chicago

This is my daughter Ella.  She’s 15.  We have been going on an every-year-and-a-half chick weekend since she was 11 years old.  We’ve been to Winnipeg (birthplace of the Ella), Seattle, and Jasper Park Lodge’s Christmas in November.

This year, we ate our way through Chicago.

1.  Girl and the Goat

This was our coveted restaurant.  Ella and I have a history of watching Top Chef together.  We were very excited the year when Stephanie Izard won.

I open-tabled the Girl and the Goat for a reservation three months before our trip.  I was fortunate to get a 4:30 pm reservation on a Sunday.  I grabbed it.

We ate a lot of food.  I mean A LOT.  Like, a Thanksgiving dinner amount.  We had to roll ourselves back to the hotel from the West Loop to downtown in order to even begin the digestion process.

I cannot even recall what we ate.  It was 6 small dishes, which included:  chickpea fritters, goat belly with lobster, papparadelle (our favourite), goat cheesecake…oh my the food went on and on.  The service was surprisingly nice and humble for such a hot restaurant, and we overheard at the table next to us:

“I don’t think you are feeling the pig’s face tonight, are you?”

Stephanie obviously earned her Top Chef honours.  Ella and I should now go on a trek to all the Top Chef winner restaurants across America.  That would be a worthy cause.

2.  xoco

I have a theory about restaurants owned by well-known chefs.  If the chef has an offering of restaurants, from fine-dining to casual, skip to the casual place.  The food quality remains at cheaper prices.  Such is the case with the little sister restaurant xoco, Rick Bayliss’s cafeteria-style Mexican restaurant in downtown Chicago.

The process to order is complex, but it is guided by friendly wayfinding staff.  You stand in a long line, but you aren’t allowed to order until you get an assigned table number.  Sit down and the food appears.  If you order dessert, just flag down a server and they will put in the dolce order for you.  And that’s what we did.

Ella had Carnitas – soupy pork and dumpling fare, and I consumed the short rib torta.  We had a side of chunky guacamole and snappy chips.  And topped the evening off with soft ice cream with maple and bacon (me) and churros (Ella).  Then we walked back to the hotel and encountered the Naked Bike Rally not just once, but twice.  This was quite the eye opener for both of us, and I had some explaining to do to my teenage daughter about the logistics of nude bike riding.

3. The Bongo Room

I had eyeballed the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighbourhood for shoppinng.  We hopped a cab a hot Saturday morning, and were let off at the fringes of the shopping street.  A gentleman selling wares from the top of his car asked us if we wanted to buy some bear spray.  Normally, I would not consider this a good sign for the neighbourhood.

Thankfully, this was misguided foreboding.  We tracked down the Bongo Room for brunch, and put our names on the long list to get in.  Forty five minutes later, we were seated.  Pictured is Ella’s massive strawberry banana hotcakes (what’s the difference between a hot cake, a pancake and flap jacks?), and I drank copious bottomless coffee.

4.  Atwood Cafe 

Upon arriving for brunch we were seated in a blazing hot table directly in the sun.  There were a dozen empty tables around us that stayed empty while we ate, so clearly the bad table was punishment for not having a reservation.  I don’t get why restaurants do this.

Nonetheless, the setting was French and the service was pleasant.

I cannot resist poached eggs and grits, so that’s what I ordered.  Ella continued her theme of The Sweet Breakfast and had the blueberry waffles with maple syrup and brown sugar butter.  That butter was mmm, mmm, good and completed the dish.

5.  Home Bistro

This was a find.  Our food tour guide told us about this amazing little place in Boystown, just down from the Blue Man theatre.  So we indulged in pre-theatre dinner.  Oh, the gnocchi.  But especially the artichoke and edam fritters.   Ella and I declared those fritters the best food of our trip.  The chefs here know how to cook.

STAY

We stayed at the Hotel Monaco.  I adore both Kimpton and W Hotels.  Kimptons are more in our price range – a W Hotel is always an extravagant experience AND price.

Hotel Monaco delivered – hip without being pretentious, and a fabulous location in the North Loop, just off Michigan Avenue and south of the river.

DO

Chicago Food Planet Food Tour

This is best told in pictures:

1.  reuben from ashkenaz deli

2.  unattractive but delicious deep dish pizza from lou malnati’s.

3.  apples awaiting dipping at the fudge pot.

4.  delightful pastries delight with macarons

Other minor food adventures?  They let you drink alcohol in public in America:

Finally, the purchase of a Chicago hot dog at Millennium Park comes with strict rules.

Good bye Chicago.  Thank you for being good to us.

ps:  As a treat, because I know you want it, a blurry photo of the aforementioned rally:

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