What To Eat in Illinois
There’s Chicago – home of deep-dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, all-beef red hots dragged through the garden, world-class corned beef sandwiches, South-Side soul-food BBQ, and such vintage steak house meals as chicken Vesuvio and shrimp de Jonghe – and there’s the rest of the state, which is a whole other kind of eating bonanza. In the Illinois River Valley, taverns serve masterful fried chicken with ravioli on the side; Springfield is home to its own kill-or-cure four-alarm chilli (two L’s!) as well as to the megacaloric kitchen-sink meal known as a horseshoe. Along old Route 66, look for Cozy Dogs (the original corn dog) as well as smashed crispyburgers with lace-thin edges.
A Chicago original since 1947. Cooked in a high-walled round pan, deep dish pizza verges on being a casserole, its thick, biscuity cornmeal crust loaded with mozzarella cheese and chunked tomatoes. Big sheets of fennel-spiked sausage are a common option.
A shaft of muscular bread filled with thin-sliced beef in garlicky natural gravy, Italian Beef is the king of street food in Chicago. Optional garnishes include "sweet" (roasted peppers), "hot" (giardiniera relish), or a length of char-cooked sausage.
Created in Springfield, Illinois, in the 1920s, the horseshoe is a giant plate of food that has gone far beyond its original resemblance to equine footwear. Local taverns and diners pile shoes with hamburgers, pork tenderloins, fried chicken, whitefish or just vegetables along with about a kilo of French fries and a flood of cheese sauce. They're popular at breakfast, too, made with bacon or sausage and hash browns, and cream gravy as a substitute or supplement for the cheese sauce. Morning horseshoes frequently are available in downsized versions known as pony shoes.
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Natural-casing, all-beef Vienna brand hot dogs are slim and snappy at Gene & Jude's. They come dressed to order and topped with excellent French fries.
A walk-up, street-food dive in Chicago's Marquette Park neighborhood, Fat Johnnie's is the Alpha and Omega of hot dogs and tamales, bunned and fully dressed.
Bang Bang bakes 3 flavors of pie daily. They are among Chicago's best, exquisitely produced with fresh ingredients plus a helping of value-added love.
A small corner grocery with an immense menu of sandwiches, hot dishes & superb gelato, Freddy's is a treasured destination for Italian food in Chicagoland.
The brash & sassy Wiener's Circle serves Chicago-style all-beef hot dogs topped with flawless condiments. French fries are some of the city's best.
Mr. Beef is one of Chicago's premier sources of the sloppy, big-flavored Italian beef sandwich. Add spicy giardiniera as a condiment.
In this Springfield diner, burgers are crisp-edge yummy. Breakfast is served all day. Sunrise dinner specials are fried chicken Tuesday and walleye Friday.
Saturday-night splurge meals are Merichka's specialty, but the Roadfood lure is Poor Boy Steak -- an under-$10 sandwich sopped with margarine & garlic.
Is this the best Chicago sandwich ever? Johnnie's Italian beef delivers juicy garlic kick; add vibrant giardiniera and you'll hear angels sing.