Chris Miksanek: A Chicagoan's Guide to the Med City
Chris Miksanek

2007 Chris Miksanek





It was published in the August 11, 2007 Rochester Post Bulletin.


Chris Miksanek: A Chicagoan's Guide to the Med City



Chris Miksanek: Sweet Home Chicago - A Chicagoan's Guide to the Med CityDiscovering 'Sweet Home Chicago' in Rochester
By Chris Miksanek

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

To recent Chicago arrivals: Welcome. Buongiorno. Witamy serdecznie. And in the native tongue of our fathers, "Let's play two."

Rochester is a place where people from as far south as Tinley Park or as far north as Waukegan who've never been down to Maxwell Street at 3 a.m. to buy a polish and then gone back at 7 a.m. to buy a dozen pairs of dress socks and a waffle iron can proudly call themselves a Chicagoan.

It wasn't all that long ago that this Chi-Town native found himself a stranger in this land where Spam is haute cuisine, goose poop is art and it's never "cooler by the lake."

You'll need some help getting acclimated. That's where I come in. Here, that's called being "Minnesota nice." Back home it was "not minding your own business."


Like Chicago, Rochester grew up around a lake -- Silver Lake to be exact, a jut in the Zumbro River that's reminiscent of the Marquette Park lagoon, only without the sensory delight of coming across a dead body while wading barefoot. It owes much of its fame to William and Charles, two brothers revered worldwide much like our own Joliet Jake and Elwood.


Newcomers commonly complain that Rochester lacks the cultural and entertainment opportunities to which they're accustomed. While it's true that there is no 24-hour bowling or 16-inch softball in this town, anyone who says there is nothing to do has never experienced the adrenaline rush from an afternoon of sorting coat hangers at the thrift store.

Shopping opportunities abound. There's a decent mall and even a "Miracle Mile" (don't get too excited). If that's not enough, the drive to MOA is still quicker than from Elk Grove Village to Water Tower Place.

Hankering for some art? There's always something thought-provoking at the art center, and Zoran Mojsilov's "Meteor" at RCTC -- though not quite on par with Anish Kapoor's "Bean" -- still keeps a lot of passersby scratching their heads in admiration.

And for everyone who subscribes to the Harry Caray philosophy that "You can't beat fun at the old ballpark," we present the Rochester Honkers, or as I like to call them, "better than nothing."


Hungry yet?

In your bouts of homesickness, comfort foods help you to cope.

Pizza lovers can find solace in frozen Home Run Inn pizza carried by most of the grocers in town. Though it loses something in the trip from Piotrowski Park, the sausage is better than the typical Kram-Mar's Delicious Mystery Appetizer you get with frozen pizza. Hy-Vee Barlow also carries Connie's, and you can frequently find Uno's at Aldi and Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart also carries Eli's cheesecake and Papa Charlie's Italian Beef. Jays, the "pip of a chip!" that you can't stop eating, can often be found at Big Lots or The Dollar Tree, where, on a lucky day, you might also come across Maurice Lenell cookies. Close your eyes while you savor the Schnitzel-on-a-stick occasionally found at Gold Rush Days, and you'll swear you're at Berghoff's. OK, that may be a bit of an Ubertreibung.

And finally, a real Chicago hot dog is now available in this town. Local vendors have seen mixed success, probably because of loose adherence to authenticity. Thankfully, former Chicagoan Ira Becker's new downtown Chocolate Twist offers a bona fide Vienna Beef Chicago hot dog.

So there you are, not that far from home, after all, in a town where the climate's similar, but the people are much more polite. Although you may find yourself something of a curiosity for setting out the kitchen chairs to protect the area you just shoveled, they won't make fun of you for mispronouncing "crappie," gagging on lutefisk, or thinking that Garrison Keillor talks too slow.

It's your new home.

And you're very welcome here.

You got a problem with that?

Chris Miksanek was born in Chicago a coupla-two-tree decades ago and migrated to Rochester in 1995.


Absolutely have to have a taste of home?

Put up your dukes. Proclaiming the best of anything edible has always been fighting words in the City of Big Shoulders. But because we would rather eat than tussle -- after all, you can't do the former with a mouth guard or the latter without one -- we usually just agree to disagree.

Here's my list of the best of that which is uniquely Chicago. All these comfort foods can be ordered online; pricey, but still cheaper than therapy.

The Best Chicago Pizza: Gino's East (

The Best Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich: Portillo's (, orders come with an authentic cook's hat).

The Best Chicago Hot Dog: Vienna Beef (, the Ultimate Vienna Lovers kit comes with a Vienna Apron).

How to speak Chicagoese

Do people from other places talk funny? Oh, ya, you betcha dere! But Rochester is a welcoming and inclusive town and longtime residents here should learn a bit of the vernacular to converse with Windy City exports in their own native language. Here's a good start:

Grachki: "Garage key" as in, "Hey, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki?"

Frunchroom: Not a "parlor" or "living room," but in the land of the bungalow, it's a "frunchroom," a name derived, linguists believe, from "front room." Sample usage: "Getottada frunchroom wit dose muddy shoes."

Goes: Past or present tense of the verb "say." For instance, "Then he goes, 'I like this place!'"

Tree: The number between two and four as in, "We were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da udder night."

Use: The plural pronoun "you." Sample: "What time are use coming over?"

Source: Internet, and various family reunions


All material presented here is Copyright 2007 Chris Miksanek
Last updated: August 11, 2007