Chicago/San Antonio via Amtrak
This is my first trip report so bear with me as to deficiencies in style or image loading. Hopefully there will be many more (and better)!
A couple of weeks ago, I took a took a little trip. First stop was Chicago. I probably could have picked a better time of year to go, but at least the air temp was above 30! I did get a taste of Chicago's famous wind, though. New York has it's share of wind, too, but I can definitely see how Chicago got it's name. Ok, enough small talk, let's begin!
Before the trip, I posted a quick plea for suggestions in the "Where Should I Eat" forum. My thanks to those who suggested places, especially BuddyRoadhouse who gave me some suggestions, defended me from some criticism, and even offered to show me around. Unfortunately the timing didn't work out, but maybe next time!
I had 3 goals (food-wise) for my trip to Chicago, since I had only been to the area once (for a high school debate tournament), and didn't get a chance on that trip to do any exploring or eating. My goals were, 1) chicago hot dog, 2) italian beef, 3) deep dish pizza. Spoiler alert, I only accomplished 2 of them. Well, there's always next trip.
So the first stop, I believe, was suggested by Buddy. Ladies and gentlemen... Paradise Pup!
Conveniently located near O'Hare. I was told they serve a quintessential Chicago style hot dog here.
And here it is!
Really a pretty sight. Being a New Yorker, I do have a bias towards the Gray's Papaya/Nathan's style dog with deli mustard and kraut. However, I can definitely understand the appeal of the chicago dog. The fresh tomato and cucumber definitely give it the illusion of a healthy salad type dish. The whole pickle spear gave it a refreshing salty juicy sourness that tastes a bit brighter than saurkraut. Definitely a lot more varied flavors in the Chicago dog, assuming you get all the toppings.
So with help from Ms. Garmin despite the fact that she did not seem to want to sit still on the window of my rental car, my next stop was the original Al's Italian Beef on West Taylor Street in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Like with the hot dogs, I imagine there are lots of good options for Italian Beef, but given my name, I felt like Al's was a good bet.
Not sure anything else needs to be said, really... it was good! I'd eat another one right now! The beef was nice and juicy. The peppers were a perfect accompaniment, just spicy enough. New York and Philly sandwiches might be served on better bread, but that's not really the point here. When you dip any bread in those juices it's going to be amazing.
Unfortunately, my sodas at Paradise Pup and Al's were catching up with me and Al's doesn't have a bathroom. Fortunately, the staff at Al's directed me one building down the street to a branch of the Chicago Public Library, which has one open to the public. My thanks to the Chicago Public Library system!
I next wanted to drive to the Wrigley field area to check out the stadium. Amazingly, it was pretty much open to the street. I asked a construction worker doing some work in it if I could quickly pop my head in, but he politely told me not a chance. However, walking around the stadium I found that the field is visible from the street.
I'd love to see a game there, but seeing the field in person was cool, nonetheless.
At this point I decided to park in the area and take the train into the downtown area. I thought I was being smart by finding a place on the street. Unfortunately, I only found out later that night that most street parking in the area is residential permit only... the signs really weren't too clear!
... oh well, I can chalk up the parking ticket as a vacation expense.
So anyway, I wandered around in "the loop" for a while. I wanted to see one of the museums and picked the Adler Planetarium. I was too late to see any of the shows, but they have some cool stuff there, including a moon rock.
The view from the Adler.
Since it was getting late, and very cold, and my feet were nearing their limit, I got on a city bus and did some seated sightseeing. Got off the bus in the "Magnificent Mile" area. I wandered into the Nordstrom's on North Michigan and marveled that anyone would pay $150 or more for a pretty basic shirt!
I had a ticket to the Lyric Opera that night (yes, I'm a roadfooder and an opera fan), but I still had a couple hours to kill, so I rode the Orange Line train around the loop and out towards Midway. I decided to get off at the second to last stop to turn around but I got this picture from the platform of a couple of local Chicago chains, Giordano's and Ricobene's. I guess I'll have to try them next time.
The opera was pretty good. Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos if anyone is interested. The theater is not quite as impressive as the Met in New York, but it's pretty nice. I was sitting near the very back of the upper balcony and the sound was fine.
After the opera, I was thinking about getting some deep dish, despite the fact that it was about 11. I decided to try Pizzeria Due, since my friend who had lived in Chicago for a while had let me know that it was open late. I walked in and sat at the bar. The friendly barkeeper/waiter advised me that if I wanted pizza it would take about 40 minutes. It was then that the long day started to catch up with me and the prospect of sitting at the bar for 40 minutes, knowing I had to take the train back to Wrigley and then drive back to the hotel, was pushing me away from trying the pizza. The guy did recommend their version of the Italian beef, so I threw caution to the wind and decided to try that. Unfortunately it was pretty dark in there, so I don't have a picture, but it was pretty good. It obviously didn't have the same character as Al's but it was definitely tasty. It was also smothered in melted cheese (mozzarella, I think). It was served with ramekins of beef juice and giardineira(sic). I probably didn't need to eat the whole thing, but it was definitely tasty.
Finally, after making it back to my car where I had the unpleasant surprise of finding a parking ticket, and then driving to the hotel near O'Hare, I called it a night. Speaking of which, I think I'll call it a night on this first part of the trip report, but stay tuned... there's more to come!