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Classic Chicago Dishes

Many of you may already know and love Chicago as a uniquely American city.  Here at The Gents Place, we're particularly excited as we know that Chicago is going to be getting its first Gents Place in 2017.  While you're waiting for it to open, satisfy those hunger cravings with one (or all!) of these native dishes.

Deep Dish Pizza

There's no consensus on who developed this tasty delight, but all can agree it's a unique and filling type of pizza.  The deep crust allows for a thick pizza closer to a pie than a flatbread.  Because of this thick layer, the baking time is much longer, and as such, fillings have to go in "upside down" to make sure everything cooks without burning.  You start with the cheese, then the meat, then your vegetables, and finish off everything with an uncooked tomato sauce.  If you're feeling really hungry you can opt for the cheese-stuffed-crust variation.  Local favorites include Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, and Giordano's, though Pizzeria Uno is mentioned in more than one historical source as a possible origin for the dish.

Italian Beef

The origins of the Italian Beef sandwich are a little clearer, as it seems that Italian immigrants who worked at the stock yards would bring home the tougher, less desirable cuts of beef that they were able to obtain from their employers at a deep discount.  The challenging ingredient created the cooking process, which is to take the cuts (generally sirloin) and roast them in broth with garlic, oregano, and spices.  Once the meat is slow cooked (to make it more tender), you then thin-slice it and put it into a long Italian-style bread roll.  You can order it "hot" (with pickled vegetables) or "sweet" (with sweet peppers) and it's often dunked into the juice the meat is cooked in and/or served with that juice for dipping.  Al's #1 gets the most press, but you can find great versions of this sandwich at Jay's, Buona Beef, Johnnie's Beef, and Portillo's.

Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Lots of sources point to Fluky's as a popularizer of this don't-miss Chicago classic.  Their owners were Jewish, and hence used an all-beef sausage instead of a pork one.  The hot dog is usually cooked in hot water or steam, or occasionally over a charcoal grill (called a char-dog).  A Chicago-style dog must also have:

  • a poppy seed bun
  • yellow mustard
  • chopped white onions
  • bright green sweet pickle relish
  • a dill pickle spear
  • tomato slices
  • pickled sport peppers
  • a dash of celery salt

Ketchup is considered "unacceptable" by many aficionados of the dish, and many street vendors in Chicago don't even have ketchup as an offered condiment.  You can find your favorite version of this dish at Superdawg, Red Hot Ranch, Fatso's Last Stand, Gene & Jude's, or the Weiner Circle.  There's no shortage: there are more places serving hot dogs than burgers in Chicago!

Have you tried any of these dishes?  Do you have favorite places to recommend to add to our list?  Do so in the comments.

Ben Davis

About Ben Davis

A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.

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