Chicago is a wonderful place to live. Those of us who live here do so for a reason, and the longer you live here, the more pride you feel for the city.
But Chicago is also a unique place, and a Chicagoan is a unique person. From the food we eat to the teams we follow, we take pride in being ourselves. We are glad we’re not from New York, Los Angeles or Dallas. We know in our hearts we’d rather live in Chicago.
As we move around our favorite city, we see all of those around us, and we quickly distinguish who is truly one of us and who is pretending. We’re happy to have visitors, but pretending to be a Chicagoan when you’re really not is something entirely different.
So if you are a recent convert to the Chicago lifestyle and want to ensure you are doing it right, we’ve collected some true Chicago wisdom and spelled out the essentials for being one of us. As one of Chicago’s famous restaurants, we get what it means to be a Chicagoan. Considering how much we love this city, we are more than happy to help you be an authentic Chicagoan, too.
Choose Your Team
If you follow baseball, you know there are two teams in Chicago. There are the White Sox, also known as the “South Siders,” that play at U.S. Cellular Field — although old-timers call it Comiskey. Then, there are the Cubs, the “North Siders,” that play at Wrigley Field.
Both teams are old, and both are known for wallowing through years of futility. While the Cubs are perhaps most famous for their 106 years (and counting) without a championship, the White Sox only ended their 88-year drought in 2005. The White Sox have the added bonus of being involved in the worst cheating scandal in the history of baseball, when eight players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series.
Being a baseball fan in Chicago isn’t easy, but that doesn’t change the fact that Chicago is a baseball town. Fans in the city are diehard and spend much of their summers taking in games.
However, just because Chicago is a baseball town doesn’t mean you get to simply be a Chicago baseball fan. You have to choose one team, and you can’t change your mind. Nothing makes you look more suspicious to a true Chicagoan than being a fair-weather fan. If your buddies cheer for the other team, and they’re winning, you just have to grin and bear it and hope your turn to win comes soon.
But don’t worry. Once baseball season is over, all Chicagoans agree. Considering the Blackhawks are defending champions and many of us were witness to Michael Jordan’s many years of basketball dominance, sports seasons other than baseball can be a lot gentler on the city’s sports fans.
Learn the Lyrics to the “Shuffle”
If you are already from Chicago, you know what the “Shuffle” is. In case you’re playing catch up, however, here’s a quick review.
In 1985, the Chicago Bears, one of the greatest football teams of all time (in fact, if you’re a Chicagoan, they were the greatest), were headed to Super Bowl XX. Before the big game, members of the Bears took time to record the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” a rap song filled with the same swagger that would lead the Bears to their first Super Bowl win. The performance would eventually earn the team a Grammy, their second piece of hardware that season.
Not only do Chicagoans know the “Shuffle,” but they also have a favorite verse. Considering Walter Payton was the greatest running back of all time, it’s no surprise his verse was the best — though we are also partial to punter Maury Buford’s excellent cowbell playing.
Even at their best, the ’85 Bears were better football players than rappers, so the lyrics aren’t too hard to learn. You can’t fault them for trying. Besides, it was a charity, a la “We are the World,” so at least they were doing it for a good cause.
Knowing all the lyrics to the Shuffle separates the casual fan from the diehard. A true Chicagoan lives and dies according to the Bears, so consider memorizing the “Shuffle” as part of a Chicago citizenship test, akin to memorizing the preamble to the Constitution in school.
It Still Is, and Forever Will Be, the Sears Tower
In 1973, the city of Chicago became the home of the world’s tallest building. Originally named the Sears Tower, its 108 stories defines the Chicago skyline, and its observation deck is still one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
In 2009, the building’s name was changed. Now officially called the “Willis” Tower, one of the city’s most identifiable landmarks could have had an identity crisis.
But real Chicagoans stepped up and made sure the Sears Tower could still stand tall. Years of stubbornly standing up to Chicago winters and cheering for perennial losers have made us steadfast in the face of adversity. So no matter how many times the tower gets a name change, we will always call it by its true name, the Sears Tower, preferably in a Chicago accent.
If you meet someone talking about visiting the “Willis” Tower, they are not from Chicago. If you are new to the city and want to try and blend in, we recommend forgetting the word “Willis” completely.
Maximize Your Summer
Winters in Chicago are hard, so a true Chicagoan knows how to appreciate the all-too-short warmer months. It’s no coincidence that Chicagoans are famous for their grilling. When you only have three months of warm weather, why waste it by cooking inside? In fact, if you’re getting together with friends during the summer, you bet you’re going to be doing so outside.
Plus, Chicago has such beautiful scenery, including our gorgeous lakeside, so there are plenty of places to really soak up some sun. The city also provides ample activities for celebrating summer. Food trucks, world-famous music festivals and outdoor markets give you plenty of reasons for being outside.
A true Chicagoan would never skip out on these opportunities. If it’s even moderately warm, get outside and be grateful.
Fearlessly Confront the Winter
Even though our winters are so punishing, a true Chicagoan also knows how to handle them. We may gripe and anxiously await the summer, but when it comes to dealing with the countless feet of snow, we get it done.
A Chicagoan knows that on multiple occasions, they will wake up and not be able to see their car as it is buried by the previous night’s snowstorm. That doesn’t stop us from grabbing a shovel and digging it out (although we’ll simultaneously pray that we are digging out the right car).
Don’t Call the “L” a Subway
When you walk around Chicago, it doesn’t take long to notice that the train is overhead. One of the architectural wonders of the city, America’s fourth largest metro system connects Chicagoans and makes traveling around the dense downtown easier.
The term “L” is short for elevated. Unlike New York, our public transport doesn’t travel underground. So why would you call it a subway? Out-of-towners have a habit of calling all public transportation “subways.” Considering the “L” predates the New York Subway, Chicagoans know better.
You get bonus points if you can effortlessly switch lines to get where you’re going!
Always Know Where the Lake Is
Chicago was built on the banks of Lake Michigan. It made sense, since the Lake gave the city access to the shipping opportunities further east. When the Illinois and Michigan Canal was completed, Lake Michigan was connected to the Mississippi River, making Chicago one of the most important shipping hubs in the world.
Development in the city followed the natural geography that made the city so crucial. And because of that, everything in the city can easily be found relative to the Lake’s location.
If you want to tell someone where something is, make sure to use the Lake as a reference point. Tell someone to head toward the Lake, or head down along the Lake.
If you have to ask for directions, you better know where you are relative to the Lake, or else you will be wandering around lost for a long time (hint: the Lake is east).
Finally, just call it “the Lake.” This isn’t Minnesota. We don’t have a thousand of them. We have one. It’s huge, and we all know what it’s called.
This Is Chicago, Not “Chi-town”
When someone says “Chi-town,” you can come to two conclusions. First, they are definitely not from Chicago. Second, they are trying very hard to make you think they are.
The term “Chi-Town” is the nickname a stranger uses to make it appear they’re more familiar with the city than they really are. It appears in travel blogs written by authors trying to make you think they have insider information. But if you use the name, it just makes you sound like a tourist. The truth is, when a true Chicagoan hears someone say “Chi-Town,” a vigorous eye-roll immediately follows. They might as well wear a sign that says “wannabe.” So if you’re trying to fit in, call the city by its name.
And it goes without saying that no one who lives in Chicago calls it the “Windy City.” That’s just silly.
Eat Deep Dish
When it comes to a true Chicagoan’s culinary tastes, none is more well-known than deep-dish pizza.
Baked in a round, deep, steel pan, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is a distinct take on an American favorite. The thick, deep crust holds a heaping helping of cheese and chunky tomato sauce. Over the top in every way, these pies are buttery and decadent.
While New Yorkers love to brag about their foldable pizza, we know a pizza pie should be a pie. That’s why in Chicago’s best restaurants, you eat pizza with a fork. You cut it with a chef’s knife, not a round pizza cutter. Our pizza is too serious and too full of fresh ingredients to be so easily sliced.
People may make fun of us and think our pizza is weird, but frankly, part of being a true Chicagoan is sticking to your guns. We’re the city that cheers for the Cubs, remember? So if you can’t get behind a real deep dish, you might want to rethink your Chicago credentials.
Eat the Best Deep Dish
Not all deep-dish pizzas are created equal. If you’re committed to being a real Chicagoan, you’re going to want to make sure you are eating at the best pizza place in Chicago.
Like all good pizza, Giordano’s didn’t start in Chicago. It started in Italy. Mama Giordano was famed for her “Italian Easter Pie.” When the Giordano family immigrated to Chicago, they brought their approach to this classic Italian dish with them.
Chicago quickly caught on, embracing this unique take on pizza and transforming it into the city’s signature dish. Just like the Bears and the Sears Tower, Chicagoans have come to take great pride in Giordano’s, one of the best restaurants in Chicago.
We take great pride in Chicago, too. This is the city that took in a couple Italian immigrants and made us feel like we were home. That’s why we love feeding this city, crafting pizzas with the same love and care Mama did in the Old Country. We want to return the favor, making people from all over the city feel like they’re home.
If you’re new to Chicago or have lived here your whole life, come in and discover why we are the essential taste of a city that loves being one of a kind. We welcome anyone and everyone, because we know when you taste our pies, you will be lining up to become a true Chicagoan.
Even if you’re a Chicagoan at heart living elsewhere across this nation, you can embrace your true identity. We are committed to helping Chicagoans get a taste of home where ever they live. So order a deep dish from anywhere, and we’ll ship you one!
It’s easy to connect with Giordano’s, one of the best places to eat in Chicago. Like “the Lake” and “the L,” we are an essential part of this city, and any Chicagoan in the know knows who were are.
We welcome the opportunity to get to know you and help you discover what it means to be Chicagoan.