A Guide to Being a True Chicagoan



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.

However, 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.

What Is the Meaning of Chicagoan?

Put simply, “Chicagoan” refers to someone who lives in Chicago. However, it takes way more than just living in the city to consider yourself a part of this group. Being a Chicagoan is a lifestyle, and you have to be willing to embrace tried-and-true traditions and possess a stubborn will to back what you believe. Here, you can start your journey to becoming a true Chicagoan and learn the do’s and don’ts of navigating our wonderful city. 

Some Essentials You Have to Do

Chicago is a wonderful city with a diverse population. Despite the many different cultures that thrive here, there are several traditions, sayings, strong opinions and actions that bring us together as true Chicagoans. Take a look at some of our essentials to help you fit in:

1. 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 Guaranteed Rate Field, formerly known as U.S. Cellular Field and as Comiskey to the old-school fans. Then, there are the Cubs, the “North Siders,” who play at Wrigley Field.

Both teams are old, and both are known for wallowing through years of futility. The Cubs are perhaps most famous for going 108 years without winning a championship, a dry spell that was finally broken in 2016. The White Sox ended their 88-year drought in 2005. The team also has 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 that the Blackhawks have six Stanley Cups and that 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. Just don’t ask about how the Bears have been doing recently. 

2. Learn the Lyrics to ‘The Shuffle’

If you’re 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.

Chicagoans don’t just know the “Shuffle” — 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 for 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 — no matter what happens during the season — so consider memorizing “The Shuffle” as part of a Chicago citizenship test, akin to memorizing the preamble to the Constitution in school.

3. 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 to get outside.

A true Chicagoan would never skip out on these opportunities. If it’s even moderately warm, get outside and be grateful. Even in the fall, there are several things you simply have to do before the winter kicks off.

4. Fearlessly Confront the Winter

Even though our winters are punishing, a true Chicagoan 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 because the previous night’s snowstorm covered it. 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. Also, don’t be shocked when you see tables, chairs and similar objects holding parking spaces, especially during the winter. Although not technically legal, when it comes to keeping a spot in front of homes, Chicagoans will make sure no one else can take what’s theirs. 

5. 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 Canals were 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, you can easily find anything in the city 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.

6. Eat Deep-Dish Pizza

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.

Things You Should Never Do in Chicago

The things you don’t do are just as important as the things you do. Sometimes, a simple word is all it takes to pinpoint a tourist or a newbie. Take a look at some of these common mistakes so you can avoid them:

1. 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 and one of the largest metro systems in the U.S., the L 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 (The first L train ran in 1892, while New York’s subway opened in 1904), Chicagoans know better.

You get bonus points if you can effortlessly switch lines to get where you’re going!

2. 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,” either. That’s just silly.

3. Forget the Ketchup on Your Hot Dog

Be sure to order a Chicago-style hot do

If you get a hot dog, be sure to order it “Chicago-style.” Similar to ordering a cheesesteak in Philly, we have a unique way of ordering our hot dogs. Our delicious combo features green relish, pickles, yellow mustard, tomato slices, onion and celery salt. The poppy seed bun pulls the entire thing together. There is no need for ketchup, and ordering any will immediately highlight you as an out-of-towner. Trust us, it’s better this way.

4. Never Mispronounce’ Pączki’

Pączki are Polish doughnuts, but even non-Polish Chicagoans know how to pronounce this word. These delicious bites are common on Fat Tuesday, and saying the name right rather than pointing at the display case will help you stand out from the non-Chicagoans. The correct pronunciation is close to “pownch-key” or “paunch-key,” but acceptable variations are “poonch-key” and “punch-key.” 

5. Call It by Its Name: 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 define the Chicago skyline, and its observation deck is still one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

In 2009, the building’s name changed. Now officially called the “Willis” Tower, one of the city’s most identifiable landmarks could have had an identity crisis.

Luckily, 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 to blend in, we recommend forgetting the word “Willis” completely.

6. Don’t Forget Your Six-Pack at Home

Chicago is one of the few BYOB (bring your own beverage) cities in the United States. Many eateries are either waiting for a liquor license or don’t want to deal with the wait times and fees to get one. This means it’s common to see groups roll up to their next dine-in spot with a six-pack. If you’re someone who likes to have a drink with dinner, don’t make the mistake of forgetting your beverage of choice at home. 

Eat the Best Deep-Dish Pizza at Giordano’s

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 of 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 wherever 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 in-the-know Chicagoan knows who we are.

We welcome the opportunity to get to know you and help you discover what it means to be Chicagoan.