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Highlights from a recent trip

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Figured I’d throw together a list of favorites from my recent visit to Chicago.

El Ideas: Bread course. They made a root beer pumpernickel bread and served it with the best uni butter I’ve ever had, a nice fat lobe of uni and pickled ramps. It’s a good thing they didn’t have that just sitting on the table throughout the dinner because I would have certainly filled up on that. Overall, my favorite meal in Chicago. Fun experience with a great atmosphere.

Elizabeth (Diamond menu): Shrimp noodle. A one bite course that was just perfect. The two close runners up were the octopus and asparagus course. The wine pairing on this one was the best of the night. Just wish I got a better pour. And the Quail Egg, Chicken (thigh, skin, jus, polenta) and white truffle course. This would make for a killer breakfast that I’d happily eat a few times a week. Cool experience at a great price on a Tuesday. I liked the communal table idea, but we didn’t luck out with the best group. Their loss, I guess.

Au Cheval: Fried Bologna. The burger was ok. I’ve had better and worse, but the fried bologna was a trip down memory lane. If I had more time before a show, I probably would have ordered a second. I would have liked to have gone back to try the rest of the menu.

G&T Fish: The cocktails here were fantastic. Well crafted to the point of wanting to try more than I should have for a mid-week arvo. The fish tacos with chicharron were the winners for the food. The lobster roll was a good example, but the flavors of the fish taco were just a bit more to my liking.

The Office: I think I ate the Foie Gras terrine by myself. Not because no one else wanted in, I just moved it a bit closer to me and became protective. Unnecessarily decadent and probably took a few days off my life, but well worth it. The Oysters with tinctures were interesting, but if you messed up with the flavours it was a bit of a waste of a great Island Creek Oyster (my favorite). The waffle was also good, but I liked the old Ice Cream Sundae a bit more. Though, the lardons were worthy of being eaten by themselves. I also went off menu with the cocktails and had the bartender make me a few featuring chartreuse. I wish I wrote down what they were, because they were all delicious.

Pizza: Went to Piece and Rocco Rinali’s. I still think Piece is one of the better pizzas in the city. Great atmosphere, great beers and fantastic pizza. I went overboard a bit because I knew it would be at least a year before being able to get pizza like this again.

Trenchermen: Pickle Tots, Pickle Tots, Pickle Tots (and Malort). These guys really know hospitality. The greeting we got at the door (somehow they knew who we were even though it was everyone’s first time) and the customized menu were nice touches. If there was a ball park serving those pickle tots, they would absolutely kill. The rest of the menu didn’t let us down either. I really enjoyed the use of acid in the dishes to really liven things up (yuzu in the fried chicken course). I would have happily gone back to try the rest of the menu, but ran out of time.

Rand Red Hots: Great stop for a Chicago style dog. They leave the tomato and pickle off the dog, but the rest of the ingredients were tops. Great example, in a slightly out of the way location. The fresh cut fries were the best I’ve had in a while. Perfectly cooked and salted. Stopped here a few times whenever driving past.

Vera: Made a last minute decision to try to get a table at 6:30 on a Friday and was lucky enough too. This place deserves more traffic than they’re getting. The uni toast with pickled peppers was fantastic. Just enough of uni flavour with bit of the peppers. The paella fried rice was another table favorite. I would have loved to go back for a few of their nightly specials, especially the Sunday lobster paella night.

Another great trip through the city. I’m kind of glad people see it as a flyover city and not a destination because I think it allows chefs to make what they want and not try to cater to what they think people want. It makes more a more honest and fun dining experience.

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  1. Very cutting edge choices—admittedly, many of my favorites as well.

    You said these were the highlights/favorites, so was there anywhere else that you went? It'd be good to hear on balance places that you didn't like as much or were just ok.

    1 Reply
    1. re: W42

      I chose pretty carefully to minimize any places I might not like. Of the places mentioned, there were of course a few things I didn't like as much as other, but none of them I wouldn't go back to for one reason or another. There were others I wanted to try to get to, but just ran out of time.

    2. >> I’m kind of glad people see it as a flyover city and not a destination

      Wow, I don't know *anyone* who thinks of Chicago that way. At least, not anyone who knows good food. My friends and relatives on both coasts go out of their way to spend time here and always look forward to our restaurants.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        I'm coming in from overseas and most people I talk to where I live hit LA, Vegas and NY and head back. No many stop in for any length of time, other than to hit Alinea and move on to NY.

        1. re: BeanTownGolfer

          Yeah, sadly, I have heard a bunch of people skip Chicago for NY and San Francisco and/or LA, even when it comes to food.

          1. re: W42

            Undoubtedly true. Too bad for them. More for us.