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Chicago Area Trip Report

trip report (really LONG)


Restaurants & Bars 11

trip report (really LONG)

AlisonNC | Apr 17, 2006 10:56 PM

Got back Sunday from my long weekend in Chicago. Since I've been reading the board for weeks looking for advice/suggestions, here's the report I promised. It was a really wonderful weekend. Some food highlights were higher than others, but overall, I was really quite pleased with the experience. I do regret that I couldn't work Garrett's into the schedule. Oh well, maybe next time.

Here goes:

Hot Diggety (?) (on Ohio, near Michigan) half a hot dog, "all the way" except for hot peppers. Yum. Only half, since lunch was in an hour at Topolobampo.

Topolobampo – had reservations for two at 2:00, got there almost half an hour early, they seated us no problem. There were only a couple of other tables occupied. I can't believe those two rooms are two different restaurants… on the other hand, walking into Topolo's room was like walking through waterfall, into another, quieter, cooler, world. We shared the Trio Trio Trio ceviche sampler, a "ravioli" salad appetizer, and the Cuatro Cositas Oaxaqueñas. I'd never had ceviche. I probably won't again. I couldn't eat the squid, the fish was super-limey (I'm sure it's supposed to be, but I didn’t enjoy it), and the shrimp… well, the sauce the shrimp were in was really nice, but for some reason the shrimp didn't appeal to me – I've noticed I don't enjoy shrimp anymore, I must have gone through some major taste bud change. The remainder was all good, but awfully earthy for me. I would have liked something brighter. I think maybe I should have got one of the menu items that changes every few weeks rather than something that apparently is a constant? I don't know. All in all, it was well-executed, but overall didn't appeal to me. I'd probably go again, but order differently.

Fanny Mae – Okay, this is definitely not Chowhound material, but it did provide a dramatic contrast for a much more satisfying chocolate foray later in the weekend. I didn't buy anything. I was going to, because we don't have Fanny Mae here in NC, but I tasted one of their sample truffles and ICK.

Breakfast at Corner Bakery – convenient, simple, and inexpensive were the deciding factors in this choice. What's the story on this place? Obviously it's a chain, as there seemed to be one every time we turned around! But, is it a local chain? Whatever it is, it was exactly what we wanted/needed, and was quite satisfactory.

Snack at Patisserie P – a little bakery, half Asian, half traditional European, somewhere near the Red Line Argyle stop. Three of us shared a ham/cheese roll, crème brulee, a sesame ball (red bean paste, no thank you!), a "butterfly cookie", and a chocolate passion tart. Poor Mom, she didn't know that "chocolate passion" meant passion fruit. It wasn't bad, just quite a shock :-) The crème brulee was quite nice, although unusually thick – almost like it had gelatin added. My favorite was the butterfly cookie, which was a croissant dough based, thinly sliced cinnamon roll sort of cookie. Terrible description, but delicious.

Tea at the Ritz Carlton. Lovely. I've had better lemon curd (both of my usual haunts make exceptional lemon curd, though), and I'm spoiled in that my usual tea place puts your scones in the oven only after you've arrived, but it wasn't bad at all. It was quite nice. An acquaintance advised that the Peninsula or Four Seasons has better tea, and I don't doubt her. But we had made our decision and were sticking to it. As tea goes, it was perfectly fine. And, I liked the room very much. The fountain was pretty, and its sound was soothing and masked other diners conversations quite nicely.

Lou Malnati's – had a deep dish butter crust with Italian sausage, peppers, and mushrooms delivered to our hotel around 10:00pm. I hadn't really done research into what Chicago style pizza is, had seen Malnati's recommended here (along with several other places, of course… don't know why I chose this one, something about the rec spoke to me). Mom commented "it's not so much a pizza as a casserole". Even adjusting for the sogginess that I attribute to the delivery time, this crust just wasn't my thing.

Had picked up two Ethel's truffles for each of us to have as dessert. Don't know why I bought them even after finding out they were made in Nevada, but oh well, I did. They were pretty awful. However, again, they provided a pointed contrast to what was to come.

Corner Bakery again, again for convenience, lightness, and cost. We had yogurt/berry "parfait" with granola. Ridiculous, perhaps, but absolute perfection. I have no idea where they got their strawberries, but they were the best I've had in a long time!

Sayat Nova – an Armenian place off of Ohio and Michigan. Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! The best meal of the weekend, hands down. It was cheap (less than $20 for two entrees), but delicious, and rich, and interesting, and just wonderful. The construction outside made for terrible ambiance, but we didn't care. We had a combo with stuffed eggplant, white beans, these phyllo-pastry turnover thingies (Mom had the cheese, I had the spinach), and salad. Those turnovers were decadent.

Believe it or not, we ate at Corner Bakery yet again! We were in the Field Museum with children, and it was snack time. Mom and I shared a chicken salad sandwich on some dark bread with raisins and sunflower seeds in it, and an apricot/walnut small pastry. Again, I was surprised… really good stuff from such a ubiquitous place.

CANADY CHOCOLATIER!!!!!!!!!!!! ***the*** highlight of the weekend for me. Mr. Canady himself served us, and he is amazingly gracious, lovely, charming… And the chocolates! Beautiful, rich, sumptious, varied, just plum amazing. I got two boxes to give as gifts, one box for myself and DH to savor here at home, 2 truffles to indulge in later in the evening, and a hot cocoa for the (now chilly!) walk back to the hotel. The cocoa was so rich, with cinnamon and nutmeg accents. Heaven. The entire experience was downright magical.

Keefer's – really bad steak. Tasteless, tough, chewy, awful. Okay, I've had worse steaks, but I've had better $10 Choice steaks than this $40 "Prime". Mom was paying, and did not want me to complain. I'll write a letter instead. Nothing they can do now, but at least I want to tell them. The waiter (in response to my not-verbalized question) explained it was because I ordered it "lightly marbled". BS. I couldn't cut the blasted thing with my steak knife, and it was grainy and tasteless. Plus, waitstaff kept bumping my mom's head to get to the cutlery that was stationed at her side. The sauteed spinach was good, and the shredded potato cake was delicious, though greasy.

In summary:
"Awful": Keefer's, and chocolates not worth even mentioning again
"Perfectly fine, just not my thing": Lou Malnati's
"Perfectly fine, though not transcendent": Topolobampo, Patisserie P, Tea at the Ritz-Carlton
"Surprisingly good for what's obviously a chain": Corner Bakery
"Heaven": Sayat Nova, Canady Chocolatier

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