A food tour is a great way to get a taste of the flavors that a city has to offer. A 3-hour walking food tour is an even better way to get to know about the city as well. That is exactly what Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago has to offer. You get a sampling of iconic Chicago dishes as well as some treats you maybe would not have tried on your own. Plus, you get a little commentary on the architecture and history of the city itself.
My SO and I were in the city overnight and, knowing that we had to check out by 11:00 am, figured we would have lunch before heading home. Instead of going to a standard restaurant, we decided ahead of time to give a food tour a try. I found out about Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago through Groupon. They have two options to choose from: River North and Wicker Park. We went on the River North tour and met our guide, Jake, at 11:00 am just outside of the Merchandise Mart.
They like to keep it the groups small so there were only 12 of us total. Yes, we were the only couple from Illinois, but that is not unusual. Our first stop on the tour was an adorable little doughnut shop called The Doughnut Vault. We each got a Buttermilk Old Fashion. Not a sample. A whole doughnut. And maybe I should have saved some for later but it was soooooo good.
From there, we moved on to Lou Malnati’s pizza. When you come to Chicago, you HAVE to try some deep dish pizza. Now, I have had my fair share of deep dish pizza, including Lou Malnati’s, so this was nothing new to me. But you can’t have a food tour in Chicago without a stop like this. And I love deep dish so I was more than happy to get a slice of this iconic style pizza.
The next stop took us to a small Mexican café called Xoco. This is an Aztec word that means “little sister”. It is a smaller companion piece next to Frontera Grill. This was a necessary stop as chef Rick Bayless is a Chicago culinary treasure. He has won just about every culinary award out there and I have a super foodie crush on him as well. Here we were treated to some Mexican style street food.
With a 3-hour tour there is plenty of walking so you can work off all of the food you are eating. By the time we got over to Café Iberico, I was ready to eat again (almost). This is a tapas bar/restaurant. Tapas is a Spanish word that means “small dish”, like a snack/appetizer. That was about all I had room for anyway. We each got an individual portion of chicken with rice and sautéed onions.
The final stop on the tour was, naturally, dessert. We ended up at a bakery called Fabcakes. This little gem has been serving European style meals and pastries since it opened up in 2012. Each of us got a chocolate cookie sandwich with Nutella cream filling.
All of the food we ate on the tour was delicious and a genuine representation of Chicago and its culture. If you are thinking about taking one of their tours, and you should, I have two recommendations. First, check out their FAQ page to see what is/is not allowed, especially when it comes to dietary restrictions. Also, bring a bottled water with you. Only two of the stops on the tour are dine-in. The other three are truly sidewalk eating experiences.