AAA Travel Tips / Food Tours in Chicago

Food Tours in Chicago

AAA/Laurie Sterbens
By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
September 23, 2019
One of the best ways you can truly experience a new destination is to explore its food scene. After all, the iconic foods you’ll find evolved through a combination of the cultures of the people who settled there and the history of the city. This is certainly the case with Chicago, whose regional specialties such as deep-dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches and the Chicago-style hot dog reflect its ethnic and working-class roots. The city's past role as the hub of the country's meatpacking industry is reflected not only in its famous sandwiches but also in the number of fine steakhouses you'll find here.
In a large city with a richly diverse restaurant scene such as Chicago, choosing where to sample its iconic dishes can be daunting. Tasting tours are the perfect solution, providing an overview of the foods the city's known for along with some local history and allowing you to taste a variety of dishes without having to commit to a full meal.
Pizza samples at Pizano's Pizza & Pasta during the Famous Tastes of Chicago walking tour.
AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Types of Tours

When it comes to choosing a tour, it pays to do some research in advance of your trip to make sure you choose an experience that suits your preferences.
Walking food tours are a fun way to explore the city while learning some of its history and visiting local restaurants. Bike tours offer another way to delve into the city's food scene, while you may ride aboard a bus or van for other tours.
You may choose a tasting tour that focuses on a specific area or neighborhood such as Wicker Park, River North or the West Loop, and there are tours that focus on specific types of tastings such as cocktails or desserts. If you're into craft beers or wine, there are tours available for those, too.
Chicago Kernel popcorn during the Famous Tastes of Chicago walking tour.
AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Cost

Tasting tours typically range from $50 to $75 per person but can vary depending on the type of tour and number of items sampled. Many tours allow you to purchase beverages along the way, above the cost of the tour.
Bratwurst and spatzle at The Berghoff during the Famous Tastes of Chicago walking tour.
AAA/Laurie Sterbens

What to Know Before You Go

• While you can find tour operators in the city once you've arrived, it's a good idea to research all of your options online before your trip. Some tours only operate on certain days, so make sure the tour you choose is available during your vacation. For tours that don't operate daily, consider booking in advance to make sure you don't arrive to find it has sold out.
• Most tours have set menus, but some are able to accommodate special dietary needs if you contact the vendor in advance.
• If you're walking to the tour's departure point, map out your route beforehand rather than relying on your navigation app to work correctly en route, and be sure to arrive a few minutes early to check in with your tour guide.
• For walking tours, dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Tours are often rain or shine, so check the forecast and take an umbrella or rain jacket if necessary. Also, check to see if your tour operator recommends a more "dressy casual" attire as some tours include nicer restaurants.
• Don't forget to tip your guide. You'll have an opportunity at the end of the tour to thank the guide, and at this time it's optional but appropriate to offer a 10 to 20 percent tip.

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