Eating & drinking, Chicago
Like my fellow Chicagoan and VT friend "dlandt" says... Get out and see Chicago's neighborhoods! If you like authentic Euopean-style pastries, Vienna Bakery is a great place to visit. A few small tables too - to sit and relax while you savor your goodies. Inexpensive and they serve a great cup of coffee! It is located on the far Northwest side of Chicago - out in one of the nicest "hoods!"
On the West Side of Chicago, not far from Chicago Stadium.
There is an older guy who works out of his garage that cuts oil drums and makes them into BBQ grills.
His grills are famous among the black community and are very very cheap.
If you are ever outside grilling and think to yourself... that yes, you indeed need a BBQ grill from the ghetto of Chicago, I highly recommend that you go to this gentelmans house.
A word to the wise would be going there durring the day, the near-do-wells that cause all of the trouble have a tendency of getting up around 3pm. Any time before then will garentee you a safe trip.
The guys name is Al Hobson
after locating his house go through the ally and you will see him working out of his garage. It is the only one with the HUGE security gate on it.
This place has been around for 70+ years and its history is as rich as its flavorful ice cream.
You will see long lines of families extending from one end of the block to the other just waiting to get their hands on some tasty treats.
The Ice Cream is home made and tastes so much better than any chain stores that I have ever encountered.
I once worked there as a kid and frequently saw people traveling from as far as Wisconsin and Indiana just to get their ice cream fix.
9233 S. Western
One of the best places to have dinner at is Al Capone's Hideaway and Steakhouse, in St Charles. It will take you about 1 hour to get here from the city, but it is worth!
The house was built around 1910 and it has 3 stories. The first floor was used as a restaurant, the 2nd floor was used to conduct the bootlegger business and the 3rd floor was a brothel. Today the whole place is a restaurant.
We went here on a Saturday night in March to celebrate my husband's birthday and we had a blast. It is a very popular place, casual atmosphere that resembles the early 20's. You need to have a reservation, so call ahead if you plan on going there. The location is very nice, right by the Fox River. There are signs to help you to get there, but you can get lost easily if you do not pay attention to the road. It is a hideaway, after all :)
There is a great variety of food and it is very tasty. We were told by our waitress that the cook has been with the restaurant for 40 years. They have a great selection of meats and some seafood choices, but not too many since it is a steakhouse. The chef was very nice and prepared a pasta marinara dish on the spot for me since I am allergic to meat. This alone says a lot about the place!
Everything that you order from the menu comes with a soup and a salad, so you need to bring a big appetite! They also have a good selection of wines, but they are a little pricey. We paid $98 for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. A glass of VSOP cognac is $10 and a glass of martini costs about the same.
The restaurant is also one of the not too many places that offer USDA Prime cuts meat. USDA Prime cut is known to be the ultimate in tenderness, juiciness and flavor and my husband (who ordered a Rib Eye steak in this cut) said it was indeed very tender, juicy and tasty meat.
The other people in our party had fillet mignon, broiled swordfish, New York Strip steak, Porterhouse steak. Everybody was impressed with the taste of the food!
We also had dessert: turtle icecream cake, flourless chocolate cake, white chocolate cheese cake, lemon sorbet and coffee.
When I am in Chicago, I like to hang out in a little independent cafe / coffee shop called Avanti which is on Southport. Staff are friendly, the prices are cheap and they good (free) wifi access!! THey also have quite a few items on sale from local artisan (jewellry, pictures etc). Plus its a bit of a arty hang out type place & numerous times you can people watch new bands, performers etc etc - might even get a sneak preview of the next famous person!
BTW Try their Yerba Mate - its some south american tea thing!
Here in the states we have a great melting pot of cultures. With all these different people, we get all sorts of different foods! My favorite... well most of it. This one is from the PI. I didnt get a chance to eat it while there, but amazingly I was able to get some here. In case you dont know what balut is, its a egg that was given some time to grow. Then cooked and eatten. A Pinoy Favorite! Well the first eggs presented to me were huge and the cook used the phrase "should be cooked" so I refused to eat them. The 2nd round someone else ate them. Then it was my turn and I tried after many weeks of hypin up the balut. I didnt like it. The taste was that of cooked egg, but with... hmm i dont know.. wierd though. When you crack the egg you drink the liquid , then start to eat the yoke. The problem is you cant look at it or think about the chicken then youll start to get grossed out , like me. I only drank a bit of the liquid and had some of the yoke. Dont worry though I was under a false assumption that the chicken in there was actually big and formed which it is not. You cant really even tell. Its moslty yoke and some liquid. So if you get to try it , go for it. Its not as bad as I thought it was but yet... maybe its a aquired taste!
Hala Kahiki in the 'burbs.' Just outside of Chicago, this is a cool little bar with an extensive drink menu. It's a Hawaiian themed bar and all the waitresses wear mu-mus (don't know how to spell it!)!!! They have the coolest drinks! You can try the Suffering Bastard or the Tikki Puka Puka or any of the bowls for 2! They have really great coffee drinks too! They ONLY serve alcohol! :) They are located at 2834 N. River Rd. River Grove, IL 60171. 708-456-3222.
chicago is a no smoking city so that there are no smoking signs everywhere and there are deignated smoking areas in the downtown area and fortunately just beside my hotel. if you are a smoker, you would feel constipated here in chicago ( i know i know, i came from san francisco which is also a no smoking city but at least you can smoke at outside areas in the streets there and here in chicago, they have a rule that you must not smoke within 15 feet of an establishment unless you are in a designated smoking zone!) so here in chicago even the price of cigarettes are astronomical at $ 11 a pack.
The Sea of Happiness is the kind of pub in which a low budget version of Cheers could of really happened. Captain George, the owner, is always there to welcome you in for a pint of Sam Adams or MGD on draught.
The sparse crowd is very local and tends to be there all the time, day in and day out. A friendly bunch of people who are friendly and always willing to get into a some conversation with you.
I'd say most if not all customers are drunks or hotel guests.
The people here are out for a quiet drink and don't want to be surrounded by crazyness. Respect the play ground of the locals and just chill out and talk about your farts for a while.
And tell Captain George I said Hi!
The Sea of Happiness if located at the entrance of the Cass Hotel on Wabash near Ontario streett.
Demon Dogs -- This place sells cheap greasy hot dogs with whatever you want on them and greasy fries made from potatos that they slice themselves. It's directly underneath Fullerton station on the CTA Red Line train. So there are lots of places like Demon Dogs in Chicago, and here's the difference: Demon Dogs is owned by the manager of the band 'Chicago' and is cluttered with memorebelia, such as an autographed photo of Jay Leno consuming a 'Demon Dog'.
I'm listing this as an "Off the Beaten Track" tip because I didn't go to this cafe. I passed it after leaving Marshall Field's and just had to take it's picture. Isn't it cute?