After my full week in New York, I spent a long weekend in Chicago and had just as much fun dining on the culinary scene in this exciting city.
I’ve traveled to Chicago a few times over the last few years, and every time I visit I see a growth in the culinary scene, not just in the amount of new restaurants and chefs but the diversity of offerings and innovations on the plates.
Here’s a look of how I spent my days during my trip last month.
The Art of Pizza
One of the first thing I wanted to do when arriving in Chicago was to get deep dish pizza. Even though I can get a version of it here in the Bay Area, I still dream of the deep dish pizza I got from Lou Malnati’s in Chicago.
When I went for dinner with my friend Angel, we decided to try someplace different and headed to Art of Pizza, which was voted the No. 1 deep dish pizza by the Chicago Tribune readers. Art of Pizza is a no-fuss eatery in a working class neighborhood, almost like a strip mall.
We got the Meaty Delight ($19) that was stuffed with sausage, bacon, ground beef, pepperoni and sliced beef. (Don’t worry, I ordered a huge chopped salad ($10) to balance our meal. The pizza was filling and just what I needed. (Still, I do have to give the nod to Lou Malnati’s for a more interesting cornmeal pizza crust, while Art of Pizza’s crust was more plain.)
The deets: The Art of Pizza, 3033 N. Ashland, Chicago. PH: 773.327.5600. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (till midnight on weekends). www.artofpizzachicago.com
From pizza pies to baked pies, I dined with Angel again at Spinning J, a unique soda fountain casual spot in the Humboldt neighborhood. The specialties here are sodas/shakes and pies, from savory to sweet.
Open in 2015, Spinning J has a nostalgic fountain shop vibe. While they do have sandwiches, when we went for an early dinner we stuck with the pies, with me ordering a chicken pot pie and Angel trying the special “Saag paneer” ($10.50), an Indian-inspired dish with spinach flavored with curry and garam masala.
Both came out with a beautifully golden and flakey crust, and satisfying filling. We couldn’t leave without dessert, so we had a slice of key lime pie that was spiked with hibiscus, and then a slice of their specialty, which was a coconut cream pie. I enjoyed the coconut cream with salted caramel a bit more than the key lime, but what I really remember about our dinner was the special shake I had made of Thai iced tea flavor. I love Thai iced tea and was amazed that I could still get that flavor in the middle of the country, and in shake form!
The deets: Spinning J, 1000 N. California Ave., Chicago. PH: 872.829.2793. Open from Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays. www.spinningj.com
I’ve been a fan of Intelligentsia Coffee since I first had it in Los Angeles, and this coffee house originated in Chicago so I made it a point to get a latte from a different Intelligentsia cafe every day that I was in the city.
It’s not just the nutty roast that I enjoy, but Intelligentsia has a fun vibe in its cafe, all with a different look depending on the location. After walking around all day, I always looked forward to a quiet afternoon at Intelligentsia enjoying my soy latte. They always delivered.
The deets: Intelligentsia Coffee, various locations through Chicago. Visit www.intelligentsiacoffee.com
My one regret when leaving New York was that I didn’t get a chance to try a burger at Shake Shack, especially after my friend Christina of East Bay Dish raved about the simply beauty of the perfectly charred smash-style hamburger patty.
But luckily this burger joint that started in Madison Park in Manhattan is now a growing national chain, and one of its location is in the River North area. I dropped in for lunch (before a visit to the nearby Art Institute), and tried both the signature ShackBurger and the special “Shack-ago Dog” (their play on the local Chicago Dog made with pickle, onion and cucumber).
I don’t know if it was this location, but the burger was good but nothing spectacular (it lacked a bit of char that I like). The Shack-ago Dog was a nice rendition of the Chicago dog, with fresh and crunchy cucumber and pickles. The coffee-flavored shake I got nicely washed all this down.
The deets: Shake Shack, 66 E. Ohio St., Chicago. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Website
During the summer, Chicagoans love to gather at outdoor bars, especially those with rooftop gardens. While Federales in the West Loop area might not have a rooftop garden, it does have a retractable roof that can open up on beautiful days.
So on one of those gorgeous summer days that I was lucky to have while in Chicago, I visited for happy hour, enjoying a rich freshly made guacamole ($10) that came with a big basket of chips and salsa. It was a lot for a pre-dinner snack, accompanied by a Bay Area favorite, Lagunitas beer.
Federales may not have a rooftop, but it has a fun vibe with a lot of young Chicago professionals filling up its outdoor tables.
The deets: Federales, 180 N. Morgan, Chicago. PH: 773.831.9696. Open daily. federaleschicago.com
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