Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Kinda Town

Axl and I returned from Chicago on Saturday. I hated to leave but we had stayed just the right amount of time, enough that I was still having fun but I was starting to miss home. On our last visit to Chicago (my first) in September 2008, Axl indulged me by doing a lot of tourist-y stuff (museums, Navy Pier and the like). This time, we decided we were going to seek out the out of the way places. Axl has been to Chicago several times and wanted me to experience some of the smaller neighborhoods just outside the city. We frequently talk about moving to Chicago and Axl wanted me to see these areas so I would know what he had in mind. We spent a lot of time in Bucktown and Wicker Park for that reason and because of an article I had read in the April/May 2009 issue of BUST magazine. Bucktown had lovely residential tree-lined streets and lots of people out walking their dogs and strolling their babies. That was nice to see after the fast paced bustle in the area we were staying in downtown Chicago. The article in BUST, unfortunately, lead us on kind of a goose chase and, no offense to the author(s), but the majority of the stores featured in the article were way out of this girl's price range. I loved the jewelry in Eskell and I enjoyed seeing first hand a lot of work done by artists I'd previously only seen online at Renegade Handmade. We visited two Reckless Records locations and enjoyed flipping through the bins there. A favorite discovery of mine (not mentioned in the BUST article) was Crossroads Trading Company. This is a store similar to one where I live but without the lame music and bitchy sales people. At CTC, you can trade or sell your used clothing and I think the highlight of it all was that I found items there that were actually in my size range. I bought a shirt there for less than $4.00 that I know I'm going to love wearing.
So, that's a bit about the shopping. We did do one tourist-y thing and that was to take a Wendella Boat Tour. Nothing against the Wendella folks because they do have it posted at their ticket counter that school groups frequently use their services but it was awful having to share our tour with a high school group. I think, perhaps, Wendella would be better off letting school groups have a boat to themselves because these were some of the worst kids I have been around in quite some time. Where the chaperones were, I have no idea. The boat tour takes you through a canal in downtown Chicago past many of the skyscrapers and you get to listen to the boat tour person give you information about buildings you have probably noticed (Trump International Hotel and Tower anyone?). Then, the boat takes you into the Chicago Harbor Lock and you go out onto Lake Michigan for a time. Like I said, kind of tourist-y but I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it so much more had we not had to put up with a bunch of tweens who could really give a damn. They talked over the boat tour announcer and a lot of the charm was lost after that. Laugh if you want but if I could have figured out what school those brats were from, their principal would have received a letter from me tout de suite.
Naturally, I have to tell you about the food. The food! I gained a pound and a half while we were there but I don't regret any of it. The restaurants that stand out in my memory are The Original Pancake House, Giordanos and Hot Doug's. Axl and I did not order any of the acclaimed Original Pancake House items (The Dutch Baby or the Apple Pancake) but their skillets were out of this world. Last time we were in Chicago, we went to Gino's East (the one you see on t.v. and in movies with all the writing on the walls) and ordered deep dish pizza. Gino's was delicious but after experiencing stuffed pizza I think stuffed is my personal favorite. On our last morning in Chicago, we went to Hot Doug's. Hot Doug's opens at 10:30 a.m. and it was a good thing we got there a little after 10:00 a.m. because a line was already forming. We faired pretty well because this was the line as we left:

Doug Sohn took our order. He is the nicest guy. We ordered two of "The Dog", which is a Chicago-style hot dog with all the toppings. Axl ordered a "Saucisson Alsacienne" which I had a bite of and fell in love with promptly. It is bacon sausage with creme fraiche, caramelized onions and triple cream brie cheese. I ordered a smokey pork cheddarwurst wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon with roasted garlic dijonnaise and colby-jack cheese. We went a little crazy and ordered a game of the week which this week was brown ale and chipotle buffalo sausage with chili-garlic mustard and vintage farmhouse cheese. Spicy! Of course, we had to try the duck fat fries (offered only on Fridays and Saturdays). Yes, french fries fried in duck fat. I know what you're thinking. I used to be a vegetarian and I shame myself. On the other hand, food this delicious and well done is definitely one way to turn up in the life force.
That's all for now. Don't want to bore you. It was a terrific trip. My guy certainly knows how to treat a lady to a good vacation.

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