As a foodie and native Chicagoan, I've always wondered what it would be like to take on the city as a tourist, looking to grab a bite to eat. So, I searched for some local food tour companies that promise to provide an inside look into Chicago’s most coveted neighborhoods — I wanted to see what travelers were getting a chance to taste. 

For those who are willing to get out of downtown and visit some of the legendary neighborhoods, Chicago Food Planet Food Tours has you covered. Depending on what kind of food you're craving, there are a number of tours to choose from, which take visitors anywhere from Bucktown on the city’s Northwest Side, to Chinatown just south of The Loop.

The one I chose to attend is called the Second City Classic, and features a number of spots, mainly in the Gold Coast and Old Town neighborhoods. On my tour we made a total of seven stops, which took exactly three hours as the tour's website promised. However, this tour was not what I was expecting.

Lou Malnati's  

pepperoni, sauce, cheese, pizza
Madeline Dolinsky

Lou Malnati’s is a classic Chicago pizza spot, perfect for anyone craving a bit of deep dish and a slight heartburn. Each member of the tour is given a generous slice, but you'll want to save room for the rest of the tour. Our guide was sure to give us a bit of history about the restaurant and how the delicious pizza came to be. After savoring every last bite of the flakey, buttery crust, we headed out to our next stop.


coffee, beer, milk
Madeline Dolinsky

It only took about two minutes to reach our next destination, which was TeaGschwender. Everyone gathered around by the window as one of the employees began telling us about why loose leaf tea is so important. We smell-tested different types of tea from small, porcelain bowls being passed around the group. I'm a big fan of tea so this stop was very enjoyable.

At the end, we received a 16oz cup of iced green tea, but honestly tea fills you up fast so maybe a smaller sized cup would have been the smarter move. As we walked out of the store, our guide notified us that we’d be leaving the Gold Coast neighborhood for Old Town, where the rest of the tour would take place.  

Old Jerusalem 

tomato, pita bread, beef, gyro, meat, kebab, lettuce, sandwich, bread
Madeline Dolinsky

For our first Old Town stop, this restaurant is where we spent the least amount of time. Our guide did give us some background about the restaurant, but I felt a bit rushed. At this point I was already full from tasting the Lou Malnati’s pizza and sipping on the iced green tea, so I only had a couple of bites of the falafel sandwich.

The sandwich itself was very traditional, consisting of tzatziki sauce drizzled over the chickpea filled spheres, with a bit of tomato, lettuce, and onion all packed inside a slice of pita. But I think it would have been nice is if someone from the restaurant came and talked to us about the origins of the meal, and how such a simple creation can be so delicious. 

The Spice House 

beer, coffee
Madeline Dolinsky

We crossed the street and as soon as we passed by the open door of the spice house, my senses were overwhelmed by all the enticing flavors coming from inside. They had spices from all over the world. After getting to look around for a bit, we were escorted to a small open area behind the spice house.

There, our guide began giving us a little presentation about some different types of spices, focusing mainly on cinnamon, and showing how many forms it can take. We got to smell the raw cinnamon, taste it, and learn about rubs quintessential for Chicago barbecue. I enjoyed the small presentation, and liked that it allowed for a quick break from having to eat something larger.  

The Fudge Pot 

cheese, pizza
Madeline Dolinsky

As soon as we stepped into the Fudge Pot, the delicious aroma surpassed any chocolate lovers wildest dreams. Since there were not many of us in the group and it was a slow time of day, we were allowed to go behind the counter and into the area were the chocolate is crafted.

One of the fourth-generation owners of the store was there to greet and provide us with samples of tasty toffee. I'll admit though, this stop is pretty touristy – I would have loved to visit a local spot, as there are many in the neighborhood.

The tour didn't extend beyond Wells street, and we spent most of our time hopping from places that were only a few doors down from each other. After getting a second helping of toffee, we headed out and proceeded to our second to last stop.  

Old Town Oil 

tea, bread
Madeline Dolinsky

Stepping into Old Town Oil, the first thing you see is rows of silver barrels, lining the main floor back-to-back. As the owner of the establishment later would explain, each barrel contained a different type of olive oil, ranging from ones hinted with blood orange flavor, to blueberry, or blackberry.

Having the owner present and speaking about the olive oil made it feel a little more personal, which some of the other restaurants did not have. Fresh bread and samples of olive oil were provided.

My only issue with this stop was that I did not understand what it had to do with Chicago. I was on a tour called the Second City Classic, yet olive oil is not something Chicago proudly boasts about.

As we headed to our last stop, my stomach was telling me that it was about done for the day. 

La Fournette 

pie, cream, cake, pastry, bread, sweet
Madeline Dolinsky

This was by far my favorite stop of the tour. Chicago is known for its diverse food culture, and this showed a bit of what the city has to offer. A croque monsieur, also known as a fancy ham and cheese sandwich, accompanied by two macarons, one vanilla and the other raspberry, was a perfect way to end the tour.

After savoring a few bites of the ham and cheese, our guide thanked us for joining her on the tour, to which we gave a round of applause, and praised her for her enthusiasm and kindness. 


Thinking back on the tour as a whole, I do not really believe it captured the true essence of "classic" Chicago restaurants. The tour focused more on convenience, and less on the quality of the food. It would have been awesome if we got to travel around via bus and see an authentic Polish deli or visit an age-old hot-dog spot. There were a few places, like Lou Malnati’s for the deep dish and Old Jerusalem for gyros or pitas, but the rest did not make sense to me.

A better idea would have been to visit a few classic Chicago spots in different neighborhoods, over the course of those three hours, instead of staying in the same general area. I could see it being exciting if you were from out of town, but as a local, it was a bit underwhelming. So the takeaway here, talk to the locals and trust their recommendations if you want to get a real authentic taste of Chicago.