The Best Of Standing Room Only

[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

Back in 2009, I set out on a simple quest to find the best places to eat in Chicago while standing up. It wasn't hard. Chicagoans have a strange infatuation with stands, a connection that goes back at least to 1893, when Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany helped popularize the hot dog at the World's Columbian Exposition. (The two would later go on to found Vienna Beef.) But here's the thing: while expecting to find some greasy good food—and I definitely found some of that—I also encountered a wide and varied scene, which included everything from popular Cuban hangouts to Jamaican jerk counters.

Along the way I learned these important facts: (1) Chicago takes its French fries seriously*; (2) a stand that serves a natural casing hot dog is a great stand; (3) the best fried chicken is cooked to order and takes time; (4) the only way to improve an Italian beef is to add a whole Italian sausage.
*Rule #1 is void if you're at a barbecue stand.

To be clear, I didn't come close to covering all of the scene in those short six months, and now with a whole new crop of food truck pioneers on the scene, I'll have no trouble uncovering more options. I am ready to eat more. But first I thought it would be best to start off with a look back at the best of Standing Room Only to showcase where I've already feasted.

Check out the slideshow above, and let me know where I need to visit next.