The US is known for its fusion of cuisines and while it was once called the Melting Pot of cultures, it's also the melting pot of fusion foods. Illinois, specifically, has its own list of foods that are special to the state and those who live there. Some are more unusual than others but they're all delicious in their own right. It's easy to forget that a state like this has foods that come from every corner of its region when its major city, Chicago, overshadows much of it, but that doesn't mean great food isn't waiting just outside the doorstep of this urban hub.
It's more than just deep dish pizza, this state has borrowed from other cultures in order to create one unique cuisine. When visiting a state that has so much to offer in terms of attractions, sights, nature, and city life, don't forget to check out some of its most iconic food staples, too.
Chicago Hot Dog
For hot dog lovers, the Chicago hot dog is a thing of beauty. Long-time Chicago residents will be the first to tell a visitor that there's plenty of history that went into creating this interesting combination and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else in the country, although many hot dogs have tried. The defining features of this hot dog are mustard, relish, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, all piled high on top of an all-beef hot dog nestled in a poppy seed bun.
The Horseshoe Sandwich is something that many have heard of but no one has seen outside of Illinois. Also known simply as the Horseshoe, this simple, yet satisfying, dish consists of a hamburger patty which is placed in the center of a plate, surrounded by french fries, and doused in (tons) of cheese sauce. It's like a bunless hamburger and a side of cheese fries all rolled into one complete meal.
The Italian beef sandwich is similar to a French dip sandwich, albeit slightly different. Beef is sliced thinly and cooked on a flat top before being piled high in to a sub (or hoagie) roll with spicy giardiniera, sweet peppers, and au jus. Whereas a soggy sandwich is the opposite goal of most recipes, the Italian beef is judged based on its moisture level - and the wetter it is, the better.
The Cozy Dog claims to be the world's first official corn dog which makes this quite the experience to have. Dipped in a slightly sweet batter and fried until perfect, golden perfection, these corn dogs are topped with ketchup or mustard and eaten quite simply (as opposed to the Chicago-style hot dog). Illinois natives will claim that it's the best corn dog you'll ever eat in your life.
Chicago-style popcorn is definitely unique in its own right and not something that everyone is down for. Both Nuts on Clark and Garret's make some of the best Chicago-style popcorn in the state, and it's quite simple: Not only does this popcorn consist of one flavor, but it offers two. Cheese and caramel popcorn are mixed together to create the ultimate in sweet and salty snacking and, honestly, it's just crazy enough to work.
Deep Dish Pizza
Of course, the cuisine of Illinois couldn't be brought up without talking about deep dish pizza. This traditional pizza is, well, made using a deep dish. The result is a pizza with a hefty, flavorful crust that's able to support plenty of toppings, making it twice the weight and calorie count as a typical pizza anywhere else.
While pierogi are specific to Eastern Europe, they've also made their way over to the US and have a particular affinity with Illinois, specifically. You'll find these potato-filled dumplings all over the state and in most restaurants, served traditionally with sour cream, bacon, and caramelized onions.
Rainbow Cone Ice Cream
This colorful creation is about so much more than getting every color of ice cream into one scoop. It's about getting every flavor into one scoop! Illinios is pretty famous for creating the one scoop to end all scoops and it starts with a towering helping of chocolate, strawberry, New York vanilla with walnuts and cherries AKA Palmer House, pistachio sherbert, and orange sherbert. This is the ultimate in flavor and ice cream sundaes for those who love the frozen treat and nothing beats having one of these while walking around Chicago on a hot summer's day.