago's more ethnic neighborhoods. Travel west for the hummus and tzatziki in Greektown, pasta in Little Italy or tacos in the Lower West Side. Or, head south of downtown to Chinatown for Asian specialties. If you're not sure what you're in the mood for, North Side neighborhoods like Streeterville, Lakeview and Lincoln Park boast eclectic restaurant scenes. Authentic Indian and Pakistani fare are also available west of the North Side's Rogers Park neighborhood along West Devon Avenue.
When you've got a hankering for a cold, crisp beer, consider touring one of the city's top breweries. Or, head out for a night on the town to one of the bars locals love, such as Cindy's rooftop bar or Jake Melnick's Corner Tap. And if you have time, locals say you should make reservations for brunch. Chicago is home to an array of brunch spots, including Lincoln Park's Nighthawk: AM, which serves up inventive items like Frosted Flakes-coated French toast sticks with bourbon maple syrup, or West Town's Beatnik, with its globally inspired menu and popular boozy slushies.