Monday, May 2, 2016
We recently returned from a wonderful 6 night stay in Chicago and ate SO well. Chicago is a foodie city! My itinerary consisted of 3 restaurants a day(breakfast, lunch, dinner) and little else. Thankfully, we found things to do in between meals but the meals were definitely one of the highlights!
One thing we learned quickly is that location really is important. While there were tons of restaurants that sounded delicious, the thought of walking a mile or two, navigating bus stops, or paying for an Uber ride usually ended up killing the meal decision - with the exception of 1 spot. Thankfully, we were near some really great restaurants in the Near North Side part of town. We stayed at the Omni Hotel (fantastic!) and loved the location.
After our early flight in, we walked the two blocks for Saturday brunch at Beatrix. The restaurant has a bakery/coffee bar + table service. Evidently during the week, they also have a market restaurant that sells food in a salad bar type format by the pound.
The interior is airy, rustic, and casual. Jason was actually seated on a velvet sofa at our table - all the furniture was mix-matched.
I ordered a chai soy latte - it was delicious (and cheaper than Starbucks!)
For breakfast, Jason ordered the green chile enchiladas with scrambled eggs, roasted poblano peppers, baby kale, chihuahua and pepperjack cheese. I was immediately jealous.
I ordered the quinoa cakes with poached eggs and tomato basil sauce. It was delicious!
This was two thumbs up for us. Great service, reasonable prices, and good location.
For lunch that day, we walked over to Shake Shack. The last time we were in NYC, we missed our opportunity to try it so we were excited to finally get to! The place was an absolute madhouse on a beautiful Saturday afternoon so we took it back to our hotel to enjoy. I actually ate there twice on our trip - another time later in the week during our conference lunch break. MUCH less crowded on a weekday!
I loved the burgers, fries, and their tea was delicious. I don't really do dairy so can't attest to the shakes but the flavors sounded awesome! My friend ordered a shake and she seemed to love it. We need one of these in Charlotte :)
Later that night, we walked to XOCO, a Rick Bayless casual restaurant. He has several spots in Chicago but this one had been recommended as inexpensive but just as delicious. It's small, but even on a Saturday night we did not have a wait. You order at the counter and a hostess reserves a table for you - no table stalking needed!
To start, we ordered guacamole with bacon & queso fresco - delish!
I ordered the ahogada sandwich, which was carnitas and black beans in a tomato-chile broth. This reminded me of a french dip sandwich, in that it was amazing dipped in the broth. The broth was slightly spicy but just enough to give a nice kick at the end. The pork was tender and flavorful and the bread was perfectly grilled.
Jason ordered the cubana sandwich, which had smoked pork loin, bacon, black beans, avocado, jack cheese, and mustard. He said it was a bit spicy but delicious.
On the way home - as if we hadn't eaten enough in one day - we stopped by Eataly. This was one of our favorite spots in NYC and while this was a smaller location, it was not nearly as crowded as the one in NYC seemed to stay. We checked out the Nutella bar:
And the temporary Limoncello bar:
And all the other goodies they have!
In our first day adventures, Jason spotted Ditkas, one of Mike Ditkas restaurants. He's evidently a legendary football guy :) Since they had a decent breakfast menu, we had Sunday breakfast there before heading to the Cubs game. We ate in the dining room (they had outdoor seating, dining room, or lounge/bar area to choose from):
I ordered eggs benedict, because if it's on the menu I can't order anything else. It was good!
Jason ordered biscuits and sausage gravy, which he liked. The gravy had a lot of flavor!
This was a nice spot; easy to get into, close to our hotel, and reasonably priced.
After a day of sightseeing, we were starving so we stopped into Giordano's for some deep dish pizza! You need to know that deep dish takes a looooong time to bake. Like, 45 minutes, so you might as well order a coke + an appetizer. Thankfully, the place has Dr. Pepper (Texas girl signing in!) and fried mozzarella sticks so we were good to go while we waited.
The pizza is ordered by the pie, and getting us to agree on a pizza is a miracle! We went with a meat pizza and it was loaded with layers of cheese and meat. Jason was in heaven! I pulled out most of the meat, piled it on his plate, and enjoyed the bread and cheese. I'm not much on pizza but I thought it was tasty! 1 slice must have weighed 5 pounds and I can't even begin to imagine the calorie count...
The next afternoon, we found ourselves hungry and at the Macy's on State St. They have lots of food options but we stopped at the Seven on State St food court area and ordered from Frontera Fresco, a Rick Bayless spot.
I ordered the chipotle shrimp quesadilla, which came with a side salad. It was flavorful, delicious, and inexpensive! Jason also ordered a quesadilla and liked his, too. At 2pm on a Monday, this place was deserted and a nice spot to rest after lots of walking.
That night my conference began so we walked over to Jake Melnick's Corner Tap for a quick dinner. The weather was gorgeous so we scored an outside table. This was probably the only real miss of the week. While the service started out great, she disappeared halfway through our meal and I actually had to leave him at the table waiting for the check in order to make my conference on time.
The menu was expansive and fairly reasonable in price. He ordered BBQ pork nachos and he liked them. Huge portion - we could have split them!
I ordered a chicken sandwich that was supposed to be marinated and grilled. What they neglected to mention was that between the marinating and grilling, someone rubbed cayenne pepper all over it. My face nearly melted off trying to eat it. The chicken was also not cooked as thoroughly as I like so the texture was unpleasant towards the center of the sandwich. I gave up and noshed on his nachos instead.
Overall? We wouldn't go back.
On Tuesday, I did lunch with a friend and we stopped into Saks Fifth Avenue, located right across the street from our conference, to dine at Sophie's.
The cafe is on the 7th floor looking out onto Michigan Ave. It's bright, airy, and really lovely.
In Chicago dollars, it wasn't anymore expensive than the multitude of spots surrounding us but perhaps had nicer ambience and better service.
I ordered the sandwich and soup combo, which also had a mixed green salad. I chose the mushroom cappuccino soup and the tuna salad sandwich - both were delicious. My friend ordered a sandwich and fries - she chose the togarashi fries so we could try them. They were tasty but very spicy!
Judging by the lunch crowd, this may be a hidden gem! It was really nice with great service. Reminded me a bit of the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus!
That night, we decided to try Sayat-Nova, a local Armenian restaurant recommended to us by some friends at the conference. It's a small, narrow spot located just off Michigan Ave. It's dark and cave-like inside and on one end, had a small jazz band performing.
We love baba ghannouj - and usually fight over it - but this version was mostly flavorless. The bread was good, though!
I ordered the beef kebabs, served with a cup of red lentil soup. The soup was delicious!
The beef was incredibly tender and a quality cut of meat. Loads of flavor!
Jason ordered the chicken couscous and was disappointed in his selection. The couscous needed a sauce and the one that accompanied it was too spicy to use. The chicken was tasty, though.
The service was hit and miss but overall, we'd dine there again. The live music was a plus!
For dinner the next night, we landed on the Grand Lux Cafe. I realize this is a chain spot but there aren't any near us so I figure it doesn't count :) It's owned by the same group as the Cheesecake Factory, and you can tell once you get inside. Big menu, huge restaurant, over-the-top interior, etc. We scored and were seated right at the windows facing Michigan Ave.
I ordered the almond crusted trout and it was delicious!
Jason ordered the cedar planked BBQ salmon, and he liked it. Guess we were feeling fishy?
The service was great - some of the best of the week - and the food was tasty. Chain or not, it hit the spot.
Thursday brought my foodie highlight of the week - dinner at Girl and the Goat!
Even booking a reservation 2 months out, the best I could do was a 4:45pm reservation. Unlike our grandparents, we don't typically have dinner that early BUT it worked out perfect! We ate early that day, explored the entire Museum of Science and Industry until nearly closing time, and then took an Uber car to the restaurant. By the time we arrived, we were starving.
The interior is beautiful - tall ceilings, industrial modern tables, and great artwork. We lucked out and were seated at a two topper right at the front window. Everyone who food blogs knows natural light is where it's at ;) I was afraid it'd be high end and stuffy but it was anything but. Our waitress was friendly and casual, explaining the menu and advising us to order around 4 items for 2 hungry people (we ended up with 5).
The menu was separated into vegetables, fish, meat, bread, oysters, and goat.
It was SO hard to choose but we finally landed on 5 choices. The waitress chose which order to bring them out in.
First out was the roasted beets with green beans, white anchovy, avocado creme fraiche, and bread crumbs.
I ADORE beets, but hate turning my kitchen purple, so I especially loved this. Who knew you could add all those things to simple roasted beets and create such magic? The portion was huge and we weren't able to even eat half, sadly.
Next up was the goat carpaccio with smoked trout roe and olive-maple vinaigrette.
I'm a sucker for carpaccio and have usually had it topped with capers. The roe served that same role as capers - a nice bite of smoky salt. It was unbelievably delicious, though Jason decided he didn't like the texture. More for me!
The ham frites we had next were delish. They are topped with dehydrated powered ham, which gave a meaty, salty bite to each fry. The sauces were amazing, too. One is a smoked tomato aioli and the other a cheddar beer sauce. Yum!
We also ordered the goat empanadas, which were topped with a strawberry salsa and served on an avocado smear. Since the carpaccio is light in flavor, this was our first real chance to taste goat, which neither of us remembered having before. The empanadas were stuffed with meat and really delicious. This was probably our favorite!
To end, we enjoyed the calamari bruschetta with clam baguette, goat milk ricotta, goat bacon, and green tomato. I could have eaten this as my meal all on it's own! The calamari was cooked perfectly and the flavors were just delicious.
The service was outstanding; our waitress was great as were the various food runners and managers wandering about. For the amount of food (not to mention quality!), I thought it was a downright steal of a meal. I'm so glad we trekked out of the downtown area to enjoy it!
Before leaving town the next day, Jason had to try the pot roast nachos he spotted on the menu at Ditka's so after checking out of our hotel, we wandered over for lunch. This time, we ate in the lounge area.
I ordered a lunch combo of soup and sandwich - it was very good! I chose the grilled chicken avocado sandwich and a cup of crab minestrone soup.
Jason ordered, of course, the nachos. I think they were everything he hoped they would be :)
On my must-do list was a stop at Sprinkles Cupcakes. I just had to see if they lived up to their reputation!
Once I saw the cupcake smothered in sprinkles, I knew my choice. Jason ordered the lemon meringue. And... we ordered 3 pupcakes for my babies (who practically inhaled them when we got home).
We didn't use the ATM but I was fascinated by it. Charlotte, we need a cupcake ATM!
The sprinkle cupcake was 'eh' - I mean, I ate it but it wasn't anything big. His cupcake, though? One of the best we've ever had. It was AMAZING.
All in all, we noshed out way through Chicago and had a blast. Let me know if you have any questions about any of our stops!