So, I’'m throwing a New Year’s Eve murder mystery party set in Chicago. I will be cooking and serving a several course meal throughout the course of the party. Since the locale is Chicago, I want to serve food that is associated therewith. The problem is: I’ve never been to Chicago, so the only food I know that is “of Chicago” is deep dish pizza. Now, that’s fine for an appetizer, but I want the main meal to be a little more upscale than pizza.
Wikipedia mentions The Maxwell Street Polish, the Italian Beef sandwich, and the Chicago-style hot dog as other notable choices, but they’re all a little too casual, like the pizza.
I’m not a super fancy person and I’m not looking for haute cuisine here, but I don’t want to serve my guests hot dogs and pizza either. Can any Chicagoans help me out with some menu suggestions?
As a person of Polish heritage and as a person whose family hails from the Polish part of Chicago, I will recommend you serve Polish Sausage, Perogi’s, Gawumpkis…and olives, a tray of olives and pickles.
There’s no particular “Chicago” food in the way that there’s Atlanta food or Boston food… aside from Pizza and Chicago-style hotdogs. Chicago was always associated with great steaks because of the meat-packing plants, so if your mystery is set in the past, you might serve some steak-ish something. Chicago does have a large Polish population, as noted by Phlsophr, and also a strong Jewish community and a large China Town (actually, two) and significant Japanese and Vietnamese and French and…
Sorry, that probably doesn’t help with a menu, but it does say that you do pretty much whatever you want and call it “Chicago.”
Yeah, really the only “upscale” thing I can suggest is steak, served with baked potatoes with sour cream, butter and chives and limp canned green beans which no one eats. The rest of Chicago cuisine is either eclectic international fare from immigrants or, as you already know, pizza, hot dogs (no ketchup, fluorescent pickle relish and celery salt/seed required), Italian beef or meatball sandwiches.
ETA: OR, you could go German (saurbraten, schnitzle, spaetzle, etc.) and work in a Berghoff theme. That’s pretty Chicago. They claim to be the city’s oldest restaurant.
I agree with steak, or maybe Chicken Vesuvio, which is an Italian chicken dish that was invented here, and is served at all the Italian restaurants. The problem with classic “Chicago” food is that it’s mostly all casual stuff…pizza, hot dogs, ribs, etc.
Everyone’s right…there’s no “Chicago” food, per se. Maybe you could do something a little different. For instance, you could name some of the dishes after famous Chicagoans. Newcity | Chicago Arts & Culture
Dillinger Bloody Marys
Hmm…good question. The best recipe for it that I know of is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine. If you go to their website, you can sign up for a 2-week free trial (it’s a pay site), and you should be able to get the recipe. If you have trouble, let me know and I’ll see if I can find it in my back issues.
How about a Francheezie… a hot dog stuffed w/ cheese, wrapped in bacon, and then deep-fried. Not too many places around to get one anymore, and certainly more casual than you’re looking for, but… c’mon… it’s a bacon-wrapped deep-fried hot dog!
It’s actually rather difficult to find any good German food around these parts anymore. I, at least, certainly don’t associate Chicago with German food these days (minus the Berghoff/now 17 West at the Berghoff) . Mexican food would definitely be much more like it for the last couple decades, at least.
Steak or chicken vesuvio are probably the best bets for a little more formal Chicago dining without going the ethnic Eastern European/Mexican routes. Another one of Chicago’s very own, although more of the fast-food type, is the jibaro/jibarito, which is basically a cheesesteak sandwich served on deep fried, flattened, garlicky plantains instead of bread. This was an invention from our Puerto Rican community.
And, contrary to popular belief, most Chicago hot dog stands, in my experience, do not serve the neon relish–that’s just Vienna Beef marketing at work.