Chicago. The third largest city in the US. A mere 400 miles from my home base in Minneapolis. A city I love. A city I should get to more often considering the relative ease. Last year I was able to spend time in The City of Wind twice. One time with my adult partner in crime. Once with my youngest daughter (and eternal sidekick).
Shellie and I went to Chicago on a wet and dreary spring weekend. It was foggy. Then lightly sprinkling. At times, a downpour. Having only been to Chicago when it was hot and sunny, I feel the city has changed with the weather. The drizzle brings out a different side of the city. A melancholy side that’s sad but still, somehow, uplifting. But, maybe it was only uplifting for me because our main goal of the weekend was for me to try on, and ultimately buy, my wedding suit. A suit that, until the February before, I didn’t even know I was going to need. But then I proposed to her, and (against her better judgement) she said yes! So I had to get a special suit and of course Chicago came to mind right away. You know, for their suits. Not the amazing restaurants and beer. For the suits. But of course we had to get in some food and beer while in the city. I mean, come on.
We had a late arrival, so our first meal in town was actually brunch the next morning. We went from the Hotel Allegro downtown to Logan Square where we ate at the wonderful Longman and Eagle. The sights and sounds of a bustling restaurant are pleasing to me, and this 20 or so table place was humming. They have a small, but eclectic menu, and as we often do, we shared two dishes and we were very pleased with both. L&E also has a huge whiskey list, if that’s your thing, you can get your Pappy fix. And some for the insanely low price of $400 for two ounces! Bargain. Like any number of hipster places from Portland, OR to Williamsburg that we’ve all been to, the atmosphere at Longman & Eagle is industrial chic, but it still retains its cool.
After our amazing brunch it was time for some beers. Our main drinking destination of the day was in the southern suburb of Tinley Park, at Hailstorm Brewing. But first we had to stop in at the Pipeworks Dojo. While you can’t drink beer here you can buy whatever bottles or cans they have on hand at the time. We loaded up for back home since Pdubs wasn’t distributed here at the time. On to Hailstorm. They make some incredible beers. When they say something is in their beer, you aren’t stuck hunting around for it in your mouth. You get smacked across the face with flavor. If they have, for instance, a stout with raspberries, your tongue is getting punched in the face with raspberry flavor. I don’t know how they do it. Huge flavors and nice people. Tinley Park is also the home of The Open Bottle. This is a little craft beer bottle shop that also has beer on tap. As if I hadn’t bought enough at Pipeworks and Hailstorm. The back of the car was entirely full of beer as we headed back to the city.
When we travel to different cities we often look to see if any Top Chef contestants have restaurants there. Chicago has several, but we knew right away which one we wanted to go to, Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a reservation and this place is notoriously hard to get into. Fortunately, we went anyway and were seated at the bar in no time. Once again, sharing is the way to go. We were able to try several dishes. Including roasted cauliflower, goat skewers (gotta get goat at a place with goat in its name), goat empanadas, and roasted pig face (not as face-y as it sounds). Damn good food in a really cool space. We were super stoked to get to try this place out.
Just across the street from Girl & the Goat is Haymarket Pub and Brewery. Their beer wasn’t much to write home about, but this is my kind of bar. A little divey, a little seedy maybe. Smelling of wet bar mops and bleach.
For our final meal we chose Siena Tavern. This is another Top Chef restaurant. This one is partly owned by fan favorite Fabio Viviani. He was also one of our favorites to watch. Not only did he put out delicious looking food, but he seemed like a genuinely decent person. Here he supposedly created the menu, but it all seems rather corporate. It isn’t very chef-y, and I would be really surprised if he ever cooked in this restaurant. Shellie got the tiramisu french toast, while I went with something more savory. Both of our choices were bland and kind of one-note. This space is absolutely massive and it was mostly empty. They must have a bigger draw for dinner, which could be completely different from our experience.
My second trip to Chicago this year was on a cold-but-sunny-day in the late fall with my youngest daughter.. She has traveled before. She’s been to 21 states in her 11 years, but this one turned out a bit more special. It all started, for her anyway, with a treasure hunt Shellie and I came up with.
Inside the house, one clue led to the next that led to the next. Until, finally, she made her way to her bedroom closet nearly tripping over the things strewn around her tweenage room. Inside her closet was a Bluetooth speaker, and when she turned up the volume it was playing a song from the musical Hamilton (which song depended on how fast she was. In this case, it took her longer than two songs to My Shot.) I surprised her with tickets to the show, and we were leaving in the morning.
We arrived in the early afternoon and since it was too early to check in to our hotel we went directly to Monk’s Pub. This is a bar in the middle of Chicago that looks like an authentic British pub. My daughter thought it was hilarious that you could eat peanuts and then throw the shells on the floor. But she still didn’t eat any peanuts. After lunch and a beer for me, we went and checked into the Allegro. Yep, we stayed at the same hotel. I liked it that much.
After a bit of relaxing we walked from the Allegro to Millennium Park. I dig this park. I like Frank Gehry’s work and Cloud Gate is fun to take people who haven’t seen it. But I wasn’t sure how my 11 year old would react. I was pleasantly surprised, because she loved it. She wanted to explore the whole park. We had to run across the snakey bridge that goes to Maggie Daley Park. I thought maybe she would think the big chrome bean was cool, but I had no idea she would be this into it. It was so cool to watch her. I could see the world opening for her! She just wanted to see the whole city first hand. Walking around wasn’t a problem like it was when she was younger.
We picked up our Hamilton tickets from the box office at CIBC Theater and went back out for some more food. We settled on The Bar Below, which we decided has to be the loudest restaurant on the planet. It’s in a lower level spot with low ceilings and we had to shout over of little table to hear each other. We ate our food and I had a couple tasty beers before we had to head back for Hamilton. I’m sure you don’t need another Hamilton review, so I’ll just say it was pretty awesome and we both loved it!
Two very different trips to one dynamic city. One with my future wife, filled with good food and beer, where I bought the suit I would be married in in the fall. And one where I saw some musical with my daughter, but more importantly I watched as the world of travel opened up for my little girl. Goddamn it, Chicago.