Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

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13 thoughts on “Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

  1. First, that is a huuuuuuge lamp. Second, Paddy Long’s looks incredible!

    I did not recommend the Ale House although I could see how that would immediately be credited to me…I actually recommended a place called “The Gage”, expensive but delicious and when I went 5 years ago they had the most diverse craft beer bottle menu in Chicago. I like Lou Malnati’s because it was cheap and they have pizza cookies. I really want to go to Portillo’s, we have one in Southern California but its not the same.

    Either way, it looks like you guys had a fun trip all around! No pictures with the BEAN?

    • THE GAGE. Gage sounds like Clark. I can see how I confused the two. We probably walked by The Gage 10 times everyday, but we were never drawn in.

      And we took 10 billion pictures with the Bean, but the Bean doesn’t exactly fit into the food or drink category (at least not in giant statue form). I’m planning a “Chicago Stuff That Isn’t Food or Drink” post tomorrow.

  2. You know where else serves black and tan and you’re surrounded by British memorabilia????? Scotland. Oh, and in some pubs, you can take your dog. Just saying. Something to think about when we run the EMF Half Mary 😉

    If homeboy were to hold his hand vertically instead of horizontally, he would be telling everyone F-you. One British thing I’ve had to get used to when using my fingers to indicate 2.

    Is it just me, or is every big city restaurant expensive??!?! I know that sounds silly, but I’m also shocked every time I’m in Toronto, and even in Winnipeg, when I get the bill in restaurant. I’m used to lower prices but in pounds, so now I feel like a total cheapskate. And yes I know, it’s understandable that things are more expensive in big cities, but it’s always still a shock.

    • I guess I won’t be flashing the peace symbol to any Brits anytime soon. Good to know! I don’t really know what the horizontal version means but I think it might be a version of a gang sign? Every teenage girl has a photo of them doing that with the “duck face.”

      And I do think things are more expensive in bigger cities (I’ve heard London is the worst!). And Aaron was charged an extra $3 for a bourbon on the rocks (“pour fee”) which seems a bit steep!

  3. Yay! Glad you checked out Portillo’s. I definitely don’t go every time I’m there, but it’s a good Chicago-y place to check off the list 🙂

    I love 312! I buy it often here in MN too.

  4. That bacon board is drool-worthy. Wow.

    Re: expensive city eats. I think SF is one of the cheapest big cities. When I go back east to NYC or DC, I always go into sticker shock.

    • THE BACON WAS SO GOOD! I didn’t know there were so many options!

      I agree about San Francisco. I’ve never felt like it was unreasonable even though California state tax is higher and now there are all of those weird city taxes. Maybe because I know the city better we can venture into more neighborhood spots instead of the usual touristy places? This was the first time (aside from Honolulu) where we were completely shocked.

  5. Pingback: The Bucket List That Didn’t Get Crossed Off | Lavender Parking

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