Whenever I’m stuck at an airport for a few hours (it seems to happen to me at LAX more than anywhere else), the first order of business: Seek out a venue offering the flavor of that city.
No chains will do because it’s bad enough I’m stuck in an airport. I don’t care if it’s an offshoot of the local taco joint; it’s more important to feel as though I’m not in an airport.
I know I’m not alone, so I channeled culinary traveling guru Anthony Bourdain by creating this guide to some Chicago originals with the airport-stranded traveler in mind. From a Blackhawks-themed burger bar to home-style soul food from Chicago’s South Side, these places serve up an authentic Windy City experience at Midway and O’Hare airports.
01 of 02
Gold Coast Dogs. What’s so special about a Chicago hot dog? First and foremost, NO ketchup allowed. You can get a taste at Gold Coast, plus Italian beef, another Chicago favorite. Midway Triangle/Food Court
Harry Caray’s. The colorful spirit of the iconic sportscaster lives on at this sports bar serving pub grub, craft and classic beer and more. Midway Triangle/Food Court
Lalo’s Mexican Restaurant. The festive vibe and traditional Latin food and drinks will make you feel as though you were whisked away to Chicago’s vibrant Mexican neighborhoods. Midway Triangle/Food Court
Manny’s. Chicago’s favorite spot for political powerbrokers serves the same delicious food at the Midway outpost. Best items on the menu include thick corned beef sandwiches, potato pancakes and classic Matzo ball soup. Concourse A
Tuscany. Chicago doesn’t get the props it deserves for the number of classic and contemporary Italian restaurants in Little Italy and beyond. To get a taste, Tuscany, which boasts more than... five locations in the city and suburbs, serves up fresh pastas, breads and sauces at its Midway Airport outpost. Concourse A
02 of 02
Berghoff Café. Its claim to fame is being known as the city’s longest-standing restaurant. You’ll find Old World German fare, plus sandwiches and beer. Terminal 1
Billy Goat Tavern and Grill. The famed SNL skit put this tiny burger-and-beer joint on the map. It continues to thrive with several locations in the city. Always remember when ordering: “Cheezborger! Cheezborger! No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!” Terminal 1
BJ’s Market. This soul food-focused stand draws long lines at the O’Hare location as well as its original on the South Side. The restaurant serves up healthy portions of baked chicken, greens with bits of smoked turkey and hot-buttered corn bread. If you have time, make sure to get the peach cobbler; it’s always warm and tastes homemade. Terminal 3
Eli’s Cheesecake. One of the stars--and sponsors--of Taste of Chicago each year, Eli’s doesn’t rest on its laurels. It continues to crank out new flavors, plus frozen cheesecake on a stick is always a major seller. Terminal 1
Goose... Island Brewing Co. Chicago’s top-selling craft beer can be enjoyed in three O’Hare terminals. Goose Island’s superior, award-winning suds are on tap, including 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Honker’s Ale and Matilda. Typical pub grub, burgers, hot dogs, pizza and pastas, complement the brews. Terminals 1-3
O’Brien’s Restaurant & Bar. Traditional Irish fare gets the spotlight, paying homage to Chicago’s largest Irish community. Terminal 3
The Publican Tavern. The West Loop/Fulton Market stalwart arrived in Terminal 3 summer 2016. The brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Paul Kahan, Publican Tavern cranks out burgers, pork rings and frites to the delight of its many fans.
Reggio’s Pizza. There’s plenty of Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza to be had at the airport, but outside of O’Hare you can only find Reggio’s butter-crust pies on the South Side or in the frozen food section at select grocery stores. Little-known fact: Reggio’s is the only frozen pizza manufactured in Chicago. Terminals 1 & 3
Stanley’s Blackhawk Bar. The Lincoln Park location for this bustling sports lounge still attracts the likes of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman and other former and current sports stars whenever they’re in town. And while the O’Hare outpost feels like you stepped deep into Blackhawks territory, it’s pretty much your ordinary sports bar with Southern-focused fare. Terminal 2
Tortas Frontera Grill. Rick Bayless is a bona fide celebrity chef, so it came as no surprise when he jumped at the chance to set up shop at O’Hare. Here, you’ll get hand-crafted tortas, fresh-made guacamole and hand-shaken margaritas. All the meat originates from local farms. Terminal 3