Whatever your opinion, we apparently used to be. Writing in 1993, Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel noted, "When out-of-towners think of Chicago dining, they tend to think about three things: pizza, ribs and steak." No one would dare question whether pizza and steak still stand triumphantly as iconic Chicago foods. But ribs?
Short of ripping raw flesh from a freshly killed beast in the wild, meat eating doesn't get much more primal than ribs. Sure, chicken wings also have bones, but they are miniature little things one can pick up with two fingers. You can find them on the appetizer section of the menu. A full slab of ribs lands on the table with a thud, like a declaration of true gluttony. They also function as a fair warning to nearby persons to avoid eye contact as things are about to get messy.
I know this from experience, as I ate ribs all over the city and at all kinds of establishments — North Side and South Side, new and old, ones with white tablecloths and ones with paper napkins — and my hands constantly reeked of smoke and meat. How else was I going to figure out whether Chicago still cared about ribs?