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Chicago's Most Influential Food Influencers Guiding Diners to Chicago's Hidden Gastronomic Jewels


Chicago’s Most Influential Food Influencers: Guiding Diners to Chicago’s Hidden Gastronomic Jewels – 2024 Edition

Navigating the dynamic dining scene of a city as gastronomically diverse as Chicago can be quite a challenge. To make it a little less daunting and a lot more exciting, we’ve spent countless hours scouring social media, looking closely at metrics that matter – follower count, engagement rate, and the percentage of followers residing in Chicago. But our analysis didn’t stop there. We dived deeper to understand the real impact of these influencers, going beyond the surface level of sheer follower numbers.

But what truly sets an influencer apart? It’s not just the number of followers they have, but also the depth of their engagement and their local reach. It’s about having a local, engaging, and resonant voice that guides followers to new, exciting culinary destinations, contributing to the growth and diversity of our vibrant local restaurant scene.

With these power rankings, we aim to celebrate the influencers who are leading the way in Chicago’s food scene, and hope to provide invaluable insights to food enthusiasts, influencers, and businesses alike. So, dive in, and let’s embark on this gastronomic journey together!

Chicago’s Most Influential Food Influencers: Guiding Diners to Chicago’s Hidden Gastronomic Jewels – Power Rankings by Net Influencer

10. agirlaboutchicago

Sarah, better known as agirlaboutchicago, has managed to amass an impressive 72.7K followers on Instagram, making her a keen asset to the local food scene. With her elegant photography skills and passionate reviews, this influencer has meandered through a wealth of high-end restaurants such as Soho House Chicago. This has enabled her to build a deeper connection with her loyal follower base, 45.58% of which are also based in the Chicago Metropolitan area. In turn, she boasts an admirable engagement rate of 1.12%. 

9. blackpeopleeats

Since 31.92% of its followers reside in the native area, blackpeopleats has become an informative hub for Chicagoans to learn more about the importance of black-owned dining establishments. The founder Jeremy E Joyce is a prominent entrepreneur and was even named in the prestigious 40 under 40 list in Forbes magazine. On Instagram, Joyce travels around a collection of immense restaurants such as The Station and Lexington Betty Smokehouse, creating an abundance of video content. This strategy has helped him to gain 217K followers as well as an engagement rate of 0.51%. 

8. erica_eatseverything

By producing a diverse portfolio of video and image content on Instagram, erica_eatseverything has managed to attract an astounding engagement rate of 12.05%. This avid food influencer has scoured a wealth of Chicago-based restaurants including Little Goat Diner, which serves up a selection of delectable home-cooked comfort food. As such, her desirable follower base of 124K is now made up of 30.10% Chicagoans, exemplifying her potential to influence key markets within the local area. In addition, she also creates content surrounding recently opened stores within the area, helping her to continue to diversify her content strategy. 

7. fabfoodchicago

Fabfoodchicago has managed to dominate the nuances of the local food scene, creating an abundance of content on social media and even releasing an accompanying book. Whether they are reviewing adorable bubble tea from Specialtea or moreish ramen from Kyuramen, this influencer successfully maintains an engagement rate of 7.09% with their 104K followers. This content creator also works to focus on the needs of local residents, meaning that an impressive 43.08% of their audience is from Chicago themselves. As such, fabfoodchicago seems to be a go-to platform for residents looking to devour a high-quality meal in the metropolitan area. 

6. itsbymiguel

Miguel Santana uses their account to uncover all of the quirky and unconventional food items that this region has to offer. Santana has explored establishments such as Tacolan to enjoy a range of Hello Kitty-themed cocktails, giving his 107K followers a wealth of new places to discover. This is exceptionally important considering that a staggering 45.53% also live within the confines of the metropolitan area. In addition to his affluent and vibrant content, foodbychicago also showcases an engagement rate of 6.87%, proving that his work is highly appreciated by his audience.

5. chicagofoodauthority 

Chicagofoodauthority, also known as Sam Roby, delves into the intricacies of this immense food scene, helping them to gain an engagement rate of 0.64%. Roby works their way around a ton of popular establishments, creating an array of lists and guides to help her 274K followers find the best places to eat. This influencer also focuses on a range of up-and-coming restaurants, which ensures that 44.43% of her audience can enjoy a collection of new places within their own city. 


This influencer travels up and down this bustling city to educate her 147K followers on the best places to visit and eat. has produced a collection of vivid content surrounding establishments such as Paulo Gelato to ensure that her audience can enjoy these mouth-watering desserts for themselves. Renee DiNino is also a keen real estate agent, helping her to expand her reach and build an engagement rate of 2.93%. By focusing on both food and housing within the region, this influencer also manages to capture the needs of her growing audience, 47.13% of which also live in Chicago. 

3. 321food

As the third most popular influencer on our list, 321food is a key asset to her 150K followers, especially the 44.87% of them who live in the Chicago Metropolitan area. The owner of this account, Erin Byrne, delves into an abundance of desirable dishes such as rich cheeseburgers from the eclectic Malibu Barbie Cafe. When she is not creating Reels about the hottest dishes in the area, Byrne can be seen exploring a wide variety of iconic landmarks, offering her a substantial engagement rate of 3.62%. Thus, 321food is able to effectively express the wonders and hotspots of this highly sought-after city. 

2. chrisdoloeats

As the CEO of Ayo.Chicago Marketing, Chirs Dolo is equipped with the knowledge and experience to display all of the city’s best dishes. Chrisdoloeats mainly focuses on rich Latin and barbecue dishes, ensuring that his 264K followers can learn more about this delicious niche. So whether he’s diving into loaded lobster fries at Phlavz or enjoying impeccable tacos at Flakos Tacos, this influencer is ensuring that he can maintain a good relationship with the 49.64% of his followers who are also Chicago locals. His food adventures also help him to build up his growing engagement rate, which currently stands at 1.34%. 

1. explore Chicago

Made up of two sisters named Leen and Yasmeen, exploreschicago has made it to the top spot in our list due to its prominent engagement rate of 3.66% as well as its growing selection of 134K followers. This avid duo has examined a diverse array of hidden gems, enjoying looming milkshakes at CSK as well as authentic Middle Eastern food at Fill A Pita, giving them a collection of insider knowledge to share with their audience. These influencers are also extremely popular with local citizens, seen as 46.30% also live in this fascinating city. 

Accounts to Watch

While the top ten influencers we’ve identified have already made their mark on the city, it’s worth casting the net a little wider. The food scene in Chicago is ever-evolving, and there’s a new generation of food bloggers who are ready to take a bite out of the action. Here are eleven additional influencers we’ve earmarked as ‘ones to watch’ over the next year:

NameFollower CountEngagement RateFollowers % in Chicago Metropolitan Area
Chicityfoodie43.3K followers3.07%52.50%
thechicagogoodlife68.2K followers0.80%47.36%
sherriesavoursthecity83.5K followers1.37%34.74%
chicagopesceterian79.1K followers8.62%34.02%
dineit4wardchicago57.2K followers0.26%50.61%
chicagofoodguide106K followers1.56%26.11%
chicago_eats54K followers0.39%47.73%
theblackfoodies76.3K followers1.91%35.21%
maunaeatschicago86.7K followers2.74%25.44%
chicagofoodiegirl41.3K followers2.50%33.23%
chicagofoodgoals43.6K followers0.42%33.72%

These influencers have an uncanny ability to spotlight hidden culinary gems, transforming under-the-radar eateries into must-visit dining hotspots. As they turn their gaze towards fresh, unique venues, eager food enthusiasts follow, creating a buzz that can revolutionize the fortunes of a humble, local establishment.

But it is not just their ability to attract crowds that sets them apart. These digital tastemakers are more than mere trendsetters. They serve as trusted guides to the gastronomic map of the city, their recommendations carrying the weight of their credibility. The bond they forge with their followers, marked by authenticity and genuine passion for their local food scene, provides them with an influential voice. In an age of constant digital chatter, their posts are not mere white noise, but resonate as credible advice, followed by many in their exploration of Chicago’s vibrant food scene.

As we’ve reported in the past, this new landscape of influence presents a fertile ground for restaurants to tap into. Partnering with these local food influencers can create opportunities far beyond traditional marketing strategies. Rather than a standard advertisement, these influencers provide a credible and personal testimonial of a dining experience, which is significantly more impactful in today’s digital age.

Collaborations can take many forms, from inviting influencers to taste new menu items, hosting exclusive food events, to even co-creating unique dishes that cater to the influencers’ follower base. These partnerships often result in compelling content that combines the influencer’s distinctive voice with the restaurant’s unique culinary offerings. This synergy not only amplifies the restaurant’s visibility but also enhances its reputation within the digital sphere.

Moreover, influencers offer valuable insights into customer preferences, trends, and feedback, acting as a bridge between the restaurant and the broader public. With their in-depth knowledge of the local food scene and an engaged audience that values their opinion, influencers can drive not just awareness, but also patronage.

“Our research clearly shows that social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are rapidly becoming the primary channels through which consumers discover new dining experiences,” said David Adler, Managing Director at Net Influencer. “Influencer marketing is more important than ever in the food and beverage industry. These individuals have an incredible ability to shape dining trends and guide followers to new and exciting culinary destinations, effectively driving growth and diversity in the local restaurant scene.”

David continues, “While follower counts often make headlines, it’s crucial to recognize that they alone are not the definitive indicator of an influencer’s impact. What truly demonstrates an account’s overall effectiveness and reach is its engagement rate and the location of its followers. It’s about depth, not just breadth. This is particularly critical when it comes to raising awareness for local brands.”


To develop this comprehensive power ranking of Chicago-based food influencers, Net Influencer adopted a robust, multi-dimensional approach. The primary focus was on Instagram, given its prominence in the food and dining sector.

The criteria for consideration included influencers with a follower count exceeding 40,000, with at least 20% of these followers being residents of the Chicago area. In the interest of focusing solely on individuals who create content and have a direct influence, publications were deliberately excluded from the study.

The research team considered three primary metrics: follower count, Chicago area follower density, and engagement rate. Follower count gives an indication of reach and popularity. Chicago area follower density ensures a locally-relevant influence, vital for the promotion of local brands. Engagement rate, which includes likes, comments, and views serves as a measure of how actively the audience interacts with the content, indicating the influencer’s ability to motivate their followers to action.

These criteria provided a holistic understanding of each influencer’s impact, far beyond mere popularity, highlighting their ability to genuinely engage their audience, inspire action, and elevate brand awareness in the bustling Chicago dining scene. This methodology was designed to give a balanced, in-depth perspective, helping brands navigate the dynamic and complex landscape of influencer marketing.

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Melody Day is a UK-based copywriter, working in developing industries such as travel, beauty, and lifestyle. She creates digestible copy that is fully optimized for SEO and gains positive engagement from readers. They are able to create engaging blogs and website copy for a range of unique brands.

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