If you think deep-dish pizza and ketchup-free hot dogs are all there is to understanding Chicago food, you've got another thing -- or 26 -- coming.
Chicago is a city of many, many neighborhoods, all of which come with their own culinary traditions. It leaves the city's residents with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the diverse dishes that are often only a hop on the 'L' away. And no, they don't eat deep dish every day -- or even every month.
These are the food truths only a Chicago local can truly grasp.
While the beef is (of course) the star here, Chicago's signature Italian beef sandwich (tastiest at Mr. Beef or Fiore's) is nothing unless it's DOUSED with beef jus and giardiniera. The more the beef jus has infiltrated the bread, the tastier the sandwich. Don't worry, you'll figure out a way to pick this up without making a giant mess. We have faith in you.
Cheese and caramel, the perfect flavor marriage.
No, this is not weird AT ALL. Garrett Popcorn sells this "Chicago mix" by the heaping tubful to tourists -- and some locals, too -- with good reason: it's dang tasty. Why does this feel so right?
Rick Bayless does not make Chicago's best Mexican food.
Repeat after us: Rick Bayless does not make Chicago's best Mexican food, so please stop saying Rick Bayless makes Chicago's best Mexican food. (Xoco is pretty darn flawless though.)
For Chicago's best Mexican food, you go to Pilsen or Little Village. The end.
Nuevo Leon Restaurant is the king, but there are plenty of princes along 18th Street in Pilsen in particular. Go to any of them and please promise us to never say Rick Bayless makes the city's best Mexican food ever again.
Fried plantains beat bread pretty much every time.
The jibarito was invented at Borinquen Restaurant in Humboldt Park and is one of the most distinctive dishes that traces its roots to Chicago. Having grown in popularity, the Puerto Rican speciality is now available from many restos on the West Side in particular.
When the Tamale Guy arrives at your dive bar of choice, just empty your wallet.
Meet the mother-in-law, a South Side specialty. She's topped with tomatoes, peppers but -- you guessed it -- never ketchup and she's less intense than her only-in-Chicago sandwich counterparts like the Gym Shoe and the Big Baby. Get your hands on one at Johnny O's in Bridgeport.
If there were any justice in this world, this is the pizza Chicago would be known for.
While we're the deep dish capital of the world, our thin crust pizzas -- like this one from Piece -- are -- shhh! -- often superior.
And when you do see us satisfying a rare deep dish craving, you won't see us at Uno's.
No one quite understands why, but go ahead and get yourself to the Wieners Circle anyway. This place is known for their hot dogs, burgers and verbally abusive (yet still loving) employees. Whatever you do, don't order the double chocolate milkshake unless you want an eyeful of flesh!
You go to Devon ready to eat a day's worth of food in one sitting.
No shade, because West Rogers Park is home to so much incredible Indian or otherwise South Asian food you pretty much can't go wrong no matter where you go.
Lentil soup can, actually, be so good it inspires tears of joy.
Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
It might not be much to look at and we don't quite know what's in the lentil soup at Taste of Lebanon, but this Andersonville hole-in-the-wall's signature dish has earned its cult following.
Ordering breakfast can be more stressful than taking the SAT.
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Valois in Hyde Park is notorious for its long lines -- we're guessing the president is pretty much the only person who gets to cuts to the front here at this cafeteria-style South Side institution.
Some of the best milkshakes in the world contain no milk whatsoever.
The vegan milkshakes at the Chicago Diner are so extraordinary, it'll blow your mind that they are dairy-free. Skeptical? The chocolate peanut butter shake will make you a believer.
The only real reason to get up early on a weekend is for a doughnut.
The line at Doughnut Vault can be killer, Glazed and Infused frequently runs out of their most donuts early and -- what was that you said? You want fresh paczki (the popular Polish pastry) for Paczki Day? Hope you made a game plan ahead of time because Chicago is serious about its baked goods -- especially when they're deep-fried.
You'd do pretty much anything for a slice of Bang Bang pie.
Just admit it, you want to move to Chicago now. Totally understandable and warranted, but please promise us you'll never eat at the Hancock Building Cheesecake Factory or order in from Pizza Hut. Deal?