With SES Chicago just around the corner, many of you, out-of-towners, may be wondering where the best food in Chicago can be found. Aside from being a fellow Internet marketer, I am also a food blogger from the rough and tough South side of Chicago, so I thought I would point out some great restaurants worth trying during the conference. After all, Chicago is the culinary capital of the Midwest.
Winter is also around the corner, so many of you may find yourselves more interested in exploring Chicago’s vast culinary scene than taking cruises at Navy Pier or hanging out at Millennium Park.
Before diving into some of Chicago’s best eateries, I’d like to offer a few words of advice. The most important advice is to never EVER order ketchup on a hotdog! Ordering ketchup on anything other than fries in Chicago is a crime against food, and many restaurant owners will ask you to leave for requesting it.
Also, don’t eat at any restaurant the Travel Channel or Food Network calls the best. The food shows on those networks are produced by non-Chicagoans who base their research off of what tourists say, so don’t listen to them. The best food in the city also won’t be found in The Loop for the most part, so you will have to stray a bit away from the Hyatt Regency. This may sound like a lot of work, but the L train will take you anywhere you need to go.
If you want to sample some of the best Mexican food in the world, head on over to the Pilsen neighborhood on the lower West side. Nuevo Leon Restaurant at 1515 W 18th Street, near the Pink Line, is known for having the best Monterrey regional cuisine in Chicago—some even say the best in the world.
I would highly recommend ordering the Taquitos Barbaditos for an appetizer and the Asado de Puerco for an entrée. Nuevo Leon usually has a line out the door, so I would suggest arriving at an off-peak time. They also do not accept checks or credit cards, so be sure to bring cash.
The title of Chicago’s best Italian beef has been up for debate for decades. Portillo’s Mr. Beef and Al’s #1 have a lot of hype, but they really aren’t that good. If you want to try Chicago’s real, best Italian beef sandwich, take the Blue Line to the near-northwest suburb of Elmwood Park for Johnnie’s Beef at 7500 W. North Avenue.
Johnnie’s is cash only and there will be a line out the door, but the line moves fast. Be prepared to order as soon as you reach the register (just think of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld) because the cashier will pressure you to order quickly. Just remember these words and you will be fine: “Beef dipped with hot.”
Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza
When it comes to pizza, forget about Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s. If you want to try Chicago’s real best pizza, go to Burt’s Place in Morton Grove at 8541 Ferris Avenue. To get to Burt’s from the Hyatt, take the Red Line to Howard Ave, and transfer to the Yellow Line. Take Yellow to Skokie. Burt’s will be a short taxi ride away from the Yellow Line station.
Remember, this is not your ordinary restaurant. Nothing has been updated since the 70’s, so you will have to call in advance to make a reservation. They have a single line rotary phone, so it may take a few tries to get through. When making a reservation, you will also be asked to place your order. Be sure to arrive at the time your reservation is set for, or your food will be cold.
Burt’s is also cash only. You also won’t be allowed to serve yourself slices of pizza either. Your pizza will be placed in the middle of the restaurant, and the waitress will bring you new slices as you finish them.
Fine Dining on Randolph Street
For those of you who would prefer to stay near the Hyatt Regency, head over to Randolph Street between Halsted and Ashland in the West Loop. This area is known as “Restaurant Row.” Aspiring chefs from all over the world flock to the West Loop and open up fine dining restaurants to build a name for themselves.
You won’t have a bad meal at any of the restaurants along Randolph, but you will surely come back with an empty wallet. A few great places worth trying are Au Cheval, Graham Elliot’s Bistro, Blackbird, and Girl and the Goat.
These are just a few of the many great and wonderful places to eat at in Chicago. If you would like further recommendations, please feel free to walk up and say hello. I will be at SES Chicago for all three days. Just remember to omit the ketchup on everything.