1. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
Marc Murphy had never heard of a pizza pot pie. But after one bite of the pizza pot pie at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., he instantly knew it was deserving of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The pie layers cheese and a special sauce inside a fluffy Sicilian crust. Flip the behemoth over and then, devour.
At Alinea, Ted Allen downs his favorite appetizer: Hot Potato, Cold Potato. Ted says it's a bit like a circus on your plate, but it's more like a high-wire act. Alinea takes chilled potato soup and suspends a hot melon-balled potato with black truffle above it. It's hyper modern and hyper good.
3. Hopleaf Bar
This bar doesn't know the meaning of pub food. They're nixing regular fries and burgers and adding in none other than cheese head (that's pig's head) charcuterie. Or, try a duck and Gruyere crepe. Add a side of frites to that and order from the lengthy menu of beers, and you'll never bar-hop again.
4. Cemitas Puebla
Visit Cemitas Puebla for a rare breed of sandwich and a taste of Mexican history. This restaurant is the only one of its kind in Chicago serving cemitas, authentic poblano sandwiches made on sesame seed rolls slathered with avocado and chipotle adobo, then stuffed with meaty fillings.
5. Ann Sather
When the Swedish owners of a restaurant in Chicago decided to retire, Ann quit her job of 22 years, pooled her life savings and bought herself a diner. Her devotion to made-from-scratch food, especially the cinnamon rolls Jeff Mauro calls "insane," are legendary in the Lakeview neighborhood.
6. Mario's Italian Lemonade
For a refreshing treat on a hot day, stop by Mario's Italian Lemonade in Chicago's Little Italy. Open from May to September, the stand makes Italian Ices that are like slushies, but way better. The classic lemonade has lemon zest in it for a bitter and sweet combo.
As a wine bar, Avec's entrees and small plates echo the wine-growing region of Southern France. The chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon have become an iconic cult dish (Chris Cosentino orders multiples on The Best Thing I Ever Ate) and the focaccia with taleggio isn't far behind.
8. Central Gyros
Located on the northwest side of Chicago, Central Gyros specializes in traditional Greek cuisine, like Souvlaki, Moussaka and of course, gyros. Their gyros are so tasty, in fact, that they inspired Sandwich King Jeff Mauro's homespun take on the dish. Happy staying in tonight? They deliver.
9. El Nopal Bakery
They say the bakery at this Chicago landmark is run just as it was in the '50s, using trusted family recipes for traditional Mexican treats like pan dulce, a soft and chewy sweetbread with a flaky decorative topping. Sandwich King Jeff Mauro used the spongy bolillo bread to construct a tasty torta.
10. Garifuna Flava
From roasted chicken to oxtails to empanadas, Guy's a fan of the traditional Belizean dishes served at Garifuna Flava on the south side of Chicago. Chef Yolanda Castillo treated him to homemade hudut baruru, or mashed plantains, with tikini, a peppery cabbage and fish stew, on Triple D.
11. Garrett Popcorn
A Chicago institution since 1949, Garret Popcorn Shop is known for gourmet popcorn made fresh daily in a variety of flavors, from Plain to Buttery to Caramel Crisp to the Chicago Mix. Giada's pick? Cheese Corn mixed with Cashew Caramel Crisp.
12. Honey #1 BBQ
This family-run rib joint with a firey secret sauce is a great budget-friendly option in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. Chicagoan Jeff Mauro recommends the Mini Tips Combo: hunks of smoky meat served atop a mountain of fries and bathed in their signature sauce.
A mother/son duo brings the flavors of Costa Rica to Chicago at the family friendly Irazu. On Triple D, Guy samples two traditional dishes, classic fried Chicarron with pico de gallo and Pepito sandwiches made with steak, onions and black beans, before telling chef Henry Cerdas, "You rocked it."
14. Molly's Cupcakes
On Cupcake Wars, Molly's head pastry chef impressed with a simple but elegant display of Lemon Kiwi confections. Swing by the Lincoln Park spot and sample the award-winning red velvet cupcake, or create a treat of your own by mixing and matching cake and frosting flavors.
15. Swedish Bakery
Besides baking Swedish cookies and coffee cakes, Swedish Bakery also bakes dozens of European and American culinary confections, including Ted Allen's favorite nutty treat: marzipan. Specifically, he loves the little green frog cakes filled with raspberry buttercream and covered in marzipan.
15. Table Fifty-Two
It may look fancy inside, but on Sunday night Tim Allen knows that fried chicken will be served. The chicken is brined before it is fried with an amalgam of secret spices, which makes it extra juicy and flavorful.
On the Road Eats: Chicago City Guide
Chicago's mix of local and global cuisines will satisfy any eater's cravings. Sample Windy City favorites, like deep-dish pizza, Italian meats and loaded hot dogs.
1. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.