What I Ate in Chicago

I have a maybe-not-so-secret love of eating in restaurants. At home I cook a lot, so when I travel it's fun to eat someone else's cooking, and try some new things. It's time to share... What I Ate in Chicago!

Grange Hall Burger Bar—Adorable Hipster Bistro

Pre-race fueling (for the Chicago Half Marathon) was Grange Hall Burger Bar on West Randolph Street. I loved this place! It had a perfect hipster vibe, and delicious locally sourced food and housemade condiments.
Grange Hall Burger Bar has a nice patio, but it was muggy out so we sat inside in the AC. There's an adorable living room feel in there with oil cloth wall hangings and various homey items. There was also an awesome 80s mix going on, including the immortal "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money. I also heard Huey Lewis & the News.

Plenty of great burger combos on the menu, but you can also build your own. I put together a 6 ounce grass-fed beef burger on gluten-free bun with dijon aioli, blue cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. My sweet friend and guide shared a side of fries and and an order of slaw with me. The fries were AMAZING, especially dipped in my aioli. If you like burgers and a farm-to-table aesthetic, I highly recommend Grange Hall Burger Bar.

Cai—Real-Deal Dim Sum in Chinatown 


Shrimp & Tofu

Har Gow. This is one of my favorite foods in the world.

Shrimp stuffed tofu and eggplant. Delicious! A crispy-golden exterior to the tofu, and melting hot inside.

I had a whole order of bao to myself, and my companion had a whole order of curried squid. We were both very satisfied.

This here is a spring roll wrapped in a rice roll. It was too crazy to resist, but a little chewy and also a bit sweet in flavor, not our favorite.

Cai was the perfect food for a perfect day--it was our lunch after the half marathon where we probably each burned about 1300 calories. I'm adding it to my international list of dim sum places to rely on!

Big Star—Wicker Park's Coolest Tacos


Here's the big star hanging outside of this stellar establishment, Big Star. Choose from sit-down tables or walk-up window. We picked the huge & lively patio area on a busy Sunday night. We shared a large and excellent salad spiked with crunchy pumpkin seeds.

I had my first Michelada, which is described as salsa and lime juice in a salted-rim glass, served with a Tecate. You mix the beer in to the rest of the cocktail as you go. It was spicy! I read about Micheladas in Bon Appetit so was eager to try one. And now I have.

Big Star tacos are totally delicious. They are small, soft-corn tacos, with a variety of fillings. I ordered 3 upon a local's recommendation. I tried the chicken leg (Taco de Pollo), the braised pork belly (Taco de Panza), and the potato (Taco de Papas con Rajas). They were all scrumptious, my favorite was the pork belly. Meltingly savory. Gah! So good!

Wormhole—Geek-Chic Koopa Troopa Cafe


The Wormhole Coffee on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park is a great spot where I stopped for a latte. Lunchboxes around the walls, life-size cutout of Han Solo, video game motif on the chalkboards. I think I spotted a Castle Greyskull nestled among the Chemexes and Bodums for sale. A delight.

Smith & Wollensky—Living the Good Life on the River


After hours of walking and shopping and museum-enjoying, I needed to sit down, rest my feet, and eat something significant. I decided to stop at Smith & Wollensky and treat myself to a steak-y lunch. Here's the amount of bread they bring to one lady sitting on the patio.

I've never paid $13 for a glass of wine before, and this also seemed like the shortest pour ever. (I think the higher the price, the smaller the wine seems.) It was yummy though! Nothing like a Provençal rosé on a sunny Monday afternoon.

I ordered the Wollensky Salad, which is chopped romaine with tomato, mushroom, bacon lardons (obscured by steak), and the most amazing "potato croutons" which were both crispy and soft, so much better than bread croutons. I had sliced tenderloin added to treat myself. And refuel my muscles of course!

Part of the attraction for me was Smith & Wollensky's location at the bottom of one of the Marina City towers, aka "The Corncob Buildings." They were completed in 1964--look at that modern shape! This was the view looking directly up from my seat on the riverside patio.

Pops for Champagne—Wine Bar for Those With More


After several more hours of shopping I met up with my Chicago hostess and we decided to treat ourselves to bubbly and appetizers at Pops for Champagne. Meet my second $13 drink of the day! It did hit the spot.

The appetizers were OK. My companion had Scottish Salmon and some lovely fries. I chose a vegetable Crostani thingy that turned out to be a blended dip of olives, peppers, artichokes, and ricotta salata. It was not great. This modest turnout plus 2 glasses of wine was the most expensive meal of the whole trip! And more power to them—if you're running a champagne bar off the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, you are within your rights to get the most for everything!

Do you like to dine out when you travel? Any Chicago favorites of your own to share?

No comments: