The Serious Eats Chicago Cold Weather Survival Guide


[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Complaining about Chicago's brutal winters is a proud civic tradition (right up there with discussing the latest political scandal), but today is different for one important reason: it's really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really cold. We're not even remotely exaggerating. Thanks to a Polar Vortex (which sounds pretty bad ass, no?) currently it's around -15°F with a windchill of -38°F or so (at this point, does the exact number matter?). And if that weren't enough, it's going to get colder from here.

So, the top priority today is to stay warm, and, make no mistake, there's nothing better than actual heat. But once you get that essential component covered, it's time to think about sustenance. Hopefully this guide helps to give you some ideas of how best to make it through this day, or, for that matter, any other particularly cold Chicago day.

If you have any suggestions about what to eat or drink on a cold day, please let us know. Otherwise, read on!

Soup's On


Pozole Rojo at Pozoleria San Juan [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Now is definitely the time to find the biggest bowl of soup possible, grab a spoon, and slurp away. The best places to start is probably with look at 13 warming soups, though that's only the beginning. We've also taken a look at where to find the best ramen and chili in the city.

Spicy Food


Eat everything you can at Lao Hunan. [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

While we don't think there is necessarily a bad time to eat spicy food, anything that warms you up today is appreciated, so why not feast on chili-laced dishes? A few years ago, we picked out some of our favorite spicy dishes in the city. While there are spicy options aplenty in Chinatown, Lao Hunan is as good as place as any to feast.

Fill Up


Griddled Burger at Edzo's [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Of course, you could take the route that you should simply eat as much food as possible. We've covered this topic in a roundabout way plenty of times, but the best place to start is probably with our picks for the best places to pig out. From there, why not take a look at our extensive barbecue coverage, including our look at the pulled pork sandwich, best rib tip and hot link combo, 9 other barbecue sandwiches we love.

Hot Chocolate


Medium Hot Chocolate at Hot Chocolate [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Hot chocolate always tastes better when it's cold, so it should taste unbelievably awesome when it's insanely cold, right? I'm going with it. We've actually covered the hot chocolate scene pretty well over the past two years, starting with our post of nine of our favorite cups. We've also tried all of the hot chocolate options at both Hot Chocolate and Xoco, and there is not a bad cup to be found. We should note that both of those restaurants are not open on Monday, but Tuesday is supposed to be hella cold, too, and both should be open then.

Drink Up!


Rose's Lounge [Photograph: Roger Kamholz]

And if all else fails, drinking is probably the way to go. But this is no time for a swanky cocktail lounge. No, you need a place where enormous puffy jackets and boots are welcome, windows are kept to a minimum, and beer is cheap. It's dive bar time. While there are more options than we could possibly list here, Roger picked out 8 of his favorite dive bars in Chicago, which is an excellent place to start.

8 Great Dive Bars In Chicago

The Pedway


Millennium Station Pedway [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Last winter I spent a week exploring the long corridors of The Pedway—Chicago's mostly underground walking path. This is a godsend if you work in the Loop and want to avoid the outside as much as possible. What most people don't know is that there are some decent places to eat down there, too. Quality varies, and few options are extraordinary, but there are totally acceptable options if you need them.

Where to Eat in the Chicago Pedway



Crackly caramelized edges still intact on a delivery pizza from Pequod's. [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

When the idea of even setting foot out of the door starts to sound crazy, there is always delivery. But it's important to know that some options are far superior to others. For example, neither an Italian beef or Chicago-style hot dog travel very well, but thick-crust pizza, like the kind you'll find at Pequod's or Lou Malnati's, sure does.

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