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Report on our anniversary weekend trip to Chicago (long)

Report on our anniversary weekend trip to Chicago (long)
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  • Report on our anniversary weekend trip to Chicago (long)

    Post #1 - June 28th, 2005, 11:06 am
    Post #1 - June 28th, 2005, 11:06 am Post #1 - June 28th, 2005, 11:06 am
    My wife and I just returned from our fantastic long weekend in Chicago. Our time there was enhanced immeasurably by the all of the great advice you folks provided, so I thought it would be the least I can do to give you the play by play of some places we hit.

    Thursday – arrived at out hotel (Days Inn-Gold Coast) too early to check in so we inaugurated our vacation right around the corner with a drink on the patio of Louie on the Park. Inside looked kind of plastic and cheesy and the draft beer we had was the priciest we had all weekend. I was very surprised to see the place full later that night and Friday upon our return to the hotel. We wandered around the neighborhood a little bit and stopped in on the River Shannon. This looked to be a laidback neighborhood place that reminded me of cop/firemen bars in the Bronx and Queens. After checking in, we wandered down Clark St. and stopped in several places before dinner. I really liked the Clark Street Ale House; great beer menu, high ceilings, pretzel rods on the bar (doesn’t take a lot to please me), classy blues jazz/blues music playing. Unfortunately, they had just opened and were empty except for us, so I couldn’t get a sense of what crowd it might get. On the other hand, across the street Celtic Crossing was quite lively. Even more than the River Shannon, this place reminded me of a classic NY Irish bar (not pub): long bar along one side of a narrow storefront, tables along the other with some more tables in the back. Service was quite friendly, good mix of blue/white collar crowd. Finally we were drawn to the The Kerryman (you might be seeing a pattern in the kind of places we like to hang for a social drink). They were definitely shooting for a more moneyed crowd with an open, two storied bar/dining space, but the wife decided to get a wee bite before our pizza dinner. She had a cup of the seafood soup, which she very much enjoyed. This little snack spurred us to get to our final destination of the evening, Lou Malnati’s for some deep dish. We thoroughly enjoyed the sausage pizza with the nice crisp/chewy cornmeal crust. We contemplated going to Second City, but lines were too long and we called it a night.

    Friday – went for a nice run down through Old Town to the lake and on down to the Navy Pier and back. After showering, we headed back out and walked down Michigan Ave. to the river for the Chicago Architectural Foundation cruise, which we thoroughly enjoyed despite the rather strong sun. Also, we did get the intoxicating wafts from the chocolate factory, which of course put us in mind of lunch. We took the subway over to Goose Island Brewery. Great atmosphere, very roomy. Had the beer sampler (liked the IPA the best, but then again, I usually do). I had the buffalo burger with garlic and herbs with a side of creamy coleslaw. Very tasty, although burger slightly overdone (easy to do with the lean meat). The wife had the mini-sandwich platter with pulled pork (nice chewy but non-smoky meat, sauce a little too sweet), brat with cheese and sauerkraut (quite good) and the grilled Portobello (OK). Service was good; overall a very nice casual place for a decent meal and good brew. As we also have a part-time used book business, we then headed up to Powell’s on Lincoln Ave. to buy books and did quite well: nice titles, good condition, priced low enough to give us our margin and they even shipped them for us. Staff there was young and a bit snotty; we were very grateful they did us the great favor of accepting our money so they could get paid. After the long walk to the book store on such a hot day, we very understandably had some parching of the throat area. Luckily, the friendly folks at the Red Lion Pub on Lincoln Ave. were on call and able to help, offering pint glasses of water even as we walked through the door of the place. Very agreeably cluttered and casual pub, heard a very funny cautionary tale told by another pub dweller about the dangers of checking for incoming trains while drunk as a lord; (hint: make sure you’re facing the right direction and don’t lean too far over the platform). Luckily, no one was hurt during the incident or the telling of the story. On the way back to the hotel for late afternoon siesta we passed by a newly opened Slainte on Halsted which had large open windows, flat screen TVs aplenty and a friendly staff. That night we went to our fancy anniversary meal at Chilpancingo. We ordered their appetizer platter of chicken taquites (sp), seviche tostadas, guacamole, and some sort of quesadillas. Very good, but not outstanding. The wife wanted a little safety net with the appetizer choice, but later said we should have tried some of the more interesting offerings. For her entrée she had tilapia in a chile chorita sauce that was rich and savory. For my entrée I had the best Mexican dish I have yet eaten (not near as many as most on this board but still …): Rack of lamb in a spicy rich complex black mole accompanied by avocado, button mushrooms, steamed greens and mashed potatoes. The mole seemed to have waves of flavors that went so well with the succulent lamb. For dessert, we shared a very refreshing key lime pie. Overall a very good meal with one remarkable highlight. We stopped by the Matchbox as recommended but found it very full, very loud and very smoky inside and out (about 9 p.m.), so headed back to hotel instead.

    Saturday – Ran north in Lincoln Park and dodged around the thousands of people in training for the Chicago marathon. Took the Metra down to Hyde Park to try some more bookstores. Found a lot of great stuff at the 57th Street Powell’s (much friendlier staff than Lincoln Ave.) and enjoyed our visit to O’Gara and Wilson as well. Due to our overstuffed agenda, we didn’t have time to stroll around the U of C campus but definitely hope to do so on our next visit. Took a combination of Metra and El to get to Pilsen and Nuevo Leon for lunch. Really, really like that place. The pleasant waitress brought complimentary chips with red and green salsas as well as a small bowl of marinated grilled beef with tortillas. All very tasty, salsas very fresh. We ordered refried beans with chorizo (full of lard probably but oh so good), tacos carne asada and enchiladas with black mole. Prices are extremely reasonable. While I know it’s just another good option among many for you folks, I would kill to have a place exactly like this within 100 miles of central Virginia. Sigh. We were too bloated from our gluttony to look at the delectables in the various bakeries on 18th, but did enjoy our short stroll through the vibrant neighborhood. Made our way back to the South Loop to hit the last Powell’s and various other places on Mich. Ave. for the wife to scratch her shopping itch and get things for our boys that they will immediately break. As the wife is a public librarian, we of course had to stop by the Harold Washington library to snoop around. After a short break at the hotel, went back out to Bucktown/Wicker Park around dinner time. Strolled up to the Map Room and had a very nice Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye ale. They were in the middle of a beer tasting, so place was hot, crowded but very mellow. I imagine it would be a great fall/winter hangout. Made our way back down Milwaukee to Piece for pizza and pale ales. Although I know we should have had the clam and bacon pizza for the authentic New Haven experience, the guilt from our rich lunch drove us to a plain (parmesan, garlic and olive oil) with fresh tomatoes and basil. Very tasty thin crust, not too filling: just what we needed at this point. Excellent pale ale (called Hoppy something or other). After dinner we checked out Quimby Books (lots of fanzines and alternapress stuff) and Myopic Books (decent books but very unfriendly dealer policies; had to leave a stack of books there but staff was actually pleasant and apologetic about the whole thing). Since I needed the facilities, we ducked into Pint. As it was only about 9 p.m. the place was very quiet and bartender quite friendly. Nice neighborhood place, although it seemed they were gearing up for the late night onslaught. Finally we took a cab over to Rosa’s Lounge for some blues and ended up having an absolute blast. Tony the owner introduced himself to us, made us feel very welcome at what seemed to be a party among 50 people who all kind of knew each other. Great, great congenial vibe at this place; we felt like regulars after 30 minutes. And of course, the music led by Willie Kent and the Gents was fantastic with several guest musicians stepping up to the mike as well. Simply an unbelievably fun time, far exceeding our expectations. On the cab ride home I thought we had to see the late night experience at Wiener’s Circle. As the cab let us out across the street, I could hear a counter person screaming at some poor guy. I crossed the street, peeked at the menu, and shamefully decided I would try it another time when things were mellower and a failure in ordering procedure would not be so catastrophic to my self esteem.

    Sunday – I had originally planned to go down to the Maxwell Street market, but our very late night nixed that option. Instead I accompanied the wife to the exhibit hall at McCormick Place for the American Library Association’s annual conference and picked up many book-related freebies as our heads receded down to their normal sizes and our eyes very slowly became focused. After dropping off the booty and swag at the hotel, we decided to amble up Clark Street to Lakeview/Wrigleyville. Adding to the festivities was the fact that the Gay Pride parade intersected our trip at several points, so we got to experience and enjoy that as well. After walking for a while, we decided that a little hair of the dog wouldn’t kill us and stopped off at Johnny O’Hagans, a very comfortable place that unfortunately had in their employ a bartender who had had a much worse night than we had. It appeared that it took approximately 95% of his concentration just to keep his heart beating and he didn’t have enough left to be able to give directions to Irish Oak, where we planned to get a bite to eat (we had originally planned to go to Thai Authentic Cuisine, but decided to save that for our next trip). It took him about 5 minutes to figure out a byzantine path that we realized wouldn’t be necessary when we stepped back onto Clark and we saw it down the block. Irish Oak was a little more beat up inside than I thought it would be but did a very nice job of the appetizers we ordered (seafood chowder and garlic bread, both very fresh and flavorful). Feeling a little bit better about things with some food in our stomachs, we wanted to see the rest of the Cubs-White Sox game, so we dropped into Goose Island-Wrigleyville. A very open industrial space, I thought it was a pleasing, restrained take on the whole sports bar motif. After a getting a quick pale ale before the overflow from the parade watching crowd started to pour in, we went outside to catch the 22 bus to Andersonville. However, between the traffic and the infrequent buses, we decided to go ahead and walk up Clark to our next destination, the Hopleaf. Again, the bounty of the Chicago food scene overflows as you guys merely call this a good neighborhood bar, where Virginians would worship at its doors were it to appear in the mid-Atlantic region. Aside from the great beers (which I realize is a BIG aside), I thought the food was fabulous. We had the mussels for 1 (with the lighter wheat beer, shallots and thyme) with frites and the sausage plate. Everything single thing on both plates was absolutely delicious, especially the ethereal aioli. Finally we wound up the evening by cabbing it over Chief O’Neill’s for a traditional Irish music session. Very warm, family friendly and inviting place, friendly staff and great music that was tarnished only by a drunk at the bar who was blathering loudly to his unfortunate date about how the rest of his grad school class didn’t understand his uncompromising vision of the world. Oh well, can’t have it all.

    Monday - Very enjoyable breakfast at Nookie’s on Wells St. in Old Town: fresh OJ, excellent apple crunch pancakes and smokehouse frittata.

    As my wife and I recover from our trip, I again want to thank everyone who contributed so generously. We had an amazing time in your great city and are already looking forward to when we can do it again.
    Last edited by Seanchai on June 28th, 2005, 3:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.
  • Post #2 - June 28th, 2005, 11:20 am
    Post #2 - June 28th, 2005, 11:20 am Post #2 - June 28th, 2005, 11:20 am
    Glad to hear you had a good time. Drop in anytime, we're always open. :lol:
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #3 - June 28th, 2005, 11:24 am
    Post #3 - June 28th, 2005, 11:24 am Post #3 - June 28th, 2005, 11:24 am
    Seanchai wrote:Finally we took a cab over to Rosa’s Lounge for some blues and ended up heaving an absolute blast. Tony the owner introduced himself to us, made us feel very welcome at what seemed to be a party among 50 people who all kind of knew each other. Great, great congenial vibe at this place; we felt like regulars after 30 minutes. And of course, the music led by Willie Kent and the Gents was fantastic with several guest musicians stepping up to the mike as well. Simply an unbelievably fun time, far exceeding our expectations.


    Glad you had such a good time at Rosa's. They don't call it "Chicago's Friendliest Blues Club" for nothing. I've known the owners there for years & they are great folks.
    I exist in Chicago, but I live in New Orleans.
  • Post #4 - June 28th, 2005, 12:10 pm
    Post #4 - June 28th, 2005, 12:10 pm Post #4 - June 28th, 2005, 12:10 pm
    Seanchai wrote: After walking for a while, we decided that a little hair of the dog wouldn’t kill us and stopped off at Johnny O’Hagans, a very comfortable place that unfortunately had in their employ a bartender who had had a much worse night than we had. It appeared that it took approximately 95% of his concentration just to keep his heart beating and he didn’t have enough left to be able to give directions to Irish Oak, where we planned to get a bite to eat (we had originally planned to go to Thai Authentic Cuisine, but decided to save that for our next trip). It took him about 5 minutes to figure out a byzantine path that we realized wouldn’t be necessary when we stepped back onto Clark and we saw it down the block.


    Very humorous description of O'Hagan's barkeep.

    I've met some of the guys there (we had a memorial service there a few months ago), and sober or sloshed, they are very genial and try to be helpful.

    About the food, well, we had some decent corn beef there, but I wasn't overwhelmed. 3 stars for atmosphere, though, at least the few times I've been there.

    For those who've never been, here's a pic of the place (click to enlarge).

    Image

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #5 - June 28th, 2005, 12:36 pm
    Post #5 - June 28th, 2005, 12:36 pm Post #5 - June 28th, 2005, 12:36 pm
    What a warm, astute, and humorous post! So glad you had an anniversary weekend to remember.

    Though a lifelong Chicagoan, my notions of a full, dynamic weekend are now officially put to shame and must be revised. :)

    Shanti
  • Post #6 - June 28th, 2005, 12:56 pm
    Post #6 - June 28th, 2005, 12:56 pm Post #6 - June 28th, 2005, 12:56 pm
    Seanchai:

    Thanks for the long report on your visit: books, beer and a big-time abbuffata... What could be better?

    Very glad to hear you enjoyed your time here.

    Antonius

    P.S. I like very much what you have to say about Nuevo Leon. In a way, it's nothing all that special but in another way it's a really wonderful place.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #7 - June 28th, 2005, 2:11 pm
    Post #7 - June 28th, 2005, 2:11 pm Post #7 - June 28th, 2005, 2:11 pm
    Seanchai - what a great post! You certainly got a wide glimpse of the different neighborhoods in chicago for a relatively short time visiting - it's always encouraging to hear of visitors willing to see Chicago, not just michigan avenue or the loop!

    Sorry to hear you didn't get in to the Matchbox, it really is a tiny place, best to get there between 4 & 6pm to grab a seat - they truely do have some great cocktails - their margarita, which i call a party in a glass because of the festive presentation, is awesome! made with fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice, served in a martini glass rimmed with powdered sugar, is just my favorite in the city or anywhere! and glad to hear you liked the Hopleaf - it's really one of my favorite neighborhood gathering spots with friends!

    Come back soon!

    Sharon
  • Post #8 - June 28th, 2005, 2:38 pm
    Post #8 - June 28th, 2005, 2:38 pm Post #8 - June 28th, 2005, 2:38 pm
    It's great to read about your thoughtful weekend sojourn in the face of the plethora of visitors who glean the forum for info then(if they bother to post back) post along the lines of, "oh...we just went to the Cheesecake Factory and Pizzeria Uno." Kudos. And, now you've added to LTH's Irish "pub" info.
  • Post #9 - June 28th, 2005, 8:25 pm
    Post #9 - June 28th, 2005, 8:25 pm Post #9 - June 28th, 2005, 8:25 pm
    One tip regarding the Matchbox is that right next door is the Silver Palm, a restaurant/bar with the same owner as the Matchbox. Silver Palm has pretty good food (including an above average burger); a cool dining room that is inside an old train dining car; the same fabulous drinks as the Matchbox; and (most importantly) plenty seats. Next time you're in town and find the Matchbox too crowded, just go next door to the Silver Palm.
  • Post #10 - June 28th, 2005, 11:08 pm
    Post #10 - June 28th, 2005, 11:08 pm Post #10 - June 28th, 2005, 11:08 pm
    Clap Clap Clap. Very nice report. It's always great to hear back from our visitors who take our humble advice.

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