Chicago-pedia: Food & Drink

An encyclopedia of the terms that define our city. In this edition, we cover some of Chicago’s most famous delicacies.


“Super Polish Sausage” from Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs, located at 225 S. Canal St.


Some call it “Chicago-ese,” or “Chicago-speak.” Whatever you call it, we’re capturing it here, in Chicago-pedia — highlighting our local terminology and linguistic quirks (sometimes with humor and obvious exaggeration).

THE WALNUT ROOM: A staple of Christmas in Chicago, the stately seventh-floor dining room was the first department store restaurant when it opened more than a century ago in the Marshall Field’s on State Street. Now a Macy’s treasure, it’s named for its dark, Circassian walnut paneling, which was imported from Russia.

DEEP DISH: The casserole-esque style of pizza that locals eat once or twice every year, typically when out-of-town relatives come to visit.

FRANGO: Minty chocolate candy that’s one of the lasting legacies of the Marshall Field’s department stores.

POLISH: 1. Related to Poland. 2. A hot dog on steroids, a source of heartburn, a kielbasa (a truncation of “Polish sausage,” a tubular meat product made with garlic, black pepper and herbs).



Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

FRANCHEEZIE: A fate-tempting delicacy: a beef hot dog sliced in half, stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon — before being deep fried and served on a bun. Fries are usually included.

COMBO: The ingenious marriage of the Italian beef and Italian sausage sandwiches. The sausage is hidden beneath the shaved beef on the same Italian bread roll, offering the hungry — or indecisive — diner a double-delight.

ITALIAN BEEF: 1. Thinly sliced beef seasoned with garlic, oregano and other spices and served on Italian bread. A Chicago creation, it’s spread nationwide thanks to transplants who can’t do without it. The slow-cooked, top-butt meat can be eaten “dipped” (in beef broth), “sweet” (with sweet peppers), “hot” (with giardiniera), “cheesey” (with cheese) or as a combo (with an Italian sausage tucked beneath the beef). In Chicago, it’s a source of pride, competition and dirty shirts. 2. A sandwich not known to be served anywhere in Italy.

POP: 1. A carbonated soft drink in Chicago, the rest of the Midwest and Canada. Synonyms: soda (on East Coast) and Coke (in the South). 2. A father. 3. To smack, say, in the nose.


Healthy Food.

Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

COKE: What many Chicagoans call pop, even if it’s not Coca-Cola.

PALETERO: The Latino equivalent of the ice-cream man. Paleteros stroll through Latino neighborhoods in the city and suburbs, as well as along the lakefront. Popsicles (paletas), milk-based or made from real fruit juices, are the main treat.

HEALTHY FOOD: Popular longtime Bridgeport restaurant that was oddly named, for it didn’t serve health food, but Lithuanian dishes.

JIBARITO: Two flattened fried plantains act as a bun in this sandwich that features tendered steak, mayo and other toppings. Its origins are debatable, but most would say this garlic-infused sandwich is a Humboldt Park creation. Enjoy it with a cold Malta or Kola Champagne. ¡Buen provecho!

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