Cheap and Quick Eats in Chicago

April 25, 2010

We can’t leave our Chicago chat without talking about the food!  If you mention Chicago, some people will think about Wrigley Field, Soldiers Field, Millennium Park, the Sears Tower ledge, the Navy Pier, the lake, and even Oprah.  But lots of people I know will think about the food!

There are lots of fancy restaurants in Chicago that might come to mind, like Charlie Trotter’s and Tru.  We didn’t eat at any fah fah fahncy places, but we did use the ladies room in The Gage!  Does that count?

We had a crowd of people with us and were super busy all weekend, so fine dining wasn’t on our agenda.  There really wasn’t time to spend on that kind of a meal, and we didn’t want to break the bank either.  The weekend was about spending time with Bry, and celebrating his Navy graduation and LilSis’ birthday on Sunday.  So where did we eat?  We WERE in Chicago, so we had to check out at least a couple of the foods that Chicago is known for!

Portillos Chicago Cheap Eats

Portillos in Chicago

What says “Chicago” more than hot dogs and Italian beef?  Our first night in town, we headed for Portillo’s.  Portillo’s is known for their hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches (juicy or dry), polish sausages and burgers.  There are close to 50 Portillo’s locations now, and all of them are in Illinois and Indiana except for two in California.  This place was crazy!  It was packed with customers eating and two full lines of customers waiting to place their orders.  I couldn’t eat much there – even most of the salads are not vegetarian friendly – so I ended up with lettuce and tomato salad, but I really enjoyed the decor and the feel of the restaurant.  And I did sample their french fries: crispy, tender, hot, crinkle fries…delicious!

You can’t come to Chicago without having pizza, right?  We headed to Gino’s East since there was one close to our hotel in Great Lakes.  The restaurant looks and feels like a pizza joint in any other place in the country, but the pizza is all Chicago.  We loved that we could all get an individual-size pizza (thin or thick crust), plus a salad and a drink for only $5.99.  Not bad!  LilSis got the thin crust, and I wished I had done the same because it was scrumptious. I got their “thick golden crust” since I thought that was more authentically Chicago-like, but it wasn’t what I expected.  I imagined a tender thick crust like Uno’s, but it was a cornbread crust that I wasn’t crazy about.  The toppings were great though; I just should have asked more questions before I ordered.

Cosi Restaurant ChicagoThe day that we zipped around downtown Chicago on the double-decker bus tour, we were famished and happened across Cosi as we were leaving Millennium Park.  Our group included all ages and all kinds of eating preferences, and Cosi’s menu satisfied us all.

The ambience reminded me of Starbucks, and it’s my understanding that Cosi started out as a coffee shop and added food later. It was a good move!  We all loved the flatbread that comes with soups and salads, and is used on sandwiches too.  It’s great soft bread untoasted, but when toasted it gets nice and crispy on the outside.  Our group tried the fire roasted veggie sandwich, cobb salad, tomato basil soup, bacon cheddar turkey melt, and the chicken club.  It was all delicious, and affordable.  There are bunches of Cosi restaurants in the Chicago area, but none in Texas.  Boo.  This is my kind of food!

We also ate at a couple of chains that are maybe a little more generic, but still really good.  You can’t go wrong with Jason’s Deli in a pinch.  Who doesn’t love Jason’s?  It’s another place with a menu big enough and good enough to satisfy pretty much anyone in your group.  I have one near my office and eat their Spinach Veggie Wrap minus the cheese all the time.

At the airport, some of us grabbed a quick sandwich at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop.  I have a Potbelly right down the street from me here in Dallas, but I’d never been there although I’ve heard it’s good.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The veggie sandwich on whole-grain wheat bread was excellent, and I love that you can request “Thin-Cut” bread on any sandwich, which gives you 1/3 less bread to deal with.

So there’s your quick and cheap tour of Chicago eats.  Overall, it seemed to me that Chicago cuisine is pretty “meaty” and not super-veggie friendly, but it’s clear that Chicagoans are really passionate about their food!  We’re hoping to visit Bry again in a few months, and when we do, we’ll no doubt eat a bunch more and report back on it!

~BigSis

A Taste of Chicago

April 21, 2010

While Bry was enjoying the Cubs game with his dad on Saturday, several of us took the opportunity on a beautiful sunny day to see some of downtown Chicago.  What better way to do that than the Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Tour? Luckily, Bo recommended this tour as the best way to see downtown without doing miles and miles of walking.

It was a little chilly and windy…duh, it IS Chicago…but we did a similar tour of New York City several years ago and loved it, so we were psyched for this day.  You can see everything and do it at your own speed, plus you get the feel of the city a little bit since you’re experiencing all of the sounds and smells as well as the sights.

We took a ton of photos, and wanted to share some of our favorites with you.  Chicago: we’ll be back for more of you as soon as we can!  We had a blast!

Chicago Theater

Chicago Theater

Macy's Downtown Chicago

Macy's (2nd largest department store on Earth) Still has Marshall Field And Company sign.

Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co. Tour

Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. Tour (yes, the bus was furry.)

Downtown Chicago Tour

BigSis & LilSis on top of the Double Decker

Chicago Michaelangelo Art Institute

The Art Institute of Chicago Museum: Michaelangelo is misspelled!

Chicago Picasso

Chicago Picasso (showing off a Blackhawks helmet)

Chicago Sears Tower Ledge

Sears Tower Ledge: look at the people in the clear dangling cubes!

Millennium Park

Millennium Park

Chicago Mirror Girl Model

This Mirror Girl model was doing a photo shoot in Millennium Park

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Chicago Tulips Millennium Park

Posing with the tulips in Millennium Park

The Bean at Millenium Park

BigSis in front of The Bean

Chicago Bean Millennium Park

The Bean in Millennium Park

Chicago Bean Millennium Park Camera

The sisters bein' goofy at The Bean!

And, last but not least, you can’t talk about Chicago without talkin’ about ‘Da Bears’.

Soldier Field

Soldier Field (Go BEARS!)

Towards the end of the tour, it got a little too chilly to ride on top of the bus so we had to go down below, which is why we have no photos of the Harbors or Navy Pier.  We may have to go back this Summer to capture some of the activities down by the water.

We could see Bry again before he ships out and while there we could take another Double Decker Bus tour when it’s warm enough to stay on the top of the bus for the entire tour! We don’t mind looking like tourists!

And next time, we’ll make sure to take photos of all the infamous Chicago food! Chicago pizza, Chicago dogs, more pizza, beef sandwiches, more pizza, gyros…

We could go on, and on, and on about the food in Chicago!  :-)

~LilSis

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Chicago Trip

October 6, 2008

I’m writing this post this afternoon while HayHay & I are on the plane returning home from our long weekend in Chicago. SirHoney is staying an extra few days to visit. This photo was actually taken on our way to Chicago on Thursday night. I just love being above the clouds on a beautiful night. It’s such a surreal feeling to me.

Above the Clouds!

On every trip to Chicago, we are always “on the go” and don’t have too much downtime. We stay at SirHoneys’ parents house, but the kids are scattered all over the “burbs” so we do alot of driving. Here are the highlights of the weekend.

SirHoney, SirHoneys’ brother, R, BigGuy, and HayHay left for Indiana on Friday morning for a Notre Game football game and “boys weekend”. They attended the Pep Rally on Friday and had the opportunity to take a tour of the stadium and “tailgate” prior to the game. They all had a great time and BigGuy and HayHay could only describe it as a “ridiculously” fun time.  Go Irish!

Notre Dame HayHay

While they were having their “boys weekend”; I had some time with the girls and our new grandbaby, LittleOne. He just turned two weeks old today. There’s not much I can say other than he is absolutely beautiful and such a little sweetheart. He’s a calm, really good baby.

We spent Friday afternoon visiting at Meems. Friday night, Meem had her first evening out since having the baby and TallGuy had his first evening alone with LittleOne. Bo, Meem & I went out to a local Italian restaurant and had a great dinner.

Saturday afternoon, myself, Bo, Meem,and LittleOne met MrsBigGuy, LittleGuy#1, and LittleGuy#2 at  Bengston’s Pumpkin Farm. The boys were so excited!  I want to know how many people have ever watched a Pig Race? Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, because honestly, I didn’t know such a thing existed. (Not even at the Texas State Fair) Here’s proof!

Pig #1

The boys got such a kick out of it! LittleGuy#2 was chosen from the crowd to be a “Pig Rooter” and was told to cheer for #1. Well, #1 lost and LittleGuy#2 was not happy!

LittleGuy#2 cheering for Pig#1

LittleGuy#1 is unbelievably strong for a six year old. He walked over to this pumpkin, grabbed it, says “I wonder how much this pumpkin weighs” and throws it up on the scale. It weighed 19 pounds!

LittleGuy#1 weighing pumpkin

LittleGuy#1 weighing pumpkin

We all had a great time! It was LittleOnes’ first outing and he was terrific. All the boys were being so good, so we went out for Mexican food and went back to Bo’s after dinner. Meem and LittleOne stayed with us since TallGuy was at a bachelor party. LittleOne managed to get a bellyache and Meem and I were up with him all night. Even though he didn’t feel well, he’s such a sweet little doll.

Sunday afternoon, we all met at SirHoneys’ sisters’ house for a cookout. We got to visit for a few hours, then Bo, HayHay, TallGuy and Meem went to the Statesville Haunted Prison. Apparently, it was very scary! I’m glad that I decided not to go. HayHay said that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. He said I would have gotten claustrophobic and would have had a panic attack. He’s probably right!

I don’t like scary stuff at all and definitely don’t like violent stuff so I won’t put up any of those photos. Here’s a photo of the checkered room that is supposed to be quite the optical illusion.

Crazy Checkered Room

This morning, we drove to Meems to visit her and LittleOne one last time.  BigGuy had picked up LittleGuy#2 from kindergarten and had picked up HayHay from Bo’s so they were at Meems when we arrived.  LittleGuy#2 actually rode with SirHoney to drop off HayHay and myself at the airport. He was thrilled that he got to spend time with Papa alone. LittleGuy#1 was still in school.

I had been kidding LittleGuy#2 all weekend telling him that I was bringing him with us back to California. He was so funny on the way to the airport, he said “I love airports. I’m going to order some cookies when I get on the plane.” I guess he really did think that I was taking him to California with me.

Unfortunately, BigT couldn’t join us on this trip because he couldn’t ask for two days off work so he stayed home and took care of TomTom and SarahGirl. I wonder what they did while we were gone?

If only TomTom could talk!

If only TomTom could talk!

So, that leads me to where I am now; on the plane returning home. I’m always happy to leave for a long weekend, but I’m also very happy to return home to sleep in my own bed.

~LilSis

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