Chicago!! Special travel edition

My husband and I took a trip to Chicago last week. He planned the activities, and I planned the food! We got recommendations from friends, searched Urbanspoon, and watched a lot of Food Network and Travel Channel shows! We had a pretty good list, and I am pleased to report that they food was ridiculous!!


After we checked in to our hotel, we went to Millennium Park and checked out the bean. The park was beautiful and we sure worked up an appetite with all that walking!


Naturally, the first place we went to eat was Giordano's for some deep dish pizza. It was everything we expected and more! We got the deep dish with pepperoni and sausage. When you order they warn you that it can take about 45 minutes to cook. Ours took 50 minutes, but that was fine since we had been walking for 5 hours straight! I needed a break! The pizza was soooo cheesy that you had to cut the cheese with a knife or it would keep on pulling. The sauce was thick but not chunky, and the crust was buttery, crispy, and soft all at the same time! In my notes I have Ivan's description of the food and all it says is "Mmmmm"!

 Garrett's Popcorn
On our second day we visited the Navy Pier and got some Garrett's Popcorn. I got cheese and Ivan got caramel pecan. The cheese corn is so cheesy that they give you lots of napkins and some wet wipes! I thought that was excessive until I started eating it, then I understood!

We also visited The Skydeck Ledge. It was pretty trippy...

Rick Bayless' XOCO
 We really wanted to try out a Rick Bayless restaurant, and XOCO was recommended to me by Caron from Folio Weekly's Bite Club and Jax Truckies. We thought we were running late, but it turns out that we got there just in time. By the time we left, the line was out the door! I got the Ahogada - Golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce, pickled onions. For starters, this was the most inventive sandwich plating I have ever seen!! As you know I am a huge fan of dunking food, so I was so excited to see that I had a sauce to dunk my sandwich in! I ordered it mild, and it was seriously HOT!! I would hate to see what medium or hot tasted like....I would be on fire! With the mild, my mouth was burning everywhere the sauce touched. I like hot stuff, but it usually doesn't like me :)
Ivan got the Choriqueso - Homemade chorizo sausage, roasted poblano, artisan Jack cheese, tomatillo salsa. I took a bite of his and it was ridiculous good. The chorizo was sooo good and the sandwich was really cheesy (in a good way). Everything melted together and all of the ingredients complimented each other.
We also ordered some churros with chocolate sauce and they never brought them out! Of course we didn't remember until later that night! I was so mad about that, but really, it was our fault that we forgot and left :(

Potbelly Sandwiches
Later that night we took an excursion looking for Tufanos (which we found eventually). It was getting really late so we conceded defeat and headed back to the hotel. We just happen to stumble upon Potbelly Sandwiches, and it turned out to be a great find! It is a small sandwich shop where you go down the line and tell them what you want on your sandwich. I got a turkey, provolone, and ranch sub and Ivan got a roast beef sandwich. The place had a great vibe and the food was really good.


Al’s Italian Beef
On our Third day we went down to Shedd Aquarium. There was an Al’s Italian Beef in the area, so we decided to check it out. Al’s is famous for, what else, their Italian beef! They dunk the entire sandwich in the au ju sauce, so it’s quite messy. My sandwich was wrapped 4 times, so I knew it was going to be good. I took a bite and a bunch of juice fell to the counter. Counters instead of tables? Now I get it.

The sandwich was great. The beef was sliced thin and there was a lot of meat on the sandwich. We got ours with provolone cheese, but there are a lot of different options for toppings.

Here is Ivan demonstrating how to properly eat an Italian Beef Sandwich :)

  Tufano's Vernon Park Trap
We were looking for an authentic Italian place, and we found it!! The restaurant is located right near the University of Chicago in Little Italy. The place was extremely cute and had the menu written on the wall.

We decided to go family style and share 2 entrees. We got Chicken Picatta and Cheese Ravioli. The ravioli was good, but I don't think they make it themselves. However, the sauce tasted fresh and homemade. The chicken piccata was outstanding! The chicken was very lightly breaded and had this wonderful lemon taste throughout. It was topped with toasted pine nuts, and served with angel hair pasta.

On Friday we checked out a Cubs game.
Wouldn't you know it, the food at the game was also very good! Ivan got a hotdog with chili, cheese, and Fritos on it!
 We also got some nachos in a Cubs helmet!!! OMG these nachos were ridiculously good. I swear every single chip was covered!

On the way back from the Cubs game, we hit up Irazu. They are a Costa Rican restaurant and have been featured on Diners Drive Ins and Dives. We got there pretty late at night, but they were still really busy. We had a loooong day due to our misadventures on the bus (went the wrong way one time) and the track work on the red lines, so you can imagine when we sat down to look at the menu and realized it was cash only…and our cash was back at the hotel. Luckily there was an ATM inside that only charged a $2 fee.
They give you a basket of chips and a squeeze bottle of green salsa. That stuff was H-O-T!
I got the Tilapia Taco Platter. They came with Gallo Pinto (rice cooked with black beans) and sweet plantains. The tilapia was cooked right and tasted great. The rice was so good that Ivan ate the rest of it off my plate when we both were full!
Ivan got the Chicharron with fried yucca and cabbage salad. He thought that it was very authentic and kept going "Mmmmm" after every bite!

The highlight of my culinary experience was on Saturday when we visited BopnGrill near Loyola college. I saw an episode of Diners Drive Ins and Dives where they showed this restaurant. From the moment I saw it, I knew I wanted the Philly Cheesesteak Eggrolls. After looking at the website, I found out that they only have them on the weekends, and when they sell out, they are out! So we planned on getting there right when they opened to make sure I got them! They were everything I dreamed they would be and MORE!! The steak was tender and juicy. The steak was good on it's on, but the eggroll wrapper makes it even better...then they drizzled cheese on it! Ok, I have to stop talking about it now because I'm getting hungry.
The menu has a big sign that says there is a limit of 2 eggrolls per visit.  I thought that was funny until I got done and wanted more!!!
Ivan got the Father burger, which was double patty, fried egg, beer battered onion rings, bacon, sharp cheddar/ American, bbq sauce. He has crowned this burger as the best he has ever eaten. The thing was huge! I tried to take a bite and had to smash it down, and it was still too big!
We also got a side of fries with our meal. I wasn't thinking that they would be anything special, but I was wrong! The fries are battered and had a different taste to them. I don't know if they cook them in a special type of oil, but they were absolutely delicious. You know it's good when I don't need any ranch to dip it in!

That afternoon we decided to go down to the Magnificent Mile and walk around a little bit. Well I found the Holy Grail of all streets....a Ghirardelli and Hershey's store across the street from one another! We went to the Giardelli first since we were on that side of the street. We were just going to get some goodies, then we saw that they had an ice cream store in there! We ended up getting a brownie sundae :)

At night we were looking for another place to go eat, but we had no idea where to go. It was Saturday night, so everywhere was packed. We just randomly came across Volare and decided to check it out. When we first walked in, they said it would be a 2 hour wait! We were starving, so we left. We got a little ways away and decided to go back. It was a good thing we did because the hostess said that a table just opened up and we were seated immediately!!
We were brought some bread and olive oil to snack on. The olive oil had Parmesan cheese in it! There were a few different types of bread in the basket. My favorite was a soft bread with cheese baked into the top.
We were outside with very minimal light, so I apologize, the pictures are really bad.
I LOVE risotto, but I can't find it anywhere. As soon as I saw it on the menu, I didn't have to look at anything else. I got the Fattoria, which is roasted chicken breast, peas, and a four cheese sauce. The risotto was loaded with chicken and just the right amount of cheese. One of the best risotto dishes I have had.
Ivan got the Rigatoni Al Arrabiata, which is spicy tomato sauce with pancetta sauce and garlic.  The dish had just the right amount of spice and was cheesy and creamy. Delicious!

We are really going to miss Chicago and are already trying to plan another trip there! We had a list of places to eat and we didn't get to check them all out, so we will have to go back to do that :)


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