Culture + Style

When in Chicago, It’s Customary to Go Green and Bike Naked (No, Really)

St. Patty’s Day at the Chicago River (Photo: Saraporn/

Every city has its eccentricities, and Chicago is no exception. Here’s some insight into the idiosyncratic customs (some bizarre, some delicious) that make the City of Big Shoulders our kind of town.

I’ll Have My Pizza by the Square, Please

You’re in for a surprise when you order a thin-crust pizza at any of Chicago’s hot spots (we love Vito & Nick’s). Triangle slices don’t exist in this city (save at restaurants that sell strictly by the slice, as well as deep dish joints).

Instead, pies are cut into squares (also known as party-style). Why? No one knows. What we do know is the smaller the piece, the more you can eat.

I Got Dibs

Chicago’s notorious winter is hard enough to manage — factor in street parking after a heavy snowfall and things are bound to get ugly. Chicagoans’ solution is a little something we call “dibs.”

Frustrating to some, life-saving for others, dibs is exactly what it sounds like: locals shovel out spots in front of their residences, then stake their claim with any manner of items.

Lawn and patio furniture are favorites, but you won’t be surprised to see box crates, bicycles, laundry baskets, or orange cones lining neighborhood streets.

It irks many around the city, and, in fact, it’s not legal. But officers are too busy fighting real crime to award tickets to offenders. It’s each Chicagoan for himself.

Where the River Runs Green

With its overwhelming Irish population (immigrants began heading here in the early 1800’s), this city is serious about St. Patty’s.

On parade day (which takes place the Saturday closest to the holiday), thousands of raucous celebrants (both Chicagoans and visitors) in every shade of green flood the streets.

Their first stop is the Chicago River, which is dyed green annually for the occasion. The tradition started with Mayor Richard Daley in the early 1960’s and has continued ever since.

The dye only lasts about five hours, so get to the bridges while you can to have a look.

Hold the Ketchup

You’re likely familiar with Chicago’s beefy love affair. What you might not have heard is what a real Chicago-style dog entails (or, more specifically, doesn’t entail): Ketchup.

That’s right — a true Windy City dog is dressed with sweet neon-green relish, white onions, a dill pickle spear, yellow mustard, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dusting of celery salt for good measure.

I’ll Race You in My Cart

Don’t be alarmed if you look out your window and see crazily clad Chicagoans racing through the streets with tricked out shopping carts.

It’s the CHIditarod, aka our answer to Alaska’s sled race. Chicago’s version doesn’t involve pups, but we make up for it with good deeds: The entire event is for charity; proceeds go toward The Greater Chicago Food Depository and the CHIditarod Foundation.

Where to Grin and Bare It

The only thing more alarming than thousands of locals barreling down the street pushing shopping carts might be the notorious Naked Bike Ride, whose name says it all.

Sure, it’s a riot to watch — but there’s a real purpose: to promote positive body image and to bring attention to people-powered transport (ever important in this day and age).