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Thread: My Gastro-Tour of Chicago 10/7 - 10/9

  1. #1

    My Gastro-Tour of Chicago 10/7 - 10/9

    For my birthday this past August, my girlfriend bought us plane tickets to Chicago. I have never been, she has only been briefly and we are both interested in the food industry/scene in Chicago. So off we go.

    We really wanted to go to Alinea and didn't have tickets. I was at work when they released the tickets for October and they were sold out by the time I got the chance to check. I sent them an email as they reserve a table every night for visiting culinary professionals. They confirmed they did have a table, but could not say if it was available and they will let us know. I am after all, just John from Connecticut. If Mario or Tony or Bobby showed up the same night, I am pretty sure they get the table over me. I had still not heard back from them the day before we arrived in Chicago. Luckily for us, my cousin used to work at Alinea and Next, so she sends Grant a text, he says, not a problem. Sure enough, next day I get a phone call from Alinea informing me they have a table for me. This trip just got way more expensive.

    So after just a few hours sleep after work Saturday night, we get up, drive to JFK and hop on a plane to O'Hare. On the way to the hotel, we grab a burger and then despite the marathon are able to check into our hotel early. Great, because I really need a nap. After that, we take a play out of Stereo Pete's playbook and head to Boka for some drinks before our 9:30 reservation at Alinea. Which was the best thing we did all week because we had a great conversation with a Boka regular and the bartender that lead to our game plan for the rest of our time in Chicago. We had some recommendations for places to go, but they gave us a ton of great info. Because how do you top Alinea on your first night in town? By going to 14 other places in the next two days. Yep, that is correct. We ate and/or drank at 17 bars and restaurants in 2.5 days in Chicago. Here is breakdown of where we stopped and what the two of us had as best as I can remember/piece together. In chronological order:

    Epicburger; two burgers, chocolate shake
    Boka; four cocktails, amuse bouche
    Alinea; 18 course tasting menu, wine pairing, beer flight, black coffee

    The Purple Pig; artichoke salad, crispy pigs ear, pork neck rillette, milk braised pork shoulder
    Sable Kitchen & Bar; two cocktails, banana cream tart
    The Violet Hour; three cocktails, chicken liver mousse
    Balena; charcuterie, cheese, salad, pasta, pizza, prawns, dessert, one beer, one glass wine, one cocktail
    The Barrelhouse Flat; two cocktails

    Frontera; tuna ceviche, duck carnitas tamal
    XOCO; torta, churro, hot chocolate
    avec; one beer, veal sweetbreads
    The Girl and the Goat; one beer, one glass wine, green beans, beef tartar
    Maude's Liquor Bar; three cocktails, foie gras pate
    Publican Quality Meats; charcuterie; black coffee
    Aviary; two cocktails
    The Office; four cocktails
    Au Cheval; double cheeseburger, roasted bone marrow, french fries, two picklebacks

    We did our best to pace ourselves, get small plates and sometimes share food and/or drink. We know how annoying these type of diners are so we often sat at the bar as to not occupy a table. And once we explained our goal to visit as many places as possible, the bartender/waitress understood and would offer their own suggestions.

    We honestly did not have a bad meal at any of these places. Everything was fabulous. Highlights for us (other than Alinea) was The Purple Pig, the Junglebird cocktail at Sable, $6 chicken liver mousse at Violet Hour, The Girl and the Goat, Maude's great atmosphere, The Office and Au Cheval.

    One thing that is shocking is the shear density of great food Chicago. Our Tuesday night from avec to Au Cheval takes place entirely in just a few short blocks and that doesn't include places like Blackbird, Vera and Publican that are also in that area. So what did we miss? Quite a bit actually. Some of the other recommendations we got but were not able to get to include Yusho, Schwa, Next, Goosefoot, Belly Q, Yolk, Bangers & Lace, Big Star, Scofflaw, Map Room, The Whistler, Longman & Eagle, Long Room, The Drawing Room and a few more. I can't wait to go back for round two.

    I have some pictures uploading that I will add to this shortly.
    "God sends meat and the devil sends cooks." - Thomas Deloney

  2. #2


    Pork Neck Rillette at The Purple Pig:

    Junglebird cocktail at Sable:

    "God sends meat and the devil sends cooks." - Thomas Deloney

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    mr drinky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    St. Paul, MN
    That's a great list of places to go. Sounds like an amazing couple days of drink and eat. I've been to about half of them, but next time I go I will have to hit a few more of them up. I also love that The Purple Pig is so convenient when staying in town that it is easy to make your regular spot -- I've probably been there the most.

    Thanks for the report.

    "There's only one thing I hate more than lying…skim milk, which is water that's lying about being milk." -- Ron Swanson

  4. #4

    knyfeknerd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Charlotte, NC AKA The Queen City! The lint-filled belly button of the south.
    Looks great John. You guys are totally bumping up Chicago on my list of places to visit.
    How empty is your bank account after this trip?
    I'm sure it was worth it.
    If "Its" and "Buts" was candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas
    -Cleon "Slammin'" Salmon

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Fort Worth, TX
    My wife and I will do a restaurant run like that in Vegas now and then around our anniversary. My wife calls it "Food Coma" time. Looks like a great trip!

  6. #6
    Well played John, if you are going to visit Chicago for 2.5 days, that is exactly how you do it.
    Twitter: @PeterDaEater

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Randleman NC
    I just got back from Chicago for work and I didn't get to do any of that, but if I could have created a list that would have been it. Hope it is was great.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Johnny.B.Good's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    What fun. You two really packed it in.

    I must get around to visiting Chicago one of these days...

    Thanks for the write-up and pictures.

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