Entries in Chicago (7)


Photo Friday

"Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” ~Neil Gaiman



Chicago Midway Airport

Chicago, IL, USA

September 2014



Eating Chicago

The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it. - Hubert H. Humphrey

One of the things that must be enjoyed while visiting the city of Chicago are its great selection of restaurants.  Never have I been disappointed in a meal out in that city.  There are the obvious choices of deep dish pizza (Gino's East, Giordano's, Uno's, or Lou Malnati's) or the award winning fine dining locations such as Charlie Trotter's, Alinea and Everest.  But what's great about this city is that every neighborhood has it's own gem.  Great little hole in the wall places which make you want to return again and again. 

Our trip started off with a bachelorette dinner party at Quartino- a great Italian restaurant and wine bar on State Street.  We had a large group of girls and shared a lot of small plates of salads, pasta and appetizers before splitting pizzas.  Add a couple of bottles of red and white wine and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.  I would definitely go back to try some of their specialty items or chef recommended as our group stuck to basic items with mass appeal.  The bride in our group said it was one of her favorites, even after five years of living & eating in Chicago.



 Our next planned meal was the bridal luncheon held at Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse on West Kinzie - named for the Hall of Fame's baseball announcer and decorated with baseball, Cubs and Chicago memorabilia.  It was a very masculine setting for a ladies luncheon but the food showed their ability to appeal to all appetites.  We had a choice of three entrees (chicken, crab or vegetarian) and I opted for the crab cake which was an excellent dish.   


Friday evening we were on our own and one of my friends made reservations for our group at Bin 36 on North Dearborn - we had some locals joining us for dinner and they whole heartedly approved of the restuarant choice.   Any restaurant that's motto starts with "drink wine, live well, have fun" is tops in my book.  And we did.  Drink wine, that is.  I felt like we had walked into a great wine bar that decided to serve food to show how well their wines go with food.  And to be honest, I don't think I was far off.  They had a focus on their wines paired with local and fresh ingredients, including cheese so we started the meal off with cheese flights and individual wine pairings.


I continued with my theme of New Zealand wines, choosing their flight entitled "USA vs NZ" - all of their pairings were cleverly named ("Italian Studs" "Bubbles" "Express Yourself" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" to name a few) - I love it when people allow fun to be in all areas.  No need to take it all so seriously. 


After our starters, I had a meal of two small plates - oysters and roasted chicken roulade versus one of the main entrees.  And honestly, I wish their had been some type of sampler menu.  On our table was braised rabbit strogonaff (delish), steamed mussels, the house burger, pork chops, and seared scallops.  All of which smelled, looked and tasted devine.  I love being at a table with people who share their food.   When dining at such a good place, you can't expect to try everything and yet, you want to.  We tasted and passed around all of our dishes which made for a great meal. 

On Saturday, after the wedding and before the reception, we had time to kill and planned a trek to Giordana's for Chicago deep dish pizza.  We had strategically planned a later breakfast so we'd last through the ceremony but be hungry afterwards.  I know the restaurant was thrilled when we walked in and asked for a table for 14.  They accomodated us and soon we were noshing on fried cheese and greek salads while waiting on our pizzas. 


I'll be honest, I prefer a Brooklyn style pizza but it's still a treat to be out with my friends, in one of my favorite cities, eating something that's not available in my home state of Georgia.  Plus, it's still really, really good.  As one of the 'known' restaurants for deep dish pizza, Giordano's does it right.  We were seated next to the big open window looking into their kitchen where the pizzas were being made so we were able to see the action.  And when our 3 piping hot pizzas appeared at our table, we instantly got quiet.


The day following the wedding, I headed north to my old stomping grounds for breakfast at one of my favorite diners in Old Town.   Nookies was one of my favorite places when I lived in Chicago - their Old Town location was right behind my apartment building so I know I tried everything on their menu at least once.  A great, casual place with an old school diner feeling menu which serves breakfast all day, it's a great place to meet up with friends and it's got counter seating if you're on your own.  I enjoyed a yummy smoked guoda fritatta with carmelized onions, mushrooms and bacon.  It was delish and a great way to end my culinary tour of Chicago.  Well, at least for this trip. 



"Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world." - Frank Lloyd Wright

My younger sister is an architect and for a while had a slight obsession for all things Frank Lloyd Wright which brought us together in his and my love of Chicago.  The past, present and future architecture of this city is thoughtful, well planned and stunning.  Each new building blends with the architecture standards of those who came before and each view of the city is stunning. 


One of the best ways to see the city is on the river - several tour companies operate a river architecture tour.  You get a great view of the buildings, the stories behind them and their design - on a pleasant day, it's good to be on the water and relax.  The only one I've personally tried is the Original Architecture Tour operated by Wendella.  For $28, I consider it a bargain to see the city, not sit in traffic and be informed by a well educated staff.  When I first moved to Chicago, I did the tour to learn about my new home and later that summer, we kayaked down the river at night to see the fireworks from Navy Pier.  Another great way to see the city and experience the fireworks without the tourist trap feeling.  Do, however, wear old clothing because the riverwater is a little dirty...        


But one of my favorite things about travel is the wandering and wondering... I love looking at how others live and imagining my life like theirs.  It's the wandering that keeps me going, that catches my eye to see and taste all of the new places.  That and the food.  It's looking at the Marina Towers and trying to imagine what it's like to either work or live in a completely round building, wandering how you park your car in a round parking garage and how cool it would be to try out that life.  It's a bit vouyeristic but it's what keeps me going.  And for $278,000 you could purchase a one bedroom unit in this building and see for yourself.  


One of the greatest areas in Chicago, known near and far to every serious shopper is the Magnificent Mile, where shoppers delight in the retail options found in this area running north from the Chicago River to Oak Street.  Smelling of Garrett's Popcorn and filled with different languages, anyone visiting the Windy City for the first time must make this strip of the city a must see.   Historic and well known landmarks within this area are the Water Tower, the Drake Hotel, the Hancock Tower, the original Marshall Field's Building, and a festival devoted to shopping.  Another great example of city planning, the Mag Mile was an original part of the plan for the city and helps to maintain it's retail base. 


         (Image of Chicago's Magnificent Mile courtesy of ChicagoNow's website)

Currently, on the Mag Mile, it's Tulips on the Mag Mile and everyone enjoys the beautiful blooms in the median planters, celebrating the return of springtime to Chicagoland.  Other seasons, such as Christmas Holidays, sees more than 1 Million Lights in a festival that's more than 40 years old, having a procession led by Mickey Mouse and is consider the start to the nation's holiday season.  It's a festive place to do your holiday shopping and I remember loving the hustle & bustle with the snowflakes just starting to fall during my December there.


  a picture of the beautiful tulips found on the magnificent mile in chicagoland this spring - shot on my iPhone


Where I'm Going

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends." - Maya Angelou

So today I'm off to Chicago - one of my all time favorite American cities... I once lived there for almost a year (actually when I started this blog, I was there).  It's a city that has a lot to offer (theater, restaurants, concerts, architecture and more) but I find it to be so managable and friendly to visitors.  Everytime I've been lost or turned around, someone has offered to help and pointed me in the right direction.  It's less overwhelming than New York City, an easier flight than San Francisco, easier to get around than Los Angeles and I've never been to Austin (another American city I think I'd like).   


From my home airport, Atlanta, it's an easy flight just over two hours from gate to gate.  I personally fly to Midway since my home airline of choice, Delta has flights throughout the day (about every other hour) so I have time options.  They offer fligths to O'Hare as well but Midway is usually much more managable and less crowded.  Both airlines connect to the city through the "el' or elevated train system - Orange Line for Midway or Blue Line for O'Hare.  So for $2 you're on your way to the city - a cab ride from Midway to the Chicago loop is about $34 and from O'Hare is about $38.  While both are reasonable, the trains are easy, timely and safe.  Plus you get to see a lot of the city by traveling in this way.  For your budget travelers, it's a dream. 


Once you've made it to the loop (Chicago's downtown area - shown in the el map above), you can take any of the other trains (blue, brown, green, pink, purple, red or orange) to your next desitination. Chicago's transportation system also includes a great bus system that connects all of the neighborhoods. When I lived in Old Town but worked in the loop, I took a bus to work everyday and then, if the weather was nice, I'd walk home. That's one of my favorite things about the city - it's walkability. Before I moved there, it was one of my requirements in looking for a new place to live. I didn't want to bring my car, in fact, I wanted to sell my car to help with moving expenses. So being able to move around the city without one was a must.


Obvious things to take in while in Chicago are a Cubbie game, see Second City, eat deep dish pizza, sail Lake Michigan, visit Navy Pier, shop the Magnificant Mile, and try a Chicago dog.  There's a local brewery, Goose Island that offers tours and tastings.  Shedd Aquarium, Natural History Museum, Lincoln Park zoo, Millineum Park concerts (in the summer) and ice skaring (in the winter) and so much more.  It's a great city for a weekend but there's plently to do, see and eat for a full vacation. If you're looking for something different than your 'normal' trip to the beach this year, visit the Windy City and see why it's one of my favorites.


Planning my next Trip

You may say that I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one. - John Lennon

My two favorite parts of a trip are before I go and after I'm back - I love the anticipation of the trip, the planning and arranging of the details of my trip.  And once I've gone, I love reliving the adventures and telling others of my experiences. I'm sure there are people out there that would say I don't enjoy my actual trip but I think it's that I enjoy all aspects of a trip, from formulating the idea to searching for flights to sitting at the airport.  All of it is interesting to me.



My next trip is to the 'Windy City' for a college friend's wedding so it'll be a trip in a great city plus a girlfriend reunion all in one.  I'm staying with a friend for part of the time who I know from my camp counselor days and I have an appointment at a bridal salon to try on the wedding dress of my dreams! Multi-purpose trip much?  I know a lot of my time will be taken up by wedding events and I am excited for all of those events but there are tons of places I want to go to in Chicago.  I lived there from 2007 - 2008 so I have several old haunts to revisit (pizza to eat, beers to drink, dancing to do in Boystown...)   Need I say more?  So this trip will be a little different than a normal visit to a city.



But even, with all of that said, I'm doing a little research and planning because it's what I do and I enjoy thinking about all the fun I'm going to have.  The bride has also been planning and thinking of her guests like a good hostess - yesterday I received an email with a google map attached, with tiny icons for all of the places important for the wedding guests.  Including the closest Gino's East location!  Chicago deep dish pizza - here I come!