Chicago has several icons that the city is famous for and many of them are foods. For example, did you know that Chicago and the World’s Fair of 1893 are responsible for the world’s first brownie? I didn’t. Did you know that a Chicago style hot dog has seven ingredients? I certainly didn’t. And did you know that the invention of Chicago style pizza can be narrowed down to three people and one of the guys was from Texas, not Chicago? Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

Besides loving and devouring all those comfort foods on numerous Chicago vacations, I didn’t know the origin of them. Sure, I knew Chicago style pizza is thicker and more like a traditional ‘pie’ in terms of baking it. And I knew there was a special way to top a Chicago style hot dog, but I didn’t really think about how they all came to be.

Luckily for me, and for you, these things are easy to learn, discover and taste on a three-hour Taste of Chicago walking tour with Viator around Chicago’s best streets. 

I met the guide at the tourist information building; she was easy to spot in a shirt with their logo. We talked over the itinerary and then she called each spot we were going to stop to let them know how many were in our group. Normally this tour is busy on the weekends with 10-15 people on each tour, but as this was mid-day on a weekday my husband and I were the only participants. That meant more food and beer for us, so I was pretty happy.

Five minutes later we were ready to go. We set off towards the pedway- an incredible underground pedestrian walking system that is over 5 miles long and links almost 40 city blocks. In the winter and on rainy days, the tour covers more ground in the pedway than on sunny days. We passed several areas that were used in the recent Batman movies, which totally impressed my movie-obsessed husband.

Back out in daylight, and man was it a beautiful summer day in Chicago, we walked towards our first stop- Giordano’s Pizza. We were seated immediately and we ordered a traditional deep-dish cheese pizza.

Thick, with a lot of sauce and a healthy portion of cheese, we were instructed to use our fork and knife to eat our slice. Due to the size, this is considered the ‘right’ way to eat a Chicago style pizza.

While we chowed down, our guide discussed the history of Chicago pizza and how it started with a guy from Texas, Ike Solle. But the story is a little more complicated than that. There were actually two business owners and one chef and they all claim to have developed the recipe for what is now deep-dish pizza. Years later, each family has their own pizza restaurant to this day.

Not to get too full on pizza and to keep the tour moving, we headed out to the iconic Bean and the Park Grille at Millennium Park restaurant underneath for our first taste of Chicago beer. We tried three different types and you could pick your favorite for a full pint glass. As a lover of craft beers, I was in heaven.

It was time for the third stop and this time we were getting a traditional Chicago hot dog, topped with all seven ingredients. Can you guess what popular topping was left off? Ketchup! The seven original toppings are: relish, mustard, a pickle slice, onions, hot peppers, celery salt, and tomatoes.  Our guide described it as the best summertime food and I could see why. Surprisingly not heavy, the hot dog was refreshing and almost cooled me off from the hot summer sun.

After wiping the mustard off my face, we were back on our feet again and this time walking a few blocks over to the historic Palmer House Hotel to try the world’s first brownie. Developed by chefs at the request of Mrs. Palmer to serve at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, this dense almost fudge like brownie is truly decadent. As we slowly ate every last crumb of the brownie, we sat in the lobby of the hotel and admired the incredible craftsmanship of the artist ceiling, something that seemed so old world and cool at the same time.

Lastly, we continued our walking tour over to Berghoff. Known for being one of the only bars to actually abide by prohibition laws in the 1920’s, they were also one of the first bars in the city to get their liquor license back when prohibition ended. We tried two different Chicago beers and even though they had a big beer boot, we only got a pint of our favorite one.

This is where the tour ended, with a full belly and big smile. It was a blast to learn new things about a city I love so much while getting to try a few new-to-me foods. This is the type of walking tour that you could do no matter how many times you’ve visited Chicago.

Sponsored by Viator.