Chicago Eat & Greet

We are driving into the night, the expanse of sky to my left growing 
steadily darker. The sun has dropped and pink clouds streak toward
 the horizon line, pulled down by the weight of day. There is a strange 
feeling of being drawn backwards in time when facing the back of a 
train hurtling in the other direction. Only during daylight hours does this seem intriguing to me, when things rapidly disappear away from you. The sky is shot through with a 
bright line of white smoke trailing a jet engine and the occasional
 tree blots out the landscape. It is so flat here, flatter than words
 can say. The occasional change in scenery comes from cornstalks or 
a lone silo in the distance. Tracks are laid through fields of soy
beans and farmland. Here the beginnings of what might be a barn, there a
 water tower advertising the town name and its honorable mayor.

I’ve just left Chicago’s bustling Union Station after two days of 
food, and humanity. The backwards facing train accentuates the feeling
 of being sucked back into small town reality. On my lap is “Under the
 Tuscan Sun” and my stomach is practically aching for earthy tomatoes,
 tangy garlic and piles of pasta. Seems impossible to be hungry after
 several epic meals this weekend.

 First and foremost, breakfast at Bongo Room. Introduced to me ages
 ago, it has become a staple on subsequent visits to the Windy City.

pumpkin chocolate pancakes

pumpkin chocolate pancakes

We
 make a late entrance and wait nearly an hour for a table. We pass the 
time in nearby Trader Joe’s and sitting in the sun near Grant Park, 
with the sounds of Occupy Wall Street in our ears. When at last we’re seated, Morgan and I strike
 a deal to split our food, one savory dish and one sweet. The BLT 
Benedict is mind blowing and full of fresh ingredients, served next
 to perfectly seasoned potatoes. Likewise the pancakes make my eyes
 cross in delight: pumpkin chocolate chunk in a pool of vanilla bean
 cream. There will be several blocks logged on the Magnificent Mile 
before I can fully recover.

BLT benedict

BLT benedict

As a result, lunch is not physically possible and instead becomes an 
early dinner. We choose Big Star, a poppin Mexican place in Wicker 
Park that has received a great deal of media attention. Again, an hour
 wait. We stroll out to take in the last of the sunshine and find
 ourselves turning into Myopic Books. This store may also become a
 staple for return visits. Floor to ceiling shelves and two floors of 
space. Emma Donaghue, Salman Rushdie and E. M. Forster are soon in
 my bag.

guacamole greatness

guacamole greatness

queso fundido

queso fundido

Wicker Park is hipster mania, as evidenced by the vintage sales and the characters out on the street. The locals are out in full
 force at the bars and restaurants, as we walk past posh homes,
 and one of the old Real World houses.

 Finally we get the call from the restaurant and settle into a seat on
 the patio, as the temperature dips into the 50’s. Heat lamps and 
lively conversation warm up the place as we ask for margaritas to go with
 our guacamole. The queso fundido has several cheeses, peppers and 
housemade chorizo; it steams happily for my Nikon. I can hardly deal
 with my pork taco although it’s tiny. Grilled pineapple and onions are
 melting in my mouth and I can’t be bothered to stop and take a breath. I
 will crave this later in the week.

marilyn

"you can see her undies!" -random child

The rest of my city time is spent walking the avenues and gaping at
 the consumer’s paradise I’d forgotten about. Remember my

town’s largest
 store is the Walmart, and that would easily fit into the Macy’s 
flagship store. There is the statue of Marilyn Monroe, skirts to the
 wind in front of the Tribune Building, and the Bean is where I last 
left it, still endlessly fascinating for photo ops and people 
watching. Open House Chicago is rampant across the city, offering the 
public a glimpse into buildings otherwise unavailable. I love the model
 city housed at the Chicago Architecture Foundation in the Santa Fe building on
 Michigan Ave. All of Chicago laid out in stark white at the birds eye 
view of 250,000 feet – artful, incredibly detailed and awesome to see.

The gate where my train will board is fit to burst just as one of my
 student workers predicted. The U of I stop is not far from mine and
 many of the students have gone home for midterm break. The train home 
is quiet and I’m plugged into Spanish tunes and wondering how much longer 
the good weather will last.

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10 thoughts on “Chicago Eat & Greet

    • your blog is great! I’m going to have to try some of these recipes for sure. thanks for stopping by 🙂 will def hit up those other 3 spots in Chicago next time I’m up.

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  1. Great Post – maybe one of my favorites; mostly because I can relate and picture everything you describe. I am also now hankering for a visit to the windy city and would love to have the pumpkin pancakes served up immediately! I loved the picture of Marilyn, the very blue sky and the info on the Open House Chicago. I marked that in my calender for 2012. Who knows! How long is the train trip in the verrry flat state from your home to Chicago?
    Gail

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  2. Soo I remember reading in another post somewhere (can’t remember where) that you studied in Reading for a while? That’s where I’m from! A friend of mine from Chicago visited me in Philadelphia and said that Philly reminded her a lot of Chicago… I’ve never been to the windy city–any thoughts??

    PS those pancakes look amazing!

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    • You’re correct – I was at Albright College my freshman year! The Windy City is such an awesome place (ditto, Philadelphia). I’ll email you some recommendations 🙂

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