Chicago is home to many famous food institutions. Whenever I travel, I like to check out the famous foods of the area. In this case, it was a study in extreme low/high brow eating. One night we ate at the famous molecular gastronomy temple, Alinea, and then stuffed ourselves silly on Garrett’s popcorn, deep dish pizza and chicago dogs the next.
Here is a run-down of the triumphs and disappointments in Chicago low-brow dining.
Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
Chicago Style Deep Dish pizza was a must-eat while we were in the windy city. I have high pizza standards. In Italy, my first calzone made me cry. I am passionate about pizza. I was coming to this pizza experience not expecting it to mimic my Italian pizza experience, but to come close in terms of food revelations. We chose to go with the original deep dish pizza location, Pizzeria Uno, where a chef in 1943 first served this mammoth creation.
We ordered the ‘numero uno’ pizza with the works. We waited in anticipation for 45 minutes while the pizza cooked. It arrived and I was hopeful. The crust looked flaky and buttery, as it should be. The toppings were deep, real deep. This was certainly not an italian pizza. We bit into the pizza, hoping for an explosion of pizza fireworks, and….nothing. This pizza might have made me cry for the wrong reasons. The crust was dry and flavourless, the sauce was nothing special, the cheese wasn’t gooey enough. A pizza that should have been messy and molten was dry and boring.
I had read of Garrett Popcorn in my multiple guidebooks but was skeptical. In Canada, we have Kernels popcorn chain in just about every mall and while I have been known to enjoy the double butter flavour at Kernels, I would not rave about it. I would and will rave about Garrett Popcorn. In the span of three days we visited Garrett’s twice. On the first visit we tried the caramel crisp, on the second, we had the much lauded “Chicago Mix”. The mix is both the caramel crisp and cheese corn flavour. The mix is heaven in a popcorn. The sweet and crunchy caramel coated popcorn combined with salty, soft and cheesy popcorn was the perfect snack for a savoury-sweet lover such as myself. My only regret is that I didn’t bring more home with me.
The Chicago Dog
I was at the airport on my way home and had not yet had a Chicago Dog, I looked up and saw a sign with the most dapper well-dressed hot dogs I had ever seen. Surely this was a good sign, the perfect chance to have a Chicago Dog before making my way back to Toronto. The Chicago Dog is an all-beef hotdog on a poppy-seed bun, dragged “through the garden”with yellow mustard, green relish, onion, tomato slices, a pickle spear, hot peppers and celery salt. This dog did not disappoint. My husband, who does not like too many condiments even thought it was delicious. I say drag all my future hot dogs through the garden.