7 Best Food Startups in Chicago to Watch in 2024


The home of deep dish pizza, chocolate brownies, and many other culinary creations, the city of Chicago has been driving innovation in the culinary industry ever since it was founded in 1833. Today, a number of Chicago food startups are still carrying this same torch. In this article, we'll take a look at the top seven hottest food startups that are worth watching in 2024. 

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Top Chicago Food Companies to Follow

Every year, new startups pull to the forefront of their industry through exciting innovation and industry-disrupting business models. We’ve rounded up the most exciting Chicago food startups of 2024 that startup-lovers, investors, and aspiring entrepreneurs should follow. 

Disclaimer: With so many exciting startups launching and growing, we aren’t able to cover them all. Furthermore, the startups that are listed below are not officially ranked and are listed in no particular order.

1. Chowbus

  • Industry: Restaurant Delivery 
  • Founders: Linxin Wen, Suyu Zhang
  • Founded In: 2015
  • Funding: $68.3 Million 
  • Investors Include: Altos Ventures, Left Lane Capital

Like DoorDash specifically for Asian cuisine, Chowbus delivers food from local Asian restaurants. After originally only serving the Chicago market, Chowbus has expanded to serve a long list of US cities as well as Toronto and Vancouver. Along with delivering food from Asian restaurants, Chowbus also provides a grocery pickup service. 

2. Tovala

  • Industry: Cooking Appliances; Meal Delivery 
  • Founders: Bryan Wilcox, David Rabie
  • Founded In: 2015
  • Funding: $68.6 Million 
  • Investors Include: Left Lane Capital, Origin Ventures 

The convection oven hasn't changed all that much since it was invented in 1967. Tovala, however, is a company bringing new innovations to the decades-old appliance by offering customers a "smart oven" that is able to cook food at the perfect settings automatically. This innovative appliance is paired with a meal delivery service that provides pre-packaged foods and QR codes with each meal that instructs the oven on how to prepare the dish perfectly. 

3. 86 Repairs

  • Industry: Restaurant Services 
  • Founders: Daniel Estrada, Joe Gallagher 
  • Founded In: 2018 
  • Funding: $24 Million 
  • Investors Include: TDF Ventures, Gordon Food Service 

Restaurants rely on a lot of different types of equipment to keep their business up and running, and this equipment often requires maintenance and repairs. 86 Repairs is a company that offers routine maintenance and on-demand repairs to restaurant owners for a flat monthly subscription. Along with maintaining and repairing kitchen appliances, 86 Repairs also offers maintenance and repairs for a restaurant's plumbing, HVAC systems, and fire impression systems. 

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4. Aqua Cultured Foods

  • Industry: Food Preparation 
  • Founders: Anne Palermo, Brittany Chibe
  • Founded In: 2021
  • Funding: $7.8 Million
  • Investors Include: Big Idea Ventures, Supply Change Capital 

Seafood is a culinary delicacy all over the world, but modern practices for harvesting seafood take a heavy toll on the world's oceans. As the seafood analog to Beyond Meats, Aqua Cultured Foods delivers fungi-based seafood alternatives in order to help solve this pressing issue. Aqua Cultured Foods is secretive about its exact process for creating these seafood alternatives but promises sushi-quality, whole-muscle cut seafood with every bite. 

5. Nurture Life

  • Industry: Meal Delivery 
  • Founders: Jennifer Chow, Steven Minisini
  • Founded In: 2015
  • Funding: $6.9 Million 
  • Investors Include: IrishAngels, Two Culture Capital 

There is no shortage of meal delivery services that will deliver ready-to-eat meals straight to your door. Nurture Life, however, is one of the only meal delivery companies designed for kids. Delivering organic, ready-to-eat meals for babies, toddlers, and children, Nurture Life helps busy parents ensure that their kids are fed meals that are both tasty and nutritious. 

6. FanFood

  • Industry: Meal Delivery 
  • Founders: Carson Goodale, Dustin Hemesath, Elijah Doetsch, Grant Goodale, William Anderson
  • Founded In: 2015 
  • Funding: $3.4 Million 
  • Investors Include: HYPE Capital, Phoenix Capital 

Another unique meal delivery service, FanFood allows you to order food straight to your seat when attending live events such as concerts and sporting events. With the FanFood app, customers can order food for either delivery or pickup from any restaurant or concession stand within the venue. This innovative service allows customers to purchase concessions without spending the entire event waiting in line. 

7. Chowly

  • Industry: Restaurant Services 
  • Founders: Brian Duncan, Justin McNally, Sterling Douglass
  • Founded In: 2015
  • Funding: $21.7 Million
  • Investors Include: M25, Chicago Ventures 

Partnering with third-party online ordering services such as Grubhub and DoorDash is a lot more complicated for restaurant owners than many people realize. Chowly, though, is a company that makes the process much simpler by integrating a restaurant's existing point-of-sale (POS) system with online ordering services. This allows a restaurant to manage all of its online orders and menus from a single, user-friendly dashboard.

Recommended: Check out our full list of the top startups to watch!