Friday, August 17, 2012

Chicago - The Food

So one of the major problems with traveling with a 10 month old is that it is much more difficult to whip out a camera at a restaurant.  There's far too much "do you want some more mango? No, leave your food on the table.  Don't put your hand down mommy's shirt.  Are you done?  Do you want some more? Shhhh, no screaming" to be taking pictures.

So you'll have to bear with me on these reviews.


Yolk:  I think this might have been the favorite breakfast for both Thatboy and me.  I had red velvet french toast - I guess to make up for the lack of cake at the wedding.  Red velvet cake, rolled around a cream cheese filling, then dipped in egg and fried.  Served with a mound of fresh strawberries.

Thatboy had the good morning burger - which he thought was one of the best breakfasts ever.  A burger topped with American cheese, bacon, and egg.

The Bongo Room: This was a very special breakfast because I finally got a chance to meet Elly! I've "known" Elly for probably close to 6 years, and yet we've never met.  When I started planning our Chicago trip, she was the first (and only) person I emailed for recommendations.   "And of course, let me know if you want to hang at all while you're here,"  she casually threw in to the end of her recs.  I did want to hang out and meet her.  And for those of you who know Elly by reputation, she is just as sweet, wonderful, and warm as you would expect!  We met her on a coldish, rainy, morning, warmed by the conversation and pancakes!  Elly had raspberry oreo pancakes, Thatboy had blueberry pancakes.  And because I always have to be difficult, I had the breakfast burrito with chorizo.

Xoco: This was definitely Thatbaby's favorite breakfast.  It was the one meal of the trip where not a single crumb made it onto the floor.  While Thatboy and I each had delicious chilaquiles, Thatbaby had an empanada with eggs and poblano chiles.  He sat happily munching away while the table beside us mused at how lucky he was.  "I've waited 30 years to eat at a Bayless restaurant, and he gets to do it in his first year of life!"  We've always been big fans of Rick Bayless recipes, so it was good to see the restaurants carry on the yumminess!  Thatboy and I also indulged in some of their signature chocolate drinks.  He had a chocolate con leche (like a hot chocolate) while I had an iced chocolate drink with fresh mint from Bayless's garden.

Tempo Cafe:  It's funny to refer to a Greek diner from my childhood, given that I think it's probably the wrong era, but having family in New York meant I grew up going to Greek diners - and this reminds me of those breakfasts!  Giant egg dishes, big buttery pieces of toast, and their homemade marmalade is to-die-for.

Lunch:  We tend to skip lunch a lot, mostly because we end up eating giant breakfasts late.  But we did manage to squeeze in a couple.

Lincoln Park Green Market: Elly filled me in on the green market that occurs at Lincoln Park on Saturdays, so we planned our trip to be able to include a visit.  Of course, we ended up skipping breakfast, so when we got there, we were starving.  We headed straight to the food vendors where Thatboy had a burger topped with cheese and peppers (you're going to notice a trend here) and I had a bratwurst.  I haven't had bratwurst for ages.  Thatbaby had never had a bratwurst.  He was a big fan.  He barely got a piece in his mouth before asking for more.

Park Grill: Tuesday we met up with my cousin who works across from Millennium Park. He gave us a tour of the park that included lunch at the Park Grill.  It was a great atmosphere to sit and people watch.  Thatboy had a kobe burger with cambozola (a burger?  I know, you're shocked) while I had a Cuban sandwich.

Trenchermen:  This was Thatboy's favorite meal of the entire trip.  It started off rather horribly - I had the wrong directions, we were running late, it was raining, and we got lost multiple times.  Add to that Thatbaby was in his crazy playful mood which involved trying to climb the booth.  One of the problems with restaurants not having highchairs.  I had to hold him with one hand and try to eat with the other.  We had pickle-tots with chicken bresaola - Thatbaby's favorite part of the meal.  Potato and picke - what's not to like.  An heirloom tomato salad with white balsamic ice cream - Thatboy's favorite part of the meal, he talked about it for days after.  I'm going to have to try to figure out how to make it.  We followed that up with some sweet corn tortellini in eggplant consume and some roast duck breast.  This was the only place we ordered dessert because everything else was so good.  The blueberries with panna cotta was far more my kind of dish than Thatboy's.  But he enjoyed a variety of their fabulous cocktails, so he was happy.  Although we decided that my "Baby Mama" was the best drink of the evening - damiana, yuzu, tonic, and burnt lemon.

Mercat a la Planxa: We ended up eating here with AL, his new wife, his mom, and a couple of his friends.  I wish we hadn't.  I'd love to go back and try this place again.  I think it's difficult to go out for tapas with a big group of people.  You only get a bite of things and maybe don't order what you really want.  I couldn't even get at the cheese plate the way I ordinarily would have.  And AL spent most of the meal complaining about one thing or another (I don't think he likes when someone else picks the recipe.) I will say that the octopus was phenomenal, the lamb was delicious, and I wish I had more than a bite of the stuffed date!

And of course, the ubiquitous Chicago Pizza at Giordanos.

We let Thatboy do the ordering and he chose the Chicago classic which had peppers, onions, and pepperoni.  It was delicious.

It was my first real experience with Chicago pizza.  Out here, Chicago-style pizza is just a really thick crust, with the normal amount of topping.  In Chicago, it's really pie like - normal thickness crust with the fillings piled high inside.

 Thatbaby loved his slice!  Between the pizza and the empanada, Thatbaby thought Chicago was one killer food town.


  1. I just went to Xoco not too long ago too - totally worth the wait! I live in the far NW suburbs of Chicago - my husband hates to go in the city so I usually meet my daughter there, but really don't take advantage of how much the city has to offer. :D

  2. Oh, and if you want to make Chicago style deep dish pizza at home, here is a fool proof recipe from America's test kitchens.

  3. We're talking about going to Chicago in November since we can take the Megabus. I've been to Chicago but haven't really gotten to explore. I'm sure I'll reference this list if/when we go!

  4. I would love to have an authentic Chicago deep dish pizza!!!!!! Looks like good food abounded and That baby was happy. Lucky you also met Elly!!!!

  5. This is exactly why I need to get myself to Chicago!