I’ve been to Chicago several times before, so my main goal this time was just to hang out with my travel friends again. My travel buddy Teresa and her boyfriend Chris flew out from Long Beach. We met with Francesca who lives there (me, Teresa and Francesca all met on Mt. Kilimanjaro back in Christmas/NYE 2005-2006). We also hung out with Craig and Sue who also live there, an awesome couple that I had met in Turkey a couple weeks ago.
This time around, we stayed at the Fairmont after finding a great deal on TravelZoo (which is also where I found $400 roundtrip airfare, Seattle-Belize). We LOVED our room!! Huge bathroom, great lighting with separate standing shower and tub. The room itself was spacious and had lots of natural lighting, comfortable beds, and modern, mellow decor. There was also an iPod docking station and flatscreen TV. Definitely worth the $122 total we each paid for the two nights we were there, but I’m not sure what their regular rate is (I would start to hesitate at $150/pax/night). Location was alright, took about five minutes to walk to the nearest busy area.
Ok, now– foodie stuff. Because I’m a pig.
Friday night was dinner at one of the Mexican restaurants owned by celebrity chef Rick Bayless (my friend calls him Rick ‘Look at me, I’m eating a taco!’ Bayless), Frontera Grill. My flight arrived late so I couldn’t make it for the starters, but they were amazing, according to Teresa and Chris (everyone should get the ceviche trio, apparently). I was very happy with my entree, duck breast with apricot-chile mole, but wasn’t too impressed with the pound cake dessert. Portions were good and the wait was shorter than expected (one hour instead of two).
Lunch on Saturday was at a touristy spot that even the locals love– Portillo’s Hot Dogs! Can’t complain about good, cheap hot dogs. Pass on the fries though, especially the cheese fries. Which is really just regular fries with a container of that pseudo-cheese they put on movie theatre nachos.
All six of us met at Volo Wine Bar in Roscoe Village for dinner and drinks Saturday night. So NOT touristy, which was great! (Yes, I see the hypocrisy in that statement.) The server knew his stuff! Their ‘thing’ is that they have limited supplies of most of their wines, so it’s better to just tell them what kinds of wines you like. Or hell, go for a wine flight! Everyone was pretty satisfied with drinks. Food was good as well; we pretty much ordered all the small plates on the menu. The steak tartare and duck confit were unexpectedly good, though the chicken was a bit on the dry side. They have a beautiful little patio out back, but unfortunately it was booked for a private event. (Teresa, Chris and I ended up going over to Craig and Sue’s where we polished off several more bottles of wine.)
So, last but not least: Sunday lunch. Heavy metal blasting out of speakers everywhere. Big, gushing burgers with thick, juicy meat and pretzel buns. Waffle cut fries with homemade, spicy ketchup. Heavily tattooed and pierced skin. Sunny day, almost 90°F. Cold beers, damp t-shirts. Menu items named after iconic heavy metal bands. You better be patient when you come here– apparently, it was a fluke that we were able to snag seats right away. According to Craig, Kuma’s Corner usually has a line around the block!