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Chicago Themed Food

I've never been to Chicago (connecting thru O'Hare doesn't count, does it?) but I've got a client who needs Chicago-themed food at a reception (I work for a catering company in San Francisco). The only things I can think of are deep-dish pizza and special hot dogs we once had to fly in for another client a long time ago. Can anyone suggest what foods are special to the Chicago area? I should add the client is requesting 4 pieces of food per person for this reception, and is on a tight budget. Many thanks for any and all suggestions!

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  1. When I was in Chicago recently on a "culinary tour" they also considered Cracker Jacks a Chicago-themed food. They also claimed the brownie was invented in Chicago (which I've heard disputed) by Mrs. Potter Palmer. Also, Kraft Macaroni & CHeese, if I recall. They also claimed the candy bar was invented in Chicago--Baby Ruth. Italian beef sandwiches count, too, I think.


    1 Reply
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Also, Frango Mints were invented in Chicago.

      Here's a link about the brownie



    2. You'll definitely need Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches (made w/ bottom round roast), with hot giardiniera on the side. Other possibilities include Chicken Vesuvio and Shrimp de Jonghe (you should be able to find recipes and/or descriptions on the web), two dishes that I believe are native to Chicago and rarely found elsewhere.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BRB

        By the way, if you want to order many things in from one supplier, check out http://www.loutogo.com/ for deep dish pizza, Italian beef, Eli's cheesecake, Vienna Beef hot dogs, etc. Lou Malnati's offers outstanding deep dish pizza, and while I hear that that shipped versions are not as good as the ones you get in the restaurant, I hear they're still very good.

        1. The budget "Chicago" menu would consist of char dogs, cheese fries, Cracker Jack, and Old Style beer (or Goose Island which is much better). For extra realism be sure to order some of the freaky green "Chicago Style" relish available at Vienna Beef. Also the coffee should be from Dunkin' Donuts, really.

          1. What about Eli's Cheesecake and Tootsie Rolls (not together, of course...but maybe...?)

            Dunkin' Donuts coffee is supplied by Sara Lee, which I believe is now a Chicago corporation.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cipsi

              Better yet -- Intelligentsia or Metropolis Coffee can give the Seattle folks a run for their money

            2. Thanks for all the info. I'll have to run it by my client and see what she wants to do.

              1. Check out the Lou Malnati's site (ofers Carsons ribs as well), the Vienna site, the Portillos site and the Irvings site, between all of these you will have more than enough to choose from for Chicago-theme catering.

                1. Portillo's chocolate cake and Intelligentsia dark roast coffee - now there's a Chicago combination I can get behind!


                  1. What about gyros? Just had one yesterday, yum! Several Chicago Greek restaurants claimed to have invented it. I was also thinking saganaki but that would be a fire hazard. LOL!

                    1. Don't forget to include Twinkies, Tootsie Rolls, and Wrigley's chewing gum! All are native to Chicago!

                      1. "Also, Frango Mints were invented in Chicago."

                        No, ma'am, they were not. The Frango - originally "Franco" mint was an invention of the now-defunct Frederick & Nelson department stores of Seattle. The name was changed after the Spanish Civil War, and the rise to power of the Fascist Spanish dictator (and Hitler sort-of ally) Francisco Franco. In fact, I recall seeing them sold at the also now-defunct Broadway department stores under the Frederick & Nelson label as late as the early 80's.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sundevilpeg

                          You know, I was fully prepared to debate this with you. I took a city-sponsored tour with the City Historian (yes, Chicago has a City Historian) and he expressly told us that Frango mints were invented by Marshall Field's IN Chicago. But, even on Marshall Field's own website, they recount the story more or less the same way you do. According to them, Frederick and Nelson was acquired by Marshall Field's in 1929... But, acquiring a company that invented the Frango Mint in another city is not the same as inventing it in your own city, is it? I might have to drop a note to the City Historian.


                          I stand corrected!


                        2. No worries, TDQ. With matters such as this, though, it's important to keep the history intact. I found the Franco-induced name change thing to be fascinating.

                          BTW, F&N was never called Marshall Field's, though they did adopt the signature script logo and corporate forest green color for bags, gift boxes, and such.

                          1. Italian beef or Italian sausage sandwiches or for true nirvana a Combo, as large or as small as you'd like to meet your budget.

                            Any Mars candy bar themed dessert, or frozen mini Snickers/Milky Way/ 3 Musketeers.

                            The gyros suggestion above would be good if you could get a real autodoner to do it right.

                            Ferrara Pan candies (Red hots, Lemonheads) would be great little takeaways.