I know what you thought... I was going to say Chicago is for lovers. Although possible, it wasn't quite what I was thinking. Sure Vanessa and I had some picture-perfect moments in Chicago that are worth putting on the wall of our small RV Maude. Liiiike, this one.
....but this trip to Chicago was less for lovers and more for food and family.
First things first, the food. Ever since I met Vanessa (whose family is from Chicago) I've been hearing about the food there. Raving about the pizza, the vegetarian fare, the little places that pepper the city. I didn't really appreciate it though, until the initial bite of my very first Chicago-style pizza. Now, I'm from New Jersey and let me tell you, NJ and NYC both do pizza RIGHT. So when someone tells me that another city has pizza that I'll go crazy for, I tend to laugh it off.
Chicago-style pizza is the jam and I can appreciate the differences it holds to NJ and NY pizza. The deep dish style is by far my favorite, which is partially why Chicago had me in the first place.
Vanessa insisted that my first foray into Chicago pizza was with Giordanos, and I have to say I was impressed. The pizza took about 30-45 minutes to prepare for consumption, which they warned us ahead of time. So we decided to tide ourselves over with hand cut French fries, a ridiculously inexpensive Sam Adams draft, and a side of ranch dressing. (For the fries not the beer, gross). The ambiance in Giordanos was that of an old school pizzeria with memorabilia and pizza related knick-knacks on the walls.
The pizza was phenomenal and I would recommend this place for your first Chicago-style pizza experience. Note: if you can't fly to Chicago just yet, then order online and they deliver. Anywhere in the US. Yep.
We also had the pleasure of eating at Wildfire in Oakbrook, one of Vanessa's favorite restaurants. She swears by the chopped salad which was undeniably awesome (sans the chicken and bacon!). I had a fish sandwich.... Which was so crispy and rich -- the fish just flaked off under a light beer batter. If there's one thing I can assure you that Wildfire does right besides their exceptional service, it's their fish. For $20, I could get a glass of Malbec and a fish sandwich and call it a day. The restaurant resembled a 1920s-1930s steakhouse with photos of that era lining each wall.
By far though, my favorite dining experience in Chicago had to be the Chicago Diner. I've been hearing about this diner from Vanessa for what seems like ever (it's her fav veg food joint of all time), and now I know why. When you take diner food, things like burgers, country fried steak, gyros, and make them completely vegetarian without ever losing any flavor? That's A+ stuff in my book. I ordered the Titanic BLT burger which was out of this world. The chipotle sauce they put on top was delectable. I would go back just for that burger alone. But wait, there's more. A cookie dough peanut butter shake, and Bloody Mary that absolutely nailed just the right amount of spice, and a gyros with "cheese" sauce. It's no wonder Vanessa loves his place right in the heart of Boystown. Meat Free since '83 and proud of it.
To mix it up a bit, we also indulged in some incredible Mediterranean food from Pita Inn. I was a bit hesitant at first because pulling into the restaurant, it resembled an old KFC joint. Pita Inn is one of the very few fast food type Mediterranean places I've ever seen. But let me tell you, they nailed it with the food. Their tahini sauce is so creamy and flavorful, when drizzled over their falafel plate, everything just melts in your mouth. I can't say I was super thrilled with their stuffed grape leaves, I don't like much tang to mine, but I can say that the veggie combo plate is well worth a stop. The restaurant itself is nothing to squawk about, fast food style. But delicious, inexpensive Mediterranean food on the go? Sign me up.
A few other notables in Chicago worth mentioning:
.....the Divvy bikes rule. For $9.95 you can ride around the city at 30 minute increments all day. There are SO many bike docks it's a perfect mode of public transport.
....speaking of public transport, you can take the Metra in from pretty much any suburb surrounding the city roundtrip for maximum $12. However if you want to save some cash, get the weekend pass for $8 and travel by train Saturday and Sunday.
....The Bean, along with the rest of the statues in Millennium park, are JUST as cool as they seem in pictures. Go check them out.
Also while in Chicago, we were able to enjoy some time with Vanessa's family. It really was a blast to meet her grandparents, both of whom I adored, and spend time with her dad and step-mom. I even rode my first four wheeler before hunkering down for an evening BBQ and fire.
Thank you Chicago, for having us. Hope to see you again soon. ✌
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