Another week, another express work-cation, this time to Chicago in the mid-west. I’d been to Chicago a few times before, including for a hot 16 hours last July 4 and back in 1994 during one of my very first trip to the United States. Despite having a lot of meetings, I tried to squeeze in as much sight-seeing as I could in 36 hours, including catching the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. And eating of course… Here are some of my favourites from my express “work-cation” in Chicago:
LIQUID ENERGY AT INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE
First things first after a 6AM flight from Reagan to O’Hare, I needed caffeine! But not just any coffee would do. I wanted some Intelligentsia Coffee since the roasting company started and is still based in Chicago. Bonus, their location at 53 East Randolph Street is around the corner from Millennial Park so I got the chance to squeeze in a little sight-seeing too!
Intelligentsia Coffee has many locations across town, including 53 E Randolph Street, 1609 W Division Street, 3123 North Broadway and 2642 N Milwaukee Avenue.
POTATO DUMPLINGS AT PIEROGI HEAVEN
As many as 1.5 million Chicagoan claim Polish ancestry and Chicago bills itself as the largest Polish city outside of Poland. Pierogis, delightfully doughy Eastern European dumplings, are pretty easy to find around town. For a quick lunch, I headed to Pierogi Heaven in the loop, a hole in the wall kinda spot that’s popular with nearby office workers. You can choose from 11 different pierogi fillings, all of which come with fried onions, bacon and sour cream. I polished off a plate of potato cheddar dumplings, with extra sour cream and a cup of hot red borsch.
Pierogi Heaven is located at 169 North Wells Street
GARRETT MIX AT GARRETT POPCORN
On paper, cheddar cheese and caramel popcorn don’t sound like they’d mix well together. But in a bucket of Garrett Popcorn, the salty-sweet combo known as Garrett Mix® is one of the most addictive thing you’ll ever eat. This staple Chicago food counts a lot of fan… Oprah listed it as one of her “favourite things” on a couple of occasions, President Obama gave a tin to Vice President Biden for his birthday and Beyonce herself declared it “Deeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrricious” on instagram. I never leave Chicago without a bag 😉
There are many locations of Garrett Popcorn, including one at151 North Michigan Avenue by Millennium Park, 625 North Michigan Avenue and 2 at O’Hare airport (there’s one at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City too…)
CONFIT GOAT BELLY AT GIRL AND THE GOAT
Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat inevitably comes up every time I ask anyone for restaurant recommendations in Chicago. So this trip, I actually made my way there! Forty five minutes and one “my little kumquat” cocktail later, I finally snagged a seat at one corner of the bar. I definitely blew my per-diem on that meal, but it was SO worth it. Everything I had from the kohlrabi salad with fennel, evalon, toasted almonds, autumn crisp apple and shiitake mushrooms to the goat carpaccio and the goat cheesecake with pretzel cream and beer caramel was amazing. But the real standout of the evening can be summarized in 4 words: Bourbon. Butter. Poached. Lobster. As if that didn’t sound amazing enough, that was just the side for a confit goat belly, which also came with a fennel puree and fennel salad (I’ve been really into fennel lately.) No wonder everyone and their mothers has been raving about Girl and the Goat 😉
I talked my colleagues into squeezing in a late lunch/early happy hour at the Magnificent Mile gastropub The Purple Pig, I couldn’t convince them to try the roasted bone marrow with sicilian sea salt and herb salad (with Italian parsley, thin-sliced white onions and capers) smear. More for me right? Right!! It was a beautiful, warm day in Chicago so we ate outside, sorta overlooking the river. And of course, warm sunny days call for rosé, and the bone marrow paired perfectly with a glass of Scea Andre Roux Clos Cibonne côtes de provence. Sadly, my colleagues are not as adventurous eaters as I am and I really couldn’t justify ordering the pig’s ears on top of the bone marrow… I guess I’ll have to go back and eat my way through more of the decadent meat-centered menu at The Purple Pig.
The Purple Pig is located at 500 N. Michigan Avenue.
I also found a little time to swing by the stunning Palmer House. Now owned by Hilton, it’s the oldest hotel in the city and claims to be where brownies were invented. The Palmer House Brownie with walnuts and an apricot glaze (check out the recipe in Epicurious) is still served at the hotel’s restaurant and bar.
Since I can’t eat chocolate, I settled for another local favourite, a quick Goose Island Honkers Ale, which I enjoyed under the magnificent ceiling fresco by French muralist Louis Pierre Rigal. Not a bad spot to wrap up the trip!
* * * * *
I think I did pretty good in less than 36 hours… Where would be your five foodie stops or top foodie bites if you were to spend a few days in Chicago?