For this year’s spring break, I was lucky enough to be able to tag along on Jeff’s work assignment in Chicago. I had never been and Jeff had been telling me for years how this was one of his favorite cities. Originally, I was a little bummed (and let’s be honest, fairly scared) to have to explore on my own while Jeff would work. Thankfully, we were able to spend some time together over the weekend, which was all I needed to feel safe and confident about the upcoming week. Playing tourist on my own also had an unexpected advantage: I got to try out a bunch of food without having to think about Jeff’s dietary restrictions. 🙂
Here is a little foodie diary of my week in Chicago…
Saturday, April 1:
We started our first day together in town with a walk to the grocery store Mariano’s. Jeff was really excited to show it to me, and I quickly understood why. This might sound silly but I love a good grocery store. This place was a nice mixture of Sprouts and The Fresh Market. We ended up with some wine, tasty cheese and other goodies to eat during the week.
As we started our official exploration, we both got hungry (shocker!). When we saw a nearby restaurant with great reviews and poutine on the menu, there was no stopping me. The food was delicious, wine was poured, and we had a good chat with our waiter. While I wished there would have been no jalapenos in my poutine, there is no denying that lunch at The Gage was a great way to start our trip.
Sunday, April 2:
While I wanted to enjoy as much local food as possible, Jeff and I couldn’t resist having lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co on the Navy Pier. Yes, it’s a chain (inspired by the movie Forrest Gump) but I’ve been wanting to try them out for many years. I enjoyed a delicious meal of shrimp three ways (tempura, fried and coconut)…Calories don’t count when you’re on vacation, right? To be fair, we walked so much every single day that I wasn’t too worried about indulging during the trip.
We started our evening by enjoying a glass of wine on top of the Hancock Tower. Not a bad place to be…
Monday, April 3:
While my plans were fairly vague for the day, due to the rain, I had one thing in mind: Portillo’s. There’s this podcast I love called Sorry Not Sorry With Jenna Kim Jones and one of their favorite topics is food (boy, I wonder why I like it so much!). When I looked up places to eat Chicago Hot Dogs, Portillo’s came up and I remembered Jenna’s husband Al, mentioning that place. So I put on my rain coat and walked all the way to this Chicago-specific meal. I wanted to get the full experience so I ordered the typical Chicago dog: mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers, on a poppy seed bun. I tried one unaltered bite but then I had to remove the sport peppers, because, let’s face it, I have no tolerance for spice.
In the evening, we went to a fun stir fry restaurant called Flat Top Grill. You pick your meat(s), veggies, sauce(s) and base, and they cook it all up for you. It’s nothing game changing but it’s oh-so-good. I chose beef & scallops with broccoli, carrots, mushroom, bell peppers and onions on rice noodles. For the sauce, I mixed the Teriyaki, Pad Thai and Mushroom sauces.
Tuesday, April 4:
I started my long day of walking with a lunch I still dream about at Luke’s Lobster. I had their seasonal lobster grilled cheese sandwich and I sincerely considered sitting there all afternoon and ordering dozens of them. Big chunks of lobster mixed with gruyere… Yum!!
It’s a good thing I walked all day as we had to most carb-tastic dinner of our trip: Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Pizano’s. While many said it wasn’t *real* deep dish, I still highly enjoyed it (and honestly, it was as much cheese as I could handle). Bonus: they had a sausage crust option for my gluten-free hubby!
Wednesday, April 5:
Rain, rain, go away! On this very rainy and cold day, I was not willing to waste any time so I bought gloves, an umbrella, and went on my way. I had a tasty quick lunch at Wow Bao. Thai curry chicken on wild rice, and two delicious teriyaki pork buns made for a very happy Quebbie, ready to conquer the crappy weather! 🙂
Of course, being on your own also means getting to stop by a cute coffee shop on your way out of the museum! The decadent chocolate treats at Toni Patisserie & Café were certainly memorable.
That night, we met Jeff’s co-workers at Sunda for a fantastic Asian-fusion meal. While I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the many dishes we tried, I did snap a pic of this unbelievable Matcha Green Tea Torte with triple chocolate truffle. My, my…
Thursday, April 6:
This was our last day in Chicago but I was pretty exhausted by then so my lunch stop ended up being right across the street from our hotel. I tried my first poké bowl at Firefin Poké Shop. I didn’t really know what to expect so I ordered the Classic Hawaiian Bowl. It was really good! A lot of confusing flavors I wasn’t as familiar with but I would absolutely eat it again.
I did go for one last walk to the Millennium Park and couldn’t help but stop by Garrett Popcorn Shop on my way back to the hotel. I got their signature mix: cheddar and caramel. Don’t diss it until you try it. Who knew these two flavors would be so great together?!
We had dinner at the airport as we waited for our flight back home. We found a tasty sushi restaurant, Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi.
Unfortunately, as soon as we ordered our meal, we received a text-message from Delta saying our flight was delayed to midnight, meaning we wouldn’t be home before 3 or 4am. Well, that was quite the bummer. Jeff called customer service but there was nothing to do. This was still the best flight for us to take. So we waited. Sitting in the cozy restaurant chairs, eating sushi and sipping a glass of wine sure helped us stay happy with our trip, despite the small change in schedule.
Before we knew it, our flight was cancelled, and on top of that, the next available flight was two days later! Oy. We found a hotel about 5 miles from the airport and quickly went on our way.
Friday April 7 & Saturday April 8:
It was only when I woke up on Friday that I realized how our hotel was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There was almost nothing walking distance (a tough concept to grasp after a week in Chicago where we walked everywhere!) and very little eating options, especially for Jeff and his many food restrictions.
Determined to find something, we walked over to the Asian market across the street, Mitsuwa Marketplace, and I immediately went back to my happy place. So much delicious food all around as well as a mini food court with tasty offerings. I ended up getting a beef udon soup for lunch.
The market had a nice little bakery with the most adorably-shaped treats. I couldn’t resist and bought a turtle sweet bread filled with chocolate as well as an apple-shaped sweet bread with apple filling.
I also found some intriguing snacks and candies to try out. While I enjoyed all of them, the mango marshmallows were particularly delicious.
The Asian market also had a great library and I bought a couple of cute items including a to-do pad as well as a couple of food-themed folders.
We finally made it home in the middle of the night between Saturday and Sunday. We were so relieved to finally be home. Despite the many travel issues, I had a fantastic trip and would do it again in a heartbeat!
What are your favorite places to go to when you’re in Chicago?