From essential Chicago house songs to dibs etiquette, Sun-Times readers sounded off in 2022

Read some of our favorite answers to the “question of the day” this past year.

SHARE From essential Chicago house songs to dibs etiquette, Sun-Times readers sounded off in 2022
The U.S. Senate should act on the legislation that would bar the government from seizing records from journalists or their phone and internet providers except in a few emergency situations.

Chicago Sun-Times newspaper boxes.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

We asked, and you answered.

As we have for each of the last few years, the Sun-Times has posed a daily question to our readers throughout 2022.

The questions vary in topic but strive to center on Chicago and the people who call this city home. We asked about a wide range of topics, including COVID-19 policies, dibs etiquette, essential summertime Chicago traditions, how to make new friends in the city, neighborhood gems and much more.

Our readers did not disappoint: Some of our questions got hundreds or even thousands of responses on social media. (To see these questions every day yourself — and weigh in — subscribe to our afternoon newsletter at newsletter-hub.suntimes.com.)

The following are some of our favorite questions and answers from 2022:

What’s one Chicago-specific dish you won’t find anywhere else?

It’s no secret that Chicagoans love their food. If they’re not already talking about how we’ve got the best food in the world here, all it takes is a question to get them going. We asked readers to tell us their favorite Chicago-specific dishes — the ones you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

“Pairing fried chicken, mostaccioli and Italian beef at parties,” reader Sarah Bernstein Tennyson claimed.

“The Combo — Italian Beef and Italian Sausage — sandwich,” Tom Carter said.

“Jibaritos, the Puerto Rican sandwich of thin-sliced steak or other meats, lettuce, tomato, garlicky mayonnaise, and American cheese on flattened fried green plantains,” Ricardo Jimenez said. “Invented by Juan Figueroa at Borinquen Restaurant in Humboldt Park in 1996.”

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The original Borinquen Restaurant, 1720 N. California, where Juan Figueroa is believed to have invented Jibaritos. Borinquen’s new location is 3811 N. Western Ave.

Chandler West/Sun-Times file

“Chicago Dog with fresh cut fries, Italian Beef sandwich, Italian Sausage sandwich, gyros, deep dish pizza, cracker-thin crust pizza, rainbow cone!” Cindy Lee Nielsen said.

You can find a fuller list on our Facebook here.

If you were writing a Chicago-set rom-com, where would your lovebirds meet?

Throughout the years, Chicago’s skyline, parks, bars and streets have served as iconic backdrops for some incredibly romantic moments — both on screen and in real life.

We asked Sun-Times readers to give us their most rom-com-worthy locations. What followed were hundreds of answers that saw readers imagining meet-ups at food trucks, museums, sports games, airports and much more. Many also shared their own, real-life rom-com moments, like Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who on Twitter suggested Shedd Aquarium: “Greatest day of my life, where [Illinois first lady M.K. Pritzker] said yes.”

Chasten Buttigieg also got in on the fun, tweeting, “Well, uh, funny story...” — referencing when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg proposed to him at O’Hare Airport.

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O’Hare Airport as the set of a rom-com? In real life, Ron Axe proposed to his girlfriend, Jamie Glickman as she arrives at O’Hare to visit on Feb. 13, 2009.

Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times file

Other answers:

“Outside the Harold Washington Library staring at the gargoyles and we bump into each other because we are not paying attention,” said reader Michelle Willis.

“In the middle of winter down a Chicago side street. One of them moved a dibs chair and the owner of said chair is not having it until they make eye contact — and blah blah blah.” Courtney Heidi said.

“The Montrose Dog Beach. The dogs wrap the leashes around the humans ‘101 Dalmatians’-style,” Aimee Levitt said.

“At a crosstown classic while they’re on a date with other people. Oh, and of course, they’re fans of the opposing teams,” Amanda Simmons said.

You can read the extended list of our favorite answers here or scroll through the list of responses on our Facebook and Twitter.

Is it ever OK to move someone’s dibs marker?

This question inspired passionate responses and personal anecdotes when we asked it during peak dibs season.

If you’re new here, dibs is essentially the act of clearing snow from a parking space and placing an object there — often a chair — to save your spot until you return later.

A metal bed frame, an old refrigerator, traffic cones, a doll house and a statue of the Virgin Mary are just a few of the items our readers said they’ve seen or used themselves when we asked about that last January.

When we asked readers in February if it’s ever OK to move a dibs marker, a heated debate ensued.

“NO!” reader Ken Churilla said. “Fun story: when I was a ‘city newbie’ I moved someone’s dibs and parked my car. Came out to find that they had poured so much water on my car, there was a sheet of ice on my doors at least a 1/2” thick.”

“No! No! No! No! No! Heaven help whoever decides to move someone’s dibs and take their parking spot,” said Patricia Ramirez. “They spent time shoveling the spot out, they deserve to reserve the spot!”

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A man in February 2021 found a friend’s car window smashed by a “dibs” chair on the North Side. He said the chair had been on the sidewalk.

Provided

But reader Philip Minefee disagreed, saying: “Absolutely — nobody owns the street.”

“I move every dibbed chair I see, if everyone shoveled out a spot every time they parked there wouldn’t be a reason to have dibs,” Hayden Patrick Murray said. “It’s a self-defeating custom that is ultimately selfish. It’s disrespectful to domestic workers and people that otherwise need it.”

“Just because you spend 20 minutes of your life digging out your car doesn’t give you the right to a private parking spot until spring,” Eric Seman said.

For some readers, there are exceptions.

“Absolutely not. Unless it’s right out front of your house, then that spot is yours by rights because you are the one that has to cut the grass in that little strip between the sidewalk and curb,” said Kathern Henderson.

“Yes, but only after all the snow has melted,” said Austlyn Nelson Uteg.

You can remove that dibs marker, said Kathleen Alcantar, but only if “you are ready to throw down with the person who dug that spot out. Just known facts here in the Chi.”

What’s your most memorable Chicago concert experience?

For decades, some of the world’s most talented artists have performed in Chicago, both as up-and-comers and as top-billed acts at the height of their stardom.

We asked our readers to share their concert experiences, prompting a number of fantastic and interesting answers.

“My most memorable concert experience was Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field in the rain. Everyone stayed, people were dancing, and Bruce and the band just kept playing. It was a religious experience,” Caryn Chaden said.

“The Jacksons at Comiskey Park on the Victory Tour in 1984,” Marta Omarr recalled. “Me and my baby sis went. Why? Because it was the Jackson 5 and we had great seats! I screamed the entire concert.”

“George Harrison in 1974 at the Chicago Stadium. He was the quietest Beatle yet it was the loudest concert I’ve ever attended,” Dawn Pericles said.

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Fans cheer as the Jacksons perform during their “Victory Tour” at Comiskey Park in October 1984.

Bob Ringham/Sun-Times file

“Elvis on March 28, 1957,” Marcia Tracy shared. “I had front-row seats and ran up to the stage to touch his gold shoes! I still have that thrill when I see the gold lamé suit photo! I was a lucky teenager, my parents liked Elvis.”

“It was a non-concert at Grant Park when Sly and the Family Stone were late,” Michael Thomas remembered. “People were upset and throwing things. It was a fun time until the tear gas. 1970.”

“Bob Mould at the Metro in 2019. Lots of older shows here, but this one stands out because it was on my 40th birthday, and it was the first time I’d heard of or seen Beach Bunny. Watching them win over a room full of beardy dudes old enough to be their fathers was one of the reasons I love live music in this city. Three DePaul seniors won over a skeptical room that night, and it was magical,” Ernesto Cruz said.

You can find more concert stories here.

What’s something you’ll only find at Thanksgiving in a Chicago home?

A few days before Thanksgiving this year, we asked about the holiday traditions that feel uniquely Chicago.

Readers dug deep and painted warm images of turkey-shaped butter, Fannie May candies and cookies from Dinkles on a platter, Old Style beer, sweet potato pie and German chocolate cake, relish trays and much more.

“Mostaccioli and fried chicken on the table, together!” Susan Strand said. “I’ve lived here 45 years, moved from the east coast, but still not used to the ‘youse guys’ palate.”

Chicago Thanksgivings are also a time for intergenerational exchanges over dancing and cards, readers said.

“Old people who think they can Step and play Bid Whist and young people who know they don’t know how to play Spades or Bid Whist but think they can Step,” said Edward Scott.

“A turkey wrapped up with cheesecloth and basted a lot. Sweet potatoes with brown sugar, no marshmallows,” Janice Scherner said. “We got mom and aunties in holiday aprons, setting the table with the Jewel china plates. Kids in the kitchen, which brought many complaints. Dads and Uncles enjoying cigarettes and Old Style, watching football and playing cards all the while. Homemade gravy as the turkey rests. Hunger and patience, our two hard tests. Memories of laughter, snow, and love.”

We’ve got more memories here.

What do most movies and shows get wrong in their depictions of Chicago?

Chicago has been the setting for countless movies and shows. There’s Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney slow dancing on an architecture tour boat along the Chicago River in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

Christian Bale’s Batman zoomed down Lower Wacker in “The Dark Knight”.Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines get into an absolutely bonkers shootout at the James R. Thompson Center in “Running Scared.”

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Gregory Hines in a scene from “Running Scared” at the James R. Thompson Center, then a gleaming new structure also known as the State of Illinois Center.

Kino Lorber

Yet there is always something movies and shows get wrong when they’re shot here — and Chicagoans will be the first to tell you.

“There are so many open parking spaces on the street when they pull up to apartment buildings,” reader Ellen Trzaska Japczyk said.

“The streets go on a grid. They always refer to streets in the wrong direction especially ‘Chicago P.D.!’” said Evangelia Taliadouros.

“That everyone is a Cubs fan and hangs on Oak Street Beach,” Kevin Moon said.

“That the parts of Chicago worth seeing, experiencing or living in really are only downtown, Lincoln Park, Bucktown or Wicker Park. If you mention the Southside they show Hyde Park and anywhere Black or Brown people live is a war zone not worthy of anyone’s time — and the people who live there are overwhelmingly hopeless and destitute,” Angela R. Rudolph pointed out.

“Where the L stops are. That everybody has a ‘Chicago’ accent. No giant parks. No beaches. Takes 10 minutes to get to an airport. That lower Wacker is where all car chases happen,” Jason Epperson said.

“The weather is depicted as mild in the winter,” Harry Larnell Caldwell III said.

We have more answers here.

What tips do you have for someone riding CTA for the first time?

Almost any Chicagoan who takes public transportation here has their own method when it comes to getting around by bus or train. The tips our readers shared mostly touched on safety and efficiency, forming a valuable rider’s guide to the CTA. The overarching theme? Pay attention and try to enjoy the ride, because this might take a while.

“Have your fare ready. Be patient,” said reader Rick Cotton.

“Don’t fall asleep you end up downtown or in suburbs!” Gerardo Valadez warned.

“If you’ve been at your bus stop for over 30 minutes, there’s probably been a route change,” Elle Qohen said.

“Look before you sit,” Laura Kotelman cautioned.

Plan on extra time because trains and buses regularly run late despite what your app says,” Howard Moore said. “Also, don’t get too involved on your phone and miss your stop — said with experience.”

“Ask questions. It can be extremely confusing, especially transferring from one el to subway and back to the el,” Rose Panieri said. “Not to mention, obtaining and using Ventra cards which is also confusing. Most people are happy to help, or so I’ve found.”

“Get the Ventra App so that you can track times, see what stops are ahead of you, and see what alternate busses/routes are available, if the bus you chose just disappears,” Cheryl Franciszkiewicz suggested.

“Take a seat if possible. Do not block doorways or aisles. Keep your feet off the furniture. Pay attention to where you are and where you are going,” Patricia McDonald said. “Enjoy the ride — it is different and special.”

You can find more tips here.

What’s a Chicago-related urban legend or myth you grew up hearing about?

The legends, myths and tales that we grew up hearing about — many of which aren’t even remotely factual — can leave an impression on us. Salacious stories with sordid details, and even personal, haunting encounters can occupy that mysterious intersection of fear and fascination in our minds.

In that spirit, we asked Sun-Times readers to tell us their favorite local urban legends or myths. The hundreds of answers we received saw readers recounting childhood stories featuring ghosts, myths aiming to explain mysterious buildings in their neighborhood and classic legends like Al Capone’s hidden stash and Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.

One of the most common answers readers gave us was Resurrection Mary, a ghost story rooted in southwest suburban Justice that is thought to date to the 1930s. The legend goes: Mary is the ghost of a young woman killed in a car crash and buried in Resurrection Cemetery, 7200 S. Archer Ave. Shortly after her death, male travelers claimed to see her ghost wandering or hitchhiking on the roads around the cemetery, while others saw her in dance clubs nearby. Stories often say that when she gets in a car or is accosted on a dance floor, she’s likely to vanish.

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Pam Turlow wanders through Resurrection Cemetery in Justice using an electromagnetic field meter to search for paranormal activity in April 2007. Since the 1930s, people including Turlow have claimed they encountered a spirit known as Resurrection Mary at the site.

Ruthie Hauge/Sun-Times file

In another response, reader Layne Arens cited: “the magic healing water pump on Irving Park road at Schiller Woods.”

Tucked in the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve, in the northwest suburbs, there is a water pump that nearby residents have deemed magical. For years, people have sworn that the well water produced by the pump is a general, all-healing source of life. And while these benefits have not been proven, the water itself is tested frequently due to the pump’s popularity, the forest preserve told ABC-7 in October 2019. Back in 2014, WBEZ’s Curious City dove into whether or not the water really does taste different or contains something special.

The ghosts of Excalibur nightclub was another common answer.

The Gothic building that now houses TAO Chicago Nightclub at 632 N. Dearborn St. was once known as Excalibur Nightclub. But it was first the Chicago Historical Society, built in 1892 after the organization’s original building burned down in the Great Chicago Fire. Some say that spirits remain from that time. According to a 2012 report from CBS-2, staff and visitors to the building have reported inexplicable sounds, like boxes being moved in empty rooms, vanishing figures “and objects such as billiard balls moving with no one near them.” Sun-Times readers who said they used to work at the club appeared divided on the validity of the claims. One said they were “not a myth”; another said the claims were “definitely not real.”

For more answers, take a spooky scroll through the list of responses on our Facebook and Twitter.

What is one essential Chicago house track everyone should know?

With Chicago widely known as the birthplace of house music, we knew we’d be hard-pressed to find better experts on the pioneering genre than Sun-Times readers. So back in June, we asked readers to give us their favorite Chicago house songs — and they did not disappoint.

Many also lifted up the names of Chicago-made house DJ legends Frankie Knuckles, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk and Steve “Silk” Hurley. And some shared fond memories of late nights, good times and the rush of nostalgia that comes any time you hear, “It’s time for the percolator!”

For Sun-Times reader Lisa Morrison Butler, Dennis Ferrer’s “Hey Hey” is a must-have: “Every serious Chicago House music DJ will include it in every set, every time,” Butler wrote in response to the Sun-Times’ callout.

“‘More Bounce to the Ounce’ and ‘Computer Love’ — both by Zapp and Roger,” Cece Jenkins wrote in her response. “I recall you have to mix it with some Disco like Chic. Then you would be on the dance floor for an hour or so.”

“If Ralphi Rosario’s ‘You Used To Hold Me’ isn’t on the list, then the list is wrong,” Gerald Myers declared.

We also put readers’ picks into a Spotify playlist — an amalgamation of house classics that is as much of a euphoric trip down memory lane for some as it is an educational resource for others looking for an introduction to the genre. It all makes for a perfect summertime Chicago mixtape.

You can stream it here or in the playlist below. You can find more answers to our callout here.

What makes someone a real Chicagoan?

It’s safe to say that if you’ve never been to Chicago, and you attempt to describe what it’s like here and the people who make up this city, you’re going to get it wrong. So we asked our readers to tell us, in their own words, what they think makes someone a “real” Chicagoan.

“Dey always go by Ma’s before da Jewels to see whachee needs,” explained reader Mary Ann O’Rourke.

“Knowing where neighborhoods are generally located, their names, and what they are usually popular for having culturally available in cuisine and vibe,” said Eva Prokop Callahan.

“Knowing where the fronch room is,” Larry Cline said.

“They know how to pronounce Devon and Touhy,” said Karen Kring.

“Walking backward when it’s 20-below,” said Jan Contreras.

“You refuse to use the term Willis Tower because it will always and forever be the SEARS Tower,” declared Brandie Osborn-Wilcox.

“You still are proud of this city — no matter what the press, mayor or anyone does and you see that skyline it makes you smile,” said Charles W. Johnson.

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