Life / April 9, 2014

10 Awesome Things I Miss About Chicago

Seven months ago my family and I moved from the suburbs of Chicago to Nashville. It has been, all in all, a great move for us. We love it here. That being said, there are things about Chicago that simply cannot be replaced or for which apt substitutes cannot be found. Absence, it is said, makes the heart grow fonder. That’s mostly because absence makes you stop taking things for granted. Here are 10 things I miss about Chicago.

1) Portillo’s

My mouth waters even as I think about the Italian beef sandwiches and Chili dogs. Nashville offers some notably delicious food options (Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, anyone?), but Portillo’s is an artery clogger above all other artery cloggers. Moving on before I tear up.

2) Snow Plows and Salt Trucks

My children have missed about 10 days of school this year because of a grand total of a ½ inch of snow and one decent ice storm. That’s because they don’t have salt trucks here. A little salt, a little sprinkling of the road with sand, and bingo!, no more missed school.

3) The Lakefront

Nashville has rivers, hills and lakes and is generally a wonderful place to do things outside. But nothing, and I do mean nothing, compares to the downtown lakefront in Chicago. It is beautiful in every season. It is great for relaxing or exercising, photographs or joy rides. It provides some of the best views of one of the greatest skylines in the world.

4) The Prairie Path

Chicago’s prairie path system is incredible. I got so used to jumping on my bike and riding for miles basically straight from my back door on well-kept trails that moving to a place without it has caused near-withdrawal. The prairie path is a well-known, but sorely under appreciated gem of the Chicago area.

5) Caribou Coffee

No, it’s not the best coffee, and Nashville is loaded with great coffee shops. But Caribou is the best coffee chain, that place you can find easily when you need a caffeine fix of at least moderate quality. In Nashville it’s hipster coffee or Starbucks. I miss Caribou. Because Starbucks tastes like burnt dirt with a shot of toe jam.

6) Trader Joe’s

In a town full of hipsters, yuppies, and soccer mom’s it is a travesty (a TRAVESTY, I say!) that the Nashville area has only a single Trader Joe’s. I miss the peanut butter cups and mesquite bbq chips so much I’m getting the shakes just typing this. MAKE THIS RIGHT, Trader Joes!

7) Derrick Rose

. . .but probably not as much as Chicagoans miss him (zing!). Ok, that was low, but I truly do miss watching one of the 3 or 4 most exciting basketball players in the world bust his butt every night for his hometown team. Derrick, here’s hoping you come back healthy.

8) Real NFL Fans

I hate the Chicago Bears with the heat of a thousand forest fires. And the reason I hate them is because they are a rival of my favorite team, the Vikings, but mostly because of their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, obnoxious, pretentious, ignorant fans. But you know what? I miss the passion and devotion of those idiot fans. The Tennessee Titans will always be second fiddle to SEC football around here (and lower paid too). People here sort of care about their team, but my life has a void where rivalry once lived. I need the sparring, the angst, the annoyance. It makes football season so much better.

9) The Metra and the El

Public transportation is a luxury, and Chicago’s is pretty decent. You can take a train from pretty much anywhere to anywhere. Sure they stink like b.o. and run late. Sure they’re always too hot or too cold. But they exist and they run. You can live in Chicago with no car or function as a one-car family easily. Not so in most other places, including here. I miss my 40 minute train rides to and from work during which I could read, write, or sleep. Now I have to try to avoid the world’s worst drivers and hope I get to work unscathed . . . or without scathing someone else out of unabashed rage. 

10) Baseball

I hope the White Sox lose every game and I care little about the Cubs, but Chicago is an electric baseball town. The rivalries, the atmosphere at Wrigley, the passion of the fans, the daily TV broadcasts, the ease with which one can go to a game – it’s all great. Opening day is a holiday in Chicago. Riding the Metra into the city before a Cubs weekend game is like a 40-minute tailgate party. Watching White Sox games on TV is so awfully annoying it’s entertaining. When the teams are good the excitement is palpable. When the teams are bad, the diehards don’t hide. Chicago gets baseball. I miss that.

 BONUS – 2 Things I Don’t Miss

Deep Dish Pizza

The most overrated food on the planet is served at Gino’s and Giordano’s. Chicago deep dish pizza is nasty. Everyone who visits the city wants to get some. Skip it. Go get Italian Beef instead and thank me later. Deep dish pizza is the biggest tourist trap in Chicago (with Navy Pier being a close second).


I’ll leave it at this: I picked the right time to leave the cruel climes of the Midwest. You know you’re in a good place when people think 40 degrees is cold and below freezing is bitter. Feel free to join me. Tennessee has lots of room and pretty nice people too.



Apr 09, 2014

[…] Barnabas Piper. 10 Awesome Things I Miss About Chicago. […]

Apr 09, 2014

The husband, toddler-daughters and I are taking a mini-vacation to Wheaton, for our first time. While deep dish pizza wasn’t on the list, Italian beef definitely is now! Plows/Salt trucks and Real NFL fans made us laugh. 🙂

Apr 09, 2014

Now you know why I wanted to meet up at Portillos whenever I was in town. And the Prairie path…yup, that’s a good one too. Of course in MO I had the Katie trail which went all the way across the state. Here, it’s all mountain(y) trails which I like better, but sometimes you just want a nice smooth gravel ride. No need go fret though, you’ll find things in Nashville to under appreciate in no time at all!

Apr 09, 2014

Just at at Portillo’s today….Chocolate Cake!!!! (Yum!)

I liked your list, but disagree with you about deep dish pizza and Italian beef. I grew up in Philly, so Italian beef is a third rate substitute for a good Philly cheese steak. But I love Giordano’s deep dish!!

Glad you are doing well in Nashvegas!

    Apr 09, 2014

    Cheese Steak and Italian Beef are entirely different, Keith. Both are excellent. Deep dish pizza is awful. Except Lou Malnati’s.

Apr 09, 2014

Barnabas, you hit the nail on the head.

Apr 09, 2014


I share your fond longing of Nashville and agree on everything except the a) inexplicable Viking fandom, b) lack of a genuine pizza palet (Yes on Lou’s but no on Giordanos and Ginos?, cmon!). Seriously though, nothing, nothing like the gorgeous Lakefront.

Apr 10, 2014

You just made my day! You nailed it!!! Just last night we were laughing about how often we’d be at Portillos if there was one in Oregon! We miss Chicagoland! After having our kids there, attending Moody and my husband grad school in Wheaton we often miss this great city and it’s suburbs! The Prairie Path, Portillos, The Lakefront, Michigan Ave, The Cubs, The Bears, Mt. Trashmore (took our youth group skiing there! Ha!) and the salted roads were pristinely safe while our driveways had feet of snow to shovel daily. Our street in Wheaton, a culdesac, was plowed and salted multiple times a day! It truly was amazing! I think we loved the Giordano’s and Luminati’s for the strange novelty of it and the people’s defense of it to their deaths! So funny! The big 4 not on your list but on mine were taking all our guests (they will come for Chicago! Never had so many guests!) up the John Hancock and having a sandwich in the bar with amazing views, The Grand Lux Cafe on Michigan Avenue, and of course our beloved MBI and Wheaton College! A blessed 7 years for us!

Apr 10, 2014

Next time I’m in Chicago, I’m making a special trip to Portillo’s to stuff my face and text you a picture. Just cause.

Apr 14, 2014

Well done, Barnabas, that is until the deep dish pseudo-pizza praise. Someday we’ll have to get some New York pizza together and correct this confusion. Please send our warm regards to Leslie. God bless you guys!

    Apr 15, 2014


    New York Pizza is real pizza – far superior o that pile of goo Chicago calls pizza.

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