I’ve lived in Chicago for two and a half years and I’ve definitely made the most of that time by visiting plenty of restaurants. Even so, I often find myself frequenting the same neighborhood sushi, Thai and pizza spots whenever my friends and I are looking for a quick dinner. If you’re new to the city or looking to add some variety into your restaurant repertoire, Chicago Food Planet Food Tours steps in. They offer tours of some of Chicago’s iconic neighborhoods: Near North, Wicker Park/Bucktown and Chinatown.
Even if we hadn’t made six delicious food stops over the course of the three hour tour, I would have enjoyed my Wicker Park/Bucktown tour. The tour guide provided a lot of trivia and history about the neighborhood along the way and left me itching to try most of the restaurants we passed along the way.
We began the tour at George’s Hot Dogs, one of the first hot dog stands to hit the Windy City in 1948. The family-owned business is still owned and operated by its original proprietors and though its menu has expanded over the years, one of the most popular items is the Chicago-style dog, also known as “a hot dog with a salad on top.”
Our next stop was Hot Chocolate, where we crowded in the front of the ultra-chic, contemporary restaurant amid West-siders brunching over mimosas. Sipping iced milk hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, we learned a little bit about the restaurant’s and owner and James Beard-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal.
After our hot chocolate palate cleanser we headed to The Goddess and the Grocer, a Chicago based gourmet deli, bakery and grocery. Lots of their food is organic and their owner used to run a catering business for actual rock stars. And who doesn’t like rock stars? There, we sampled antipasto pasta salad there which had all of the makings of perfect pasta salad – tangy vinaigrette dressing, vegetables and chunks of provolone cheese.
In between restaurants, we toured old parks, restaurants and my favorite – some of Chicago’s most historic residential streets. We didn’t get to go inside any of the homes but we saw some of the city’s iconic mansions and learned about some of the earliest residents of the neighborhood. It was like watching the History channel (but with really great snacks). I would have noted that as my favorite part of the day, but that was until the white pizza at Piece, a brewery and pizzeria that just has not taken enough of my money.
After Piece, we found ourselves at Sultan’s Market, which was my favorite stop on the tour. Unlike Piece or Hot Chocolate, restaurants that I have and would visit on my own, I never would have just happened to pop in for a homemade pita with the best falafel in Chicago on a whim.
Why? I’m admitting it here. Until this tour, I had never eaten falafel. Yes, I could probably live on hummus but I’d never had it’s first cousin, falafel.
The final stop of the day and if you ask me, the best way to finish any meal, was at iCream for ice cream made homemade, in-store, on the spot…and with real, fresh ingredients. Let’s just say it’s a good thing this place isn’t down the street from me or I would easily weigh a metric ton.
For more information visit Chicago Food Planet Food Tours.