I went to Chicago to visit friends for my self-proclaimed spring break. Their apartment is cozy and centrally located for both nightlife and work, close to mass transit, etc. Their building isn’t the newest, but it’s got an air of class. They’ve got doormen to open the door for you and announce visitors, hardwood in the foyer, elevators that smell of popcorn and Pledge. It was great to take a load off and hang out when them. We did a fair bit of sight-seeing, walking around the city most days. Had some excellent meals. Fine company, for sure. Thanks guys.
Some highlights from my trip to the Windy City…
My first night in town we went to Finn McCool’s — one of my host’s favorite watering holes — for $2 half-pound burgers and trivia, where I was introduced to one of the greatest inventions of our time. Behold the Table Tapper, a device that serves up 116oz of chilled beer without refilling. I love that you get to pour your own; cuts down on how often the server has to come to the table with a fresh pitcher, bad pours, plus there’s a certain mystique about a table consuming such a large vertical quantity of beer. Without bringing an eighth-barrel over to your table or purchasing the 200oz model, I’m not sure how to top that.
We went to Orange for brunch yesterday. It may be a hole in the wall, but you know the food is going to be good when the line of young folks is out the door at 11 o’clock. They have frushi: a fruit-based sushi-style appetizers. Think strawberry and kiwi wrapped in orange-flavored sushi rice, chopsticks and all. I had the Chai Tea French Toast. Baked toast infused with chai tea, stuffed with ricotta cheese, sitting in a milky chai reduction topped with carmelized apples. I don’t think french toast will ever be the same.
We went to Carmine’s last night for dinner, as it’s a block and a half from my host’s apartment. Portions were so large that only one person was able to finish their meal (although it was a smaller quantity of food). I started with Pasta e Fagioli, large enough to be a meal by itself. I ordered their Orecchiette Salsiccia — “Little ear” pasta tossed in garlic and oil sauce with broccoli and sausage — thinking that it’d be a lighter dish, only to find a two pound plate so rich that I couldn’t finish more than half of it before getting full. I was irritated to have to bring half of it home, but it’ll make a hell of dinner for two later this week. Service was impeccable, almost too good at times though. When you’re trying to listen to a story it’s obnoxious to have someone reaching across the table to fill your water glass, although it may have been that we had a rather inaccessible corner table. Even with that, it’s well worth going. One word of advice: get reservations EARLY; this place fills up by 8pm, for good reason. If you do have to wait, check out all of the celebrity portraits that frequent the place.
I’m not a museum fan, but my host took me to Millennium Park to see some of the outdoor sculptures there. Definitely check out Cloud Gate (more frequently referred to as the bean) and The Crown Fountain if you find yourself downtown. If you’re a techie definitely check out the overhead trellis at Jay Pritzker Pavilion and try to figure out how the hell it stays up in the wind. Mind boggling, I tell you.
A few other tid bits…
- On Wrigley Field. It’s smaller than I envisioned, but cool that it’s right in the middle of a city. Active traffic passes by 10 feet from the stadium walls, opposed to Camden Yards where the stadium is off by itself a ways.
- On airport selection. Midway (MDW) is far less crowded than O’Hare (ORD) and very cheap from BWI if you take a Southwest roundtrip. I think I paid $118 or so after all taxes. It is also right on the L, which makes getting into the city a no brainer.
- On the TSA. Damn their stupid suggestions on time-to-arrive. At both BWI and Midway I cleared security in less than five minutes, the bulk of which I spent taking my shoes off and putting them back on. Arriving two hours prior to your flight is so unnecessary it makes my head hurt. Passengers have no option but to burn an hour shopping or eating. I’d love to see the balance sheets from the food court before and after the TSA was put into operation.
- On flying Southwest. If you roll up in a wheelchair to board early, don’t take the emergency rows with the extra leg room. If you can’t walk onto the plane without a wheelchair I don’t want you assisting others escape the plane in case of emergency. Fakers ought be shot.
- On Chicago bars. Some bars close at 4am. A select few close at 5am. It isn’t strange to see a line out the door at a nightclub around midnight. Mix one part booze, one timezone change, one part jet lag, and I found it amazing that anyone goes to work at all.
- On Texas Holdem. I’m not very good, nor do I like reading people. As far as gambling goes, I prefer games of chance. I think we gamble on people often enough.
One last reason why Chicago is a groovy city. As much as I enjoy The Onion in web-format, I enjoy reading newspapers. I’ve never seen the print version of The Onion before, but it’s available in newspaper racks across the city. Free.
It’s Easter today. I need to find an open grocery store. The fridge is bare and I’m out of bread.