Back from our first trip to Chicago and wanted to share some memories while they were fresh. First of all, thanks to chicago hounds for providing some valuable insights..lots to learn from on this board! Also, huge kudos to all of our wonderful servers..I was so impressed by each and every one I met - warm, courteous, not an ounce of "snoot". Being from Toronto, it seems I am always apologizing to my servers for making them get me things..never felt this way once in Chicago (maybe just luck, but let me have my rosy view). Thanks to Judy, Gabriel. Wendy, Charles and all the others whose names escape me!
We arrived early afternoon on a glorious sunny Thursday and did quite a bit of walking. We had decided we would try to hit up some "happy hour" spots and then have a later dinner. Stopped in at Shaw's Crab House for 1/2 price oysters and marvellous pours of Guiness. We followed this with 5.00 appetizers at Roy's. I realize Roy's may not be considered a chow destination, but they provided a huge portion of (free) steamed edamame..we followed that with delicious fried calamari, lobster potstickers and a maki role (and expensive but tasty cocktails)..great service again. For dinner - a small pizza, brushetta and salad at Lou Matlani's (south loop location). We loved this deep dish - only had one piece each, but the leftovers were valuable snacks the next day! Even the salad, while simple romaine/iceberg was fresh and tasty..
Friday found us missing our normal lunch which resulted in us being starving and irritable at about 3:30..I had planned to try the burger at Rockit as I had heard it was good. We ended up splitting it cause we had fairly early dinner reservations. "Can I get the burger medium rare?" I asked hopefully.."you can get it totally rare" was the response. Sure enough, we were served a sexy burger on a pretzel bun - medium rare..juices running down our hands. They even cut it in half for us. Add to that perfect perfect fries and some great seasonal beers and we were happy campers.
Dinner on Friday night - Blue 13. Loved this little cozy spot! It felt hip enough to be "cool" without being trendy. Octopus in a smokey tomato broth was wonderful, if not a wee bit salty for me. Roasted beet and frisee salad with feta was perfect. Mains included duck breast for him, artic char for me. Both dishes worked in their simplicity and the fact that they were expertly executed. I also loved that the waiter came with a pitcher of ice water and asked "tap water ok?". This made me happy. I always feel so icky when the mineral water is pushed first and then I am forced to ask for tap water, only to be met with that "face". Wine list was short, but had lots of variety and some interesting wines we don't see much in toronto - midpoint around 40-50.00 (2 apps, 2 mains, 1 bottle of wine = 126.00)
Now don't laugh about Saturday's lunch. We had good intention of finding some authentic, hole in the wall mexican (just to mix up the food types a bit)..I expected to see a little mom and pop place in Old Town from the little bit of reading I did (obviously not enought!). We ended up instead at this huge, garishly decorated circus called Uncle Julios - hundreds of kids everywhere, obnoxious marachi type music blaring..I almost left before we were seated. But you know what? It was really darn tasty! Fantastic house made salsa and chips, chicken enchaladas with a really zesty green salsa, fresh tortillas..we enjoyed it, even if it wasn't what we were originally looking for. Last minute dinner reservations at the Gage (close to our hotel). Beautiful space!! It was great to see such a lively crowd as well. Split a few dishes: goat gnocchi (decadent), ceasar salad (overdressed but tasty), vindaloo mussels (a little heavy for me, suspect a lot of butter..but perfectly cooked), phenom dessert of banana cake on carmelized bananas/chocolate sauce (that I shall soon try to replicate at home)..another fab guiness pour and an interesting french sauvignon blanc.
Breakfast on sunday - planned for M.Henry but time ran out so needed somewhere a bit closer. We chose Eleven Diner on S. Wabash for this reason only..so glad we did! So fun to see all the Chicago-ans up early, getting ready for the football game..families, groups of friends - such a positive vibe. My husband has proclaimed his breakfast there "the new standard for all others" (corned beef hash/eggs). I had possibly the best challah french toast ever..kept it simple with berries only. Again, amazing service, with a smile (wonderful coffee too - that Intelligentsia rocks! I would like to buy the beans sometime).
ok, I have gone on quite long enough...Chicago is a great city and we hope to visit (and eat!) there again soon!
Shaw's Crab House
21 East Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60611
416 W. Ontario Street, Chicago, IL 60610