(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's own Jason Hissong joins us for Windy City Cooking, where he talks about cooking and eating out in Chi-Town. Enjoy! -Max)
Windy City Cooking: Week 1
By Jason Hissong
25 July 2009
Chicago. Windy City. Second City. The City of Big Shoulders. The City That Works.
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jason. Chicago has been my home for the last three years of my life. While living here I have discovered my love of cooking and dining and all things food. Food is one of my favorite subjects. It’s something we MUST have to live. It’s something that all of us consume at least once daily. Food is important. To individuals, to locations, and to societies. Food matters.
So this is my column about my own personal exploration of food in Chicago. It has to do with how I cook and what I cook and why I cook. It has to do with where I eat and what I eat and why I eat. And why all of those things are important to me.
But first, Chicago. I love Chicago. Chicago brought me into adulthood. It’s made me the foodie I am today. Because there’s Vienna beef hot dogs and deep-dish pizza. There’s Old Style in the bleachers at Wrigley. There are the neighborhoods populated by ethnicities: the Ukrainian Village. Greek Town. Little Italy. The Germans in Lincoln Square. The Latinos in Albany Park and Logan Square. And south of the Loop: Chinatown. They all bring their own food culture to the city. I love the city because it's so big, and has so many people from so many different places, that all of these food cultures are simultaneously supported.
Chicago also has the names. Trotter. Bayless. Tramonto. Achatz. We could go on and on. But you know them already. And you know why they’re important.
Chicago will put a restaurant anywhere. There's one at the top of the Hancock. One of the most well known is in a department store on State Street. For me a culinary map of Chicago looks like this: the best halibut I ever had is at Lula’s in Logan Square. I’ll go to Uncommon Groud for a farm to table experience. I’ll go to Tank, or Kite, or Usagi Ya for sushi. I’ll throw down six dollars to get my favorite falafel sadwhich at Sultan’s Market. If I’m having pizza I’m going to Lou Malnati’s, and if I’m having hot dogs I’ll go to Hot Doug’s or Byron’s. Mexican? We have that, too. Garcia’s in Lincoln Square. Burek is at Café Beograd in Albany Park. It’s four a.m. and I’m hungry after a night of drinking, so it’s King Gyros in Wicker Park. Or one of the three La Pasadita’s on the same street. If it’s Sunday at noon and I want a huge vegetarian sandwhich I head to the Red Line’s Roosevelt stop and hit the Bongo Room. If it’s Thursday night and I want to be cool and hip I travel to Andersonville for Kope Café’s Libido Burrito. If I’m going with my vegan friends it’s to Karyn’s Cooked. They have one of the best bread puddings I’ve ever had.
My point is this: Chicago is huge. There’s enough food here to last a lifetime. The food culture is one of the reasons I love Chicago so much. There’s just so much to take in, and so much Chicago has to offer if you’re looking.
And I’m always looking.