24 Hours in Chicago: What to Eat & Where

Three Images of Various Types of Food in Chicago

Cheapism / Green Street Smoked Meats / Roka Akor - Chicago/Yelp / Sherwin C./Yelp

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Three Images of Various Types of Food in Chicago
Cheapism / Green Street Smoked Meats / Roka Akor - Chicago/Yelp / Sherwin C./Yelp

The Deep Dish on Chicago's Food Scene

So you have just 24 hours in Chicago, and you want to make the most of it. Your stomach is growling, and you’re ready to go on a fast culinary tour of the Windy City.

Put your bib on and let’s get started!

Related: 12 Free or Cheap Things You Must Do in Chicago

People Walking a Crosswalk in the Financial District, Chicago

Day 1: Lunch

Let’s assume you arrive in the morning, and you’re hungry. You’re looking for a great first impression when it comes to a Chicago dining experience. So where do you go?

Lunch Special, Kabobi, Chicago
Ana T./Yelp

Option 1: Kabobi

If you’re into Persian food, look no further than Chicago favorite Kabobi, located in Albany Park. Lunch portions of hummus, grilled kebabs, baba ghanoush, and salads are filling but not overwhelming. If you’re vegetarian, you’ll have plenty of options. Oh, and don’t order without adding one of the signature sauces to your meal: roasted red pepper tahini, cilantro tahini, Mediterranean tarator, yogurt and cucumber, or the all-time favorite, garlic sauce.

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Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Chicago
Tim M./Yelp

Option 2: Honey Butter Fried Chicken

If you want to kick off an indulgent 24 hours in Chicago, head to Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Avondale. Not only is the chicken crispy on the outside and tender inside, but it’s also antibiotic-free, cage-free, and humanely raised. Add a creative side like pimento cheese fries or roasted garlic grits and you’ll have energy to tackle your tourist list.

Green Street Smoked Meats, Chicago
Green Street Smoked Meats

Option 3: Green Street Smoked Meats

This locale is all but hidden in an alley in West Loop. With sunlit picnic tables outside and a twinkly light fairyland inside, you can pick your vibe. You can also pick your meat adventure: prime brisket, pastrami, pulled pork, pork belly, sandwiches…you name it and Green Street serves it. You can also pick your BBQ sauce: vinegar, Texas, or spicy.

Related: Bucket-List Barbecue in Every State

360 CHICAGO During Sunset
360 Chicago/Yelp

Day 1: Dinner

After an afternoon of sightseeing (maybe you took in the sights from the 360 Chicago Observation Deck or visited Wrigley Field), you’ll be ready for dinner. Whether you want something a bit more upscale or you want to keep it simple, here are your options.

George's Deep Dish, Chicago
Kyle P./Yelp

Option 1: George’s Deep Dish

If you want to go traditional Chicago, you’ve got to try deep-dish pizza. George’s offers both 10-inch and 14-inch deep-dish pizza with sourdough crust, as well as thin crust if you’re not a fan of the local favorite. Try a classic like Clooney’s ER (Italian sausage, beef meatballs, pepperoni, and bacon) or something unconventional like O’Keeffe’s Red Poppy (grape tomatoes, roasted garlic confit, fresh mozzarella, balsamic glaze drizzle, poppy seed crust).

Related: Chicago Deep Dish Beats New York Style, According to Famous Food TikToker

Roka Akor, Chicago
Roka Akor - Chicago/Yelp

Option 2: Roka Akor

Located in River North, this upscale Japanese restaurant offers sharable modern dishes like prime beef tataki with truffle shavings and daikon, crispy squid with chili and lime, and wagyu beef. Of course, you can also find your favorite Japanese dishes like sushi and tempura.

Chickpea Fritters, Girl and the Goat, Chicago
Karen H./Yelp

Option 3: Girl and the Goat

Note that this is a Michelin restaurant, so you’ll need to plan in advance to secure a table. Start your meal with chickpea fritters as an appetizer, then try the crabby BBQ pork belly or goat empanadas. Save room for dessert, because the plantain tres leches is to die for.

Related: 14 of the Most Expensive Restaurants in America

Looking Up Towards Night's Sky, Downtown Chicago
joe daniel price/Getty Images

Day 1: Late-Night Snack

If you’re making the most of your 24 hours in Chicago, you may be out late and find your tummy rumbling. If so, here are some late-night snacks to try.

Polish Sausage Sandwich, Maxwell Street Depot, Chicago
Jose C./Yelp

Option 1: Maxwell Street Depot

If you find yourself on the South Side late at night, don't worry. This place serves hot dogs and other fare 24 hours a day. But we’re not talking just any hot dog: it’s a true Maxwell Street Polish: a Polish sausage topped with grilled onions, yellow mustard, and pickled peppers.

Related: 19 Regional Hot Dog Styles Across America You Have to Try

Cheesy Fire Chicken, Dancen, Chicago
Mohan C./Yelp

Option 2: Dancen

If you like spicy, head to Dancen where you’ll have probably the spiciest chicken of your life. Marinated in chile, gochujang, soy, and rice syrup, this “fire chicken” is grilled before charring your insides from its spice. Oh, and bring a fan. The joint is so small and the heat so high, that the proprietors warn you that it’s both claustrophobic and swelteringly hot.

Diced Cream Cone, Superdawg, Chicago
Sydney E./Yelp

Option 3: Superdawg

While drive-ins are practically relics, this Chicago mainstay is still going strong. Head there for the fountain treats: sodas, malts, shakes, and sundaes. Or try a square diced cream cone to cool off after that hot chicken!

Related: The Best Hot Dog Stands Across America

St. Charles Air Line Bridge, Chicago, During Sunrise
joe daniel price/Getty Images

Day 2: Breakfast

Time flies, doesn’t it? It’s almost time to go home, but not before loading up on a great Chicago breakfast.

Cinnamon Old Fashioned, Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken, Chicago
Sherwin C./Yelp

Option 1: Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken

With locations around Chicago, finding one nearby won’t be hard. Go for a classic, fresh donut (vegan and gluten-free options available), or try a breakfast sandwich like the Vera Cruz: a toasted brioche bun, scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, avocado, jalapeno, tortilla strips, and mayo.

Pumpernickel Bagel, Kaufman's Bakery, Chicago
Jose C./Yelp

Option 2: Kaufman’s Bakery

Award-winning Kaufman’s is a Jewish bakery and deli that uses no preservatives, chemicals, or additives. You can find pumpernickel and rye, bagels and sweets, and you can even buy one of four types of lox (or all four) to take home with you.

Related: The Best Delis Across America