Here's what Sal and I did on our quick trip to Chicago:Day 1:
19 hr Amtrak ride to Chicago's Union Station. I occupied my time with some watercolor painting, crocheting, dried fruit snacking, and gazing out the clouded window at the icy Hudson river. I tried memorizing the color combos of the landscapes that whizzed by in hopes of applying them to paintings at a later date. Sal spent his time click-clacking on his laptop, which was fine the first few hours of the trip, but later caused me to threaten a trip directly to SPLITTSVILLE!
We arrived in Chicago around 9:30 am and took the brown El towards our hotel - Hotel Felix
. Hotel Felix is downtown Chicago’s first hotel designed to meet Silver LEED certification. We chose this hotel pretty much randomly because the price seemed fair, we were VERY pleasantly surprised. Eco-friendly, sleek, and a fair price, A+. The hotel was spotless, the staff was friendly, and... it smelled like the ocean!
We dumped off our bags and headed out for our first Chicago meal. Sal was in search of Italian beef that he had many years ago while visiting Chicago. We came across Al's beef, we had high hopes for our beef sandwiches but unfortunately we were disappointed. It just felt like it was missing something, maybe melted cheese, and spicy peppers instead of sweet peppers? The beef search continued...
After the "beef bust" we headed down Michigan Ave. toward The Art Institute of Chicago. We were happy to find out that for the month of February admission was free. Free is always good, and it was the first sign that this outing was going to be a pleasurable one. The Art Institute has a high quality and expansive collection of art that can rival The Met's collection in NYC. Even though it was smaller than the Met, I liked it because it was more manageable. They have a lovely cafe looking out to a courtyard where we recharged with a chocolate milk break.
A close up of one of John Singer Sargent's paintings. The the lush brushstrokes reminded me of cream cheese frosting.
Paris Street; Rainy Day, by Gustave Caillebotte
We headed back to the hotel for much needed showers and a short nap. Now the deep dish pizza search was on! Gino's East was just a few blocks away from the hotel and we decided we would go there for dinner. Unfortunately by the time we got there it was too late (9:30?) and they didn't want to let us in- rookie mistake! Arrgh. We ended up at Pizzeria Due, since it was late-ish, we were seated immediately. I liked the old-fashioned look of the place and the pizza was very different from the defrosted Pizzeria Uno pizza at home. It tasted more natural, way less salty. Honestly, It didn't knock my socks off, but did the job of filling us up. The whole time I kept wondering if this place was just for tourists... The deep dish pizza search continued...
We stumbled upon Mr. Beef on the way to the El. This was the place that Sal was looking for!
He happily gobbled down a sandwich as his breakfast!
Now we were on our way to the Threadless shop. Sal is a big fan of Threadless tees so he wanted to visit the original store on N. Broadway. The Threadless shop was neatly laid out with video monitors above each t-shirt stack rotating images of the t-shirts in action. The staff was very friendly as well. We had a good time walking down N. Broadway, we stopped into Intelligentsia Cafe and had some exquisitely prepared coffee, cocoa, and cupcakes.
The 3 C's are an important part of a person's diet ya know. The cafe had a great crowd and a generally good vibe about it. We bought some tea and a mug, like the cheesy tourists we are, to take home with us.
Here is a pitcher of the brewed ginger plum oolong iced tea that we purchased.
We got back on the El, got off at Damen (thanks Suzanne!) and headed to Division Street to check out some shops, it started snowing pretty hard so we just walked straight down Division St. popping into just a few shops, Penelope's and Paper Doll were two shops that stood out. A tower of macarons in the window of Alliance Bakery and Cafe caught my eye. We stopped in and purchased 2 yummy macarons, pistachio and blueberry. So to recap the diet of champions: breakfast- hot chocolate and a cupcake, and lunch- 2 macarons. We decided to head back to the hotel and come back again the next day to explore the Damen St. / Bucktown area.
To complete the trifecta of gluttony we had Giordano's pizza at the Rush St. location for dinner. It was delicious! We were thoroughly satisfied.
Day 3:After a hearty breakfast at Brett's Kitchen , conveniently located directly under the Chicago stop El, we headed back to the Bucktown/ Wicker Park area. We explored Damen St. and N. Milwaukee avenue for a few hours. The highlights included The Red Balloon Co., unique children's goods, Soutache, pretty store with buttons,ribbons,and feathers, Belmont Army Wicker Park, interesting mix of modern clothing on the ground floor and Army & Navy goods in the basement, Quimby's Bookstore, nice selection of indie comics and zines, Akira, I got 2 sweaters in the sale section valued at $106 each for $30(for both!), Hot Chocolate, the best (and most expensive $8) hot chocolate I've ever tasted, the white chocolate mint was totally worth it!
We shared one cup because we were too cheap & too broke to buy 2. Next time I will get my own cup!
For dinner we went to the Goose Island Brewpub in Clybourn. I had the best burger of my life!!
The "Black Earth Burger" - lean beef, caramelized red onions, and a goat cheese croquette ~ insane in the membrane delicious!!!
We took the El back to our hotel area and went to Ghirardelli on N. Michigan Ave. for dessert, what a disappointment, the ice cream was really icy, if you know what I mean. For the price I was expecting much better. Two scoops down. The only good part about going there was the free peppermint chocolate sample given out (which tasted great) when you walk in.
Our final day in Chicago, we walked all the way down State St. from our hotel in River North to W. Roosevelt Rd. to see the Maxwell St. outdoor market, hmmm, definitely not what I expected. The vendors were mostly selling dusty power tools, knickknacks, socks and gloves, and Mexican food. The food looked interesting, but we weren't that hungry yet. On the corner of W. Roosevelt & Desplaines it was like a mirage...I. Sachs Sons Shoe Store Supplies...I couldn't believe my eyes. I looked in and it was like the mother-load of shoe findings, buckles, elastics, cords, metal rings, thread, boxes and boxes full of goodies. Unfortunately they had just closed, but I could see the workers still inside. In a desperate attempt I rang the bell and planned to do the begging hands thing, but they didn't even bother looking at the door. :( It is really hard to find shoe making supplies in this country! I emailed them as soon as I got back home (still waiting for a response). Next door to the shoe supply store they had a $9.99 shoe store. I dragged Sal in there and bought myself some cheap plastic shoes.
We took the red line back up to River North, while on our way to our final meal destination in Chicago, Portillo's on W. Ontario, we stopped into Curly Tale Fine Art Gallery. Curly Tale had a nice illustrative selection of art from artists such as Joe Sorren (below) and a very friendly staff including an adorable pug that met us at the door!
(image from Curly Tale Fine Art Gallery website)
In conclusion, we had a great time in Chicago, it is clean, the people are friendly, and the food is great! And...they have these heated waiting stalls on the train platforms. What luxury! After we give our hearts some time to recover from all the saturated fat we consumed, I would love to go back!