A few weeks ago my Huz-band and I decided to be brave and visit a restaurant that featured the foods of Chicago. The restaurant was aptly called Chicago and boasted of having all of the Chicago styled cuisine. With the Chicago city flag painted largely on the wall, I decided to brave the wind and look over the menu. Now I was born in Chicago, West Side to be exact, but I am not from Chicago. Unlike my cousins, I am the only one, on my maternal side, to not grow up in the city. I’ve gone back and forth my entire life, but a true Chicagoan I am not. Besides the excitement of seeing family, the food was also something to look forward to. Not just the home cooked meals, but foods that I couldn’t get where I lived. Italian Beef Sandwiches that people outside of the city no nothing about. There’s always that response question of, “Is that like a Roast Beef sandwich?” The answer is a resounding NO!!!! Fried chicken wings with Mild Sauce. Yes Mild Sauce. It’s not Hot, it’s Mild, and it is WONDERFUL.
The flat pizza that is cut into squares and the PIZZA PIE. I can hear the angels singing in harmonic unison. This is The Best Pie in America. Forget Apple Pie. I get that New Yorkers love their 50 inch pizza slices, but a pie? There’s nothing like the pies. All the fixings baked inside a thick flaky crust, with cheese and tomato sauce on top, Fugetaboutit! Of course there’s the Chicago-Style hotdog with the alien fluorescent green relish, on a poppy seed bun, with tomato slices, and a pepper. The cheesiest cheese and carameliest caramel baked into each popcorn kernel, can only be found at Garrett’s Popcorn. Mmmmm!!!
With all of this food at any corner at practically any time of day, who wants to get a Subway sandwich?
Back at the Restaurant…
The waitress came to ask for our drinks. I asked her if they had Pepsi or Coke. Texas is a Coke (Coca-Cola) state, but Chicago is a Pepsi city. I wanted to see how authentically authentic this place would be to Chicago. They had Coke…Strike 1. The Huz-band and I ordered a pizza pie. It had Italian Sausage (Yes Lord), Pepperoni (a pizza must), onion slices along with green and red bell pepper slices. This was their Chicago Styled pizza. There were other choices, but this one was the closest to what I would order in Chicago. For a pie, I normally wouldn’t have veggies added to it because it makes it watery, but I ordered it anyway. For the waiting process, we ordered a Chicago Dog and an Italian Beef sandwich. We were going to split the two and compare them to what we’ve had in Chicago. The waitress didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked her if it had the hot peppers on it, but she assured me that it would be dipped. Dipped means that the once the sandwich is made, the entire thing would be fully dipped into an au jus gravy.(The Waitress was not from Chicago, but the cook/owner of the restaurant was)
Once the sandwich and the dog were brought out, my eyes immediately begin searching and looking for flaws. My Italian Beef wasn’t dipped. There wasn’t enough of Marzetti’s peppers (hot peppers) on it. The Italian Beef on the sandwich was sliced a little too thick and this added to the meat being a little too tough. The au jus gravy they had on the side wasn’t enough to quench the thirsty dry bread. The hot dog looked right, but how would it taste? It was okay. A true Chicago Hotdog is NEVER just okay. They had everything that was supposed to be on it, but something was missing. Was it celery salt? It was the actual hotdog itself. The hot-dog was not a Vienna Beef hotdog. The pizza pie was watery and the crust wasn’t cooked completely through…Nothing about the meal was a good representation of Chicago. Just a lackluster imitation. This was Strike 2.
As I was eating this meal and knowing that it was the best I would probably get for Chicago food in Texas, I realized that this was my first time eating “Chicago food” without my Chicago family. This saddened me. I admit, a small tear did fall. Even though this food was nothing like Chicago’s finest, I didn’t have my Chicago’s finest there to partake with me. This was Strike 3. I miss my family. I don’t get to see them very often, and everyone is growing up without me. My cousins and my aunts and uncles. I miss seeing all of their chocolate faces. They are what makes Chicago, Chicago for me. They are and have always been what makes this city special.
My huz-band and I both agreed that we could live without this version of Chicago food. I plan on asking my family to send a care package of all the best foods Chicago-Land has to offer. But again, Chicago for me is more than just food. What makes it complete is my family. It was where I was born and it is my favorite place in the U.S. because of whose there. The food, is the icing on the cake or the cheese on my popcorn or the mild sauce to my chicken wings! I love the city of Chicago and I love my family, but not this restaurant!
Comment below, what is your favorite city and why?
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