If there's one thing Chicagoans take seriously, it's their food. From the classic Chicago hot dog to their legendary deep-dish pizza, Chicago's food scene provides something for every type of foodie, especially as the weather gets colder. Here, we've sniffed out (and scoffed down) the city's heartiest dishes to warm you up.
Deep Dish Pizza at Lou Malnati's
Alright, let's do our best to set aside the New York versus Chicago pizza debate, and assume everyone agrees deep dish is the greatest pizza on earth. Lou Malnati's has 46 locations in Chicagoland, and this restaurant earns a spot on this list because its next-level deep-dish deliciousness. After ordering one of their impossibly cheesy pizzas, you'll wait at least 30 minutes until it arrives steaming hot on your table. And yes, every minute of the wait is genuinely worth it. Bonus: Lou Malnati's offers a crustless pizza for those on the gluten-free bandwagon or part of the Celiac crowd. And by crustless, we mean the crust has been entirely replaced by sausage. *Drools*
Burgers at Kuma's Corner
A juicy burger heaped with toppings is high on our list of favorite comfort foods. Every city has its own 'best burger' debate, but Kuma's Corner consistently pops up as a contender, if not the winner, when the question arises. Not without good reason, the metal-themed bar first opened in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood, but spawned a number of spin-off locations due to its wild popularity. The original is still worth a visit despite the inevitable wait you'll have to endure during peak hours. Once inside, your eyes may have to adjust to the dim lighting, but you'll soon be able to see (and appreciate) the poster-clad walls and metal music paraphernalia. Each burger on the menu is named after a metal band; we suggest the 'Metallica' or the 'Black Sabbath'. The inventive burgers come on a pretzel bun with fries on the side – they won't disappoint.
Fried Chicken at Honey Butter Fried Chicken
There's no food quite like southern comfort food, and no one in Chicago does it quite like Honey Butter Fried Chicken. This cozy spot near Chicago's Lake View neighborhood has so many different fried chicken options, salivation is instantaneous. You can opt for a traditional eight-piece order, or mix it up with their different fried chicken sandwich options. The restaurant also does brunch on Saturdays and Sundays; indulge in biscuits with gravy, French toast with fried chicken, or buttermilk biscuits with the restaurant's signature honey butter. Don't forget to order up a glass of sweet tea, or one of Honey Butter's front-porch cocktails. Who can resist a candied jalapeño margarita?
Grilled Cheese at Cheesie's Pub & Grub
Cheesie's Pub & Grub elevates the childhood classic of a grilled cheese to culinary art. With a menu full of delightful twists on the plain grilled cheese, our pick is the 'Mac' (grilled cheese with macaroni and cheese on Texas toast), or go the 'Tenderizer' (a combination of cheeses, chicken tenders, bacon and sauces). While you devour your cheesy delight, enjoy the tongue-in-cheek art decorating the walls, featuring Marilyn Monroe munching on pizza and a vengeful Darth Vader using his light saber to slice through cheese. This dairy-lover's dream has locations in Lakeview, Wicker Park and Evanston. You can also catch Cheesie's food truck cruising around the city.
Hot Dogs at Portillo's
The hot dog, another contentious food item, can be made only one way as far as Chicagoans are concerned, and Portillo's is one of the best places to get it. Hot dogs (without ketchup, thank you very much) aren't the only comforting menu item on offer at Portillo's. You can enjoy a slab of generously saucy ribs, Italian beef, burgers and a sinfully-rich piece of chocolate cake. If you need ice cream to be a part of your dessert, you can get your cake in the form of a milkshake. Portillo's crinkled fries – perfectly salty, crunchy and greasy – are also a must.
Mac and Cheese at Lady Gregory's
A traditional Irish pub might not be your first guess for an epic mac and cheese, but Lady Gregory's serves up some of the best in town. The bar's late night menu has an option for mac and cheese made with cavatappi, Irish cheddar, tomato, bacon, caramelized onions and a garlic crumb crust topping. Lady Gregory's, true to its Irish roots, also serves up a good deal of whiskey, beer and cocktails. The dark wood bar and restaurant offers its diners a cozy atmosphere for eating as much as humanly possible.
Pancakes at The Bongo Room
No list of comfort food would be complete without mention of pancakes, the fluffy breakfast staple you need in your life. Chicago's Bongo Room is dedicated to bringing the best of breakfast and brunch to the table, pancakes included. The Bongo Room is known for serving up pancakes absolutely smothered in deliciousness. Try the cranberry and orange pancakes complete with a vanilla bean cream sauce and gingerbread crumbs, or take your obsession with everything pumpkin spice to the next level with pumpkin spice pancakes. Not only are the pancakes a tower of pure bliss for your taste buds, they're also pretty as a picture. #foodporn, indeed.
Waffles at Jam
Waffles are another comforting breakfast staple, but an entirely different bowl of batter than pancakes. For the ultimate waffle, we turned to Chicago breakfast haunt, Jam, which has generated a lot of buzz with its gourmet creations. The hot chicken and waffle is a menu regular, but Jam also puts together a daily waffle special. The waffles, sweet or savory, are always delicious. Be sure to pair your waffle with coffee, fresh-squeezed juice or tea from Jam's extensive list of brunch beverages.