There I was: Friday afternoon motoring along in my car on a two-lane highway through the cornfields. Then suddenly – what’s this? Another lane? More cars? A toll booth!? Oh heyyyy, big city!
You know I’ve reached an all time low in my Midwestern experience if I get this much joy from a toll booth. But to be fair, there was more than one (3 tolls total) AND I got to slip back into the traffic dance, complete with aggressive driving and ill timed lane switching. Add this to my anticipation of a weekend in Chicago, and there you find true bliss.
Katie and I posted up at the Four Point Sheraton* by the O’hare airport, both for convenience and price. I experienced some sticker shock while searching for a room, after several visits into the city with someone else footing the bill for my sweet South Loop digs. Thankfully, FPS was clean, comfortable and just right. It also gave us a chance to explore the nearby suburbs. We drove into Des Plaines, Illinois thanks to a recommendation from my new favorite book: A Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago* (thx Holly!). The review promised delicious Vietnamese* food and we were not disappointed. It was Katie’s first time with the cuisine and I went straight for the pho. Little did I know I would also drink the best bubble tea of my life. I chose avocado and it turned out to be more of a creamy smoothie than a drink.
Full & happy, we slept like the dead.. until the alarm clock in our room went off at 6 a.m. Who thinks to check that? I think I will start doing so in future hotels.
So, with a very early start, we headed out via the free hotel shuttle which deposited us at O’Hare airport. We hopped on the blue line and about 30 minutes later we found ourselves in Wicker Park. Our destination was The Bongo Room*, the first breakfast place I ever enjoyed in Chicago, and still one of my top choices. We beat the crowd and only had a 20 minute wait and walked around taking in the view (“oh look another hipster.”) As true foodie friends do, we each ordered different dish and agreed to split. Our savory dish was a chorizo, avocado, and potato omelet and the sweet dish was raspberry Oreo pancakes. The sweet dish took the cake, literally.
Once again full and happy, we waddled back out to the metro in the gathering rain, and headed to Michigan Avenue. While making use of a brand new TripAdvisor app on my Droid, we started to follow “the arrow.” The app has a feature called take me there and it will literally point an arrow in the direction you need to walk in order to get to your destination. When your GPS is on the fritz, this leads to much laughter and some frustration. Needless to say we accomplished a lot of walking before finally reaching our destination: 900 Shops @ Michigan Ave.*
And then my shoe broke. While walking through Bloomingdales I tripped over my own foot. My Timberland loafer had lost its elastic and literally split in two. Our MacGyver instincts kicked in and we went on a mission to find what we would need to fix this shoe. What can I say.. I would rather spend my money on food then a pair of new shoes. We ended up with a nylon footie from the Bloomingdale shoe department and a paper clip from a nearby intimates store. I was holding out for a safety pin, but this would have to do.
By the time the shoe excitement was over, we needed a drink. We weaved our way to the Cafe des Architectes* and chose our afternoon itinerary: a movie. Again the damn arrow let us in the wrong direction. Or so we thought. There was Katie double checking with her GPS, “I swear GPS says we’re standing right on top of it.” One block down we encounter a Marriott Hotel valet and ask him if he can direct us to the movie theater. He laughs and motions for us to follow him, and when we got to the end of the block he gestured to the third floor movie theater with huge LOEWS sign on the side of the building. I can’t imagine how many times this guy has answered this exact question. Time for some signage on the ground level!
The movie Argo was incredible. If you haven’t seen it yet you need to bust a move and get to a theater immediately. After two and a half heart pounding hours with Ben Affleck, it was time for dinner. Following a recommendation from Nate, we headed out for Italian. As proof of my continued Midwest experience, I completely neglected to think about making a reservation for dinner on a Saturday night in the city. What am I, a novice?
The guy at the door laughed in our faces and said the restaurant was booked through 10 o’clock. At this point, an elderly gentleman turned to me and indicated that perhaps if I took off my hat, let my hair down, and smiled a bit more, we could be seated within an hour. Needless to say I was not in the mood to work for my meal with my broken shoe after a rainy day. We decamped to the hotel and were barely awake by the time our pasta entrees arrived.
With Katie on an early flight, I was out the door soon after. This time consulting the good old internet, I found Egg Harbor Cafe*, just south of the airport in Elmhurst. Apparently this place is a chain, but I’d never seen one before. Thanks to reviewers for pointing me toward a delicious and affordable breakfast. Hot apple cider with free refills, pumpkin pancakes, and a place to do my work uninterrupted. How soon can I get them to Charleston?
The drive down state was full of wind, up to 20 mile an hour gusts – great for the gas tank and fun for the car. Pushed onward by a brewing storm, I was home by 3:30 and napping by 4.
Next weekend, back to beautiful Madison, Wisconsin for conference, cheese and friends. October is turning out to be a lovely endeavor.
* Four Points Sheraton – 10249 West Irving Park Road, Schiller Park
* Food Lovers Guide to Chicago by Jennifer Olvera
* Dung Gia Annam - 1436 Miner Street, Des Plaines
* The Bongo Room – 1470 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wicker Park
* 900 Shops at Michigan Ave – 900 North Michigan Avenue
* Cafe des Architectes (Sofitel Water Tower) – 20 East Chestnut Street, Downtown
* AMC Loews Theater, 600 N. Michigan (Rush & Ohio)
* Egg Harbor Cafe, 140 North Robert Palmer Drive, Elmhurst