Do Life Well

Practice Social Distancing by Downloading These Chicago Podcasts

Steve Dolinsky at Labriola. / Photo courtesy of “Pizza City USA”

In the midst of quarantine and social distancing, now is the perfect time to hole up and disappear into a new podcast. While many businesses in the city are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, one way to support local creatives is by downloading a Chicago-based podcast or two! From behind-the-scenes looks into the local food world to eccentric facts and questions, these are some of the best Chicago podcasts to listen to.

Deep-dish pizza at Labriola. / Photo courtesy of Pizza City USA

Hosted by local food writers Maggie Hennessy and Ari Bendersky, both of whom I’m lucky to call friends, Overserved is a delightful and fascinating dive into the world of food and the talented folks who pour themselves into it. Much of the show focuses on Chicago chefs and other industry forces like sommeliers and owners, but there are also episodes that go beyond city limits, like the one with Austin-based Top Chef alum Kristen Kish. It’s an interesting and immersive look at the industry and all its ups and downs, with firsthand perspectives from insightful guests.

Pizza City With Steve Dolinsky 
I’ve long been a fan of Dolinsky’s podcast The Feed, which he cohosts with chef Rick Bayless. Here’s another excellent offering from one of Chicago’s foremost food authorities, and you can probably guess its focus. Inspired by his book Pizza City USA, in which Dolinsky completed an impressively in-depth report on the city’s widespread pizza scene, his Pizza City podcast spotlights different pizzerias and pizzaiolos across the country. Learn about the origins of Chicago’s Home Run Inn chain, hear Dolinsky chat with Paulie Gee of his namesake Brooklyn pizzeria, and follow along as he embarks on an eating tour of New Haven, Connecticut’s most famed eateries.

Good Beer Hunting 
Craft beer is a huge deal everything in the country, but especially in Chicago, home to more craft breweries than any other city in the U.S. Which is why Chicago-bred Good Beer Hunting, hosted by Michael Kiser, is such an apropos hit. If you’re someone with even a remote interest in beer, you’ll find plenty to geek out about, as episodes explore a myriad of topics and feature enlightening interviews with industry experts from all over.

Courtesy of WBEZ Chicago, Nerdette is pure joy and giddy escapism, thanks in large part to the charisma and general pleasantness of host Greta Johnsen. It’s all about nerding out about different topics, especially books, authors, and written sources of inspiration. The show is interspersed with heartwarming interviews, as well, like the episode “A Love Letter to Cabbage,” wherein chef and cookbook author Abra Berens talks about her veggie-packed book, Ruffage.

Photo courtesy of Curious City/Facebook

After starting out as Chewing the Fat, top-notch Chicago reporters Louisa Chu (Chicago Tribune) and Monica Eng (WBEZ Chicago) have renamed their podcast Chewing, covering all things food and health. The two have a charming, welcoming rapport that makes you feel like you’re all hanging out at a dining table together, and episodes are always as informative as they are fun and fascinating. Topics have included the history and lore of Chinese-American food, the background of the Italian Christmas Feast of the Seven Fishes, and a look at biscuit desserts at Chicago restaurants Superkhana International and Thattu.

Curious City
Have you ever wandered around Chicago and wondered why there aren’t more Thai restaurants. Or what the history of Harold’s Chicken is. Or what makes the city’s dating scene unique. Or that old classic: How to deal with winter. All of these questions and much more are answered in this popular WBEZ Chicago podcast that focuses on different musings with each episode. It’s a fun and inviting way to learn more about the city—and the Midwest at large—with topics we often take for granted or too frequently overlook.