It’s crazy to think how quickly the summer flew by, and even how time has continued to fly by since. I can’t believe it’s almost the holidays already! Appologies for the delay on this post. However, better late than never!
Anyways, my girlfriends and I decided to take a little girls weekend in Chicago for some shopping, eating, and sightseeing. I must say, I was blown away by this city. The shopping is unreal, the architecture and buildings are beautiful, with such intricate detail, and the city seemed very clean and proper. I loved everything about it. Between shopping and taking the architectural boat tour, there was still plenty of time left for eating. Check out below for some must-visit Chicago eateries.
After settling in from the airport, we headed to a place called Big Star. It is a Mexican eatery, with a huge outdoor patio, and a bustling, loud, exciting vibe on the inside. For those of you that know of Grand Electric here in Toronto, the guy who started it actually did his apprenticeship at Big Star. While we waited for a table outside, we grabbed a drink at the busy indoor bar. Once seated with our pitcher of margarita, we ordered chips and guacamole to start. It was perfect. Next it was time for tacos. We chose a whole bunch including the chicken, braised pork belly, fish, and potato. Each one was better than the next, including fresh ingredients between soft taco shells.
As soon as I saw the word dulce de leche on the menu, I was sold. Dulce de leche is basically a South American caramel, and MY FAVOURITE THING EVER! The dulce de leche milkshake at Big Star was thick, creamy, caramelly, and insanely delicious.
First thing in the morning we took a walk to Tempo Cafe for breakfast, from which I have heard great things about. It was quite busy, but we only waited about 5 minutes for a table, maybe because it was still early (about 9:30am). When we left however, there was a huge crowd outside. The menu was pretty standard for a breakfast place, but with a big selection of scramblers, and you could also make your own. We each opted for an egg scrambler, mine including mushrooms, spinach, swiss cheese, and a side of potatoes. It was huge, satisfying, and quite tasty. (The picture doesn’t look so appetizing, but just trust me on this one.)
As if we weren’t full enough, after a bit of shopping, we followed our nose to Garrett Popcorn Shops, which Oprah made famous years ago on her “Favourite Things” episode. Ever since then, it has been all the rage. They are most known for their bag of popcorn containing a mixture of both caramel and cheese flavoured popcorn. It sounds quite revolting, but it tastes the opposite. There are tons of locations throughout downtown Chicago, each one with a line-up out the door. The fresh, hot popcorn is something you must try in your lifetime.
After a bit more strolling and shopping, we headed to Tavern on Rush for lunch. It is a well known, trendy spot, known for it’s lively patio, and celebrity sightings. After ordering a couple cocktails, we tried the Tuna Avocado Tartare, which had a nice soy-ginger sauce, with sesame seaweed and cucumber. It was a great fresh start to lunch. I indulged in a juicy burger, as well as a salad with avocado, feta cheese, rock shrimp and hearts of palm. Sitting on the patio with the sun beaming down, with some cocktails and good food was the perfect shopping break.
After some showering and resting our feet at the hotel, it was time to get all dolled up and head out for dinner. After hearing rave reviews about RPM Italian, we knew it would be our dinner spot. Owners Giuliana and Bill Rancic really know what they’re doing when it comes to this place. The classy, yet trendy ambiance was even the perfect spot for Guilanna to spend her birthday that night, and I even got a little peak of them sneaking out the back door when I went to the bathroom. Anyways, onto the food. We started off with warm bread with fresh homemade ricotta and tomato sauce. As simple as it sounds, I am still salivating over this. The ingredients could not have been more fresh, and everything just tasted perfect. I can barely even describe it. It was just delicious.
We also ordered the Shredded Brussels Sprout salad with avocado, which was the perfect combination of crunchy and creamy. Next up for appetizers was deep fried squash blossoms filled with burrata. I have never eaten squash blossoms before and found the dish quite interesting so we decided to give it a try. It was delicate, yet crispy and very delicious.
Every pasta on the menu looked incredible, but we chose the Spicy King Crab Squid Ink Spaghetti. The noodles were cooked to an al dente perfection, there were generous amounts of crab, and a spiciness that wasn’t too overpowering. The Short Rib Pappardelle also did not disappoint. The juicy meat, fresh sauce and noodles made for an exceptional dish. All in all, I would give this place a 10/10. Everything just tasted amazing, there was nothing iffy about it, and the ingredients were super fresh.
After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to conquer our last day in Chicago. I have gotten many recommendations and heard fantastic things about The Bongo Room, which is a breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant in the Wicker Park area. I do love sweet things, but I was also in the mood for something savoury, so I suggested we each get our own meal and share something sweet for the table. This way I could get the best of both worlds. For my meal, I chose the vegetarian croissant sandwich which was topped with cheese, spinach, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, basil mayo, and a fried egg. It was served with potatoes. This sandwich was absolutely tasty, and incredibly large!
I wanted to eat everything on the menu, but we chose pancakes topped with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, berry compote and mascarpone cream. They were literally heaven. The fluffy pancakes, with fresh fruit and creamy mascarpone was the perfect sweet ending.
Since this was our last day in the city, we walked around some more and then hit up another spot for a late lunch before heading to the airport. The Little Goat serves unique combinations of food and has a sister restaurant called The Girl and the Goat, which is a pretty well known eatery. In order for us to try different things, we ordered a few dishes for the table, starting with the “Veggie Lover’s Caesar”. This wasn’t your average Caesar salad and was recommended by the waitress. A combination of mixed greens, veggies, sourdough croutons and tempura white anchovy were all tossed in a thick creamy dressing. The tempura anchovy freaked us out a little bit, but after tasting it, the waitress was right.
The Tempura Mashed Potatoes with Asian BBQ sauce and ranch dressing caught our eye. It was a very interesting dish bringing together the fluffiness of the mashed potatoes with the crispiness of the fried coating. The sauces and cabbage over top added extra flavour.
Lastly was the “Bull’s Eye French Toast”. It was sweet onion brioche French toast, topped with an egg, fried chicken, strawberries, and drizzled with BBQ maple syrup. This does sound like an odd combination, but it was actually delicious. I love combining savoury and sweet, and this was a rich, yet delicious dish.
That wraps up the eating portion of our trip to Chicago. Although it may have been a few months back, the food is still memorable and I highly recommend these places!