I have a confession: I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it. And by in love, I mean Chicago and I are having a love affair. (Sorry Zach.) Despite all of the wrestling conflicts and the bitter cold I’ve endured there, I am deeply in love with the Windy City and it grows a little stronger every time I visit. I’m currently on a plane there for the fifth time in the last year, and I’m giddy at the fact that I’ll be landing and seeing the city soon. And Zach, I guess…Just kidding. Long distance is terrible and no one should do it. But I’m going to definitely miss getting to go to Chicago almost every month, so here I am, reliving my experiences, starting months ago. In October, Zach and I started really planning ahead of time what we were going to do and eat and see, and it’s paid off so much, because our wandering around the city hasn’t solely been just because we don’t know what else to do.
Because Zach wrestles, I have had to go on sort of oddly timed trips to see him, as in flying in on Saturdays and then leaving on Wednesdays, which is kind of a bummer because I end up spending weeknights in Chi alone while he’s at school. This means quite a few hotels for me, and I am not complaining because I just love a good hotel.
W Chicago City Center – Of all three places I’ve stayed recently, this was by far my least favorite. The only great thing that happened here was the free deep dish pizza we got before we went to Second City for the first time…and that’s because it took over an hour to get it. The rooms were very small and everything about it was just a little bit gross. Not normal hotel gross, but just a little bit grunge-y. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, and the location was great, but it was just a little off. Not to mention, the W always charges for everything. I asked for an extra washcloth and the guy was like, “Let me make sure there’s not a charge.” So, I wouldn’t stay here again. View this hotel.
Palmer House Chicago – This place was o l d, but pretty. The walls are paper thin, so if you’re nosey, this is the place for you. It wasn’t loud, though, you’re just very aware of how loud you’re talking, because you don’t want your neighbors to hear you! Because everything is old, things like water pressure and light switches are a little finicky but all in all, it’s a nice hotel. So nice, in fact, I was able to take a four-hour nap after my flight while I waited for Zach to drive in for dinner. If I remember correctly, this wasn’t the most convenient location for what we were doing, but I liked it nonetheless. View this hotel.
Hilton Chicago – THIS. PLACE. I instantly fell in love, because it’s one of those old-fashioned hotels (it opened in 1927) where the service is swift and you don’t’ even touch a door handle. The staff is friendly and everything is clean. It’s a lot like the Hilton we stayed at in Cincinnati, with the shops and salons and restaurants, which I loved at the time. Zach and I walked around it before dinner one time, and admired all of the ornate carvings and the ballrooms and staircases left behind from the history of the hotel. There’s a room with wood from the Titanic. It’s amazing! We killed some time in the bar by the front desk and the bartender there was cracking jokes the entire time, which sealed the deal for how much I loved the hotel. Also, the beds are some of the most comfortable I’ve ever stayed in, so if you are like me and can’t get out of a comfy bed…don’t stay here. Oh, also, the bathrooms have feet heaters. Yeah, it’s like that. View this hotel.
I think anyone who likes good food could be considered a foodie, but I’ve definitely been enjoying discovering the food in Chicago, and even around the Wheaton area. I use my Zomato app to keep track of where we’ve been, and where we want to go, and you can make reservations right from the app. Because I’m annoying, I always tell Zach that we can’t order the same thing, because if we do, then we’re not taking in the full experience.
October – Zach and I took baby steps into the (intimidating) restaurant world of Chi, so we started with what ended up being three of our favorite restaurants: Giordano’s, Hot Chocolate, and Bridge House Tavern. We actually started going to Giordano’s when I was in Wheaton, because we couldn’t decide on a good dinner place and, of course, pizza is always a good fall back. I’m an equal opportunity pizza enthusiast and Giordano’s and Gino’s East are pretty much equals to me. I love them both. Deep dish pizza is just…incredible. I mean there’s really nothing better. The problem is that I can only eat one piece at a time, whereas Zach will scarf down three and I have to stop him before he throws up. As for Hot Chocolate, we first visited it for brunch and both fell in love, despite my violent hangover that left me unable to eat anything but toast and breakfast potatoes. And the name is not misleading – they have both seasonal and permanent hot chocolate mixes and cups they serve and they’re all amazing. Although you need like a good hour to put one down because they are so rich and chocolatey. Everything we’ve ever had there has been amazing. We also went to brunch at Bridge House Tavern because I saw that they had Bailey’s cinnamon beignets as an appetizer and screamed. They have amazing mimosas and incredible brunch food, but the beignets…I mean omg. Incredible. It’s also on the river, so it’s a beautiful setting, especially when it’s warm enough to sit outside and actually enjoy the view of the skyscrapers and the historical architecture of Chicago. It’s also made it 100x more tempting for me to go on one of the architecture cruises they do down the river, because I’m fascinated by Chicago’s history.
November – We continued our venturing out into the restaurant world by visiting a couple of new places, but also sticking to what we know. We went back to Bridge House Tavern for brunch, where we spent, like, three hours ordering mimosas and coffees and beignets and watching football. We also went to Lou Malnati’s after a Blackhawks game and Zach and I are both…not fans. It was funny because that’s where everyone had told us to go, and we basically hated it lol. Before Second City, we went to The Pump Room, which was ~super romantic~ and I was so obsessed with the lights there, I sent a picture to my light fixture-enthusiast mother. (They say the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, but sometimes the apple has no idea it’s an apple until it sends a picture of lights to the tree.) It was low lit, quiet, and the food was quick and delectable. One of those places where everything also tastes fresh and sits well, too. We went to Hot Chocolate again, this time for dinner, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I had THE best chicken I’ve ever had in my life. I was seriously drooling and I think I told that to Zach fifty times. We also had the most amazing chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Basically, Hot Chocolate is chocolate and farm-to-table heaven and also, yeah, just thinking about their mac and cheese makes my mouth water. Our last meal was at this huge café around the corner from the Hilton Chicago, called Wildberry Pancakes and Café. The food was good, but the coffee was not. And since coffee is, like, the entire point of being alive, I probably wouldn’t suggest it. I’m also an aesthetic junkie, so I like to go to restaurants with #goodvibes and a certain fresh, clean atmosphere or a dark, romantic, moody feeling. Essentially, I don’t like places where you can go in your sweatpants, ya know?
Contrary to previous reports I had gotten, Chicago is a great place for wandering around. Zach and I would often stumble from place to place, aimlessly wandering in and around the city, trying to kill time before we headed to our next reservation. One of our most disappointing wandering projects was the Lincoln Park Zoo…yikes. We were nearby and needed to kill some time and yeah, I regret it. The zoo itself was under construction and there were a few big cats, like a very sad lion that roared in a way that made your heart shatter and some other type of big cat that was so pissed it peed on a kid, something it had clearly practiced, and penguins out. The entire atmosphere of the zoo was just plain, ol’ depressed. It has really good reviews online and is apparently actually a conservation study zoo as well, but if I’m being totally honest…it made me too sad to probably ever go back.
As far as actual planned activities go, we had much better luck! We decided to see a show at Second City, which is where people like Dan Aykroyd and Amy Poehler honed their comedy skills, and it was hilarious. So many hilarious people, particularly Saturday Night Love actors, have come out of Second City, that I was super pumped. We saw “The Winner…Of Our Discontent” and it was politically fueled and also applicable to real life. We enjoyed it so much that we went back for Valentine’s Day. Pro Tip: don’t go if you don’t have a sense of humor and/or take yourself too seriously. Obviously.
But our very favorite thing in the world: Blackhawks games!!! I loooved hockey when I went to boarding school and since Austin doesn’t have any big sporting teams, I really wanted to go to a hockey game. Also because it’s inside a.k.a. not outside in the cold. They are so fun. First of all, there’s a full bar so I think we all know how I felt about that. Everyone in the arena is always in such a good mood, probably because the Hawks have a really good record right now, and it’s just enjoyable all around. Zach and I also always end up sitting next to huge fans who either have the best cheers and reactions to every move made or talk our ears off the entire time about the entire history of the team and what every little thing going on on the ice means. I love it. I live for it. The last guy we sat next to actually gave Zach the number of some random guy who will sell you great tickets on the day of for half the price, apparently. We have yet to try it out but I’ll keep you updated.
By the time this is published, I’ll have wrapped up my February trip to Chi and will be working on my post about January and February. But! In the mean time, here’s what I’m looking forward to for February:
- A Valentine’s Day trip back to Second City
- FINALLY going to The Bedford, which is a fancy restaurant in a reclaimed bank
- Our now traditional Last Meal Before I Leave at Hot Chocolate
- Visiting Navy Pier! I love doing tourist-y things and I don’t care who knows it
If you’re reading this because you’re planning a trip to Chicago, I hope this helps! Zach and I have made a pact that we’re going to do a last ditch effort of going to every restaurant in Chicago that we’ve ever dreamed of going to in my next two visits, so stay tuned for that. And if you’re reading this because you’re jealous of my super cool monthly trip, I hope this encourages you to visit one of my all-time favorite cities, if only for the food alone.
P.S. – Here’s a link to the outfits pictured above. Unfortunately, my very favorite Victoria’s Secret bralette (the white one) is no longer available, so I linked a similar one.