What’s a smell that makes you think of Chicago? Sun-Times readers weigh in

When we recently asked Sun-Times readers, more than 2,000 answers poured in and ran the gamut — ranging from food, road work, freshly cut grass and more.

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Cooks from Chicago’s Dog House, located at 816 W. Fullerton Ave., prepare “Original Polish,” Smoked Alligator” and “Rattlesnake & Rabbit” sausages during a Taste of Chicago preview event in Daley Plaza.

Lou Foglia/Sun-Times file

The sweet chocolatey aroma from Blommer Chocolate Company? The smell of grilled onions wafting from a hot dog joint? The stench of the Union Stockyards still lingering in your memory?

What’s a smell that makes you think of Chicago? When we recently asked Sun-Times readers, more than 2,000 answers poured in and ran the gamut — ranging from food, road work, freshly cut grass and more.

Here’s what scents make our readers think of Chicago. Some of these answers have been edited for clarity.

“The smell of chocolate from the Blommer factory.” —Howard Moore

“When you rip the paper off Harold’s with mild sauce.” — Alzetta Tricie Bozeman Henry

“The sweet smell of Tootsie Roll candy being made on the southwest side of Chicago.” — Tom Petraitis

“The delicious aroma of grease wafting from the Billy Goat on Michigan Avenue!” — Kathleen Machek

“Maxwell Street 🌭 Hot Dogs! ‘Grilled onion.’” —Robert Stucko

“Nabisco Factory on Kedzie — Marquette Park.” —Mark Dynia

“Italian beef every time.” — Stephanie George

“The stockyards might be long gone but the smell of them I’ll remember forever. Unfortunately.” —Dennis Lynch

“Walking over the bridges and the smell of the river and Lake Michigan…I love the smell of the water with the breeze.” —Patricia Moore Fluhler

“Exhaust. The smell of exhaust. But not in a bad way. It’s comforting in a way!” — Julie Gerrard-Goebbert

“BBQ on a backyard with good old Mexican music.” — Gerardo Valadez

“The smell of butterscotch from the Brach’s Candy Factory when they were located in Chicago. I always knew we were getting close to my grandma’s house whenever we crossed over the bridge and the air smelled like butterscotch candy.” —Sue Schuh Colerick

“When I was a kid, it was the smoke from the mills along the drive-in. Thankfully, that’s gone. And the minty chocolate aroma of Frango from Marshall Field’s.” —Beverly Brown

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A corner facade of the Blommer Chocolate Company is seen November 28, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

“Grilled onions at Sox Park.” — Jason Betke

“The smell of rotting alewives wafting in from the beaches of Lake Michigan.” — Mary Ann O’Rourke

“The old Cracker Jack factory near Midway. That caramel corn smell.” — Meg Tebo

“Baking bread. Reminds me of the old Gonnella bread factory on Cicero. My family would go every Saturday morning. We would have an extra loaf still warm that we would eat on the way home. It’s been 40 years since I did that but commercial bread baking brings me back to Cicero Ave.” —Andy Perez

“The stockyards might be long gone but the smell of them I’ll remember forever. Unfortunately.” —Dennis Lynch

“The smell of smelt, those little fishes in the springtime from when I was a little girl at the lakefront. I’m 74.” — Chris Huston

“When the neighborhood cuts their grass — smells fresh.” —Silvia Burgos

“Sitting in school and smelling baking cookies from the Nabisco factory at about 75th and Kedzie, miles from school.” —Maureen Connor Kelly

“The smell of potato chips wafting over the neighborhood from the Jays Potato Chip factory on Cottage Grove. I miss that smell!” —Yvette Griffin

“The smell and taste of biting into a hot dog. No matter where I am, takes me back to Chicago. Portillos on Ontario. Awesome. Every. Time.” — Jamie Siv

“Hate to say it, but seriously, the garbage dump off Bishop Ford. It’s gotten better, but you can still smell it a couple miles away, every now and then.” — Bernice Lane-Brown

“The smell of potato chips wafting over the neighborhood from the Jays Potato Chip factory on Cottage Grove. I miss that smell!” —Yvette Griffin

“The glorious smell of grilled onions and Polish sausages wafting through the air at Jim’s Original.” — Estela Balderas

Customers line up at Jim’s Original in the University Village neighborhood, Friday afternoon, Sept. 3, 2021. Once open 24 hours, Jim’s changed its hours and will be closed from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Customers line up at Jim’s Original in the University Village neighborhood, Friday afternoon, Sept. 3, 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times,

“The leather tanning factory that used to be on Webster and the Chicago River.” — Gloria Chevere

“For me, baseball glove leather, concrete, asphalt, that building smell every city person knows and goooooood meat and brews. Chicago for sure.” — Brooks Vanderbush

“The chocolate factory near downtown Chicago! It was a comforting smell to me going home after work.” — Jerry Snider Delaney

“Phlox flowers in the summer! It seemed like every house had them near the sidewalk.” — Ursula Esquivel

“Humboldt Park in the summer with all the food trucks cooking and all the good music and people.” —Victoria Yates

“Cigars. Used to smell em when I walked into Wrigley as a kid. 😤” —Tony Radar Hess

“The burnt chocolate smell of the old Blommers factory” —Jennifer Kate

“Hot tar on the streets, the smell from the Cracker Jack factory and all of the different ethnic food smells from the neighborhoods. I miss all of it.” — Cindi Schultz Hawkins

“When I walk out of the terminal at O’Hare, the smell of airplane exhaust. I know I’m home. I love it!” —Grace Henzon

“The burnt chocolate smell of the old Blommers factory” —Jennifer Kate

“The smell of grilled onions makes me think of Chicago-style Maxwell street polish sausages.” — Federico Cedillo Jr.

“L-train brakes smell under the tracks at Lake and Wells. My first downtown apartment was right there.” — Andrea Williams

“The smell of the beach and sand and lake water in the summertime.” —JoAnne Kelly

“Soul food cooking in the houses as I walk home from school with my friends.” —Cecilia McIntosh-Townsend

“Ballpark hotdogs 🌭 and grilled onions say summer in Chicago like nothing else.” —Heather Sullivan-Schroeder

“Depends on the neighborhood. The smell of fresh tortillas in Little Village. Chocolate while driving on Grand and Halsted. I miss the smell of everything when driving though Fulton market. It smelled like an entire carnival.” —Yolanda Correa

You can find the full, growing list of answers from our readers here.

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