It is my first full day in Chicago and I already know this is an amazing city! I started off the day like any other day visiting a new place, which was to find a Starbucks. I needed something that was familiar and ultimately this became my base of operations. It turned out to be on a very popular street downtown so I was able to enjoy the buzz of city life. I had arrived as I gazed out onto the city streets and watched people start their days. I already had formed a bond with the people of Chicago as the weather would unite us. It was in the 30’s and raining when I began to plan out my day. Turned out that would be the best part of the day as snow was in the forecast and with it came lower temperatures. Now, keep in mind, I’m used to all kinds of wacky weather here in the Pacific Northwest, but I had hoped that was I going to be blessed with some great weather. Let’s just say I was blessed for packing for all weather conditions because this was nuts!
I had been planning this trip for a while and I had some ideas of places I wanted to visit, things to do, and of course, where I wanted to eat. It was really just a matter of figuring out what I was going to do that day. I decided to keep it pretty simple and pick some things that might be interesting. My goals were to check out Wrigley Field, walk around downtown to work off some of this jet lag, and find some amazing food.
After finishing my coffee and getting a lay of the land I ventured out to a few places near my hotel. I was immediately taken by all the historic, architectural buildings that seemed to go on forever on the skyline. Without being really sure of how close they were I discovered these two gems right away.
The Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune is perhaps one of the most recognizable publications anywhere in the country. No matter where you live everyone knows about the Tribune in one fashion or another. Plus, the building itself is really spectacular and worth checking out. I did text this photo to of few of my friends who are in the news and journalism world. I either received smiley faces or responses that I won’t dare repeat on this blog. Just take my word for it. 😉
Not very far from the Tribune building is WGN radio. Why would I bother sharing this photo? Well, I am a sports guy for one. Second, WGN radio is recognized in most places and I wanted to be able to say, “Oh, here is where this is.” The other neat thing is that the studio faces out onto the street and it is a wall of glass. Therefore, you get a first hand look and listen while these shows are happening, live! That is pretty cool!
After being done in the city, I set out on public transit to check out Wrigley Field. This field has so much history. It is almost impossible to ignore the majesty of this fabled park no matter what team you root for.
It was super easy to get there with public transit and the park is right there. I was there a little ahead of opening day, but that didn’t take any of my enjoyment away from being here. It struck me that this area seemed a little sleepy and quiet as I looked around. I reminded myself that it was a weekday afternoon and I couldn’t have imagined what game days were like around the park. Even with all that, you could feel the energy in the air.
Remember earlier I talked about that silly weather? Here it was in full force while I was trying to take in the sights.
That’s right, snow! Snow in springtime in Chicago. Oh, there was that little temperature thing too, which had dropped to just above freezing. What a way to start my trip, I thought.The good news was I was warm, dry, and hungry. I needed to find food.
I made it back into the city and started reviewing my restaurant list for where I wanted to eat. I found a place that wasn’t very far my hotel that was on my must try list called Labriola Café and Ristorante. It had earned some high praise and amazing buzz among my foodie and blogging friends. The place was really quaint, old school, but with a contemporary feel. I was in old world Italian, but felt casual and approachable. The menu featured all the standards and classics for what you would expect of a higher end Italian restaurant. It was late in the afternoon and I knew dinner wasn’t too far off so I decided to go with one of my personal favorites, Caesar salad. I decided to add chicken after the waiter asked if I wanted anything on it. After some waiting, I was rewarded with this stunning salad.
Chicken Caesar at Labriola
I thought the kitchen had messed up when I saw this placed in front of me! This was the most impressive salad I think I have ever seen in my life. What set this above the rest was the chicken. It was glistening, perfectly cooked, and gave some real depth to this salad. These aren’t the meager thin slices of chicken that most of us are used to seeing on Caesars. No, the whole thigh and drumstick is seasoned, roasted, sliced, and then served. It becomes the ultimate eating experience when the chicken is cooked this way. This was like the ultimate choose your own bite adventure. You could have a bite with some chicken meat and a little crispy skin. It was perfectly complimented with the punch of the anchovies, the crunch of the croutons, and the freshness of the romaine lettuce. I think I could eat this salad every day. I mean, all salads are healthy, right? Okay, maybe wishful thinking but you get the idea. My biggest issue was the poor lighting in the restaurant. It was hard to see what I was eating and taking photos was quite the project. In fact, this photo was taken with a pen light I held in one hand and my phone in the other. Despite that, I highly recommend Labriola if you are in Chicago. You must check this place out!
A big part of this trip was about networking and connecting with fellow foodies and bloggers that I had interacted with prior to my trip. I have always been a big proponent of supporting those who have supported me. While trying to make plans for the day I had reached out to a few people in hopes to make a lunch or dinner date. I ended up connecting with a fellow food lover who suggested that we have dinner at a Brassiere called Cochon Volant. Of course I was all in and we made arrangements to meet. Unlike travel shows on TV getting lost is part of the initiation process. It is going to happen, there are no exceptions. It isn’t always fun, pretty, and it can be downright frustrating. However, it makes that first drink taste so much better when you finally arrive at your location. Yes, I got lost and it may have happened more than once. In any case, I finally arrived, met my friend, and set off to explore the menu. You want to know my key to deciding if it a restaurant is really good? If you want to purchase one of every item on the menu then you are in good shape. It is possible that maybe you are just that hungry, but for the sake of argument lets go with you want one of everything on the menu. That’s exactly what happened to me. I wanted it all. My friend made a couple of suggestions, but when she said, “The best burger” I stopped listening to everything after that. I knew that it was what I had to have. I knew even before I ordered the burger this was going to deliver in a big way.
Le Cheeseburger Royale at Cochon Volant
I think the name of this beauty says it all. It features prime dry aged beef, house pickles, thick cut bacon, confit onions, ooey gooey cheese, and hand cut fries. Is there anything better in the world?? I think not! This burger had that quintessential perfect bite. The soft buttered buns, the richness of the ground beef, the creaminess of the cheese, the saltiness from the bacon, the punch from the vinegar from the pickles, and a little sweetness from the confit onions was mind blowing. On top of that, you had that face drip factor which is a must for any good burger. Add some hand cut fries and a mayo with a little dijon mustard mixed together and you have a perfect pairing. It was the perfect compliment and is a meal fit for a king. I wanted to eat 5 of these burgersl! Again, I had this funny sense I was dreaming, but it dawned on me that this was just the quality food I was going to find during my time in Chicago.
Oh, did you think I would leave you without dessert? Nah, I wouldn’t want to deny you that joy.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
This pie is downright amazing! It is the perfect symphony of chocolate and peanut butter. This was so rich that by the third or fourth bite I was done. You can easily share one slice with at least two people in my opinion. What makes this stands out is that there are some whole peanuts on top of this pie. It provides a much needed textural crunch. It is a great way to break up the dense and silky texture of the chocolate and peanut butter that make up the base of this pie. Once again, this is perfect bite and a great way to top off any meal at Cochon Volant. I would highly recommend this to anyone who goes to eat there. I do know that you can find this pie at a local bakery in Chicago. They don’t always have it on the menu but it is a huge seller, I can assure you of that. So go there and eat, lots!
Can’t wait to share more of my Chicago adventures with you!