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Zagat Chicago Presents Chicago’s Best Restaurants

Well, you’ve finally made it to Chicago, Illinois and now you want to experience the finest cuisine that this city has to offer. Welcome to Chi-Town and to get help with the eating part, check out this video by Zagat Chicago.  Are you starving yet?

Chicago Dog – A Twist On An American Food Staple

Chicago is not just known for their deep dish pizza, but also for their Chicago Dog!

What Is The Chicago Dog?!

Th Chicago hot dogs are topped with chopped onions, mustard, relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle, peppers, and celery salt on a poppyseed bun. The vast majority of the population in Chicago frown upon putting ketchup on their hot dogs, so much so that they won’t even have it for you to use.

The origin of the Chicago dog (or Chicago style dog) dates back to 1929 when a fast food restaurant called Fluky’s started selling what was, at the time, called a “Depression Sandwich”. It had everything on it that the Chicago dog has today, just without the addition of lettuce. The Drexler Family (who owned Fluky’s) still runs a stand at a Wal-Mart, while the last real location changed their name to U Lucky Dawg and is run by someone else.

chicago style hot dog

The Chicago dog has different variations today, but it is almost always made with hot dogs from two hot dog manufacturers in Chicago, Red Hot Chicago and Vienna Beef. Some places will add lettuce or cucumbers, not use the poppyseed buns or celery salt, or add fries in place of the dill pickle. But mostly, the dogs are boiled in water or steamed, although some stands will cook the dogs on a grill, known as “char-dogs”.

There are so many hot dog places in Chicago that they outnumber 3 other big fast food chains combined. However, we are only listing the five best Chicago dog locations.

Best Chicago Dog Restaurants:

#1. Portillo’s

Started as “The Dog House” in 1963 by Dick Portillo, this restaurant has a main location in Chicago that has branched out to Arizona, California, Florida and Wisconsin. Dick sold the company but is still somewhat involved in the business.

portillo's Chicago dog

The restaurant serves a regular hot dog (which is the Chicago dog) and other kinds of dogs, as well as sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and more. They also have their famous chocolate cake shake where they put a slice of their chocolate cake right into your shake!


#2. The Wieners Circle

This hot dog stand opened in 1983 and is popular because of its Maxwell Street Polish (a Polish sausage with mainly mustard and grilled onions), cheese fries, and burgers. The char dog with “the works” is basically a Chicago dog but is grilled instead of steamed.

employee yelling -  the weiners circle - best chicago dog

They are also known for shouting matches between customers and employees during late hours. Many drunken pedestrians eat here after their nights of partying at bars, and the language can get quite foul on some nights. Despite this, the employees receive nice tips, making it a desirable place to work. If you’re the right kind of person, that is.


#3. Wrigley Stadium

Chicago hot dog at Wrigley

Going to a game? Then you might as well get a Chicago dog while you’re at Wrigley Field, although they do have other great foods there as well. However, they’ve made this version easier to eat so you don’t have to deal with too much of a mess, as everything is nicely tucked in around the hot dog. Here, they are called “Wrigley Dogs”.


#4. Superdawg

hot dogs at Superdawg

This drive-in stand was opened in 1948, is still family operated and was featured on Food Network’s Unwrapped and Emeril Live. They have carhop service and is one of the last original drive-ins left in the U.S. Their “Superdawg” is an altered version of the Chicago dog, with mustard, Spanish onions, a hot pepper, dill pickle, and tangy piccalilli. They also have burgers, fries, sides, and shakes.


#5. Gene & Jude’s

hot dog with fries at gene's and jude's in chicago


Gene & Jude’s was founded in 1946 by Gene Mormino, a city worker at the time, and has been operated by his son since 2004. This stand only makes hot dogs, tamales, and fries, and does not use nor have any ketchup. Its Depression Dog is like a Chicago dog but does not have tomatoes or a pickle, and instead has fries on top. It has been featured on “Every Day with Rachael Ray” and Serious Eats, a popular food blog, in which it was titled the best hot dog in America.

Historical Roots Of & Where To Get the Best Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago!

Today, we are going to explore the lovely topic of the deep dish pizza and how and why it originated in Chicago, lovably termed, the Chicago deep dish pizza! We will also cover the BEST deep dish pizza in Chicago in another minute.  Hold on to your bibs, Kids!

How Did The Idea of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Originate?

The pizza craze started in the U.S. back in the 19th century. It was marked by the arrival of the Neapolitans from Europe, who had an understanding and love for good old Italian pizza. They arrived in the U.S. in search of the many industrial jobs that the U.S. had to offer.


chicago deep dish pizza thanks to immigrants!


Since Chicago was a budding hub of industrial development, the need arose to create food that was well suited for the hard working society. This resulted in the creation of the now much loved deep dish pizza. Straying away from the thin crust pizzas that were up for display in the rest of the country, the deep dish created quite a niche for itself. Instead of a thin curst, it had a thick crust coupled with an inverted layer of cheese, meat, and tomatoes.

chicago deep dish pizza


Chicago is now as much known for its deep-dish pizza as it is for being the Windy City and the home of Wrigley Field.

The History Of The Deep Dish Pizza

As mentioned before, the 19th century symbolized the arrival of Europeans looking for factory jobs in the U.S. Since most of them were poor, the pizza was their main source of nutrition. This led to the creation of the deep-dish by two entrepreneurs, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, and that led them to open the first deep-dish pizzeria, “Pizzeria Uno”, in the year 1943. This is Ike Sewell:


history of deep dish pizza - Ike Sewell of Pizzeria Uno


The Chicago deep dish pizza was a far cry from the thin crust that the Italians were so used to. It was a good mix of thick crust pizza filled with an inverted layer of tomatoes, mozzarella, and meat for the ones who could afford it. It was well suited to the economic situation of the World War era, since most of the basic amenities were in short supply.

The rations for wheat flour, oil, salt, and yeast were more readily available. This, in turn, led to the extreme popularity of the deep-dish pizza.


deep dish pizza chicago


The Criticism: Chicago’s Deep Dish Pizza An Abomination?!

Most of the critics called this take on pizza an “abomination”, something that brought ruin to the name of the original pizza they dearly loved. These very critics are the ones who push away almost anything that is beyond their one track way of thinking. Comics also joined them, going against the pizza for its “oh-so-inferior” quality.

But contrary to such criticism, deep dish pizza has found semblance amongst the populace of Chicago, and it isn’t just restricted to the Windy City. Pizzeria Uno has over 200 branches today, serving as far and wide as South Korea! This is quite telling of the popularity that the deep dish has garnered over the years, having been unique in its approach and taste.


pizeria Uno in in korea


More Controversy Over the Deep Dish Pizza?

There is another storyline that runs parallel to the one mentioned above, which could make for a great suspense novel! According to some, the pizza wasn’t devised by Ike and Ric as they had been claiming over the years, but by their head chef, Rudy Malnati. The Malnati family is a name to reckon with in the pizzeria business, and as per the claims made by them, they were the real progenitors of the recipe.

the malnati family who may have created chicago deep dish pizza

The fact that there is no evidence to prove that Ric and Ike were any good in the kitchen only adds fuel to such a claim. According to Rudy Malnati, Ike and Ric were the brains behind the business, but he was the man in the kitchen. They had one simple job: to stand on the street corners and get passersbys into giving the pizza a taste.

Going by the Malnati story, it is also believed that after the death of Riccardo, Rudy Malnati Sr and his son, Lou Malnati, stayed to look after the business. But after the death of Rudy Malnati, his son was at odds with the new management, having been told that he was just a nominal employee. This digression led to him opening his own business, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, in 1971 on the north shore suburb of Lincolnwood.


The Deep Dish Pizza’s Relationship With Chicago

Since the creation of the deep dish pizza, it has made quite a name for itself. Having been named the “Chicago deep dish pizza”, it was bound to bring prosperity to the city of its origin. Not a single mention of pizza is done without calling out the deep dish, which is among the few thick crust offerings that the U.S. now presents to the nation.

Due to the uniqueness of the deep-dish, coupled with its tangy taste based on the bounteous usage of tomatoes, it has propelled Chicago into the limelight.


The 3 Best Deep Dish Pizzas In Chicago!

Now, time for the fun part! If you live in Chicago, no doubt you already known the best hotspots to serve your needs for a Chicago deep dish!  However, if you’re a tourist, you want to know where to experience the best deep dish pizzas in Chicago.

There is no way that anyone should not experience this classic beauty while in Chicago… so without further ado, following are the restaurants where you can get the best deep dish pizza in Chicago:

#1. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria

Straying away from Pizzeria Uno had worked wonders for Lou Malnati. He has created a variant of the Chicago deep dish pizza that resembles the original method of creation, albeit tangier with a larger helping of tomatoes, lighter cheese and a unique layer of “butter crust”. The butter crust is created after leaving some space in the dish to accommodate a good helping of butter.


best deep dish pizza in Chicago - malnati's pizza


The Malnati Chicago Classic, their trademark dish, is one that should be sought after. It strays away from the olive oil-made dough of the traditional deep-dish, to create a perfect blend of buttery crust, sausage, and extra cheese!

#2. Gino’s East

This restaurant was founded 23 years after Pizzeria Uno, the second such pizzeria catering to the admirers of the deep dish pizza. The owners, Sam Levine and Fred Balotelli, hired former Uno cooks (sisters Alice May Redmond and Ruth Hadley) to retain the flavor of the original. The joint still stands today, with the insides contoured with hand-made graffiti created along the years.

Their most famous pizza is the deep dish crafted using cornmeal-tinted crust with huge helpings of marinara sauce.


best deep dish pizza in Chicago - gino's east

#3. Pizzeria Uno / Uno Chicago Grill

This still remains a great place to visit if you are looking forward to tasting the “original” deep dish pizza that started it all. “Uno Chicago Grill”, still remains the one with the most visitors. It is dimly lit, with wooden tables, checkered walls adorned with graffiti, and a long line of visitors waiting for their turn.

Make sure that you reserve a spot prior to visiting!


best deep dish pizza in Chicago - pizzeria uno

Did we leave anything out?  Agree or Disagree with us? Let us know in the comments, Chicagoans and others who have tasted some incredible Chicago deep dish pizzas!