I booked a last minute flight to Chicago and here's what happened
Chicago wasn't at the top of my list of places to visit until recently. It's not a city that I had ever dreamed of visiting but when there's cheap flights involved you don't contemplate, you just go. So I went and I'm so glad that I got the chance to experience this city. I didn't go alone but it's a place that I could definitely see myself retreating to solo.
It's such a foodie city which I didn't realize before stepping foot off the plane. Luckily, my hotel was right on the river in the middle of the city action making it easy to get around without having to spend too much money on Uber's. The Westin Chicago River North is honestly one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in. It was so comfortable and thoughtfully designed. Not to mention, there's a great bar and my favorite amenity of all, free bikes.
For the first time, I biked my way through a new city and really enjoyed it. There's something peaceful and carefree about riding through roads unknown in search of newness. I want to chase that feeling forever. We biked to Millennium Park to spot 'The Bean' and ended up at a Mexican Street Market and an underground Tavern where I tried an Obama burger. Chicago surprised me with its charm and food. I didn't realize how big of a foodie city it was; Apparently I've been living under a rock.
Exploring the Maxwell Street Market was one of the best decisions we made on the entire trip. There was endless amounts of Mexican food so we opted for some tacos. Texas still holds the best tacos title in my humble opinion. We had tacos, devoured fresh mango and finally tried a Chicago dog. I was a foodie long before becoming a traveler and when I first started my food blog I found out about Chicago dogs from my rabbit hole internet surfing. My mom is a foodie too so we dived into recipes and made our very own version of what we thought Chicago dogs were. But there's nothing quite like the real thing.
We hit up two iconic pizza places in Chicago. First up was Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder for their 'Pizza pot pies.' We waited over an hour for this food (if you call going to the restaurant across the street for appetizers waiting) and it was well worth it. There's a very ma and pa feel about this place - it felt authentic and local. In fact, we sat across from locals who shared their salad with us. It was no ordinary salad so I was grateful. The main star at this place is their pizza pot pies made with mushrooms, meat sauce and a homemade crust. They are served table side by being flipped upside down and carved out of the baking dish. I love interactive dining experiences because I always feel more connected to the food experience I'm embarking on.
The next pizza haven we indulged in was Giordano's. The best part about is that although it's a chain restaurant, they've retained a local pizzeria feel. Locals raved about this place and it lived up to the hype. One slice of deep dish pizza and I was instantly sleepy. It was definitely the best pizza I've ever eaten.
Some of the best food I've had in a long time was from Wollensky's Grill. This place has gorgeous riverside views. From the white table cloths and basement location, there was an undeniable romantic feel about Wollensky's. Aside from the ambience, the food was stellar. Steak so tender, perfectly cooked and beautifully sliced. The steak was topped with blistered shishito peppers and an alluring chimichurri sauce. Alongside the steak we ordered truffle macaroni and cheese which was everything that I look for in a truffle mac - creamy but thick, heavy on the truffle and piping hot. Wollensky's is a place I'll return to with each visit to the Chi.
Enough about food. Being close to the riverwalk was really nice because at night it's the perfect place to bar hop or people watch. I couldn't believe people were jet skiing, kayaking and yachting down the river. This definitely doesn't happen on my hometowns (Baltimore) inner harbor. Sadly, I never made it to the Navy Pier or out towards the lake. What's even sadder is that I did make it to the Nike Flagship store and ended up spending unnecessary money on some new sneaks.
Chicago was an entire vibe. I really enjoyed biking through the city while singing the Good Times theme song which happens to be my favorite TV show of all time. It was also really cool to watch the infamous trains riding by. The amount of beautiful marquee signs lighting up the city particularly blew me away.
It's the little things.