Friday, September 5, 2014

When We Were in Chicago... a down & dirty recap

A few things you should know about how I vacation & how I recap vacations:
1. When I come to your town, I want to see all the tourist things. Because I am a tourist. 
2. Vacation is not a place where we cheap out. We save up so we can do all the things, eat where we want, and have the luxury of convenience. I cheap out on hotel rooms though and always choose a mid-range place because when we do a quick trip, we're barely in there. 
3. If we go to a city over a weekend, we pack as much in as possible and sacrifice sleep and lounging to do so. Beaches and cruises are for relaxing, these trips are for seeing and doing. I love creating ridiculous itineraries and we enjoy being on the go. My itineraries always have some sway and the ability to move shit around on the fly because you always have to do that when you travel. The trick is to get a flow going so you get a lot in without feeling like you're on a mission. 
4. Apologies on the food shots - they're always taken with an iPhone and lots of these places were dim. MFD already has a fit about me taking pics of all food so I'm not going to prolong the process by getting the lighting right. If you don't give a shit about food or restaurants, skip over the paragraphs before the food collages.
5. If we're friends on FB, you know a lot of this because MFD checks in everywhere as it gives him great joy.
6. I don't split trip recaps because I like to keep all the information in one spot, so it's long. 

Time/travel parameters: we flew Frontier Airlines from Trenton to Midway on Saturday night, arriving in Chicago at 6:30 p.m. We flew out of Midway at 7:59 p.m. Tuesday night and arrived home at midnight. We stayed at Hyatt Place River North and did breakfast at the hotel daily. We basically arrived, dumped our bags, and hit the streets. 

Strolling the Chicago Riverwalk - the skyline is magnificent at night
Chicago Jazz Festival in Millennium Park - specifically Kevin Eubanks from The Tonight Show
The Skyline -and us - reflected in the Bean
We took an 11:30 reservation at The Girl and the Goat in the West Loop, owned by Stephanie Izard from Top Chef. That time is all they had more than a month and a half out. I liked it a lot - the atmosphere was great, I enjoyed seeing the open kitchen, the food was mostly a hit, and the service was energetic and friendly despite the hour. MFD and I shared everything: goat cheese & sweet corn dumplings (excellent, not pictured), hamachi crudo (crisp pork belly, not pictured - just meh, should've gotten the pig face), wood fired scallops (surprisingly awesome, recommended by the waiter, first pic on the bottom left), egg salad oysters (top middle photo, totally amazing). For dessert MFD has some regrettable bittersweet chocolate thing that sucked. I had peaches and blueberry buckle with goat cheese gelato. GIRL, you don't even know. You don't even know!! The coffee was excellent. Yes, we drank it at midnight because we are fools. 
Rise and shine bitches! Up and out by 7:30 to walk down to Milton Olive Park via the Ohio Beach entry. What a glorious view of the city. So quiet and really awesome. 
Gangster Tour, because who doesn't like a little cheese with their vacation? It was pretty interesting, and we did drive through most Chicago neighborhoods which gave us an idea of the places we weren't going to be visiting. 
We originally planned to go to the Art Institute or Field Museum in the afternoon, but it was MFD's birthday weekend and he wanted to swim. So weird to have this big ocean-looking lake in the middle of a large city. I did not want to swim so I dipped my toes in, read and people watched. p.s. - post swimming is the only time you'll see MFD's hair not perfect. 
Dinner at Shaw's Crab House. We both loved the 1940s-ish atmosphere and the seafood was excellent. The service was top notch. This key lime pie is the best key lime pie I've ever had, including numerous pies in Key West itself. 
Jazz at Andy's Jazz
Monday - MFD's Birthday and Labor Day
Since it was Labor Day, we got to walk really slowly on the sidewalks looking up at the buildings in the central business district and take pics in the middle of the street without locals getting pissed off at us for slowing their roll. The city felt deserted and it was awesome.
Sears Tower Skydeck. What a trip! I did much better than I thought I'd do out on the ledges and MFD did worse. We went on an overcast day with some fog. It rained while we were up there and even with all that, the views and experience were really impressive. I bought fast pass tickets prior to arrival which took our wait time from an hour and a half to 20 minutes to get to the 103rd floor.
Lunch at Lou Malnati's. I thought I was not a fan of deep dish pizza. I was wrong. We got the Malnati Chicago Classic and it was delicious. I also loved the Green Line beer brewed by Goose Island in Chicago.
I had an UBER credit (sign up and use promo code ubersmd to get a $30 credit towards your first ride) so we jumped in one to get to Wrigley Field since we were already running late. We were initially supposed to take the Red Line, but we were short on time and it was a nice quick ride up the Gold Coast into Wrigleyville. What a cool experience - you walk in off the street and there you are! We also walked around the stadium when we left, which was pretty cool as well seeing all the stuff on the outside walls, checking out the places for roof top viewing, and getting a load of people tailgating outside and on the sidewalk.
MFD had a Chicago style hotdog at Wrigley. I had mine at the airport. This is my kind of hotdog.
People we saw at both the Skydeck and Wrigley...these three, dressed as Cameron, Sloane, and Ferris. How fucking amazing is this? MFD got their photo at the Skydeck and I spied Cameron & Ferris with the zoom at Wrigley. MFD actually went down to where they were sitting to say hello to them again because of course...Mayor.
MFD's birthday dinner at David Burke's Primehouse in The James Hotel. Prices were ridiculous but YOLO, birthday. The steaks were unbelievable. MFD had the 55 day aged and it melted in your mouth. I thought the atmosphere was just okay. My steak, wine, and coffee gelato were excellent though. I was unable to get reservations at Gibsons, which was our first choice.
MFD used LYFT to get a car to take us to The Second City. You guys, this was awesome. We saw The Best of The Second City on the mainstage. It was hilarious and for $30 each we saw over 2.5 hours of comedy. I loved every second of it. Also hilarious: when MFD had a mouth full of water and it shot out in an actual spit take because he could not hold back the laughter.
We packed up and had the hotel hold our bags while we took off for the Wendella Lake & River Boat Tour. Totally fucking awesome. We went out onto Lake Michigan (the photo you see below with the water coming through is the lock opening up from the Chicago River to let the boat out - the lake is about two feet higher than the river), learned about all the buildings, then back onto the river to do the same. We loved this. I could fill a blog post just with photos taken on this tour, and they don't fit well into collages which sucks.
In a Philly takes Chicago move, we met your friend and mine Marla from Luck Fupus and her husband Steve for lunch at The Purple Pig. We sat outside and had a nice long lunch.
We ordered a bunch of plates to share, and I would go back every day until I could try everything on the menu. Really a phenomenal experience. Some dishes we sampled include calamari with fregula, radishes, cucumbers & pistachios; the best Greek salad I've ever had; chorizo stuffed olives; some type of foie grass; chocolate goat cheese and a few other cheeses; milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes; stuffed squid; soft serve ice cream with espresso poured over it. I can't remember the rest. The food was my favorite on the trip. Everything was excellent and it was a bonus to share the meal with friends from home!
We checked out the rocks in the face of the Tribune Tower, which was awesome. We glimpsed Bill Rancic and while Marla, Steve & I were sitting in the shade MFD got his photo taken with him. Of course we missed that. Why not. We strolled down to see The Bean in the sunlight and also to check out the Crowd Fountains.
MFD and I hopped into a cab and Marla & Steve went on to enjoy their first day in Chicago as we wrapped up our last. MFD got an Italian beef sandwich and we split a freaking donut ice cream sandwich from Firecakes Donuts. You guys, is this real life? How do my pants still fit? It was awesome.
We took the Orange Line to Midway during rush hour - not fun. MFD also tried to take an elevator up to the platform, which opened to reveal a big puddle of stinky hot pee. Silly MFD, always avoid elevators at public transportation stations.

What a phenomenal city - very clean, very friendly to tourists in that it's easy to get around and the people are pretty nice. It's also beautiful, walkable, has a wonderful food scene, and shows its face really well. We loved the feel of the city and if the winters weren't so ridiculous I think I'd be arguing with MFD to stay here instead of moving there. Thanks to Steph at Not Entirely Perfect for her Chicago smarts, especially this map/post, and help with hotel locations and which streets to avoid at night. We missed meeting up due to her move and both of our schedules but will do so next time!

Chicago, I think you're the favorite city of all the cities I've visited.

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Linking up with  Meet @ the Barre


  1. Everyone I know that visits Chicago loves it. Well not Jack but his reason is it was always for business and his company was based in the Midwest so he frowns upon almost all things Midwest. I feel like I was there including the full stomach. Absolutely wonderful post. Descriptive to the point I felt like I was with you and any travel agency would pay you for this post.

  2. i love chicago! i also love all the touristy things esp the boat ride. did you venture along that fancy schmancy shopping strip at all? i think it's michigan ave?

    Vodka and Soda

  3. 1. Donut ice cream sandwich?!?! I'm gonna need to make that my next DIY project. :)
    2. I loved visiting Chicago! This post makes me want to go back and do some of the things you did. (I didn't do all of those things and I went in May when it was still a little chilly.)
    3. The Chicago public transportation system is where I got my public transportation "feet" wet. It was not a good experience either.

    Looks like you had a lot of fun!

  4. What a beautiful city! I'm pretty sure I gained 10 pounds just reading this post...
    And I LOVE MFD's post-swim hair!!!!!!!!!

  5. Blasphemy: I hate Chicago, and I'm unapologetic about it. :)

    Also, how FANTASTIC was the Trenton airport? (ha)

  6. Dude. I had so many comments to make on the food, gangster tour, the comment on MFD's perfect hair, and this 55 day aged steak...but then this comment would be way too long. So instead I will say, I need to vacay with you guys! Looks like an awesome time. We visited NYC last year for just one day, and I was disappointed. I think Chicago is going to be the major city I end up liking best.

  7. Love this post! I was supposed to go to Chicago this week for a last minute trip but sadly it didn't work out... so now Chicago remains on my list of cities that I really need to see! Love that you pack so much in when you travel, I'm the same way. And also, I need that donut ice cream sandwich like yesterday!!

  8. I've never been there, but it's on my list! All the food looks amazing!

  9. You see why I'm fat? This damn food!! I could eat Lou's every day, it's my favorite. The very first location is in my hometown of Lincolnwood and I had friends that worked there in high school - so. much. free. pizza. And I still love it.

    Your skydeck pictures make my stomach flip flop. I'm glad I can say I did it once... but never again.

    I think people are always surprised by Wrigley. Cause stadiums like the White Sox or Brewers are just surrounded by parking lots. There is no Wrigley parking lot. It's just bam, right there in the middle of everything.

    So lame that I had to miss you, but just come back with a list of all the things you guys need to do next ;)

  10. Your trip looks so amazing! It made me that much more excited to go back in June. I'm jealous that you got to go to Wrigley. Visiting every MLB field is on my bucket list.

  11. This looks like an amazing vacation!
    I loved reading all about Chicago! Man - I really want to go now!

  12. Gorgeous city! Looks like y'all had a blast! I love how MFD looks out for his best interests - Bill Rancic! Haha I've always wanted to visit Chicago, maybe in the spring time with the tulips! ahh... And now I am adding the water tour - looks amazing!

  13. I love your trip and the way you travel! Granted, I require more sleep but I love to go-go-go when I'm awake. I'm so bummed that I never tried the Purple Pig - definitely on my list for next time - and this confirms that I NEED to go back in better weather for boat touring and more walking.

  14. Such a great recap of your trip! Looks like you two had an absolute blast and the food looks so good! Makes me super excited to experience for myself this weekend!

  15. This looks like so much fun and that food...yum!

    I am the same way when it comes to vacation, pack it all in!!

  16. Looks like you guys got a lot packed in to your trip! I love it! Chicago is on my list of places to visit. I love how you got a blogger meet up in too!

  17. That sounds so fun! I want to go on vacation with you! I like to pack my trips full of activities and Significant wants to relax so we have to compromise.

    I really how you started with a low down and also kudos for not being afraid to be a tourist! When my sisters and I went to Europe we got so much advice on how to avoid "tourist traps" and it was like... we're going there as tourists. We're not going to not see the Eiffel Tower just to avoid a line. Psht!

  18. WOW you really did do everything!!! and i agree- act like a tourist- i don't know when I might come back!

  19. You really got a lot done while you were there. All the food looks amazing! I would totally be a tourist too, isn't that the point? The Bueller pic is hilarious!

  20. your 6 points about vacation recaps are exactly how i feel. i WANT to do the touristy things, i want to splurge, i want to fit in as much as humanly possible. and i dont like splitting my recaps up, unless maybe when i go to europe i'll split up by city but i'm getting ahead of myself lol.
    anywho! you got SO much packed in, all the food is making me crazy hungry, and just the photos of the skydeck freaked me out haha. I felt the same way about Wrigley, I went there for a concert like 5 years ago (!) and I turned the corner and there it was. It was also the first city I ever went to in the US so I thought they were all like that lol!

  21. Looks like such a great trip! I love Chicago and I am dying to visit one day. It's definitely on my list of top cities that I must get to!!

  22. Ahhh so much!
    1. Thank you for the links/apps/discount; I will be using both next week when I venture off to Cali
    2. Totally agree with you about vacations: I want to be able to experience it all, and I love being a tourist, and alll the cheese it brings along with it!
    3. Is MFD smoking inside the jazz club? Do my eyes deceive me?
    4. All of the food looks AMAZING. And MFD is seriously Mayor lol.

  23. It looks like you guys had lots of fun and got a lot done.

    The Gangster Tour sounds awesome, the Sky Deck thing does not, and I want to eat an ice cream donut sandwich now!

  24. Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town... My Kinda Town!!!

  25. That sounds like a wonderful trip :) The pictures turned out pretty good for phone shots. The hot dog also looks spectacular! I think you're definitely right that sometimes it's worth skimping on the hotel if you're not going to be spending that much time in it and that it is also not the time to be cheap! Ball out! Have a great weekend Steph! -Iva

  26. I want to go to Chicago. All that food looks amazing. A donut ice cream sandwich? Yes please! Yum!

  27. "Rise and shine bitches!" -->We would do really great on vacations together because this is totally me. I'm dying to visit Chicago, so I will keep these places in mind. Looks like it was a blast!

  28. At first I was all excited to read about a gangster tour... THEN I GOT TO THE BOTTOM AND SAW THAT DONUT ICE CREAM SANDWICH! Totally just opened their link in another tab so I can jack off after I'm done writing this comment.

  29. I love jam packed vacations. I'm all about seeing/doing as much as I can!
    This post is awesome. I'm totally going to visit Chicago one day. It's been on my bucket list forever!

  30. Love this! Chicago is on my list for sure and that Gangster tour looks fun. I did the Jack the Ripper tour in London and it was fun, albeit a little creepy. Thank you so much for reigniting my interest in Chicago.

  31. I want to eat pretty much everything in this post. That donut ice cream sandwich was made for my fat ass.

    Did you love Lou Malnati's??

  32. Oh man Steph, I think this post convinced me that Chi town needs to be on my list! Ive always loved seeing it in pictures but man I just know its a city I would love.

  33. Still so sad we missed each other by a matter of days here, but I'm still on an absolute high from this city. Absolutely in love! Absolutely agree that if it wasn't for the winters there I'd consider moving :)

  34. You are not kidding about going hard when you are on vacation! I tend to do the same thing, mostly because I don't want to get home and feel like I've missed something. To balance my psycho vacay tendencies, in an ideal world I schedule an extra day off when I get home to sleep in, catch up on laundry, buy groceries, and generally have a normal mini-weekend before jumping back into normal life.

    I love Chicago for all the same reasons you mentioned... but I think my favorite part of your recap was seeing the people dressed up as Ferris Bueller & gang! So fun.

  35. I loved Second City when I went too! The "Best Of" show was sold out so we saw the other one. I am definitely going back! And The Girl & the Goat was on my list to go to but we went to the sister restaurant Little Goat for brunch instead. Definitely delicious! Glad you had a blast celebrating MFD's birthday!!

  36. Loved this recap! We loved Wrigleyville and ate all of the food there. Chicago is an easy trip from the twin cities and I end up going for work often. I love it there! I could never live there, but I love visiting.

  37. I vacation the exact same way you do. See EVERYTHING, be a tourist, eat out, get local food, never sleep. Haha! I've only ever driven through Chicago. I definitely want to visit some day soon. I'm totally bookmarking this post! I love that you did a gangsters tour! And I would looove to go to Second City! What an awesome trip!

  38. Pretty much my vacation rules are exactly the same, except only minor touristy stuff because you know beer :) So glad you like the Girl and the Goat...I didn't want to read your's until I wrote my post. I love Gibson's, but we did not squeeze a steak house in this trip. The Purple Pig, looks so good and it was on the maybe list on our trip (so much food, so little time), I'm sad now :( The boat tour sounds awesome, if we go again, we are doing that one!


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