October 6, 2010 0

Road Trip 2010 – Days 30-31

By in Travel

June 13-14, 2010
Chicago, Illinois

As a lover of hot dogs, architecture and tall buildings, I can safely say that I have always wanted to visit Chicago. After Faye visited a few years ago and hearing stories from our good friends who live there now, my desire to travel to the Second City was at its peak during our road trip. Vancouver, we could skip. Chicago was a must-see stop.

We chose to crash in a hotel near O’Hare to save money but of course most of our time was spent in the city. Before we did any sightseeing, we wanted to visit our very good friends Ben and Bonnie. We’ve known Ben for over 10 years and knew Bonnie from Google well before the two of them were married. Seeing them in Chicago was such a treat! They were so welcoming and invited us for drinks at the Lincoln Tavern, their favorite pub in their neighborhood of Wicker Park, where we spent the better part of a night catching up.

Ben is an amazing professional artist who recently set up his own studio, so needless to say we were excited to see his new work. He graciously invited us to check out his workspace and gave us tips on what to see around town. It was pretty inspiring to see someone so talented doing what they love.

While Chicago is famous for pizza and hot dogs, it’s also home to some of the best coffee roasters in the country. Being a complete geek over the beverage, I knew I had to visit both Metropolis Coffee and Intelligentsia while I was in town. The work they’re doing at these roasters is ridiculously delicious. Our trips to both roasters were well worth it.

Whenever we travel, we usually find out where we’re going to eat and then plan the day around that. Chicago was no exception. Back in SF, our friend Chris Cosentino (of Chefs vs. City and, more importantly, Incanto fame) had recommended we visit The Publican. Set up like a European beer hall with an eclectic menu that specialized in cured meats and beer, this place was right up my alley. Dinner was superb. To give you an idea how awesome The Publican was, look at our appetizer. It’s a flight of three different artisan hams!

With all of that eating on day one, we woke up the next morning intending on doing some serious walking. Given the wet and foggy weather, it didn’t take long to decide to follow Ben’s recommendation of touring The Art Institute of Chicago. The second largest art museum in the country, we looked forward to satisfying our eyes and our souls. Faye and I are huge fans of romantic art and I think the pieces below explain why. Our day was turning out to be just beautiful.

Eustache Le Sueur: Meekness (1650)

Pompeo Batoni: Allegory of Peace and War (1776)

John Philip Simpson: The Captive Slave (1827)

We also visited the brand new Modern Wing, designed and opened in 2009 by architect Renzo Piano. He also designed the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco so I was pretty excited to see his new work. Not only was the building beautiful, but it housed a few stunning pieces of furniture as well! I was in heaven.

After the museum tour we did our requisite visit Millennium Park, Chicago’s modern waterfront park. Home to one of the city’s most famous sculptures, Cloud Gate (a.k.a “The Bean”), the park serves as a focal point for all of the downtown public arts and culture attractions. Even in the foggy weather it was pretty cool to see in person.

Our last afternoon in Chicago was spent paying homage to one of the city’s most famous food exports: sausage. For years I’d heard of a place called Hot Doug’s, a so-called encased meat emporium praised by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and countless other foodies. On their menu were everything from a regular hot dog to rattlesnake sausage. However, my focus was on one thing: the foie gras. Do you really think we’d drive all this way only to ignore a duck sausage topped with foie gras? Put simply: this place rocks. It was worth every minute of the 45 minute wait just to get in.

Gorging on meat and beer leaves one feeling, well, heavy, so we decided to spend the rest of the day touring around the city by car. We drove through Oak Park, found a few Frank Lloyd Wright homes, gazed longingly at skyscrapers and even visited Wrigley Field. With a final dinner and fantastic cocktails at The Violet Hour with Ben and Bonnie, we bit Chicago adieu. Don’t worry, we’ll be back to see you Second City. You’re way more fun than New York.

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