Stories Behind 30 Great Hometown Bites

By Monica Eng and David Hammond

3 Fields Books


142pp/$19.95/March 2023

Made in Chicago
Cover by Jennifer S. Fisher

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Chicago is known for a food town, with people far and wide aware of the Chicago style pizza (even if many can't exactly define what that means) or Chicago hot dogs (even if they can't necessarily tell you what ingredients top a Chicago dog).Growing up in the Chicago area, there were foods that I just accepted and expected everyone knew about them, only to learn later that they were created or perfected in Chicago and are relatively unknown beyond Chicagoland. In Made in Chicago, food reporters Monica Eng and David Hammond provide a tour through thirty of Chicago's signature dishes, both famous and overlooked, trying to learn their origins, describing the foods, offering suggestions of where to find them, and making the reader's salivary glands work overtime.

Chicago pizza is a misunderstood food, perplexing to outsiders (and even to some Chicagoans), who have a tendency to oversimplify what Chicago pizza really is, and how many variations there are. Eng and Hammond have two sections dealing with pizzas, spotlighting deep dish pizza and tavern-style pizza, and explaining to exactly why a Chicago thin crust pizza differs from thin crust pizza elsewhere. Furthermore, in the chapter of deep dish pizza, the authors also explain the difference between deep dish and stuffed pizza, which even some Chicago pizzerias confuse. The authors show a dedication to understanding the intricacies of differences which might not seem important to outsiders, but which get to the heart of Chicago food, such as the difference between a Chicago hot dog and a depression dog.

Their study of Chicago food includes interviews with cooks who make, and possibly created, some of the foods discussed, occasionally the inclusion of recipes, a discussion of how the foods came to be and how they fit into the ecology of the communities that eat them and have popularized them, and, when appropriate, some of the controversies which have arisen concerning the history of the food or the "right" way to eat or enjoy it.

One of the most revealing things about Made in Chicago is how segregated the city remains. The authors often note that growing up in predominantly white areas of the city, there were foods they were completely ignorant of until they began exploring other areas of the city as food journalists. It is no surprise that the best known Chicago foods are those that originated in those majority white areas of the city, although the authors make it clear that African Americans, middle easterners, latinos, and others have all made their mark on the culinary map of Chicago, offering jim shoes, jibaritos, mother-in-laws, and taffy grapes. By calling attention to these foods, Eng and Hammond are doing a service to both the populations that popularized them and the diner who is in search of traditional foods.

Made in Chicago serves as an excellent guidebook for gastro-tourism in Chicago, providing the necessary background to understand why the foods described in its pages came to exist, what they mean to the people who eat them, and offering suggestions for places to try each delicacy. Of course, food is a highly personal thing and in Chicago, there will always be an argument over which pizza place, Italian beef store, hot dog stand, or purveyor of mild sauce, makes the best. To fully make up one's mind, the gastro-tourist must seek out and find as many restaurants as possible.

Akutagawa Jibarito
Big Baby Jim Shoe
Bone-In Pork Chop Sandwich Malort
Breaded Steak Sandwich Maxwell Street Polish
Chicken Vesuvio Mild Sauce
Chicago Corn Roll Tamale Mother-in-Law
Chicago Mix Pepper and Egg Sandwich
Chicago-Style Egg Roll Pizza Puff
Chicago Hot Dog Rainbow Cone
Deep Dish Pizza Rib Tips
Flaming Saganaki Shrimp deJonghe
Giardiniera Steak and Lemonade
Gam Pong Chicken Wings Sweet Steak Supreme Sandwich
Gyros Taffy Grapes
Italian Beef Sandwich Tavern-Style Pizza

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