Rachel Khoo

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Posted by Rachel

July 23rd, 2013

A Whistlestop Tour of Chicago

My last two days in North America were spent in the windy city herself, Chicago, which at this particular time would be best labelled the scorching city, with temperature touching the 35 degree mark (centigrade). Here were some of the highlights from a very speedy, and sticky stay.

1. Architecture River Cruise

architecture chicago If you do one thing when you are in Chicago, I would suggest this boat tour hosted by a certified guide from the city’s architecture foundation. There is enough information on architects and eras of design to sink the little cruise ship that carries you down the Chicago river. Starting from opposite the Trump Tower (the city’s tallest scraper), the cruise sheds light on the city’s jungle of scrapers, with little anecdotes relating to the quirkiest of the buildings, such as the charcoal grey Carbide and Carbon Building, embellished at the summit by a tapering tip plastered in 24 carat gold, designed to resemble a champagne bottle.

2. The Green Mill

the green mill chicago Featured on the Anthony Bourdain episode on Chicago and open since 1907, this legendary (Al Capone was allegedly a regular) music and cocktail lounge is, as the yanks would say, a real blast. The drinks are cheap and rather good, while the music when we were there was live, jazzy and chilled. Pretentiousness is left at the door,  and one of the biggest appeals is the lack of hipsterness here; it’s a total mix of young and old, sporty and bespectacled types, tourists and locals. You name it.

3. Chicago Hot Dog

chicago hot dog We have all heard of the Chicago version of a pizza, but somehow their hot dog missed out on the press. This version comes choccablock with garnishes, including jalapenos, pickles, tomato, you name it. Beware of a gastronomic faux pas, apparently ketchup is not an acceptable condiment for this dog.

4. The Publican

IMG_0427 Like The Green Mill, most people know of The Publican. The place is a massive operation, with a brightly lit interior resembling a beer hall filled with big sociable tables, questionable high backed chairs and noisy chatter. I opted for sitting outside away from the blast of the a/c and in the sticky Chicago night air. Provenance is important here, with the origin of each fish and piece of meat clearly listed on the epically long menu. (They also have a butcher shop over the road so items like the boudin noir are house made). Everything we sampled was pretty tasty, but the chef selection of oysters and the green and wax beans with hazelnuts get a special shout out.

5. Beach & Millennium Park

chicago beach I was advised to avoid the uber touristy Navy Pier jutting out into the lake, but I somehow ended up at anyway, and I can now advise from personal experience, that it is indeed, not worth the hype. The beach around the corner on the other hand, on the North Lake Shore,  is a great place to cool off on a hot day, and experience an urban beach with a backdrop of skyscrapers. The Millennium Park in town is also worth a visit for its impressive Art Institute, Anish Kappor’s reflective Cloud Gate, and the very pretty hideaway that is the Lurie Gardens. In the summer there is a great line up of free events in the summer months.

P.S. You might notice that deep pan Chicago pizza didn’t make the cut of highlights. Just can’t match the real deal, a thin crust, a wood fired oven, perfect Italian tomato sauce and fresh buffalo mozzarella. Sorry Chicago!

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8 thoughts on “A Whistlestop Tour of Chicago

  1. I’m from Chicago and I rarely eat the deep dish pizza that is an apparent big deal :)Though, depending on where you go, can be a real treat! Great photos, glad you enjoyed the city!!

  2. I agree with you on the Chicago-style pizza – although seeing as you were at Lou Malnati’s you gave it the best shot the city has to offer! Enjoy the peace and quiet of Paris pendant les grandes vacances!

  3. Rachel, you are as delightful to watch in person as on the little screen–and I think even prettier, if that’s possible. My daughters and I are earnestly awaiting our signed bookplates/books to come in the post, and to get started on your recipes. (Very disappointed that our wonderful Lincoln Park Williams Sonoma ran out of books!)

    About Chicago’s Pizza:
    If I’m reading your Instagram photo right, I’m afraid that you sampled Chicago’s famous “tourist pizza”. This is understandable and probably appropriate, since you were only here for a whistle-stop. However, even though Lou M’s is a favorite, few of the locals eat the infamous Chicago-deep-dish creation regularly, albeit a local invention. Thick pizza pie is considered more of a special occasion meal, or for when we’re hosting out-of-towners. The natives are usually partial to thin-crust style, but that crust varies by region, as well as the sauce style and toppings offered. You could spend a month in the surrounding area and not cover our pizza territory adequately. It’s a local art—and we are fairly serious and competitive about it. If you visit again, I’d maybe suggest a pizza tour. (http://www.chicagopizzatours.com/pizzerias.)

    Anyhow, I hope you’ll come back and visit us. We really are the heart of America’s melting pot; you can find the best of everything in Chicago, a taste of something from pretty much the entire planet.

    P.S. They say that if you don’t like the Windy City weather, wait a day and it will change completely. The temperature is currently 20 degrees cooler than last week when you were here.

  4. Merci beaucoup for your boost of support with culinary school. (2 more years and I graduate with a Bachelors in Culinary Science. Spring 2014 I will be done with my Associates in Culinary Arts.) It was wonderful to meet you. I very much appreciated your advice for my blog. The Franklin Park store is gorgeous.

    🙂

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