Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Everything you need to know, Chicago: Part One

This past weekend's trip sealed the deal, I am in utter love with the Windy City. Chicago is easily becoming my second favorite city next to New York, of course. Everytime I come to Chicago, when it's time to leave I am finding it harder and harder to say goodbye.

Early in June the Manfriend and I decided to take a last minute trip to the Chi, we used some frequent flyer miles and scored two round trip tickets for $5.00 each, pretty awesome, our constant traveling really helps rack up the miles. The Manfriend made us a reservation at the swanky Wyndham Chicago. My bags were packed and ready to go three weeks in advance (just kidding), the excitement to get a weekend to play in Chicago made the days leading up to our getaway fly by.

I took a 7:00am flight out of LaGuardia Airport in New York City, which got me into Chicago before 9:00am. Kyle was there to meet me at the airport, he was in the Midwest the previous week, working the Notre Dame Basketball Camp in South Bend, Indiana. It was weird meeting him in another city and it brought back numerous memories of the beginning of our relationship, when I would fly or drive to various cities where he'd have a game in order to get twenty minutes after a game to hang out with him, before he was either back on the road or going back to Notre Dame. (Dedication at it's best ladies and gentlemen.) 

We grabbed a cab and headed into downtown Chicago, it was early but we were able to check-in at our hotel. Once we got settled, we were anxious to start exploring. We were both quite hungry and I said we had to go to Tempo Cafe,on Chestnut and State Street, by far one of the best breakfast spots in the Chi. The last time I was in Chicago back in October for the Chicago Marathon, my sister and I went to Tempo Cafe three times, we were only in town for four days, this place is legit. 

The atmosphere at Tempo Cafe is great, it's in the heart of the city but the food makes you feel like you are out in the country. The menu is large and for a foodie like me, this makes it hard to choose a desired dish. I knew this weekend wasn't going to be one of healthy eating so with that in mind, I choose the Poor Man's Skillet, it was just was a I needed. Kyle ordered the healthier version of my dish, The Poor Man's Veggie Skillet. This was Kyle's first Tempo experience, I think he thought I was exaggerating when I would talk about the portions at this place. He immediately saw that I wasn't lying when the waitress brought out two huge skillets, I was ready to chow down. 

Tempo Cafe's Poor Man Skillet.

Fresh Squeezed OJ

The Poor Man's Skillet is made up of the following; the bottom layer is chopped ham, potatoes and peppers, followed by the second layer which consist of three types of cheese: American, cheddar and mozzarella, Tempo tops this already amazing dish off by adding three eggs (any style, I went with over easy) on top. You also get a side of toast and Tempo's homemade orange marmalade. Kyle's skillet was pretty much the same, with the subtraction of ham and addition of tomatoes, mushrooms and broccoli. I could tell from the first bite he took that he was happy I took him here. I am such a lover of breakfast foods and this was the perfect combination to satisfy my foodie needs. 

After this amazing breakfast we were both stuffed and we probably would need to run a marathon to burn off all the calories that we had just consumed, but we figured a walk around town would do the trick.

We did some sightseeing, walked down Michigan Avenue, which is the equivalent to New York's 5th Avenue, a woman's dream and her Manfriend's worst nightmare, SHOPPING! I have to say I was pretty proud of myself on this particular trip to Chicago, I managed to curb my shopping addiction, unlike the last time I was here.  That doesn't mean my heart didn't skip a beat as we walked by Bloomies, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Tiffany's. (I'd be lying if I said it didn't) I was doing well with the "Window Shopping" and as long as I had a Starbucks to accompany me on my walk and the Manfriend, I was really enjoying myself. 

We walked and walked, over the river and back again, taking in all the beautiful  architecture, enjoying the amazing weather and of course each other. Having a great travel companion, is something that is so key when it comes to a successful trip, at least for me. I know that Kyle is always up for anything, we have similar interests (sports, adventures and food) so everything is game, which you will definitely see after what we got to do on Saturday night. 

All together we must of walked a good five miles around the city, we were both in need of a mid-day nap. Let me just tell you that I am all about the mid-day cat naps on vacation, this allows me to recharge for a fun filled evening. This nap was much needed, I had to be up at 3:30am in order to get to the airport on time, so by the time 1:00pm rolled around I was dragging. 

Enjoying his Starbucks.
The River.
I love him.

After a successful nap, the manfriend and I were ready to enjoy some Chicago nightlife. A friend of mine told me about a sweet little gem called Enology, which is on Michigan Ave. and Illinois Ave. Enology is a wine, cheese and chocolate bar, this was the perfect place to start the evening. I was so happy my friend made this recommendation, because this place was unbelievable. 

Entering Enology you walk into a sight of bottle after bottle of wine lining the walls, wine from all over the world, then there is the chocolate and cheese counter. There were trays of chocolate and huge blocks of cheese, again from all over the world. We sat at a very cool bar top style table, which was engraved with names of various styles of wine, it was a very cool effect, that made the ambiance that much better. Our waitress explained the menu which only made me more excited. We each picked a sampler, mine was a Spanish sampler, made up of two red Spanish wines and ending with a white. Kyle went with the French set, all of them being red. We also ordered a cheddar sampler and meat sampler. Man, we were in for a treat. 

The wine was delicious, the cheese out of this world and the meat was so thinly sliced and yummy, it was the perfect counterpart to our wine tasting. I did end up getting quite the buzz and it was only 6:00pm, you have to be careful when sampling all types of wine, you can end up pretty drunk.(Hey, I'm on vacation.)

Great Find.

My Spanish Wines.

Kyle's French Wines.

Our Cheese Plate.

Our Meat Plate.

Enology Wine Bar.

Following our wine tasting session, we headed up Hubbard St. which has become one of my favorite streets in the Chi. We stopped by O'Callaghan's for a pub, because it isn't a vacation unless we stop by an Irish pub. We each enjoyed a beer and were on our way.

We both have a problem with being indecisive when it comes to picking a place to eat, I guess it's because we love all types of food. So we wondered the streets of Chicago and nothing was really calling our name until we stumbled across Jack Melnick's, I saw a sign for wings and I was interested.The sign stated that they won the "BEST WINGS in CHICAGO" contest, we had to try it.

Walking into Jack Melnick's smelled like heaven, the strong scent of BBQ was amazing. I couldn't wait to see the menu. We knew were were definitely going to order wings, we went with the contest winner, the Firecracker wings. They weren't too hot, more Asian style with a little kick at the end. They were delicious and not too messy. We also order the Pork Slider Sampler, which came with a Kansas BBQ Slider, a North Carolina Slider, which was pulled pork with vinegar, topped with cole slaw, and then there was the Georgia Slider, which was pulled pork with a honey mustard sauce. Each were yummy but the Kansas BBQ Slider, stole the show.

Firecracker Wings.
Pork Sliders.

After Jack's we were stuffed and I was ready for bed. I had a early morning of travel and an even busier day of exploring in Chicago. Our first day was definitely a success and I couldn't wait for what was on tap for Saturday.

Great Spots to Check Out in Chicago
  • Tempo Cafe on Chestnut St. and State St.
  • Enology (Wine Bar) on Michigan Ave and Illinois
  • O'Callaghan's (Irish Pub) Hubbard Street and North Deerborn
  • Jack Melnick's (BBQ) East Superior Street and State Street

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