A Weekend Swept Away in Chicago
Rarely do I find the time to truly escape New York City and to explore someplace new. Thus, when the opportunity arose to spend an entire 48 hours in a city completely foreign to me, I seized it with relish. And so, I spent 36 hours this past weekend eating and walking my way through ‘the Windy City,’ ‘the Second City,’ or more plainly, Chicago. Here is a taste of the marvelous things Chicago had to offer.
1. Face-numbingly Good Coffee @ Intelligentsia
At Intelligentsia, each cup of Joe, a name which seems too plebian for what Intelligentsia delivers, is brewed individually from beans ground especially for that cup. The entire process takes about five minutes, but the coffee that emerges is unparalleled. And don’t worry about it being too strong, Intelligentsia only offers medium and mild roast coffees.
2. A Lesson in How to Get a Gut @ Gino’s East
Deep-dish pizza is something of a tradition in Chicago, and Gino’s East is a classic deep-dish pizzeria in the River North neighborhood. It’s gaudy, graffiti-ed, and populated by a combination of tourists and incredibly obese locales, but the pizza itself is pretty delicious if you’re in the mood for a truly decadent treat. Picture: golden buttery crust, pounds of gooey mozzarella cheese, and layers of chunky tomato sauce, all baked together into a 3-inch tall pizza ‘pie.’
3. New York-Quality Fine Dining @ Graham Elliot
A by-product of living in New York full-time now is believing that no other city can possibly produce the same level of high-quality gourmet cuisine. Boston and Philadelphia, while playing host to vibrant dining scenes, can’t hold a candle to New York’s culinary prowess. However, my 10-course meal at Graham Elliot convinced me that Chicago is serious about serious cuisine. Although the service ranged from leisurely at its best to painfully slow at its worst, the small bites emerging from the kitchen were genius. Highlights include:
- popcorn doused in truffle butter, black pepper and parmesan instead of the bread course
- wagyu tartare with delicate pomme frites and jalapeno oil
- caesar salad deconstructed with a brioche “twinkie” and a white anchovy
- perfectly-cooked Jamaican fried chicken with dirty rice, hidden country pate, and fried okra
- a grape soda spritzer
- a fresh strawberry and basil dessert with creamy fromage blanc
4. Haute Cocktails @ The Hubbard Inn
A love for ambitious and schmancy cocktails isn’t only in New York. The Hubbard Inn, though significantly more spacious than the cocktail dens that bloom in every corner of Manhattan almost overnight, produces spot-on Old-Fashioneds, Hemingways, and Moscow Mules, has savory bar snacks to nibble on, and a beautiful vintage-inspired space in which to enjoy both.
5. Pork-centric Brunch @ The Publican
The Publican was founded to focus on the holy trinity of beer, pork, and oysters. It’s immensely hard for a place not to ROCK when high-quality artisan beer flows freely and bacon comes to the table 2 inches thick. The brunch here was excellent: red-wine poached eggs, pork rinds inspired by Cheetos, soft zucchini bread on a bed of fluffy ricotta, and chicken-fried steak. It might not be good for the waistline or blood pressure, but it’s great for putting everyone in an unshakeable good mood.