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  • Travel Challenges
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    Chicago, Illinois (December 2014)

    Da bean.
    Da bean.

    Hope everyone had a joyous holiday. Happy New Year!

    Came back from Chicago for work right before Christmas so didn’t have a lot of time to venture outside of city center, where my hotel and work office was. Overall, I really enjoyed Chicago. Yes, it was super cold (um in New York on Christmas, it was 50 degrees.. what.) but a pretty city. Felt like I was in New York (with the high rises and holiday decor) once I stepped outside the subway. I didn’t get to go to River North or any other parts of Chicago since it was way too cold and I didn’t feel like commuting too far at night by myself so here are the things I did get to do in my time at Chi Town.

    Flight at 6:15am from LGA to ORD.

    Really quick flight. Took the CTA train from ORD (O’Hara) to city center for $5. Probably the most efficient way to get to city center due to rush hour at 8AM, when I landed and cheap as well. It took about an hour 15 to get to the Washington stop.

    Walked from the W Hotel City Center to dinner the first night. Went over the Wells St Bridge. Beautiful sight.

    Wanted deep dish pizza. YAS. Coworker suggested to go to Lou Malnati’s. Got seated on a Thursday night at 7:15ish once I arrived. Waiter told us that a pizza would take like 45 minutes to make. WHAT?! Okay, fine. This better be guuud. And yes, it was. My coworker and I split a small “Malnati Chicago Classic” ($14.65) with half pepperoni, half sausage, and whole green peppers. This comes with a butter crust, which is apparently less thick than typical “Chicago deep dish” pizza but whatever, that crust is delish and a perfect amount of crust thickness. YUM.

     

    Full disclaimer: I poorly instagram-filtered this bad boy and this is the only copy I had. #fail
    Full disclaimer: I poorly instagram-filtered this bad boy and this is the only copy I had. #fail
    chicago xmas tree
    Big Christmas Tree next to the Christkindl Market

    I personally still think New York style pizza is da bomb but this was not a bad second place. We also had the Malnati style salad for an appetizer. Dressing was really good. Lettuce and toppings were fine. The next evening, I got to walk around the Christkindl Market which also was next to a big Christmas tree, which is a German fair with little shops and food/drinks. It was so crowded that I didn’t really get to shop but it was interesting to walk through. Headed to Macy’s at State street. Huge Macy’s with 9 floors and a hidden Christmas tree and also a “Holiday Lane”. Tree location is weird. You’ll need to take the escalators up to the 8th floor, then walk around to another location (they have signs, at least on the 8th floor) to see it. It’s inside the restaurant but since I wasn’t eating in the restaurant, you can view the tree on the 8th floor.. of the tree and of people eating. Nice.

    Macy's Huge Indoor Christmas Tree
    Macy’s Huge Indoor Christmas Tree
    chicago street parking
    Parking is more expensive here than in NYC! NYC’s highest street parking I’ve seen is $3.50/hr.

    Now what have I eaten in this windy city besides the wondrous deep dish?

    Breakfast

    1. Protein Bar: Didn’t have any pictures of this since I was rushing to work and getting work done in the morning. But this place is great. One of the healthier options. Tried the “BGT” (Bucktown Green Tea – Vanilla protein, choice of milk, Matcha green tea, and banana), eh didn’t like it. It tasted too bitter for me but other Yelpers loved it. Also, the “Millennium Perk” (Chocolate protein, espresso protein, choice of milk, and house-made cocoa malt) was great. Like a chocolate shake (okay maybe not as good as an actual milkshake but considering its healthiness and taste, it’s pretty good).. and it’s only 150 calories for a 20 oZ! AWESOME. Also tried “Pancake In a Bowl” (Organic steel-cut oats mixed with vanilla protein, choice of milk, organic agave nectar, and house spice blend, topped with fresh fruit). Since I got the chocolate shake alongside this bowl, I was pretty full so couldn’t finish the pancake in a bowl.. but other Yelpers have said it’s pretty filling. It wasn’t bad at all. Flavorful oats but don’t expect literally pancakes. And it’s like $3, if i remember correctly! what! so cheap.

    The Eastman Egg Company's The Eastman
    The Eastman

    2. The Eastman Egg Company: This was delish. Had difficulty choosing which one to try (all sounded so good!) but went with The Eastman. It always sounds like a good idea to get something on the menu that has the restaurant’s name in it. And yes, it was. A combination of the bread, meat, egg (got egg whites), and cheese and sauce. YUM YUM. Not too bad of a price point for a breakfast sandwich ($6). I got the egg whites (which i believe was a +$2) so that made it more pricey.

    Lunch

    Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Bretzel Sandwich and Tomato Basil Bisque
    Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Bretzel Sandwich and Tomato Basil Bisque

    1. Hannah’s Bretzel: I don’t understand the fad with the pretzel bread but whatever. I love soft pretzels (YUM AUNTIE ANNES) but the pretzel bread didn’t phase me. Maybe it’s the ones I tried but eh. The advertisements/presentation of the store front totally intrigued me and had to come here to try it. Got the lunch combo of you pick two (½ sandwich OR ½ soup OR side salad). Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon (minus onions and tomatoes) + Tomato Basil Bisque. Okay I’m sorry I forgot the price of it. But it was pretty expensive for portion. I think it might have been around $10.50 but the sandwich was really small. And the sandwich wasn’t impressive. It’s good but definitely not worth the price tag. The soup was a lot better than the sandwich but it wasn’t warm. Don’t know if it was the 2 minute walk back to the office made it cold but I still didn’t expect it to be room temperature. Good soup but again NOT worth the price tag.

    Calabria Panini
    Calabria Panini

    2. Ge Pa De Caffe (60 East Adams Street): Stopped here for “brunch” right before visiting Millennium Park since it was really close to there and had great reviews on Yelp. Panini was not bad but didn’t live up to the hype Yelp had. The staff was great, though. Really friendly atmosphere. Loved that they include a pasta salad and chips with my panini! I’m pretty sure I got the Calabria. I asked the woman working what their most popular sandwich was and she recommended this since it had a variety of italian meats. Price point was ~$9. No tip required! Wanted to get gelato after but was too full.

    Dinner

    Delmonico Ribeye (16 oz, $36) at medium rare
    Delmonico Ribeye (16 oz, $36) at medium rare

    1. Weber Grill: A place full of weber grills, literally! Great steaks. I got the Weber Firestarter Sampler (Weber’s Hickory BBQ Ribs, Grilled Honey Dijon Chicken Skewers, Lemon Garlic Shrimp, Grill-Seared Steak Skewers(Serves Two) for $19) and the Delmonico Ribeye (16 oz, $36) medium rare. That’s good grilled steak. You can taste the grill in a good day (haha, does that make sense?) Couldn’t finish it because of the appetizer. Of the sampler, I really liked the honey dijon chicken skewers and steak skewers. The ribs were okay and the shrimp were fine. Nothing special.

    O’Hare Airport Food

    Chicago Mix Popcorn (cheddar and caramel)
    Chicago Mix Popcorn (cheddar and caramel)

    1. Garrett’s Popcorn: My flight was in Terminal 2 but the famous Garrett’s could only be found in 1 or 3… so I trekked to Terminal 1. It’s not a bad walk at all. They have a branch in NYC too but I had time to kill. I was looking up how long it would take to walk from one terminal to another. Most said 15 minutes but I probably got in between terminals in like 5-7 minutes. Idk, maybe I walk fast. Anyway, got the Garrett’s popcorn- Chicago Mix! Cheese and Caramel. Good combo, although I enjoyed the cheese ones much more. I wouldn’t get these “premium” popcorn snacks again since I didn’t find it that impressive (my friend Mike makes the best popcorn with simply garlic salt and olive oil. found that much better than this popcorn) but it’s not to say that this popcorn wasn’t good. just not worth waiting in a longer line for/spending $5 on a bag of popcorn (well it is better than the movie theatre $5 popcorn).

    Choriqueso, $10
    Choriqueso, $10

    2. Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless: Mexican flair. Deemed best of airport food. I agree. Got the CHORIQUESO ($10) (Frontera pork, chorizo, poblano rajas, artisan Jack cheese, avocado). Pricey anywhere else but since it’s at the airport, it’s average pricing and at least tasty and filling! Bread was toasty and the flavors from all the ingredients went well together.

    Really liked Chicago. Would love to go back in the summer when it’s not freezing cold and visit more parts of Chicago.

    xoxo
    #ChiTownChen

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