Escaping the brouhaha that was the G20 in Toronto, I ran off with Endy to Chicago for an extended weekend. Though our hotel was located just off the shopping Mecca that is the Magnificent Mile, we, of course, hadn’t chosen Chicago for its shopping, but rather for its food. After some extensive research, the itinerary was set up and like all my trips, sight-seeing was optional and merely a good way to kill time between meals. I had short-listed 7 restaurants, 3 markets, and a pig butchering demo during our stay, with several optional places (mostly of the drinking variety) to hit if we had time.
Day 1: Garrett’s Popcorn, Voges, The Purple Pig
Let me start off by saying how much I really like Porter Airlines. Quick, comfortable, and convenient – especially if you live in downtown Toronto. So, after the relatively short flight, we made our way to the Chicago core and our hotel. After settling in (and setting up the all-important internet connection), we thought we’d start take a slow stroll toward our dinner destination down North Michigan Avenue – with a couple of stops along the way.
Apparently, Garrett’s Popcorn (625 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago) is something of an institution in Chicago. They have this cheddar/caramel mix which everyone ahead of me in line ordered. To be honest, the combination didn’t appeal to me at all, but we were tasked to bring some home for friends and I thought I should give it a shot. The verdict? Not as bad a combo as you’d think, but I’m not sure it’s worth a long wait to get it.
Continuing South, I suss out the Voges store (520 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago) in North Bridge Mall. Billing itself as “Haut Chocolat,” Voges has many an interesting combination. Bacon, wasabi, reishi mushroom – just a few of the ingredients and flavours you can find in a bar of Voges chocolate. Funny enough, we left the store with almost all caramels, since we’d tried quite a number of these bars already.
Finally, we arrived at The Purple Pig. After a short 20-minute wait, we were seated at one of the communal tables. Though we liked quite a few of our dishes, each plate that came out was too much for two. We left feeling like we needed at least one more stomach to help us through everything. Not to mention the atmosphere and set-up is really quite suited to groups. Read the full post…
Day 2: Blackbird, the French Market, Mercat A La Planxa, and TRU
We started off our first full day in Chicago at Blackbird, a Paul Khan restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine. Instead of the prix-fixe (quite reasonable at $22!), we ordered à-la-carte. Had a very delicious cabbage soup, which was the highlight of our meal. Crispy sweetbreads, a pork belly sandwich, and stuffed quail also were consumed. Overall, a really good lunch. Read the full post…
Nearby to Blackbird is The French Market (131 North Clinton Street, Chicago), so we stopped by and bought some goodies to take home. I added two kinds of locally-made caramels to the pile we started at Voges. Was tempted to buy olives, but passed when we figured we could buy them at home. Still, they looked so delicious and enticing. The market is smaller than I’d imagined but well-trafficked (for mid-day on a weekday) nonetheless.
We had taken a bit of time to go shopping before we made our way to dinner at Mercat A La Planxa, across from Millennium Park. We had found the dishes here to be really well-prepared (really nice charring, perfectly cooked shrimp, crispy breads) and quite tasty. I was excited to see the Padron peppers we’d had at Txori in Seattle on the menu and ordered that. Quite a tasty snack. I was also quite fond of the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with an almond. While we were quite happy with all of the dishes, we definitely ordered too much. Sadly, we had only a bite or two of our final dishes, before we ran for our next reservation. Read the full post…
TRU has a strict jacket policy that applies to the main dining area and well, that seemed a bit too much of a bother given we were traveling light. But after some careful reading, I discovered they do accept dessert reservations (by phone) in the lounge where jackets are not required. Yay! Their dessert-tasting was a really lovely fine-dining experience without the crazy-long time-commitment that a dinner tasting menu usually requires. Now, some people might think it nutters to spend $40 on dessert for one, but I have to say that it was worth every penny. Not just for the food, but the whole ceremony of it all. We’re not sure if there were extras thrown in due to our cameras, but it was all very lovely. Highly recommended and a great cap to the day. Read the full post…
Day 3: Hot Doug’s, Fox & Obel, and moto
Since this was our first trip to Chicago to eat, a trip to Hot Doug’s (3324 N. California Avenue, Chicago) was mandatory. I knew the lines would be atrocious, but everyone went on and on about this place. So (finally!), 90 minutes later, we ingested our selection of dogs. Now, Chicago natives might crucify me, but I really don’t see the fascination with this. The remix of the lowly dog, while interesting, was not so tasty as to warrant a 90-minute wait. Endy, on the other hand, loved it and would go back.
I had purposely planned to have a light eating day, aware of what kind of hours-long extravaganza that dinner could be. So we filled the time with a bit of shopping and a visit to Fox & Obel (401 East Illinois Street, Chicago), an up-scale grocery store. Lots of interesting things to spend your pennies on here and I satisfied myself with a small bag of candy from the tall and colourfully-filled glass jars.
Moto turned out to be a 5-hour playful exploration in eating. At the core, dishes were okay-to-excellent, with the bulk of them on the good-end of the scale. A really good first-look at molecular gastronomy for me. And a ton of photos. Read the full post…
Day 4: Big Star, Pig Butchering, Goose Island Brewery, Mado, and The Violet Hour
We were running a bit late and were unable to hit the Maxwell Street Market that I had originally planned for that morning. Instead, we made a quick stop at Big Star for a snack. Luckily, things were pretty quiet (I hear there are long lines depending on when you go) and we were able to order and eat in less than 30 minutes. I really liked the atmosphere of this place and the tacos were both inexpensive and tasty. Read full post…
Our snack done with, we raced around the corner to attend the pig butchering demo at Mado. While I’m still not going to be hacking up half a pig any time soon, it was still a great thing to have learned and absorbed. See all the photos on flickr.
To kill time before dinner, we made a stop at the Goose Island Brewery (1800 N. Clybourn Avenue, Chicago). While beer is not so much my thing, it was a nice way to try some local brew. And there’s a giant Binz around the corner if you feel like you need more variety. Interesting note: there are more Québec beers available at that Binz than in any LCBO. Sigh.
So, earlier in the day at the pig butchering demo, we liked Rob’s (the butcher/chef) philosophy and personality enough to have canceled our dinner res at Café Des Architects (20 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago) and made plans to eat at Mado instead. We asked Rob to feed us at-will and so we got to meet our piggy-friend again (delicious!) and sampled some tasty treats both on, and off, the resto’s card. Read full post…
Stuffed and unsure of stomach capacity – but conveniently located close to Mado – was the highly regarded cocktail bar, The Violet Hour. The place had an exclusive and old-school feel to things, with just a light splash of romance. It was a fantastic way to celebrate and wind-down our final evening in Chicago. Read full post…
Overall, we had a really fantastic trip to Chicago and already, we’re pondering a return-visit. There was just so much good food and I know we’ve only just scraped the surface! There’s also a vibrant foodie community in Chicago (hi, and thanks, to everyone on LTHforum.com, Chicago Chowhound, and Chicago eGullet), where travelers can benefit from their knowledge and enthusiasm. Hope to be back sooner than later, Chicago.
Map of Eats
August 3, 2010 at 7:58 pm
Welcome to the “club.”;) So glad that you and Endy now concure with ML and my enjoyment of Chicago. This only means a group trip is inevitable. :P Next time instead of Manic… ;)
August 4, 2010 at 7:45 pm
Nicely done site – shame you couldn’t make it to Alinea. Looks like moto has stepped up their game a bit…..may have to check them out in the future again.
August 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm
Renée Group trip! Would be good for a few of the places we went to.
Uhockey I will try for Alinea next time – and hopefully improve my “80th in line” standing…
August 9, 2010 at 9:39 am
sounds like a fantastic trip. chicago has some great eats for sure. i blog a fair bit about chicago if you need additional recs.
August 11, 2010 at 2:10 pm
Chicago was really a lot of foodie fun. Will hit your blog up next time we go, thanks Tonya!