Would you be shocked if I told you I liked to eat? Of course, no vacation would be complete without a few adventures in food. The beauty of this trip was it wasn’t all about eating at fancy restaurants. As a former resident of the windy city, I have a whole list of places that are just off the beaten path. Here are a few highlights of my foodie adventures.
Caribou Coffee Hot Chocolate: Someone asked me before I started the trip what I was looking the most forward to doing. I immediately said it was to walk the city with a cup of hot chocolate (I don’t drink coffee…and the screaming begins.) The hot chocolate perfectly warmed my hands as I ventured around Millennium Park.
Hopleaf Bar: There are many memories involving this pub. So when my very good friends Mary and John suggested meeting there for dinner, I knew it was going to be a great time.
This pub is known for their wide selection of beers and amazing mussels. For us, it was the perfect place to hang and have great conversations without the pressure of being pushed out the door. In fact, our “dinner” lasted a little over 5 hours!
Portillo’s: A quick reading from my Weather Channel iPhone app indicated the day was going to be 8 degrees with a wind chill of -15. I must have been crazy to think it would be an enjoyable experience to explore the city in such frigid conditions. But I was determined to take advantage of every moment in Chicago, no matter how often I had to tighten my scarf.
Don’t even think about ordering a burger at a common fast food chain when there is a Portillo’s around. It is by far one of the best burgers to build a base before venturing around the city. Of course, I had to go all out and order the Double Cheese Burger with Fries and Cheese Sauce. I know, I know. It sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen. But I’m on vacation and it was pretty darn good.
Mana Food Bar: In a previous job, I had the opportunity to work with a very talented graphic design/copywriting team that is based in Chicago. We recently reconnected to work on a very important project for my current job, and they have been hugely valuable throughout the process.
Both are hardcore foodies with devotion for the vegan lifestyle. I have always considered myself to be a vegetarian enthusiast so I couldn’t help but meet up with them for a meatless lunch in a hipster part of the city.
A natural assumption of vegetarian/vegan cuisine is that it has no flavor with very little beauty. True to my lunch guests’ suggestion, Mana Food Bar was over-the-top delicious. I couldn’t stop ordering as exquisitely arranged plates of marinated beets with apple, sautéed mushrooms with creamy polenta and rice noodles in a Thai coconut milk broth. My lunch guests giggled when they noticed I was trying to recreate the recipes in my head.
Go Roma: As my friend Deb would say, “I just want a good walk and a nice salad.” I decided to go for a nice walk to see several of my favorite architectural gems.
To kick the walk off right, I stopped by my favorite place for great Panini sandwiches and salads. Go Roma is located a little of the beaten path, but the food and atmosphere was well worth the visit. I opted for a half Tuscan Chicken Salad and a half Chicken Pomodoro Panini. I was pleasantly surprised to see a small pile of shoestring fries on the plate. They certainly didn’t go to waste.
Cooking: When my friend Doug asked me if I was interested in cooking for a few of his friends my last night in Chicago, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous. These were friends I had never met before and their food phobias involved limiting the meat. So I stuck true to my philosophy and cooked a few tried and true recipes from Culinary Cory.
Doug’s kitchen was perfectly set-up for how I like to entertain. My dinner guests sat around the kitchen island as I prepared Sun-Dried Tomato Dip with Celery, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Rustic Caprese Pizzas. There were no leftovers…so I say the food was a hit!