Chicaco – The Food!!

Some of you who know our good friend, Random Esquire, already know that “foodie photographer & reviewer” is already a staple on the dude’s resume. So we were definitely looking forward to enjoying the food in Chicago. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed.

Well…we were a bit disappointed on the way to Chicago. At Toronto’s Pearson Airport, Sunshine and I were pretty hungry so we looked around for something to eat. Where she’s gluten sensitive, there weren’t many options available to us. We found a place called True Burger and thought that I could eat a burger while she could eat some fries. Better than nothing, right?

HOWMUCH?

That’s right. A burger, a small order of fries, and a soda added up to $14.69. The burger was greasy and gross. The fries tasted like anything except potatoes. The soda fountain wasn’t regulated properly so the soda itself had zero flavour.  All around, it really wasn’t a good way to start off the weekend. Thankfully, it wasn’t a sign of things to come.

On Friday morning, before heading out to explore the city, Sunshine and I had a wonderful breakfast prepared by Random. While food was being prepared, I was asked to try something I had never tried before: Naked Fruit Smoothie. I know that this isn’t specifically an American beverage as it’s available in Canada, as well…but I had never seen it before and it looked absolutely disgusting to me.

Naked

Random said I had to at least try one before turning up my nose. I decided to “suck it up” and try it. I’m happy to report that this tastes a LOT better than it looks. While I don’t think I’d go out of my way to find some, I can’t say that I wouldn’t buy one if given the opportunity.  After breakfast, Sunshine and I went out for the day to explore the downtown area.

Sunshine and I were getting quite hungry by mid-afternoon, so we stopped into the Nordstrom food court on Michigan Avenue. I didn’t take a photo of my meal, but I ended up trying Potbelly Sandwich Shop and boy, was I glad that I did! I had a grilled chicken & cheddar sandwich that was extremely tasty. I also decided to try a vanilla milkshake, which is one of my favourite beverages. I always say that you can tell a restaurant knows what they’re doing if they can make a great vanilla shake. Without a shadow of a doubt, this was one of the best shakes I have ever had. If I ever have the opportunity to try Potbelly again, I’m definitely doing it!

That evening, Random knew that we were in the mood to try some authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza. After an hour, a tremendous pie arrived at the door. We ordered a sausage deep dish from Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and were quite impressed with how everything looked:

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria

This was my second attempt at trying Chicago-style deep dish pizza (my first time was with Gino’s East), and I can’t lie to you…I’m not the biggest fan. I’m not saying that it’s bad because it wasn’t…I’m just a guy who grew up in the pizza industry (my dad owned a pizza restaurant for 20+ years) and I’m a fan of “traditional” pizza. There’s just something about the sauce being on top of the cheese that changes the taste enough for me to not really love it. Oh well…at least I gave it a shot.

Saturday morning had the three of us ready to tackle the city head-on. We went to part of Chicago that is kind of a “Greek town” area, with lots of Greek  restaurants and shops. The place we went to was the Meli Cafe & Juice Bar. Random was excited to have us eat here for breakfast so we just knew it had to be good. Upon recommendation, the two of us had the “Mana Mou!!” skillet, which is described on their website as: “Truly the mother of all skillet creations, grilled certified Black Angus skirt steak, Portobello mushrooms, red onions, peppers, topped with Provolone.” I can honestly say that this, my friends, was the greatest skillet I have ever had. My photo simply doesn’t do it justice…

Meli Cafe & Juice Bar

The day went on and we did our fair share of sightseeing. As afternoon approached, we were waiting to go on a 90-minute Architecture River Tour when we decided to grab a quick bite. We tried going into The Purple Pig on Michigan Avenue, but there was a pretty big line and an hour wait. So we just scooted around the corner to a Corner Bakery Cafe.

I wasn’t overly hungry after such a big breakfast, so I decided to just grab a couple of cookies and a beverage. I gotta say, though…my cookies were incredible! I started with just a old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie (which was good) but then finished with a peanut butter whoopie pie (pictured below), which was…ummm…let me just say YUM~!! Peanut butter cookies sandwiching chocolate gooey goodness. Trust me when I say this thing was awesome!

Corner Bakery Cafe

The boat tour concluded and Random decided that we should head over to Navy Pier. After going on the Ferris wheel, we decided to walk around the area and soak in the attraction. While we walked, I happen to notice two things that I should have tried but didn’t.

The first was Garrett’s Popcorn. Sunshine and I had never heard of it before and were surprised that there was a line-up of people waiting to get in. Apparently, similar to a freshly-made Krispy Kreme donut, people will actually stand in line for this incredible “Chicago mix” popcorn, which is a combination of caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn. We didn’t think much of it at the time and continued to walk on.

As a side note, once we returned to Canada, Sunshine and I saw some “Chicago mix popcorn” in a local grocery store. We simply had to give it a shot and see what it was like…

Chicago mix popcorn

Needless to say, we wished we had stayed around in the line-up so we could try the “authentic” product itself. If nothing else, it’s a reason to go back to Chicago and try Garrett’s ourselves!

We continued to walk around Navy Pier and I saw something that I wish I stopped to try:

Scotchy Scotch Scotch

Without question, Anchorman is one of my favourite movies of all time. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen it and how excited Sunshine and I are about the upcoming Anchorman 2 movie. And heck…I’m not even a fan of butterscotch that much, but I’d be lying if I said I wished I stopped to try a butterscotch shake…just to say that I tried it.

That evening, while on the way back to Random’s, we stopped downtown and went to the Sweetwater Tavern & Grille. And par for the course, I ended up having one of the best burgers I’ve ever had (which is saying something considering how many burgers I’ve had in my 41 years). I had an Allagash White Ale with the special of the day, which was a beef brisket burger with a tangy BBQ sauce and Provolone cheese.

OH. EMM. GEE.

Sweetwater Tavern & Grille

No…seriously…LOOK AT THIS BURGER!!!

Beef brisket burger at Sweetwater Tavern & Grille

Yes, that’s a cheese-covered hamburger patty UNDERNEATH the beef brisket!! Sigh…I’m already wishing I was back in Chicago if only to have this burger one more time.

That’s all of the food porn that I’ve got for today. Tomorrow I describe the final meal we had in Chicago at one of the most incredible restaurants I’ve ever had.

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