While Chicago and New Orleans (where I grew up) are clearly distinct and different in many ways, one thing that both cities share in common is that the locals support their own when it comes to food brands (and I don't just mean restaurants; I am specifically thinking of the brands that you'll find in the grocery store aisles).
While I already knew about Chicago's passion for any and all Vienna Beef products, we soon found other good local good brands like Dell'Alpe Italian foods (great giardiniera and a New Orleans-style olive dressing), Vitner's and Jay's for potato chips (the Vitner's Louisiana hot sauce flavor is the real deal), Home Run Inn Pizza (puts other frozen pizzas to shame), Boetje's mustard (reminds me of Zatarain's creole mustard), and Garrett's Popcorn (the Chicago "mix" is unreal). Another local brand on our list to try out is Oberweis Dairy products.
What other local Chicago brands should we check out?
p.s. Mrs. FoodHound and I get a kick out of a section of the local grocery store called "Southern Foods" which is on the same aisle as the ethnic foods. We suddenly sound so exotic.
p.p.s. I did try my first Italian beef sandwich (from Al's Beef in Little Italy) a few weeks ago. It was a messy and delicious treat, but I couldn't get fully into the soggy bread. The nice thing about a good po-boy is that the french bread holds up to the juices and remains flaky on the outside.