As a non-Windy City native, I’ll admit I had some prior conceptions about Chicago. While very many of them came true (Chicago in February can eat shit and die) there’s plenty about this city that’s misunderstood, overrated, or just plain incorrect.
Having spent a couple of solid years here, I feel like I’m ready to delve into what I’ve learned about the city and dispel some of the lies you people told me.
8. It’s so cold all the time, it’s not worth living there
Winters in Chicago suck. By the second week of January, all the hot cocoa and sparkles and warm snuggly feels you get around Christmas time in the city have faded into black, ashy slush on the corner of your street. And February is a hopeless month.
That being said, summer in Chicago is so phenomenally full of life and activities that it completely outweighs the winter months. Rarely have I ever had to worry about looking for something to keep me occupied, as opportunities present themselves on a regular basis, and often you will have to make tough decisions on which you would rather do. Between baseball games, beaches, street festivals, concerts, rooftops, beergardens, house parties and parades, you’re going to actually be searching for some down-time on the couch.
Not to mention there’s a good handful of people that live even further north than Chicago who manage to survive each year. Not just Wisconsin or Minnesota, but try the entire nation of Canada…so you can suck it up.
7. Everyone speaks with a Chee-cah-go accent
I’ve heard plenty of accents in this city, but they’re mostly subtle Minnesota nasal ones, or maybe the occasional O-heavy “Booooze.” While there are certain Chicago language tics and nuances, the majority of this city does not speak like the Bears Superfans, as cool as that may actually seem. While accents get a little more heavy in the Southside and certain other old-school areas, the accent is way turned down compared to the residents of say, Queens or Beantown. Hate to disappoint, but the majority of people you meet will have a basic, indiscernible Midwestern voice with absolutely no traces of regionality.
Maybe the accent is just something you grow into when you become a dad—like the Chicago mustache, which IS a real thing.
6. Violence and corruption lie around every corner
There’s no hiding that Chicago has a violence issue, gun violence in particular. Kanye didn’t call it “Chi-raq” just because he wanted to be overly dramatic (although no one would really be surprised if he did). Despite having some of the strictest gun laws in the country, weapons still find their way onto the streets and in the wrong hands. However, the majority of the north side, near west, and (maybe surprisingly) the downtown areas are remarkably safe, well-patrolled, and relegated to really expected levels of crime (bar fights and smoking weed in the park, basically). Staying safe usually consists of following guidelines you should obey in nearly any city of decent in the world: stay in well-lit, well trafficked areas, don’t travel alone, lock your doors at night, don’t walk around waving money around in the air, use the Batsignal, etc.
The corruption, on the other hand, is unavoidable and usually done behind the scenes and under the table. On the plus side, it’s usually just that kind of pudgy, white-collar, Enron type of crime that usually consists of corrupt politicians, siphoning money out of the Kids Cancer Fund, or gouging Blackhawk ticket sales.
5. There’s only deep-dish pizza in Chicago
False. While the famous deep-dish stuffed pizzas of Lou Malnatti’s, Gino’s East, and Giordano’s have transcended from mere pizza pies into the now legendary Chicago-style pizza, they’re not all the city has to offer. The surplus of Italian heritage in this city, both old and new, lends itself to a variety of styles and tastes. You can find about 40+ different sizes and styles around the area, ranging from Sicilian wood-fired flatbread, to all-but-authentic New York style by-the-slice, to doughy, Detroit-style square pan pizza.
There’s even variations on the traditional Chicago-style that take on a whole new life of their own. Pequod’s melted-cheese crust pizza is the thing that sweet dreams are actually made of, and the wide-range of culinary influences in the city each bring their own unique spin on this staple.
Which brings me to…
4. Chicago food consists simply of Sausages, Pizza, and Steak
Even if this was true, I absolutely wouldn’t care – those are three of the few things in life that can still make me as genuinely and wholeheartedly happy as a child. If this was all the city could offer, I would wholeheartedly embrace it and die peacefully from a quadruple heart attack at the ripe age of 40.
While the Chicago dog is a perfectly beautiful mess, the polish sausage is a staple, and the steaks are most closely compared to the brontosaurus ribs from the Flintstones, there is far more to put on your plate.
Nearly any palate can be accommodated in this city, ranging from conscientious vegan to raging, animalistic carnivore. Chicago is remarkably forward in the food scene, producing top chefs almost yearly in all matter of culinary expertise including molecular gastronomy, farm-to-table restaurants, game meats, new-age American, and every ethnic food known to man, including Ethiopian.
Oh, and don’t forget to thank our Polish friends for pierogis, or as I like to call them: white-people potstickers.
3. Living in the city of Chicago is dirty
Go to LA, look at the smog. Go to Philly and look at all the litter and runoff. Go to New York and look at anything. It’s a huge city with a lot of people living in it, so you’re naïve if you think there isn’t going to be some pollution, but for the most part Chicago keeps pretty tidy. There are more than a handful of parks, far more per capita than New York, and you’ve got beaches cleaner than most on the East coast on a body of water you can actually swim in without worrying about catching something.
Chicago is also pretty progressive when it comes to being green (Thanks Obama) and has many buildings that implement rooftop gardens, clean energy, and responsible recycling processes. Renewable energy for a big city is extremely important in the grand scheme of things, and Chicago has made strides to be progressive.
Everyone thinks of California as being the place where all the tree-hugging organic hippies live, but in reality they’re mostly just hypocrites chugging their cage-free renewable soy-latte quinoa smoothies in blissful ignorance. California has nine cities on Forbes’ list of “America’s 20 dirties cities.” Guess who wasn’t on that list? Chicago.
2. With the highest taxes in the country, it must be expensive to live there.
I’m not going to lie, paying taxes sucks, and I could really do without paying the majority of a bi-monthly paycheck for rent, but in reality Chicago gives you a pretty good bang for your buck. In contrast to other big cities such as New York where a whole paycheck will get you a closet to share with your three closest friends and Trader Joes accepts organs as collateral, the size of apartments and scope of types of places you can find provides a range suitable for every budget. Even more so, if you can avoid eating out five days a week, there’s plenty of reasonable grocery chains such as Jewel and even Aldi (if you’re brave) to help stock the fridge. There’s also plenty of public transportation to help you get around.
1. Having convenient public transportation like the El train must be great.
No. It’s not great. Nothing about the train is great, except your don’t have to park it or drive it. Somewhere between being stuck between two sweaty, inebriated Cubs fans in August and fighting off roving gangs of pigeons for a spot under the heat lamp in January, I could write a novel on how the CTA has completely taken everything good about electric mass transit and ruined it while making it smell vaguely of urine. Ventra Transit is an anagram for “In Satan we trust,” (or it should be, for those of you who tried to prove me wrong) as anyone who has spent more than five minutes on hold with them can attest.
It’s just a perfect example of someone fixing something that wasn’t broken that nobody asked to be fixed, involving unnecessary levels of complexity, thus ensuring nothing will ever work right and charging you to replace cards even if they deactivate it. If that doesn’t at least scream “Corporate Villainy” to you then you may want to reassess your stance on morality.