One of the joys when traveling is trying regional specialties. Whether it is white chowder in New England, cheesesteaks in Philly, barbecue in the south, or chili in Cincinnati, it is fascinating to see what certain locales have latched onto as their favorite cuisines.
In Chicago, the obvious choice is deep dish pizza. Originated at Pizzeria Uno and Due in 1943, it has become world-famous thanks to not only the sheer gluttonous deliciousness of the original, but thanks to the Uno’s chain of restaurants. I’ve tried a few other pizza places in Chicago in previous trips and have enjoyed stuffed pizza from Giordano’s several times, but never made it to the original Uno’s. I guess I was always skeptical of it, assuming it would just be like the chain. Boy, was I wrong.
The deep dish pizza at your local Uno’s is good, but is nothing compared to the pizza at the original Uno’s or Due’s. Not greasy or soggy at all (which the chain pizza can sometimes be) and obviously hand-formed with fresh sauce and a perfect balance of lots of cheese, lots of sauce and lots of sausage, it is a totally different experience. The dough is both thick and chewy as well as light and airy – almost like a soda bread. I can’t say enough good things about it.
The other specialties in Chicago that aren’t quite as easily recognized by outsiders are Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hot dogs. Italian beef sandwiches are unlike any other sandwich – paper-thin slices of roast beef that has been roasted and then simmered in beef broth, garlic, onions, and peppers. It is served soaked with broth and has a delicious underlying spiciness. The meat melts in your mouth and is loaded with flavor unique to the sandwich. To get an idea of what goes into the sandwich, just look at some of the recipes.
The hot dogs in Chicago are great if you like a lot of "stuff" on your dogs – mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and peppers piled on a steamed poppy seed bun. Basically, the thing weighs about half a pound by the time its done. However, even if you don’t like all that crap on it, the hot dogs are beefy and actually taste like meat. Chicago is known for its hot dogs and sausage, and other encased meats, and for good reason! If you find yourself in Chicago, go beyond pizza and steaks, and try a beef sandwich.