When friends come to town, show off Chicago's unique dining style by picking from these one-of-a-kind local favorites.
Superdawg Drive In
For an outrageous Chicago dog experience, drive north up Milwaukee Avenue until you spot the giant hot dog sweethearts on Superdawg's roof. Pull into a parking spot and order juicy wurst and crispy fries from a cute car-hop, then ease your seat back and enjoy the kitsch.
Chicago Kalbi Restaurant
Your friends expect a steak when they are this close to the stockyards; why not try it Korean-style and let them cook it themselves? The friendly staff at Chicago Kalbi provides raw meat and white-hot coals, plus a traditional array of Korean pickles and condiments like spicy kimchi and marinated seaweed. Gear up for grilling with some delicious dumplings or an order of panju (a crispy pancake with squid and green onions), and perhaps a sip of chilled soju (a vodka-like Korean spirit), then get cooking.
At this classic luncheonette, you get fresh, hot donut holes and Milk-Duds with your hearty, old-fashioned skillet breakfast, plus the counter staff offers advice on everything from investments to the Atkins diet.
Al's No. 1 Italian Beef
Italian Beef is to Chicago what cheese steaks are to Philly: cop food. But seriously, if your idea of entertaining guests is leaning on a counter with meat juice dripping down your chin and giardinera burning your lips, this is the place to go.
You must have ribs in Chicago, and this intimate Wicker Park joint does 'em right: all messy, smoky and saucy with piles of fries. Slide into a booth after 9 p.m. and order a couple rounds of cold ones--late night the food comes with local blues talent practically in your lap.
Show your friends that the Southwest doesn't have a monopoly on great Mexican food at this vibrant Logan Square storefront. The menu offers a crash course in regional Mexican food, featuring handmade tortillas and myriad moles, all passed down from Mama. Chef Generoso Bahena himself can often be spotted in the tiny open kitchen--he's the imposing figure with the general's cap.
Make a night of it in Greektown. This cheery spot offers everything from theatrical flaming saganaki to tasty lamb dishes, plus old-school waiters, flowing ouzo and free valet parking. Opah!
Here in hog heaven, burgers come with endless toppings free of charge; the Bloody Marys are not suitable for vegetarians; chili comes in three different colors; the 16-ounce mimosas are freshly squeezed; and eggs are scrambled with anything from Wisconsin brats to Chihuahua cheese.
Army & Lou's
For more than 50 years, Army and Lou's has been serving up gumbo, fried chicken and open-faced roast pork sandwiches to appreciative South Siders. Add some unbelievably good side dishes, like candied sweet potatoes and a scoop of cornbread dressing with velvety gravy. Finish with a bowl of apple cobbler, and your pals might choose a nap instead of a waddle around the Museum of Science and Industry.
Lisa Futterman is a freelance writer.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times