Halle-friggin’-lujah, misfits, I just moved back to Chicago!!
A few circumstances have resulted in my move, but we won’t get into that. What you should get into, and I mean like really into, like disgusting what am I into up to my mid-calves, into, like so into that I can’t remember a time or life when I wasn’t all up in it, but not in a sexual way, okay sometimes in a sexual way, is Chicago food.
This city is home to some pretty amazing comestibles–dishes which frequently go unrecognized outside of the City of Broad Shoulders. Fear not–I shan’t leave you in the dark for long. What follows is this Chicago native’s overly-patriotic and completely biased look at what makes our food great, and a few recommendations on where to find it.
Fuckin’ Chicago Pizza!
It’s thick. It’s cheesy. It takes 45 minutes to make. Oh, yeah–it’s a Chicago Pizza. Best executed by places like Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East (don’t talk to us about Uno’s or Giordano’s…please), the Chicago pizza is a key slice (sorry–couldn’t resist) of the city’s identity–almost as integral as the Cubs’ never winning the World Series, or saying “da” instead of “the,” or the thick, bushy Chicago “‘stache” worn almost religiously by all males over thirty-five in certain neighborhoods, or calling carbonated soda, “pop.” Therefore, please understand when we get a little teary-eyed about it. Listen, New York–it’s not that I can’t respect that cracker-thin thingy you make, or your fierce defensiveness about its “superiority”…it’s just not even the same food, and thus the “Chicago vs. New York” pizza debate is nonsensical.
But, that being said…Chicago.
Try this beauty the traditional way, with crumbled Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions, and don’t forget a nice tall, yeasty beer to wash it all down.
Fuckin’ Chicago Hot Dogs!
Yes, it’s got lots of “stuff” on it. No, they will not let you put ketchup on it. But hell yes, it is deliciousness TO THE EXTREME, misfits! Wanna build your own?
Start with a poppy-seed bun, and add an all-beef frank. Top it with mustard, pickle relish, a Kosher Dill pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato wedges, chopped onions, celery salt, and a tiny dancer.
Just kidding about the tiny dancer, mostly, but totally serious about the other parts.
If you order it with fries at a traditional joint, they will, more often than not, pack your fries on top of the dog and then wrap it all up for you. Don’t be alarmed–the fries like that level of intimacy with the dog. You might even say they relish it. And so will you. Try one at my personal favorite, Gene and Jude’s (their dogs come a little less topped, but are no less delicious for it..and the fries, OMFG the FRIES, MISFITS, the FRIES!).
Fuckin’ Italian Beef!
This baby is da real deal…and it causes some measure of confusion in the Northeast. “Italian Beef? Is that sort of like a Cheesesteak?”
No, my sweet, misguided misfits, it most certainly is NOT a Cheesesteak–for it is quite uncool to put cheese on an Italian beef (though it can happen, and when it does, we sort of just look the other way, ’cause, y’know, we’re still friendly Midwesterners and all).
Beef sliced super-thin, piled on a hearty Italian roll, with tons of au jus ladled all over it (the bun is supposed to get soggy–don’t be alarmed), topped with sweet and/or hot peppers, and rolled up tight in paper, then foil. If someone asks you, “wet, dry, or dipped,” you should answer wet, and not be worried that something freaky is about to happen to you.
Everyone’s first time is a little messy.
Locals will recommend Al’s, Mr. Beef, Portillo’s, or Johnnie’s, but I’m ’bout to get all specific on your ass–Al’s on Taylor. ‘Nuff said.
Fuckin’ Chicago Steak!
Did you really think I could discuss Chicago food without paying some sort of homage to our illustrious history in the slaughter and packing of meat? The photo above was taken at a classic Chicago steakhouse, Gibson’s. Before you order, your waiter will bring out a platter of the best selections of the night. As you can see, at Gibson’s it is possible to get not only a fantastic steak, but also an ungodly large lobster which probably put up a formidable fight with the kitchen staff and took off a few digits before surrendering to its delicious future.
And no culinary joyride through Chicago is complete without violence.
Say “ponch-keee,” not “donut.” It does sort of resemble a jelly donut, now, doesn’t it? And I suppose the premise is similar–paczki are pieces of fried dough that are either injected with or sliced and filled with some sort of delicious creamy or fruity filling. BUT THEY ARE NOT DONUTS DO NOT CALL THEM JELLY DONUTS.
The inclusion of paczki on this list is a nod to Chicago’s massive Polish population, a number which tops that of almost any other city, including all cities in Poland except for Warsaw! Therefore, every Fat Tuesday (or Paczki day, as it’s often known here), you’ll see many a pedestrian burdened by a box or ten of these delicious little fiends. For weeks and frequently even months beforehand, Polish bakeries (and in Chicago, just about any kind of bakery) will post their paczki list just so that your Bad Mama Genny (yes, it’s all for me, all if it) can place her pre-order and be assured that paczki pleasure will be hers. The bakery that I typically order from offers over 50 varieties of paczki.
Now, you may be thinking, “gee, how is it possible to come up with 50 different things to stuff into a donut?”
You, my friend, need to expand your mind. Think Triple Chocolate Godiva, Pineapple Cream, Strawberry Shortcake, Mint Chocolate Chip, and the like. Of course, there are always the old-fashioned favorites, such as Apricot, Prune, Rose Jelly, etc., for the traditionalists, but I say, why choose? Order a few dozen! Make friends with your neighbors! Wear them as a bra!
Two years ago, I was in line for my paczki order when someone cut in front of the lady behind me. She was pissed, but the people behind her were even more livid. Long story short, they tied the guy’s hands, gagged him with a cannoli paczki, and ran him up the flagpole as a warning to other would-be line-cutters. Actually, that never happened. I just needed you to understand just how serious we are about paczki out here.
Well, that should get my misfits started on a proper nom-fest. What Chicago foods MUST you have every time you visit? Chi-town natives, where do you drag your out-of-town guests?