A Culinary Tour Through Chicago's Ethnic Food Scene

© Yinan Chen/WikiCommons
© Yinan Chen/WikiCommons
Photo of Elizabeth Newhart
15 September 2016

Don’t worry about stacking vacation days or blowing your money on plane tickets. When you’re in Chicago, you can let your taste buds do the traveling. The city has a rich ethnic food scene supported by its strong and traditional neighborhoods. Each one brings something different to the Chicago melting pot, and you can sample the best so long as you know where to go.

Italian – Little Italy

You can’t go wrong with Italian food in Chicago as the options are endless. But even though you can find a decent spot for pizza and pasta almost anywhere in the city, you have to head to Taylor Street in Little Italy for the best of the best. The history of the area and its people are enough to draw in tourists, but a treasure trove of incredible restaurants makes the neighborhood what it is. Try Pompei, The Rosebud, or Francesca’s.

Mexican – Pilsen

Pilsen is your place for all things Mexican pride. The neighborhood has been going through changes lately, but many of the original foodie favorites have stayed true to their authentic roots. Most ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago have a fair balance of both diamond-in-the-rough joints and upscale outposts representing their cuisine. But Pilsen is a rare find that’s almost exclusively about keeping things simple. You won’t find any tablecloths or mood lighting – just heaps of delicious food. Try Carnitas Uruapan, Taqueria Los Comales, and Panaderia Nuevo Leon.

A mural in Pilsen, courtesy of Wikipedia

Indian – West Ridge

There’s no better place in Chicago for authentic Indian food than the stretch of Devon Avenue through West Ridge. It’s a far trek up north, but worth it for all the chicken tikka masala and curry you can eat. Try Ghareeb Nawaz, Uru Swati, or JK Kabab House for top-rated dishes, and remember that if you aren’t finding what you want, you only have to walk a few doors down for another delicious option.

Greek – Greektown

Greektown may be small, but it’s mighty in terms of entertainment, nightlife, and cuisine. Greek restaurants are scattered throughout the city, but the best are clustered around Halsted Street on the West Side. It’s a short walk from the overrated and crowded Loop spots, making it the perfect weekend or after-work getaway. Whether you’re craving upscale Mediterranean seafood or all-night gyros, you’ll find your perfect fit. Try 9 Muses, Mr. Greek Gyros, Roditys, or Greek Islands.

Chicago's Greektown, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Chinese – Chinatown

Chinatown might feel like an obvious option for Chinese food, but there’s a reason the ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago are such big tourist attractions and are so densely populated. The Windy City’s branch of Chinatown is one of the largest Chinese neighborhoods in the United States, so you know it’s as genuine as you can get. There are dozens of options throughout Armour Square, but Xi’an Cuisine, Phoenix Restaurant, and Lao Sze Chuan are excellent options.

© Yinan Chen/WikiCommons

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