So you’ve done New York, Las Vegas, San Fran and you’ve seen enough of LA every time you fly in and out of the states. Where do you go next? The city that should be on everyone’s “must see” list that gets relegated to the “next time I’m in the States” list is the beautiful city of Chicago. From the picturesque skyline to the giant shiny bean thing aka The Cloud Gate, Chicago offers so much as a destination for the tourist and even more so for the foodies. This post isn’t the be all and end all of where to eat in Chicago – actually it only just manages to scratch the surface yet this should certainly give you a good start to feeding that belly of yours. I’d say 5 days is about the right amount of time to do most things in Chicago without rushing around like a madman but where do you start?
If you’re like me, then a plate of cured meat goes down well anytime be it breakfast, lunch or dinner; and the best place to acquire said cured meat? Publican Quality Meats of course. Here you can get a variety of house made goodness by ordering the Butchers cold charcuterie plate ($19) which will give you 5 of the best cured meats I’ve had in America. The selection changes daily but it can range from duck rillettes, salami, terrine, gallantine, and my personal favourite; spreadable salami – because the only way you can make salami better is by being able to spread it!
No doubt all tourists will take a stroll down The Magnificent Mile; this street has all the upscale department stores, luxury retail and some of the most beautiful architecture in America. Some stores to note would be Niketown Chicago where you can pick up some great kicks as well as the flagship store that is Ralph Laurens largest store in the world – it also sits next to Ralph Laurens first ever restaurant! I passed on this restaurant to chase down a dish from another establishment; that dish was the roasted bone marrow with herbs from the Purple Pig right on The Magnificent Mile in the heart of Chicago. I was invited to take a seat at the chefs’ table right up at the bar next to the pass – which is undoubtedly the best seat in the house. You’ve probably had bone marrow before in a variety of Asian soups but the sweet, creamy, buttery, nutty goodness of roasted bone marrow is something that you will never forget. This dish is intense and not for the faint hearted though thankfully here they serve it with mounds of parsley, onions and toasted bread to cut through the richness. Sitting back in your chair and looking at an empty plate of bones with a belly full of marrow is utterly and completely satisfying if not life shortening.
Speaking of life shortening – you’ll be sure to knock off a few years if you eat one of these bad boys from famous Chicago pizza chain Lou Malnati’s. Unlike the traditional pizzas you and I know of, the Chicago style pizza is made in a deep dish tin and crazy amounts toppings are piled on sky high. I’m no pizza snob, so of course I gave it a go – I mean I was in Chicago right? I went for a small Malnati Chicago Classic ($14.25) which came with sausage, double cheese vine ripened tomato sauce on a butter crust base. It was everything I wanted a deep dish pizza to be; meaty, saucy and oh so cheesy and as they say “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” which in this case means chow down on some deep dish pizza and enjoy it for what it is… a tasty aorta clogging experience.
Since 2011 the hottest chef in Chicago has been Stephanie Izard, winner of season 4 of Top Chef (a reality cooking show for chefs) and if you ask around she’s still the top dog so needless to say I needed to eat some of her food. Izard has 2 restaurants to choose from: Girl & The Goat which is dinner focused, and a more affordable diner type option being Little Goat. As it was breakfast time my stomach (and wallet) led me to the later. After perusing the menu I couldn’t go past the aptly named Kimchi & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing ($13 for real – that’s what it’s called on the menu). Sounds so cliché but I really wasn’t so sure what to expect – would it be some kind of reject Korean seafood pancake? Also what do “white people” know about cooking with kimchi? Little did I know that I was about to eat the best breakfast I had in Chicago. The pancake itself wasn’t like the traditional Korean starchy/crunchy type that you are accustomed to, but rather the fluffy cloud-like breakfast pancake. Strewn through the dish was pan fried kimchi with pickled accents which bestowed a sharp savoury vibe that I was very fond of, and balanced the sweetness of the pancake batter. Moreover you have the eggs, bean sprouts, green onions as well as some delightfully crispy bacon to change up the textures and round off the dish. I find happiness in such well executed creativity and will definitely try to recreate this at a later date – but until that time comes I can only look back in fondness at my favourite breakfast/lunch spot in Chicago.
As mentioned earlier every tourist in Chicago will no doubt head down to Millennium Park to see the shiny bean thing aka Cloud Gate but after you do that, take a quick stroll just across the street for a “proper” caffeine hit. Although few and far between you CAN actually find some great coffee in the states and in Chicago I found it at Intelligensia Coffee. With various venues to choose from, they would be comparable to the likes of Campos coffee in Australia; both in their passion for coffee as well as the flavour profile, rich and nutty. In the states I order a gibraltar or a cortado which is pretty much a piccolo and as you can see their baristas are skilled and funnily enough as soon as they heard my accent the barista excitedly called out “I can make you a flat white!” Turns out quite a few Aussies come here to find solace from the murky brown water they sling at Starbucks.
And now as I write this on the Easter long weekend, I think it’s time to load up on some more eggs. But I’m not done telling you about Chicago – I haven’t mentioned how famous this town is for it’s sandwiches. Yes it’s the home of Wrigley stadium, Oprah & Michael Jordan…but the sandwiches my friends, the sandwiches. It will take another post to tell you about the phenomenon of the dunked Italian Beef sandwiches, the Chicago style hot dogs, and what Tony Bourdain calls “The Best Sandwich in America”. So keep an eye out for my Chicago Sandwich Special.
Publican Quality Meats
825 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607, United States
Phone: +1 312-445-8977
The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States
805 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605, United States
Phone: +1 312 786-1000
Little Goat Diner
820 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607, United States
53 East Randolph St, Chicago, Illinois 60601, United States
Phone: +1 312-920-9332