Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Time I "Chose" Chicago

Last spring (mid-April to be exact), thanks to the hospitality of my very close friend Andy and his girlfriend Becky, we spent a busy, fun- and food-filled few days in the Windy City. This trip was actually both mine and Steve's first time visiting Chicago, and the only expectations we had were that we wanted a fun weekend away, and that we wanted to give Andy and Becky the opportunity to show us their favorite parts of the area. Oh, and pizza. Lots of pizza.

When we arrived on Thursday and the flight attendant mentioned that it was 80 degrees, we assumed that she was mistaken--but she wasn't! Unfortunately, that weather didn't exactly hold out for the rest of the weekend...but at least we were spared any rain, I suppose. As we didn't even arrive at Andy's house in Aurora (hometown of Wayne and Garth of Wayne's World fame!) until nearly 7 PM, we decided to spend the evening out in the 'burbs and went to The Foundry to grab dinner and drinks. After a somewhat mediocre experience (the service was terrible, the food and drinks average, but I can see how it would be a fun place if there was a big sporting event going on--lots of TVs, a big, open building, etc.) we returned to the house to hang out, catch up, and drink a few beers.

As it was vacation, Steve and I wanted to sleep in on Friday. We hadn't done much of that on our previous vacation (New Orleans) and we really didn't have a set schedule for Chicago; it felt good to not set an alarm clock! And we were still out of the house by lunchtime, to grab food at a Portillo's before heading downtown. Now, I'm not a huge hot dog fan, but Portillo's "Chicago style" hot dogs impressed both of us!

Once we arrived and parked downtown, it was a walk through Millennium Park to see "The Bean" and the beautiful tulips. Also nearby is the building that is in many scenes of the movie Adventures in Babysitting, which was fun to see. Personally I don't get "The Bean" any more than Andy and Becky do (they were joking about it as we walked to the park) but hey...that's modern art for ya. (At least in my opinion)

Had it been rainy or cloudy we may not have done the following activity, that being a visit to the Sears--I mean, Willis--Tower, including paying the ::cough::somewhat exorbitant fee::cough:: to take the elevators up. However, thanks to a beautiful clear day got some great views of the city. I have to be honest, though--the little "observation booths" with the clear floors were a bit much for yours truly.

As we walked back to his car, Andy pointed out a few of the places where The Dark Knight was filmed. Although I'm not a big fan of that particular movie, it was really neat to hear Andy talk about what it was like to see it being filmed in his city over a period of time. Yet another reason why it's always fun to have a local "tour guide"!

That night we ate at a Lou Malnati's in downtown Naperville, Illinois. The pizza (including the Chocolate Chip dessert pizza) was some of the best I've ever had! Of course, I love pizza and prefer deep-dish over thin crust anyway, which helped my opinion ;o) And Naperville was beautiful as well. We were actually really happy to see some areas other than just downtown Chicago, and downtown Naperville was so similar to downtown Greenville that we couldn't help but love it at first sight.

Wrigley Field
After Malnati's, we were full and tired; knowing we needed to get up early the next day for the Cubs vs. Astros game at Wrigley, we decided to call it a night.

Our final day in Chicago was long, tiring, and admittedly...a bit too cold for our liking. (So much for that 80 degree weather they bragged about upon our arrival.) However, it was also an absolute blast! We began the day with a train ride into the city and a baseball game. Unfortunately, the Cubs lost--despite numerous stupid mistakes made by the Astros--but even though we were pretty much freezing up in the stands, we made the best of it with hot Irish coffees and the promise that after the game, we would be walking in the sun, where it was just a little bit warmer ;o)

Dinner that evening was at the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder, and this truly was a different kind of pizza. Andy described it as "pizza pot pies" and that's pretty much what they were! (Besides being delicious, of course.) This restaurant is actually located across the street from the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but nowadays there isn't really much to see dealing with that. Not surprisingly, Chicago isn't exactly proud of what happened that day in 1929. (Right after we returned from our trip, I wrote a comparison post of Malnati's and the Oven Grinder--check it out here!)

We topped off our last day with a night out at the Tilted Kilt in the West Loop. It was...interesting, to say the least. Basically a Scottish/Irish themed Hooters, and apparently the people who thought up this restaurant don't know or understand that the Scottish and Irish don't really, err, care for each
Site of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre...shhh!
other. Steve and I didn't have anything to eat, but apparently the food is pretty good; the drinks, on the other hand, weren't very impressive. At least, the special ones on their menu aren't--I tried a cucumber/gin concoction that could and should have been good, but tasted like honeydew melon lotion smells; Steve ordered a rum/ginger/orange bitters drink that sounded similar to a Dark & Stormy but tasted so bad that he complained about it (which is unusual for him). As it was, by about 10 PM we--along with Andy and Becky--were too tired to wait for the after-midnight train and decided to call it a night. We grabbed some 24 ounce beers from a nearby 7/11 (to enjoy on the train--you have no idea how excited we were that one could drink on the train...it would have been a long hour back to Aurora without that beer) and made it back to Chicago's Union Station with plenty of time to spare.

Last but not least, on our way to the airport we made a quick stop at White Castle for hangover food...and I don't care what anyone says, Krystal and White Castle taste exactly the same. I have to say that this was one city where I was happy to have some great tour guide friends, and I hope to some day get back to Chicago...if only to stuff myself, once again, with pizza and hot dogs!
Famous Chicago Bridges & the Sun-Times building!


  1. Did you walk around the Magnificent Mile at all? I'm surprised you didn't hit up the aquarium or field museum! Navy Pier is OK too, nothing too exciting. I did an architectural boat tour once that was pretty awesome. There's this one Irish pub we love down there (blanking on the name), and Rock Bottom Brewery is always fun, though it's a chain. We really want to get to the Goose Island Brewery!

    Can you tell I love Chicago? :)

  2. Nah, we skipped Magnificent Mile and the museums and stuff...mainly because we were short on cash and the Cubs game took up an entire half of one of our two days there! I'm sure we'll go back eventually though, because there's definitely still plenty to see :)

  3. ooo i loved chicago! sears tower and the millenium park are great!! I did a boat tour which was lots of fun, i took lots of great pictures. chicago has so much to offer in terms of architecture.. think of frank llyod wright !!