Eating & Drinking, Chicago
Second Photo: Erik [Erik707]
Third Photo: Ron [RonDace] and wife Kathy
Fourth Photo: Martin [MJB123]
Fifth Photo: Roy [Imaniac]
Because Roy [Imaniac] from the Netherlands was visiting Chicago before flying to Springfield, Missouri, to attend school for a few months, we set up a VT Lunch date at the famous Bill Goat Tavern and Grill.
Ron Dace [RonDace] and his wife, Kathy from Wadsworth; Kristi [Dabs] from Hammond, Indiana; Erik [Erik707]' Martin [MJB123]; and I [deecat] attended the meeting to meet Roy.
It was Martin who did the organizing.
Although I personally am not crazy about Billy Goat's as a great place to eat, it is a Chicago happening and was a fun [but difficult to find] place to meet. We all had either cheeseburger or double cheeseburger plus some chips with our Cokes. We moved tables together, making it easy to hear everyone. It was quite an interesting conversation with travel dominating the subject at hand [naturally!]
Afterwards, Martin gave Roy, Erik, and I a tour to the north of the Tribune Building. We walked as far north as the Water Tower and west to Old Town. Along the way, we were able to see some great residential areas [some of the wealthiest in the city]. We stopped for a Starbuck's coffee and talked for at least an hour before we walked to the Elevated red line station at Clark/Division so that I could hop on to return to Andersonville where I had parked my car.
All-in-all, it was a wonderful afternoon with great VT members, and we were all fortunate enough to meet Roy [Imaniac}.
In a cramped space in Chicago's Bucktown area on North Western Avenue, we visited the famed Margie's Candies.
Although Margie has passed, her tradition lives on. Peter Poulos Jr., the current owner, is the third generation to own Margie's. Not much has changed in the decades of this family-owned business. In 1921 Greek immigrant Peter George Poulos opened Margies where classic ice cream was served & candy was made by hand by George's wife, Margie. 18% butterfat ice cream is still served here, & the hot fudge, butterscotch, & carmel are still made.
If you want spotless, fake retro, DON'T visit here. This place is the REAL deal. It's crowded, rather "musty" smelling, and jam-packed with Beatle mementos [from their visit in 1964], dolls, hundreds of boxes of candy, & lots of old newspaper clippings on the wall.
I've heard that the service is poor; however, we did not experience that. It was not speedy, but I am not enamored with speedy.
It's difficult to make decisions because of all the choices of ice cream treats. We all 3 had an ice cream sundae [we should have shared!] The sundae comes in a huge clam-shell dish, & the topping comes in a metal pouring dish. Jill & I each ordered The Turtle Sundae with 2 scoops of ice cream, carmel topping & hot fudge in the pouring dish. It has tons of whipped cream [which I scraped off & gave to Allan]. Each sundae comes with a vanilla waffer cookie.
Since Allan loves REAL butterscotch, which he can never find, he was thrilled when he found
a real homemade butterscotch sundae.
There are only booths for seating, & each booth has its own coin-operated jukebox.
We did not try any candy, but from what I've heard, it is really good, especially the chocolate-carmel pecan tarrapins.
As we were leaving, I noticed a sign announcing that for children who make an "a" on a report card, a free cone is given. I find that quite refreshing & oh so Real Retro!
For about 55 years people in Chicago area have been enjoying Garrett Popcorn, Carmel Corn, and Cheese Corn. The popcorn is hot-air popped using no oils or fats. Many people, including myself, favor the Pecan Carmel Corn. It is to die for (and you might with all the calories)!
For 21 years the location at 670 North Michigan Avenue has been open. People literally line up (up to an hour at times) to purchase their favorite popcorn.
Today (June 16, 2004) I stood in line for half an hour relishing the thought of tasting the delicious Pecan Carmel Popcorn. When I finally made it up to the counter, it was all gone, so I had to settle for the delicious Carmel Corn.
If the workers were as sweet as the Carmel Corn, it would be a much better experience. Every time I have been there, the girls who wait on me and all the other people are rather rude. Today, the girl said in a gruff voice, "So, what do you want?" When I told her, she said, "Too bad, we're out. So, what do you want?" It's all in the tone of voice.
That's so discouraging to see all of the out of town guests being treated less than kindly.
It's a good thing that the product is so wonderful.
You can order on line. They have really "cool" tin canisters also. My favorite is the one with the Chicago Skyline on it.
When in Chicago, visit a Garrett Popcorn Store.
Not sure where to eat on your upcoming trip to Chicago? Check out the numerous detailed restaurant tips of dining maven Dabs here on VT. Dabs is called the Queen of the Chicago Restaurant scene for a good reason. Here I am with Dabs at a October 2004 VT clambake held at an excellent local favorite, Paprikash, after enjoying a taste-full meal of Central European delights.
The best Polish sausages you'll ever eat can be found in Chicago's Maxwell Street area (Maxwell Street marketplace). The grilled sausages are big and juicy, plus you'll get a big scoop of grilled onions on top. If you are driving and passing by, Jim's Original and Express Grill are located just off I-90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway) at the Roosevelt Rd. exit on Union Ave. Jim's Original is located near the intersection of Roosevelt and Union and it is open 24 hours a day.
Polish sausage and fries for only $2.60!
Chicago is famous for food, but having moved here after many years on the west coast, my wife and I both feel we've yet to find a good Asian restaurant of any stripe, not even in Chinatown! Depending on what his or her expectations might be, the asian food lover could be very disappointed here. If there is hope, it lies on chowhound.com. Generally speaking, your typical Chicagoan doesn't really know good Asian food from bad, so going on recommendations has been disappointing. Fortunately, the E European, Italian, Greek, Latin-American and other cuisines are for the most part excellent.
*update* We've managed to find some places that are passable. If you would like, I will share the names.
Chicagoans don't usually eat a lot of ketchup, at least not compared to other parts of the country. When I try to think of what we eat ketchup on, mostly I come up with hamburgers, and some people like it on french fries, but for the most part, you won't be seeing it served with eggs, sausages, or any of the other things folks in the rest of the country eat it on. This isn't 100% true, but its true enough to be a stereotype I've encountered outside Chicago.
Most Chicagoans wouldn't be caught dead at most of the restaurants that are listed in popular travel books (and even many of the ones listed here on this site). The mag mile is generally considered a tourist trap (for out of towners and suburbanites alike). If you want to experience Chicago you need to get out into the neighborhoods, because in my opinion, that's what Chicago is really all about.
I will say that there are a few trendy restaurants that are located within walking distance of touristy areas that I can actually recommend. Among them is Wildfire on Erie and Lasalle (www.wildfirerestaurant.com). The filet mignot medallion trio (you get to pick among six type of crusted filets) are a steal for around $26 and their wine list is awesome. Another favorite is Lalos Mexican at 500 N. Lasalle (www.lalos.com)...their margaritas are the bomb as is the fish soup and of course their standard mexican fare is excellent.
Have a great time!
I tried this stuff on my visit here it tastes like fried popcorn in a way, but it was very tasty. There was a long line to get the popcorn. I tried the cheese and caramel. They had (4) locations downtown. You must go it is a Chicago tradition.
Chicago pizza is deep-dish pizza. It was invented in 1943 at Pizzaria Uno. An authentic pizza starts with a thin layer of dough, laid in a deep, well-seasoned pizza pan and pulled up its sides. Then it is topped with an inch or two of mozarella cheese, the diner's choice of meat or vegetables, and a layer of seasoned crushed tomatoes. You can still find authentic Chicago pizza at Pizzeria Uno.
Deep-dish is different from stuffed pizza. This 1971 invention adds a thin layer of dough above the cheese and tomatoes, creating a somewhat firmer pie. You can find great stuffed pizza at Giordanos and Edwardos.
Be prepared. Chicago pizza is not fast food. It takes at least a half hour to 45 minutes to bake. Also, it is very filling. Two pieces are plenty for even the heartiest of eaters. Also, you need a fork and a knife to eat this type of pizza.
Be aware that in Chicago, if someone mentions fast food, they might not be talking about one of the famous chains. We have our own homegrown, almost chain free version of fast food. And pizza is NOT fast food here. Most places will specialize in one or two of the following foods, and serve the rest. Italian Beef, Gyros, Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage, Hot Dogs, Meatball Sandwiches, and a few other things. Generally speaking, its large, affordable (under $4), and tastes good, though the outside decor of some places will sometimes look so run down you'll want to cry.
I was pleasently suprised that in Chicago they always serve water with a meal. In fact in some restaurants it felt like there was a person employed just to keep your glass topped up. My findings were obviously you drink less alcohol, feel better in the morning and on the downside visit the restroom more often!
The tap water is perfectly acceptable in taste & whats more it is less harmfull to the enviroment then ordering bottled water.
One of the most important things you need to know when you go to Chicago is that they are very passionate about their hot dogs.
The proper way to garnish a hot dog in Chicago is with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt; but never ketchup.
As shown in the picture, I did enjoy one of these, although before the picture was taken, I was hungry and ate the pickle. The other Chicago element is that it needs to be on a poppy seed bun.
I would have put this in Things to Do in Chicago, but there are just too many places to try one of these dogs. I also did not want to throw my hat into the ring of debate about who has the best Chicago Style Dog.
It seems that on every street you can find a hot dog or Italian beef stand. There are some 1,800 hot dog stands in Chicagoland, according to Vienna Beef. Most are run by independent entrepreneurs who own one or two stores.
The Chicago-style hot dog is unique. It's an all-beef, natural-casing frankfurter, steam cooked- never grilled-and topped with the following (known as the works): Yellow mustard, fluorescent green sweet pickle relish, chopped onions, tomatoes, kosher-style dill-pickle spears, two or three hot green sport peppers, a dash or celery salt and absolutely NO ketchup.
Most of the places that serve Chicago hot dogs also serve the Maxwell Street Polish. That is a kielbasa that's been scored and grilled and placed on a poppy seed bun.
An annual event, the Taste of Chicago is a food festival during which restaurants in the Chicago area showcase their culinary specialties. Since Chicago has a diverse population, this brings food from all over the world to Grant Park, where the Taste of Chicago is held. You can try everything from African dishes to Caribbean dishes as well as classic Chicago dishes like deep dish pizza. There is also Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Polish, Italian, etc. The festival is held for 11 days with the last day on Independence Day (July 4). If you are coming to Chicago during this time, you shouldn't miss this wonderful opportunity.