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The New York Times Needs to Stop Writing About Chicago

The culinary mecca of the Midwest has more than deep-dish pizza and cheesecake.

Food at Chicago’s “premiere food event of the year,” according to the New York Times   Photo: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune

Taste of Chicago returns for what feels like the umpteenth time on July 8 (really it’s the 35th), and the city is already girding itself for the influx of suburbanites and tourists who invade Grant Park to sample “true” Chicago food.

And sure, deep-dish pizza and Eli’s cheesecake are as Chicago as snow in May, but anyone wanting to try real Chicago food knows to stay away from the overpriced pizza slices baking in the summer sun. Nothing against the Taste—it’s great for tourism and does bring some fun acts to perform (this year’s lineup includes Weezer and Spoon)—but it’s pretty low on the “reasons to visit Chicago this summer” list.

Which is why several people (myself included) snorted when the New York Times travel section tweeted  a story yesterday about how Grant Park is preparing for the 2015 Taste.

Like deep-dish pizza itself, it starts with a dubious foundation:

Chicago has been a culinary mecca for quite some time, so it’s only natural that the Taste of Chicago (referred to locally as “the Taste”) plays a major role in the city’s summer psyche.

And slathers on an unhealthy amount of cheese:

“The Taste of Chicago is a great, long tradition in this city,” said Monica Davey, chief of the Chicago bureau of The New York Times. “Before the Taste, there was a precursor to it called ChicagoFest, so it’s been around in some form even longer than it’s officially been around.”

So the source for how this festival “plays a major role in the city’s summer psyche” is … the New York Times’s Chicago bureau chief. And the “culinary mecca” that is Chicago is best experienced with a slice of Connie’s Pizza. I’ll keep that in mind when I next visit New York and experience its summer psyche as mediated by Famous Ray’s and street meat.

It’s easy to rip the New York Times for being naive about places outside Manhattan (the paper’s coverage of Brooklyn alone is very entertaining). It’s also not the first time the Times has embarrassed itself to the locals (read Sam Worley’s great piece in the Reader about a 2012 article, “Single in Chicago”).

To be fair, the paper did a great job in 2014 with its “36 Hours in Chicago”—most likely because it was written by someone who’s actually spent some time here. Much better than its previous attempt at the same trip back in 2010, with this awesome correction at the bottom:

Correction: October 3, 2010

The 36 Hours column last Sunday, about Chicago, contained several errors. The well-known shopping district along Michigan Avenue is the Magnificent Mile, not the Miracle Mile. The distance from the Loop to Logan Square is five to six miles, not two, and the distance to the popular Hyde Park neighborhood is about seven miles, not four. The academic calendar of the University of Chicago operates on a quarterly — not semester — system. And the Red Bar Comedy Show — not Ontourage nightclub — offers performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and 10 p.m. — not just on Saturdays at 10. (Red Bar is part of the Ontourage nightclub complex.) 

Several errors, indeed.


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