Chicago in the Summer
Cue Adele: Hello--it's me...
I can't believe it's already the end of June and the last time I posted was January! Life has been busy in 2018, and while it's been all good things, it hasn't left much time to get away since our amazing Paris trip. As you all know, I'm a teacher, so that doesn't give me much flexibility to travel during the school year to begin with, but on top of that Micah was promoted to captain (!!!), which had him away during much of March and April for training, and then we sold and bought a house at the end of May. So, busy to say the least.
But now it's summer, and that means travel as much as possible before school starts back. We have a few trips planned, and we managed to squeeze one in the first week of summer break. June 3rd was our anniversary (hard to believe it has been a year already), and we celebrated by spending a few days in our second city, Chicago.
Our main goal on this visit was to do food differently. If you look back at any of the previous Chicago posts, you will quickly notice that we only ever eat at Giardano's--like, we literally haven't tried any other restaurants in a city that is known for amazing cuisine. Feeling ashamed of ourselves, we did a little research this time and vowed to not eat at Giardano's once. Micah found this food guide, and let me tell you, it came through. So. Much. Good. Food.
The first day (which was our anniversary) I met Micah in Chicago, and we quickly caught the metro from the airport to downtown. We didn't stay in our usual Hampton Inn because summertime jacked their prices up to over $300/night. Micah found a deal on an equally nice hotel, Cambria Chicago Loop. I highly recommend this hotel, as it's nice, clean, and in a great location.
Once we were checked in to our room, I realized I was starving, so I grabbed a wrap from a place I hadn't tried before, Protein Bar. I got the Buffalo Chicken Wrap, and it was delicious. This chain was a great discovery--they are all over the city, and everything we tried from there the next few days was fresh and tasty. I really wish we had one in Lexington.
From there we wandered into a Macy's, which may seem silly since we have one at home, but this particular one had a watch that Micah had been eyeing for a while. He tried it on and loved it, so I said, "Happy anniversary!" and we scooped it up.
As we were walking out, Micah asked, "How about we go to David Yurman now?" We have been to this store a couple times before to look in awe, and Micah knew I had been wanting one of their classic cable bracelets (I've worn an $8 knockoff pretty much daily for the last three years). The Chicago store is so fun to visit. The workers are incredibly sweet, attentive, and not at all pushy. They are happy to talk and let you try jewelry on whether you are planning to buy or not. They offered us champagne when they heard it was our anniversary.
With each of our wrists a little fancier than before, we made our way to our favorite spot for drinks in the city, The Signature Room, which is on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building. The drinks are not cheap, but you are paying for the views, and they make a mean White Russian. In the winter it's called the Spiced White Russian, and in the summer it's called the Vanilla White Russian--both taste exactly the same, which is a good thing because it's one of the best cocktails I've ever had.
We lingered for a while before heading back to the hotel to change for dinner. Per the food guide, we decided to have our anniversary dinner at Girl and the Goat.
Created by the former Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard, this restaurant is more tapas style and has a unique menu that will quickly push any Kentuckian out of their comfort zone. Not sure what to order, we asked our waiter for some help. He said the duck tongues was his favorite, which made me cringe but intrigued Micah. We decided to just go for it, and ordered Duck Tongues, Goat Empanadas, Soft Shell "Crab Cake", and Roasted Beets. While it was exotic, everything was incredibly delicious, including the duck tongues (once you tried to forget you are indeed eating about 15 duck tongues). Our waiter even gave us an order of lamb ribs because it was a kitchen mistake, and those were also incredible. I'm glad we stepped outside our comfort zone because we got to enjoy one of the most impressive meals I've ever had.
Before calling it a night, we wanted to try a jazz bar recommended on the food guide, Andy's Jazz Club. I'm not really a jazz lover, but it's different when you see a band live. It's a very emotional and physical performance, and I was quickly drawn in. The atmosphere of this bar was so fun, and the drinks were perfect.
The next morning, we woke up wanting coffee and donuts. The food guide recommended Intelligentsia coffee shop and Doughnut Vault. Intelligentsia is a cozy, modern cafe with a minimal and well-crafted coffee menu.
I decided to just go with black coffee since we were taking it to have with donuts. It wasn't cheap--$4 for a medium-sized black coffee--but it was smooth and rich in flavor. So good. Micah had an iced latte, which was also delicious.
We then set off for Doughnut Vault. Perfectly named, it is literally a little hole in the wall with only enough room for a small counter.
They have a few different flavors of donuts, one of which is seasonal, and the person working the counter was more than welcoming. We ordered four donuts, having no idea that two would be the size of our head, and had a seat at one of their outdoor tables. The food guide came through again--these donuts were SO good. Micah and I agreed our favorite was the classic buttermilk donut.
From the donut shop, we rounded the corner and stumbled upon a wallet on the sidewalk. Micah opened it to find it full of credit cards and money, so we tried to figure out who it could belong to. After some impressive detective work, Micah gathered that this person must be a massage therapist based on a stack of business cards tucked inside. Looking around, he realized we were standing right outside of a massage center, and fortunately that's where the owner of the wallet worked. When she came to the front desk and saw her wallet, she immediately hugged me, and in an Italian accent said, "My Green Card is in here--thank you so much," and then hugged me a few more times.
Our hearts full, we left in search of a Divvy bike stand. We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon riding up and down the lake coast.
We stopped at the Navy Pier for beers and sandwiches from one of the outdoor stalls and stumbled across an architecture sailboat tour. We jumped at the opportunity, and it was one of the coolest things we have done in Chicago.
The tour guide is knowledgeable about the history of Chicago's architecture, but the best part is just being on a sailboat. They even take volunteers to help raise the sails, which fulfilled Micah's pirate fantasies.
For dinner we decided to have deep dish pizza, but at one of the restaurants suggested on the food guide, Lou Malnati's. It was good, but we both agreed not nearly as good a Giardano's. This was the only place we tried from the food guide that we weren't super impressed with.
Our third and last day in Chicago was a cold one, temperatures hovered in the high fifty's/low sixty's, and Micah woke up with a bit of a sore throat. So we decided to take it easy that day until the Cubs game that night. Micah got us breakfast at Protein Bar--I had an egg scramble bowl of some kind and he had a breakfast burrito--both were incredibly fresh, healthy, and delicious. And because it was too good to pass up, we headed back to Intelligentsia for a latte.
Coffee in hand, we hopped on the Metra, which is an electric train. This was really neat because it is far newer, cleaner, and quieter than a traditional metro.
We took the Metra to the Museum of Science and Industry. This is a fun museum with different exhibition options, including a tour of a real German submarine that was captured by the U.S. Navy during World War II, as well as a tour of a real (non-working) coal mine. We chose the coal mine tour, and our guide was engaging and knowledgeable. If you have kids, I highly recommend bringing them to this museum.
That evening we went to a Cubs game, and although it was windy, chilly, and the Cubs didn't score once, we had so much fun. We sat back and enjoyed Chicago-style hot dogs, popcorn, beers, and beautiful Wrigley Field.
Each time we visit Chicago, I fall more and more in love with this incredible city. It has so much to offer, and I can't wait to keep trying the recommendations from our new favorite food guide.