Student Moving to Chicago from New York
Hey all. I will be moving to Chicago this coming fall to attend UIC as a grad student. As a way to distract myself from other things I should be nervous about, I have been focusing on questions about food that I might encounter.
What should I know about Chicago food (in the grad student price range---that is, as close to free as possible) and what should I expect? Will I be starved for a real bagel? Should I reconcile myself to Chicago style pizza, and just accept it as a different, but legitimate, school of pizza thought, in spite of my native pizza sensibilities? What can I look forward to?
I know it's a broad question, but any thing to get me in tune would be very welcome.
Don't worry, no one is going to hold you down and force you to eat deep dish pizza. In fact, the vast majority of pizzas sold in Chicago are of the thin crust variety. Chicago thin style is a sturdy cracker-like crust with toppings out to the edge and is generally cun in to squares, but if you're jonesing for some east coast style pizza Coalfire is only a mile or so north of the UIC campus or you could head further north to Piece or Spacca Napoli. A lot of people seem to have a distorted view of the food scene in Chicago. It isn't all about sassages, beefs and deep dish pizza. I think you will be VERY pleasantly surprised when you get here and can experience all this city has to offer first hand.
Chicago is pretty diverse in its cuisine. Much like NYC, each ethnic neighborhood has it's holes in the wall and it's fancy shmancy places and everything in between. Go to Pilsen for cheap, but good hispanic fare. Try an eating tour of Chicago -- there's Koreatown, Chinatown, Ukrainian Village, Greektown, Little Italy, etc. Yum!!
Agreed with the others, we have a great dining scene--even on the cheap end.
You will, however, pine for a good bagel and a slice that is foldible (brooklyn roots and did my grad school at NYU). That being said we have the following that will help take you to home:
NYC Bagel on North Ave and Sheffield (lincoln park)
The Bagel -- it's almost a good NY-style deli, but they do have good bagels (lakeview)
Brueggers is reopening in Chicago soon. OK, I know I will get disagreement here, but they are the only national chain (of which I am aware) that boils then bakes.
For pizza, it's almost impossible to get thin crust that doesn't crunch when you eat it. That being said, Luigi's Pizza on Clark between Fullterton and Diversey (lincoln park) gets pretty close to my old fav, Bens.
Coalfire is really good--more New England than NY--but if you've had Arturo's in the Village it's pretty close.
Piece is New Haven style (I think). Coalfire and Spacca Napoli are truer Italian-style wood-burning oven pizza places. In other words, they're not NY-style pizza places. They're all good, though.
Santullo's is close to NY-style pizza. They have big, foldable pieces by the slice. None of those other places do.
I also suggest Pizza Metro. I can't define it. Can anybody else define it?
There are some other threads on this board about NYC pizza, too.
IMO, GOOD bagels are tough to come by unless you venture northward. NYC Bagel, mentioned on this thread, is pretty good, though.
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As someone who grew up in Chicago but went to school at NYU and worked there for a year after I graduated, I know the best of both worlds. The only thing is that I'm less knowledgeable about a ton of specific places in Chicago since I didn't REALLY become a foodie until I was at NYU as an undergrad.
But I can tell you that you can DEFINITELY look forward to awesome ethnic food here in Chicago. Interestingly, the cuisines Chicago does best in are ones that really suck in NYC, such as Thai and Mexican. Those are two cuisines that you should definitely make the most of while you're here because there's nothing like it in NY with the exception of Sripraphai. You'll also find all sorts of regional Mexican food which is extremely difficult to come by in NY. There's also more Vietnamese food here than there is in NY.
I'm not sure what the general consensus is on Indian food in Chicago vs. NY, but I've personally had better and more authentic experiences here in Chicago. One place my family and I have been going to for a long time is Hema's Kitchen on Devon and Oakley.
You'll find that most Chicagoans don't eat deep dish pizza on a regular basis in the way that New Yorkers eat NY pizza. Most will eat thin crust, but it's different than NY thin crust. But I do think trying Chicago's best deep dish is worth a shot because you can't find it anywhere in NY with the exception of the Chicago Uno's chain (quite different than the original Uno's in downtown Chicago) which has to be the most awful deep dish pizza I've ever tried. Lou Malnati's is my personal favorite, but everyone has their own opinions.