Exploring the Windy City!
I went to Chicago for a work convention last week, but unfortunately, it was a short trip- my brother and I arrived Wednesday night and flew back to SFO Saturday in the early afternoon. Because we attended the convention all day Thursday and Friday, I didn't get to do as much sight-seeing as I would have liked. But, from my limited time exploring , I really enjoyed the city! Below are pictures from our brief, but eventful, stay.
Walking around downtown
The famous Wrigley Building pictured above (Built in the 1920s, the Wrigley Building once housed the headquarters for chewing gum mogul William Wrigley Jr.)
Getting lost in Chicago's streets
Our hotel was located downtown, about a 5-7 minute drive from Cloud Gate (the Bean). So, much of our free time was spent walking around downtown and familiarizing ourselves with the area. I loved all the high rises and was impressed by how clean the city is. Usually when visiting big metropolitan areas, they can be a bit dirty, or even smell kinda funky (just because of the amount of congestion and foot traffic in the area) but that was not at all the case in Chicago.
On our first day there, Thursday, it was between 45-47 degrees, so we were freezing haha. But, we caught good weather for the majority of our stay, as most of the trip consisted of blue skies and minimal wind (yay!)
We went to Intelligentsia Coffee our first morning before heading to the convention- we don't have this chain in Northern Cali, but I've had it in LA and the coffee is very tasty... Pictured above is a mocha.
We had a break in between sessions on Thursday and had just enough time for a second coffee run (we were super tired that day) and a short visit to the Bean (the hotel in which the convention was held at was near Cloud Gate, as well). The above picture is of a small cafe located at the end of a cute alleyway in downtown. The name of the coffeeshop was Asado Coffee on Pickwick Lane.
I had the french lavender latte, and it was delicious!
It was so incredible to see the Bean up close, and to get to experience this super famous sculpture in person. The piece is located in Millennium Park in the Loop area within Chicago.
Millennium Park is the "central park" of Chicago, home to an extensive variety of state-of-the-art architecture, landscape design and public art pieces. Hundreds of community events, free cultural programs, concerts, exhibitions, film screenings and food and music festivals are held all throughout the year in the park for both locals and tourists to enjoy.
Loved the reflection of the city seen on the Bean
Picture from underneath the Bean
The following pictures are of the buildings bordering Millennium Park. The buildings' were comprised of an interesting mix of both historical and contemporary origins. I hope to come back to the city just so I can take one of the famous riverboat tours (on the Chicago River) from which you can see the city's breathtaking architecture from a different viewpoint, and learn more about the structures' historical backgrounds.
On my (hopefully) next visit, I'd also love to check out the sky deck from Willis Tower. The sky deck is that crazy/cool transparent glass ledge, which you've probably seen on Instagram (lol), with a stunning view of Chicago. Willis Tower is apparently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere standing at 1,353 feet tall, with a view spanning up to 4 states!
Chicago has a lot of iconic architecture, in addition to buildings boasting both cutting-edge and innovative design.
Beautiful sunset we got to catch on Thursday evening
BTW, did I mention Chicago's food is BOMB?
Having authentic Chicago deep dish pizza was my goal (insert emoji praise hands) on this trip. We asked our Uber driver Thursday which place he recommended, since he was a city native, and he advised we go to Lou Malnati's.
Well, it did NOT disappoint. Lou's was probably the best deep dish I have ever eaten. My brother and I had to wait an hour just to be seated (and I can't believe I'm saying this) but it was well worth it. I wish I can say, I savored each bite and took my sweet time while eating each slice, but the truth is, we were starving by the time we got our food... so we devoured the pizza. It was so delicious! As I sit here and write this, I am already craving Lou's and it hasn't even been a week since I had it.
We ended up ordering the Malnati Chicago Classic- Made with lean sausage, some extra cheese and ripened tomato sauce on Buttercrust- supposedly, a super authentic Chicago-style pizza!
Snapping pics of Michigan Ave.- a busy and famous boulevard... If you go further along onto downtown Michigan Ave., you'll stumble upon the Magnificent Mile- home to some of Chicago's best shopping (heyyyyyy!)
Friday morning, we yelped breakfast spots in the area and found Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. FAM... this place, no lie, had the best breakfast I think I've ever had in my life. No exaggeration at all.
Their specialty is the "signature berry bliss pancakes" - pancakes with vanilla anglaise, blackberry coulis, berry mascarpone and fresh berries. I was worried the pancakes might be overwhelmingly sweet, just by their description, but the dish ending up being perfect (and tasting heavenly!).
In fact, the restaurant is actually known for using fresh, locally sourced ingredients- and the quality is evident once you taste the mouth-watering food. We loved it so much we ended up going back early Saturday morning for round 2.
The signature berry bliss pancakes
Saturday, I got the signature berry bliss waffle- essentially the same as the pancakes (and equally amazing)
There were two more restaurants that were recommended to us by friends who lived in Chicago or had been to Chicago. They were:
1. Au Cheval- We attempted to eat at this spot but when we arrived Friday night, the wait was over two hours long. Supposedly, Au Cheval makes the country's BEST burger (according to Bon Appetit). Unbeknownst to us at the time, the restaurant is one of Chicago's most difficult dining establishments to get into and people wait hours just to get a table. We were starving when we arrived because we had not eaten since breakfast, and so we decided to go down the street to a different burger joint to grub (the food was still great). But this restaurant is at the top of my list if I ever return to the Windy City.
2. Girl and the Goat- I was told this establishment was a must with an outstanding menu. The cuisine is American (new) and located directly across the street from Au Cheval. Naturally, it was the first place we tried to get into after Au Cheval denied us (hah), but we had no luck here either. Girl and the Goat did not have a table for another 3 hours!
A little background info on Executive Chef, Stephanie Izard:
Along with receiving the Beard award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013 and being named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2010, Chef Izard had the opportunity to compete on Bravo's Top Chef. She not only won the competition- but was also a fan favorite. Clearly, the girl knows her stuff- I'm hoping I can come back to Chi-Town just to support Girl and the Goat and taste Izard's highly renowned dishes.
These are only two small examples of the city's flourishing gastronomy. Chefs and restaurateurs are flocking to the city because of its population and affordability (it's much cheaper to rent a space in the windy city than it is to rent in New York or San Francisco. Additionally, Chicago is the 3rd most populous city in the country- these factors make it an ideal market for the restaurant/food industry).
Chicago's food scene is one worth indulging in and includes a large selection of different cuisines- from street tacos and hot dogs to michelin rated restaurants and Macanese dining ( Macau is an autonomous region of China whose food is a blend of Southern Chinese and Portuguese cuisines)- Many of these eateries contain some of the most creative and flavorful menus in the country.
Saturday morning, we had just enough time after breakfast to sight-see one last time before heading to the airport. We decided to hit up the Navy Pier- recommended by some individuals at the convention we attended. The pier reminded me a lot of San Francisco's Pier 39: a popular street by the water with some fun family-friendly attractions and plenty of restaurants/ shops to browse through.
Well, with the exception that this pier bordered Lake Michigan, and not the Pacific Ocean haha it was so great to see the great lake for myself after reading about it/ seeing pictures of it all my life. However, the lake is so grand, that it kind of feels like you're in a city on the country's coast. With the Chicago river also flowing throughout the city, you're constantly surrounded by water (an aspect of Chicago that I loved).
There's a great view of Downtown Chicago from the Pier
Fall on the pier
Probably the coolest part about the trip was the fact that we got to watch one of the world series games (game three on Friday night- played at Wrigley Field) in the city. Now, I'm by no means a huge baseball fan. But I am an A's fan. Being from the Bay Area and having had worked for the A's in high school, it is my team of choice to watch. However, baseball isn't exactly a sport I watch for fun on the regular.
This game was different, though. As most of you probably know, it would be played between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs- the Cubs of which had not been in and won the World Series since 1908....1908! 108 years ago! So naturally, Chicago was festive, excited and going crazy with Cub fever- and we were so lucky we got to be a part of it for a night ! Not to mention, I'm a big Golden State Warriors fan, so I did NOT want Cleveland to win another title lol. #salty
The Cubs ended up winning the world series- and I was pretty happy for my fellow patient and resilient Chicagoans!
A building in downtown Chicago lighting up the night with the phrase "Let's Go Cubs"
Overall, my trip to Chi-Town was no where near long enough for me haha, but it gives me all the more reason to return to enjoy some of the sites and attractions that I missed this time around.
I'm thankful for my short stay in the city and this trip really inspired me to add more U.S. cities to my bucket list. I'm always so eager to leave the country- to travel somewhere completely new and unknown to me- but Chicago was a great reminder that we have world-class destinations right here in the states that are worth visiting and exploring.
Until next time, Chicago!