We took our 5th Chicago trip last weekend, this time with our friends Rose & Tom. Unlike our other trips which usually had an agenda involving seeing a play, this was a more free-form vacation; the only planned excursion was attending a taping of the public radio show Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, a news/current affairs quiz show hosted by Peter Sagal. Otherwise, it was a mellow time with each day full of lots of walking around, a little bit of hotel resting-up, and lots of eating (and at least one horse-and-buggy sighting, at right).
Thursday afternoon (3/19): We dropped our stuff at the Holiday Inn Express on the Magnificent Mile and had a late lunch at Portillo's Hot Dogs: nice atmosphere; I had the Maxwell Street Polish sausage with grilled onions. After Wait Wait, which was great fun as always, we had a late dinner at The Gage, an upscale tavern diner. I just had a burger, but it had "onion marmalade" and Camembert which was perhaps not the best combo; however, the drunken waiter made the experience interesting.
On Friday, sunny but chilly, we went on a wild goose chase hoping to have brunch at Orange, a place that a colleague at the library recommended highly, but soon discovered it was closed and empty, so we ate at the Corner Bakery. We spent the afternoon at the Art Institute (wonderful place with lots of Van Gogh, Hopper, and Frank Lloyd Wright--we didn't even get around to much before the 18th century). Pictured below is me in a Carlo Bugatti mirror at the Institute. Dinner was at Topolobampo, Rick Bayless's fancy Mexican restaurant (right next to the more hoi-polloish Frontera Grill). Honestly, it was one of those menus on which I could find very little I thought I'd like (I'm not a very adventurous eater), but I did have a nice taco-like dish with beef and onion straws, and, though I'm not a seafood eater, I enjoyed an appetizer of ceviche (sunfish marinated in citrus juice). A post-dinner walk to the nearest Borders store capped the evening.
Saturday morning (lovely sunshine and mild breezes in the 50's) was spent strolling up the shopping mile, though I didn't actually do much acquiring of possessions. The Crate and Barrel store was quite cool, and I was tempted to buy a couple of cutting boards, but they seemed too heavy to take back on the plane. I had a pre-lunch sundae at Ghirardelli's Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop: espresso chip ice cream w/hot fudge. I would have gone into a pleasure coma except I had to walk back to the hotel. Lunch was at Wow Bao at Water Tower Place (very doughy steamed potsticker-like buns filled with meat--not so much). Afterward, we headed a little south of the Loop and walked down Printer's Row, stopping at Sandmeyer's Bookstore and a Dunkin' Donuts, and sunned ourselves in Grant Park. Dinner was at Gino's East on Wells St. (pictured below). I'm not a big fan of deep dish pizza, and there was a 45-minute wait to even get into the building, but the place was wonderful inside: large and dark, with white Christmas lights strewn about and graffiti on every available wall space. Tried some Fat Tire beer, brewed in Colorado, on the recommendation of our friend Tom who lived there for a while, and enjoyed it.
Overall, a nice relatively impromptu trip--as impromptu as a predictable, in-the-rutter like me is likely to have. There was a Trader Joe's right across from the hotel, so wine and crackers were just moments away at any given time (same with Starbucks). All I could have asked for were slightly warmer temperatures.