The 30 Most-Instagrammed Foods in Chicago
Feast your eyes on these cheesy, sweet and over-the-top dishes that are tasty to both savor and share.
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Au Cheval’s Burger
Many argue that this is the city’s best burger, enough to justify the two-plus-hour wait at times. The thin, griddled patty (single or double — your choice) is topped with a slice of American cheese, Dijonaise, and housemade pickles. Many choose to add an egg and/or bacon. However you top it, it’s a worthy photo after a lengthy wait.
Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Pizza
Eating Chicago-style pizza is always an occasion, even if it often elicits an argument of who does it best. Lou’s, as it’s called by fans, is a perennial favorite for the thick, buttery crust and the gooey pull of cheese each slice offers.
Roots’ Mozzarella Sticks
These aren’t your freezer’s mozzarella sticks. Roots’ bricks of gooey cheese are completely made in-house, starting from the mozzarella cheese. The sticks are tossed in an egg wash, dredged in seasoned flour and then finished in parmesan bread crumbs and fried forming the perfect crunchy vessel for the stringy cheese.
Margeaux Brasserie’s Macaroni Gratinée
This isn’t your childhood boxed macaroni. The noodles at Margeaux stand at attention in a square, perfectly browned and crispy on the top, waiting to be sliced into and dragged through the creamy sauce below. The dish is rich and decadent and delicious.
Original Rainbow Cone’s Original Rainbow Cone
Summer officially arrives when photos of this Chicago classic cone starts making its way across Instagram. Since 1926, these colorful cones have drawn a queue each and every year, as soon as the weather warms. The "original" rainbow cone is layered with chocolate on the bottom, then strawberry, Palmer House (cherry ice cream with Maraschinos and nuts), pistachio and an orange sherbet topping.
Stan’s Donuts’ Doughnuts
This Los Angeles transplant via a partnership with La Briola has taken Chicago’s doughnut scene by storm, opening locations across the city. Nutella-stuffed chocolate pockets, apple fritters, plain old fashioneds and Boston creams mean there is something for pretty much every doughnut fan. There are also plenty of photo opps from dazzling dozens to the perfect coffee-and-doughnut pairing.
Big Star’s Tacos
Honky-tonk music, a stellar whiskey list and a killer patio help lure people in flocks to Big Star, and that’s before even mentioning their main event: the tacos. Trays of tacos — often accompanied by margaritas — are snapped often, especially on #TacoTuesday.
Doughnut Vault’s Doughnuts
The doughnut craze is alive and well, and Doughnut Vault can certainly take some credit for that. Now with two outposts, this shop whips up creative flavors like salted caramel old fashioneds and Mexican hot chocolate cake doughnuts. Check Twitter before you head there — it’s the only way to get updates on what’s sold out for the day.
JP Graziano’s Mr. G Sub
An unassuming Italian grocery in the West Loop, JP Graziano’s never glorified its Italian groceries and sub sandwiches made with primo Italian ingredients. But loyal fans of the quality products quickly realized that the famed Mr. G sub is as photogenic as it is delicious. The sub sandwich is filled with provolone, hot soppressata, prosciutto, Genoa salami and topped with truffle mustard, balsamic vinaigrette, marinated artichokes, fresh basil and lettuce dressed with red wine vinegar and oregano.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken’s Fried Chicken and Corn Muffins
Putting honey butter on fried chicken may have been a mistake when it first happened, but it’s now a phenomenon people crave, especially at Honey Butter. The delicious, crispy fried chicken comes with a side of honey butter that melts into the spiced skin adding a touch of creamy, sweetness to the bird. The pint size honeycomb corn muffins are the perfect side and worthy of a slather of that honey butter, too.
Summer House’s Rice Krispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
A dessert mashup always makes a great pic (hello, Cronut) but Summer House’s combination is particularly epic. All of the giant cookies at the bakery front of this California-inspired restaurant are delicious, but it’s the Rice Krispies treat-chocolate chip cookie that’s the most-desired. A giant chocolate chip cookie is topped with big chunks of marshmallowy goodness.
Avec’s Chorizo Stuffed Dates
This dish is classic Avec, a menu stalwart at the Mediterranean small-plates restaurant long before Instagram. Large medjool dates are stuffed with chorizo, wrapped in bacon and piled on a bed of piquillo pepper tomato sauce. It’s almost a Chicago rite of passage to have devoured a plate of these.
Three Dots and a Dash’s Treasure Chest
Just about every drink at this tiki bar is camera ready, but when there is a drink that can serve six to eight people out of a treasure chest, it’s the one that is the snapped the most. This over-the-top concoction is for the big spender at $385, but it’s filled with the riches of rare rums, and tropical flavors of guava, pineapple and passion fruit. Oh, and if that isn’t enough, a bottle of Dom Perignon is poured on top, tableside. Dry ice is added underneath for the pirate effect and plenty of beautiful flowers and island-inspired accoutrements are strewn around the box. This photo and drink are bound to produce good stories.
Aloha Poke’s Poke Bowl
The poke craze is alive and well in Chicago and the pop of color in these dishes makes them a good subject for the camera. Of course, the flavors are the real draw in popular dishes like the Volcano, made with fresh raw or marinated tuna or salmon, seaweed, edamame, jalapeno, ginger, a pile of black and orange tobiko and a swirl of bright orange spicy volcano sauce, a combination of chile and ponzu mayo.
Bombobar’s Cooler/Hotter Chocolates
Like Chicago, this famed Instagram drink at the walk-up window of Bar Siena has two seasons: hotter and cooler. In the winter, you can find their hotter chocolates — souped-up versions of hot chocolate, dripping with extras like sprinkles, chocolate pearls and of course, their signature Italian doughnut. In the summer, the chocolate drinks turn to ice, still with the same decked-out treatment, like the S’mores, complete with marshmallow fluff, chocolate and caramel drizzles and chocolate pearls (and the doughnut, too!). It’s been 'grammed so many times that they recommend the Juno filter.
The Loyalist’s The Loyalist Cheeseburger aka Dirty Burg
This burger at The Loyalist gets so much Instagram play, the team created an Instagram handle @the_loyalist_dirty_burg, just for glamour shots of this burger, amassing more than 2,000 followers. Noted as one of the best in the city, the thin, double-patty burger — a rich blend of ground bacon, chuck, and short rib — is topped with housemade pickles, American cheese, a smattering of onions and a rich onion mayo.
Bellemore’s Oyster Pie
The dish that chef Jimmy Papadopolous used as his audition for the executive chef role at West Loop hot spot Bellemore has quickly become a menu superstar and one of the most-Instagrammed dishes in Chicago. This beauty of a dish is a sliver of oyster pie topped with tiny baubles of osetra caviar, crisp green apples, a dressing of lemon and dill and a garnish of edible flowers served with a glass of vintage Champagne.
Fairgrounds’ Power Flower Milk Tea
Matcha has an appealingly bright green color that would lure any photographer, and its contrast with the stark white milk makes the iced drink at Fairgrounds a real stunner. The matcha and milk combine with jasmine pea flower tea and jasmine syrup for a subtle floral taste and a drink packed with health benefits.
Joy Yee’s Bubble Waffles
People flock to this Pan Asian spot for their main courses, but save room for the bubbles — in the form of bubble tea or bubble waffle cones. The bubble teas come ready to go with perfectly pop-able tapioca balls in flavors like green tea, watermelon, honeydew or papaya-coconut. The soft serve comes in a bubble cone overflowing with toppings — fruit, cookies, candy bars and more.
Lost Lake’s Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri
Fun and whimsical tiki drinks make perfect photo fodder, especially when they involve banana dolphins. This Logan Square tiki haunt may get cutesy with their garnishes, but the cocktails below are no joke, including the banana daiquiri. It’s filled with three rums — overproof Jamaican rum, overproof demerara rum and spiced rum — mixed with banana, coconut and lime.
Chicago Public House’s Cake Shakes
Chicago Public House’s cake shakes are a real showstopper, with a full piece of cake on top and an overabundance of sprinkles. But though they may look like the stuff of childhood dreams, these aren’t your kids’ shakes — these are made with beer. The Chocolate Cake Stout Milkshake is made with Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter, chocolate ice cream and chocolate cake; the Vanilla Stout has JP's Casper White Stout, vanilla ice cream and a slice of confetti buttercream cake. For holidays they go even more over the top with extra treats. Once one hits a table, everyone snaps a pic and watches the rest of the tables order their own bonanza.
You have to be in the know to order Scofflaw’s over-the-top sandwich: It’s an off-menu item. Those who have experienced the "guapi" seem to nearly universally commemorate the moment with a photo. Come hungry — this bad boy has fried chicken, a burger patty, pork rillet and ham covered in Butterkäse cheese, and topped with caramelized onions, French fries, and bacon, slathered with giardanara aioli and topped with a deviled egg. It may be worthy of a before and after photo.
Maple and Ash’s Fire-Roasted Seafood Tower
Seafood towers are often an impressive display, but the one at this luxe Gold Coast steakhouse is Baller. Yes, Baller is actually the name of their biggest tower, full of not raw, but hearth-roasted seafood drizzled with garlic butter and chile oil. Fire-cooked king crabs, giant shrimp, scallops and grilled oysters are part of the vertical feast.
This emoji-mochi mash-up combines adorable faces with rice paper wrapped ice cream in rotating flavors like mango Thai basil, white chocolate strawberry, sesame and passion fruit. There are a few other worthy photos at the hip sushi bar, like cocktails in Chinese takeout boxes.
The Bakery at Fat Rice’s Hot Dog Tart
Chicagoans are obsessed with their version of the hot dog, so it was no surprise that people went crazy for this deconstructed version at the Portuguese-inspired Bakery at Fat Rice (adjacent to the Macanese restaurant Fat Rice). The traditional bun is topped with poppy seeds — to mimic the traditional hot dog bun — and laden with pieces of Vienna beef hot dogs, white onion, a sport pepper in the middle and the other traditional toppings, drizzled with a sweet and spicy mustard on top.
Parlor Pizza’s Tacolata
Tacos at a pizza joint aren’t the norm, but these tacos are dessert! Parlor Pizza has added on its own sweet shop, called the Dessert Dealer, featuring dessert tacos with waffle cone shells and an abundance of fillings. The oh-so-Instagrammable Unicorn Dreams is made with birthday cake ice cream stuffed into a rainbow nonpareil-coated waffle cone shell, topped with gummy worms, rainbow Airheads, blue raspberry sauce, gummy worms and whipped cream with more rainbow nonpareils.
Imperial Lamian’s Xiao Long Bao
Dumplings are always a fun order, but when they come in bright colors, it’s hard not to enjoy them for both the aesthetic and flavor. At Imperial Lamian, the colors mean something: Red is full of spicy Szechuan; gruyere oozes out of the yellow; and the green houses duck with three other variations like crab (orange), truffle (black) and Shanghai (white).
Bonci’s Pizza Slices
This Roman import quickly became a favorite — both on and off of Instagram — for its light and airy focaccia-like crust and its colorful array of toppings. Toppings change daily so you may end up with ricotta sopresseta, rosemary potato or smoked salmon. People scope out photos just to see the sheer variety of options.
Passion House’s Glitter Latte
All that glitters is gold at this coffee shop. People may come for the small-batch locally roasted coffee, but they stay to snap photos of a glittery drink that can add sparkle to anyone’s morning, even before the caffeine fix. The glitter is completely edible, so go ahead and mix it in with the espresso and steamed milk... after the picture, of course.
Sawada Coffee’s Military Latte
When a latte sports camouflage, it’s worth snapping a photo and throwing up a salute to its intricate details. The latte, copyrighted by Sawada Coffee, is a smooth combination of espresso, green tea, vanilla syrup and a dusting of cocoa powder. Though it may sound too clever to be serious, it’s actually a very delicate and balanced drin, that’s almost too pretty to drink... almost.