Chicago is a great food town and it is getting better everyday.
Since the 1850's, Chicago was known for its great dining. When it became the transportation and food hub of the nation, hotels upped their dining rooms. French chefs and German waiters flocked to work in Chicago.
Chicago is known for inventing or popularizing various food items. The brownie, Chicken ala King, and other specialties were, "Made in Chicago"*.
1.) Chicken ala King: Chicken ala King is one of those dishes many different places and people laid claim to. There are several tales of its origin and name. It was popularized by Chef Joe Colton at the College Inn restaurant in the former Hotel Sherman. Colton was known for his "secret recipe" flavorful chicken broth. The flavor made the dish so popular it was canned and sold in stores nationwide. Chicken ala King, along with Colton's chicken broth led to the College Inn line of foods sold in super markets.
2.) Chicken Vesuvio: Another dish with disputed claims. Several Chicago Italian chefs and restaurants laid claim to inventing this dish. The only thing known, it is similar to a dish cooked in the region surrounding the volcano, Mt. Vesuvio, in Italy.
3.) Hot Dogs: The hot dog is steeped in lore, legend, and myth.
The hot dog evolved from German sausages. There are several accounts of how and who invented what is known as the hot dog sandwich.
Chicago had a large German population during the late 1800's. Austrian-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany are credited to have come up with the idea of selling the sausages in a bun for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. They went on to establish the Vienna Sausage Company in 1900 due to the popularity of the hot dog.
The Chicago Style hot dog, a "garden on a bun", started out on Chicago's Maxwell Street. Jewish vendors would sell a "Depression sandwich," a meal on a bun.
4.) Hamburgers: The hamburger sandwich was made popular at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Hamburgers, cooked ground beef patties or steaks had been around for a while. The idea of the putting a patty between two slices of bread came about because workers at the exposition needed a convenient way to buy and eat their lunch.
5.) Italian beef sandwich: The Italian beef sandwich was invented out of necessity. Italian immigrants took cheaper less tender cuts of beef. They were roasted and simmered in their juices. The beef sliced thin, there would be enough to feed many people. It was popular at the weddings of poor Italians. Beef stands started popping up in in Chicago's Italian neighborhoods. The sandwich became a popular lunch item.
6.) Brownies: The brownie was invented at the Palmer House Hotel. It is another product of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Legend has it that the hotel owner's wife, Bertha Palmer, wanted a chocolate dessert that could be packed in a ladies lunch box for the fair. The chef created a dense cake like confection with walnuts. It was glazed with apricot sauce. A version is still served at the Palmer House today.
7.) Caramel corn: Caramel corn was sold in Chicago since the 1870's. Frederick William Rueckheim sold a mixture of steamed pop corn, molasses, and peanuts at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. This later evolved into Cracker Jack, which was also made in Chicago.
8:) Flaming saganaki: Flaming saganaki was created at the Parthenon Restaurant in 1968. It was the result of saganaki, a Greek and Levant region fried cheese dish. The owner of the Parthenon decided to flambe it table side. It became a show piece and other Greek restaurants in Chicago and nationwide started doing it.
9.) Gyros: Gyros is one of many types of meats cooked on a spit. The technique is thousands-of-years old. It is claimed this method of cooking came out of Greece, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern countries. Chicago restaurant owner, George Apostolou, Papa George, is responsible for its popularity in Chicago and nationwide. He started selling the sandwich and plates in 1965. As its popularity grew, he closed his Parkview Restaurant and opened a facility to manufacture Gyros rounds. Gyros became as popular as the hamburger and hot dog at one point.
10:) Green River: The first time I went into a tavern, I was about 4 years old. My dad took me to a corner tavern at Wolcott and North Avenues. The bartender put a cold glass of Green River in front of me. My dad sipped his beer and I sipped the Green River.
"Born in Chicago. Made in Chicago." Green river was a product of Prohibition. The Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Company was located in Pilsen. They created Green River, a lime based soda with a hint of lemon. They bottled it in beer bottles. It became very popular. At one point the syrup was second in popularity to Coca Cola in soda fountains. OK, OK, soda is not food. But, Green River is made in Chicago.
*"Made in Chicago" was a news segment created by CBS 2, WBBM News. Harry Porterfield was the original reporter for "Made in Chicago".
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