7 Most Overrated Dishes in Chicago

By Sarah Freeman | August 11, 2014 By Sarah Freeman  |  August 11, 2014

There are certain dishes that have achieved a near legendary status with Chicago's hungry hordes, but how many of those actually live up to their reputation? We may be just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to hyping up Chicago's food scene, but now it's time to take a closer look as some of the city's culinary icons to discover if they're truly worth the hype.

  • Deep-Dish Pizza at Pizzeria Uno

    Why It’s an Icon: Although there's still some debate about who actually invented deep-dish pizza, most trace its roots back to Pizzeria Uno in 1943. Since then, Pizzeria Due as well as others such as Lou Malnati's, Gino's East and Girodano's have followed suit with a cheese-first pie.

    Why It’s Overrated: Trust us, we love deep-dish pizza as much as the next Chicagoans. We grew up on this stuff, but for as many times as we enjoyed digging into a two-inch-thick slice of pizza, we’ve nearly choked to death on the globs of mozzarella. We prefer new deep-dish icons such as Pequod’s for their superior take on the Chicago staple.

  • Wonuts at Waffles

    Why It’s an Icon: Chef-owner Alex Hernandez created Chicago’s most popular culinary hybrid by first baking and then frying a small waffle. Each “Wonut” is covered in an assortment of toppings to match the cake’s flavor — hot flavors include "Mexican chocolate" covered in chocolate ganache and "birthday cake" with maple glaze and sprinkles.

    Why It’s Overrated: Just because an idea is different doesn’t mean it’s good. When word got out that a Chicago restaurant was serving a waffle-donut hybrid, all hell broke loose. Too bad the creations we tried were too dry, too sweet or too soggy.

  • Meatballs at RPM Italian

    Why It’s an Icon: When celebrities Bill and Giuliana Rancic decided to slap their name on a restaurant with the Lettuce Entertain You group, success was almost guaranteed for this sleek black-and-white Italian restaurant. Next up in their quest for culinary domination is a steakhouse, RPM Steak.

    Why It’s Overrated: If the promise of a Rancic sighting is enough for you wait three months for a reservation, by all means go for it. However, skip the dry, blandly sauced meatballs and stick to the more pleasing pomodoro bucatini.

  • Cinnamon Rolls at Ann Sather

    Why It’s an Icon: For decades, patrons have swarmed to this Swedish bakery and restaurant for one thing and one thing only: gooey cinnamon rolls. 

    Why It’s Overrated: A restaurant should not rely on one standout item alone. Aside from this high-calorie indulgence, the restaurant serves bland takes on eggs Benedict, biscuits 'n' gravy, pancakes and waffles. Last year, one of the four locations shut down, suggesting that it does take more than sugar and cinnamon to survive.

  • Old Fashioned Donut at Doughnut Vault

    Why It’s An Icon: In 2011, a little blue donut shop changed the way the city looks at breakfast pasties. From day one, a line has wound around the corner for a taste of what many call the best donuts in town, ranging from flavors such as classic old-fashioned to birthday cake.

    Why It’s Overrated: Brendan Sodikoff himself once told us that he didn’t understand why people were still waiting in line at his donut shop. And we have to agree: these often-dry specimens are frequently trumped by their less-mobbed competitors such as Do-Rite, Stan’s and Firecakes

  • Cheezborger at Billy Goat Tavern

    Why It’s an Icon: "Cheezborger! Cheezborger! You want doublecheez? No fries. Chips. No Pepsi. Coke.” The words were made famous in 1978 by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live. The iconic sketch captured the ordering system, or lack there of, at the basement bar that has been serving griddled beef on a Kaiser roll with pickles, ketchup and mustard since 1934.

    Why It's Overrated: Since its 15 minutes of fame on the small screen, the establishment is as much as tourist attraction as it is a sliver of Chicago history. The burger does not stand up to its rich past; the patty is often dry and overpowered by the pillowy bun. There are surely better burgers in this city, but few are served in such a lively environment.

  • Tasting Menu at Moto

    Why It’s an Icon: Homaro Cantu opened his temple to molecular gastronomy in 2004. Here, in this restaurant-slash-science lab, food is hydroponically grown, freeze-dried, frozen in nitrogen, turned into foam and powdered for elaborate tasting menus.

    Why It’s Overrated: Sure, the culinarily adventurous will probably get a kick out a meal here, but when it comes to repeat visits, at the end of the day, we want our food to look and taste like, well, food. The tasting menu at Moto, which consists of two to four hours of palate-confusing courses, relies on over-complicated renditions of dishes that should satisfy primal cravings. Take the deconstructed cookie dough, which tastes more like chemicals than what mom used to make.

Places Mentioned

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Doughnut Vault

Donut Shop River North
Food- Decor- Service- CostI
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Ann Sather Restaurant

Swedish Lakeview
Food23 Decor17 Service21 Cost$17
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Ann Sather Restaurant

Swedish Edgewater
Food23 Decor17 Service21 Cost$17
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RPM Italian

River North
Food25 Decor25 Service25 Cost$61
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Pizzeria Uno

Pizza River North
Food25 Decor18 Service21 Cost$25
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Pizzeria Due

Pizza River North
Food25 Decor18 Service21 Cost$25

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