Chicago. To most, a coveted city full of fascinating and powerful people – former presidents, TV and media moguls, world class athletes. To me – up until my latest visit – just another American city, often compared to Toronto, my hometown. Because of this latter bit, I have to confess I didn’t feel the curiosity I usually feel for places I don’t know much about – if it’s always being compared to my hometown city, why bother exploring it? Well, as I discovered recently, there’s a lot to be admired about the Windy City. And yes – it does remind me of the place I grew up in, but in really fantastic ways: the people are friendly, the shopping and food is world class, and it’s a relatively clean place for being such a large metropolis. We were there in the heart of the winter so our focus was on food, with a little shopping and health and wellness mixed in. Herewith, my food guide –
On the night I arrived, we started out with a classic Chicago establishment, Chicago Cut. Set on the river, it’s a great way to start your trip as you sip champagne (or Pinot in our case) and take in the setting you often see in movies and TV. Favourites included the Marinated Cajun Rib Eye, Oysters, and the Foot Long Kobe Beef Hot Dog – yes you read that right!
The following night we immersed ourselves in the kind of restaurant that’s become popular all over the world – that of shared platters where everyone has a bit of a taste of everything. The restaurant was called Girl and the Goat and it delivered on a bunch of things: intricate and tasty cocktails (a favourite was the Ring of Fire: tequila, tarragon, pomegranate, jalapeño, lime and ginger), delicious food with a little “je ne sais quoi” to each dish, and a lively and warm atmosphere. An added bonus, is it’s in the West Loop – five minutes from the United Centre. Which brings me to another recommendation: Chicago Blackhawks game is always a fun time as they have some of the most enthusiastic fans in the NHL. Add in a game if you’re traveling here in the winter, if you can get tickets.
Continuing on with the food tour, the next morning, even though all I wanted to do was sleep in (not because I was raging the previous night – because I’m a mom and my baby wasn’t there to wake me up), I forced myself to wake up so that a friend could take us to the best dim sum spot in town. In my books, a legit dim sum place is worth a little less sleep. The commitment was worth it, as we downed the best baked pork buns (bao buns) I’ve had since my Hong Kong trip in 2013…soooo tasty. The place for these is the Phoenix. Kevin and I were the only non-Chinese in the restaurant, which is always a good sign.
That night, we made a last minute decision to get into the Purple Pig, and I’m really glad we did. Like the Girl and the Goat restaurant, its menu is meant to be shared and I had the best beet dish I’ve ever had, among other delicious items. We sat in an intimate outdoor heated seating area and really liked it but the inside seemed fun too.
When it comes to shopping, I’m mostly bored with the extra glitzy brand name stores that you can find in any big city, so I was happy to discover Bucktown – a neighbourhood full of character, good for walking around, discovering boutique shops and sitting down for a coffee or drink at the many local cafés and bars.
Lastly, if you want to sweat out all the food you’re bound to consume, book yourself into Aire Ancient Baths (make reservations well in advance of your trip, it’s a hot spot both figuratively and literally!)
Go hawks Go!