The Food List Challenge: 100 foods to eat before you die … and where to find them in Chicago

The Food List Challenge: 100 foods to eat before you die … and where to find them in Chicago
Swedish buffet. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Over the last few weeks here at Going for Gusto, I’ve been trying to find out where in Chicago one could find the “100 foods to eat before you die.”

Some – such as lobster, cheese fondue and Hostess fruit pies – have been easy to find. Others, such as crickets, nettle tea and squirrel – have not.

But one things that became abundantly clear to me while putting together this series is the fabulous wealth of food here in Chicago. I went through hundreds of Chicago restaurant menus while searching for various foods, and I’m not sure whether I went through 1 percent of the overall menus in Chicago. It’s marvelous just how many different restaurants there are to eat at in Chicago and its suburbs.

My first job out of college was in a small north-central Illinois town called La Salle, which shared a border with an even smaller north-central Illinois town called Peru. There were a few local haunts there and an Applebee’s. That’s about it. If you really wanted to spice up your food choices, you could frequent the food court in the mall in Peru. My dining choices consisted mostly of Wendy’s and Culver’s (simply a fantastic way to quickly gain weight, as well.)

Eventually, I made my way to Chicago.

It was like stepping out of snack machine and finding yourself in the middle of the Epcot World Showcase, which – coincidentally – was C.S. Lewis’ first idea for “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Some foods that I thought would be hard to find – such as umeboshi, currywurst and kangaroo – were found with either a quick Web search or just one or two calls. Basically, if you want to eat it, you more than likely can find it in Chicago. (Except squirrel. You’re really going to have to head to a more-wooded area to find that delicacy.)

It was a fun series to put together, and I’m looking forward to frequenting many of the restaurants I’ve listed throughout the course of this series as well as trying many of the dishes, besides – of course – the durian “poopsicle,” which might be the worst-named menu item EVER.

I hope you all have enjoyed reading the series as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together. Below are the links to the 10 parts of the series:

1-10: Abalone to Biscuit and Gravy

11-20: Black Pudding to Chile Relleno

21-30: Chitlins to Durian

31-40: Eel to Frogs’ Legs

41-50: Fugu to Heirloom Tomatoes

51-60: Honeycomb to Mimosa

61-70: MoonPie to Phaal

71-80: Philly Cheese Steak to Raw Oysters

81-90: Root Beer Float to Spaeztle

91-100: Spam to Zucchini Flowers

• Joe Grace is a writer and longtime journalist who lives in Chicago. Write to him at He has a lot of new foods to try. A lot. If you haven’t yet, please like Going for Gusto on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

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