Food is a part of Chicago’s culture. While the Chicago-style hot dog and deep dish pizza are staples of the Windy City, restaurants featuring food from across the globe are intertwined among the tourist hot spots.
Chicago Food Planet tour company features tours exploring restaurants everywhere from the Chicago classics to the neighborhoods an out-of-town guest may never visit. Each tour is led by a food ambassador equipped with all the knowledge necessary to educate guests on the cuisine and its history in Chicago. The World’s Fare tour takes a journey through Wicker Park and Bucktown, traveling to southern, Argentinian, Greek and Asian restaurants while outlining the foods history at the 1893 World’s Fair.
The first stop along the way is Lillie’s Q, a joint that serves southern American BBQ-inspired food. A rustic little restaurant with waiters and waitresses who address groups as, “y’all,” Lillie’s Q features both a southern atmosphere and cuisine. The tasting includes an award-winning pulled pork sandwich, baked beans, coleslaw and locally brewed beer. Lillie’s offers six different types of BBQ sauce available at every table, each with a unique taste ranging from tangy vinegar, smoky and rich to sweet. Lillie’s Q has something to satisfy everyone’s taste-buds. With a little bit of sauce, the already-delicious pulled pork is completely transformed. Every flavor balances the other, providing a wholesome taste of a true southern meal.
A short walk down the street brings tours to an Argentinian joint named after the international dialing code for Buenos Aires. 5411 serves nothing but drinks and empanadas. Beginning as one of Chicago’s first food trucks, its goal was to bring authentic empanadas to Chicago where each and every flavor is carefully thought out and well-balanced. The narrow joint has a bar and offers little seating, but that does not hinder the amount of customers. Every empanada is easy to take and eat on the go. A bacon, date and goat cheese empanada shaped like a croissant is accompanied by a Malbec wine. With each bite, the flavors work together to create a unique savory taste, leaving everyone wanting more. 5411 offers 15 different types of empanadas, all carefully crafted into various shapes and flavors ranging from sweet to savory.
Upon entering DOX, if you were to ignore the congested streets and sidewalks displayed in the glass front, it feels as though you have left Chicago and landed in Santorini. A newer Greek restaurant, the open space is coated in light cool tones with an open, airy feel. The owner of DOX imports cheeses, olive oil, wine and anything else he can from Greece every week to keep his food as authentically Greek and delicious as possible. A tasting of a chicken kabob marinated for 24 hours, whole-made tzatziki sauce and fresh pita provide a fresh flavorful experience when paired with white wine. Seasoned to perfection and topped with lemon, the chicken is mouth-watering and complemented well by the pita and sauce.
Just two doors down from the Greek experience the tour encounters Asian cuisine. The head chef of Urban Belly previously worked with famous Chicago chef Charlie Trotter. Gaining fine dining experience from Mr. Trotter, Chef Bill Kim used his knowledge of culture and culinary to pull together Urban Belly’s Asian-inspired menu. Peanut-ramen is served, accompanied by a passionfruit vodka lemonade. Each flavor in the peanut-ramen is carefully layered, bringing out the spicy, salty, savory and sweet through every bite. At the conclusion of the final tasting, warm maple donuts dipped in vanilla bean ice cream make for a decadent dessert and perfect way to finish the tour. Urban Belly is an excellent conclusion to an excellent food tour, leaving every guest with a smile on their face.
Throughout the World’s Fare food tour, guests were educated by the food ambassador on the 1893 World Fair, keeping everyone in-tune as to why each restaurant was carefully chosen. The portions are practically perfect, leaving enough room for each course, until after dessert when no one can possibly eat another bite. All four restaurants display Bucktown and Wicker Park through food and atmosphere, bringing together an experience showcasing how foreign food works into Chicago culture.
Chicago Food Planet aims to show people around the city of Chicago through the doors of a culinary experience. Every restaurant chosen works as a part of a well-orchestrated experience, giving everyone a taste of the various cultures mixed within the city. For both a local and out of town guest, the World’s Fare tour is a tasty, educational journey to little known destinations. Touring the city through food enables strangers to connect through the flavors and stories delivered in each bite. Whether in a group where you know no one, to a group where you know everyone, the tour brings everyone together through food and drink.