There are a handful of cities across America that are named after foods, but only Chicago has both a name and an economic foundation built on agriculture. The place was first called “Shikaakwa”, meaning “smelly onion”, named so in Miami-Illinois, a Native American language, after plants that grew along the Chicago River. The city quickly developed from its foundations, and in the 1830s it became the centre of agriculture for the entire US, as a result of hosting the main railway connector between the East and West Coasts.
While the city may be synonymous with deep-dish pizza and the hot dog, Chicago’s chef- and community-driven culinary activities continue to assimilate, modernise and perfect dishes from every corner of the world. Take a stroll through any neighborhood in this city of 2.7 million people and you will discover tastes as varied as Korean barbeque and Polish sweets mixed in with typical local flavours.
Just like the vegetable that gave the city its name, Chicago’s food culture is a thing of layers: the more you peel them back, the richer the flavours you will discover.
The city hosts a vibrant underground dining scene, where food lovers reunite by word-of-mouth in hidden locations to celebrate creative expression through food. Chicago is also the city of sustainability as the food industry has continued to innovate and evolve in this path. It also owes its foundation to meatpacking and processing: you will discover that beef has shaped some of Chicago’s most iconic dishes.