On the Road Eats: Chicago

I have something to share with you.

So I just landed in Chicago – my second flight for the day.  I’m tired(up at 4am to catch my first flight since I had to fly to Minneapolis for meetings before traveling here), I’m cold(temps are 25 degrees colder than Dallas) and of course, I’m hungry(nothing new there).  I love the concierge at the Renaissance Chicago because he always has great recommendations for me(Thanks Thomas!)

The menu looked very interesting.  And Thomas told me since I was dining alone I could probably sit at the “chef’s seat” at the end of the bar. Then he mentioned a favorite of his – a lobster roll with foie gras and fried oysters.   I’m interested and make a reservation through OpenTable.  I walk a few blocks to River North(the brisk air is waking me up) and he was right- I am seated at the bar to watch the chefs.  There was a lot to choose from so I decide on the lobster roll and the creamed kale(I also had a great server who helped me pick!).  And then something strange happened.  I didn’t love my lobster roll.  Could it be after a 15 hour day my taste buds were giving up?  It was almost too rich for me….but I really enjoyed the creamed kale with a sunny side up egg(a much more mild dish).  I hope this was a total random event because I really want to come back and try a few more dishes on their menu(and probably the lobster roll again)!
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Firecakes Donuts:
IMG_5295I wanted something simple for dessert and wanted to eat it back at the hotel(at this point I am exhausted).  I leave BottleFork and around the corner is a little donut shop.  I see about 5 people standing in the small entry way and a few leaving.  I look in the window and decide I must go inside.  I buy three donuts(one for my colleague coming in on a much later flight- nice treat when she checks in!) and two for me to try.  I order a sufganiyah(jelly donut) and a honey glazed….may want to save the second one for breakfast but not sure I can wait that long to eat it.  I head back to the hotel, check out the view of the river(thank you for the upgrade Renaissance), enjoy my last sweet of the evening and call my husband to say goodnight with a smile on my face.

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Piccolo Sogno Due:
Best salad I have eaten all year.  And I have eaten at a lot of restaurants, especially in Chicago.  I was with a colleague and we started with the butternut squash soup(nice that they split it for us).  Then we each had a salad- I ordered the kale salad and it was one of my favorite meals of the year.  The roasted squash and the fennel and the dressing- WOW,  I could eat this every week!  Note to self: try to recreate at home.  For entrees, they offer their pasta dishes in half or full size so it was time for me to get my favorite- black spaghetti with tons of shellfish.  And it was delicious.  I cannot believe I waited this long to come here.  I will be back !

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Where to next when I return to Chicago?

On the Road Eats: Chicago

I have something to share with you.

Shame on me.  I relied on the concierge to recommend a restaurant.  My colleague and I were on different schedules so dinner was a “whenever” type of event.  The company was good, but dinner……what a shame.  Lunches – fantastic…..and yes, I spent some time picking those spots.

River Roast
Loved this spot.  We ate outside, had a view of the river and the weather was in the 70’s(yes..in November!)  Our appetizer –  the shrimp and crab toast with avocado and then for my meal, I ordered the local beet salad with ricotta and added steak. WOW..fantastic lunch and a new salad idea that I may be able to make at home!

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Star of Siam
Nope- definitely not a star. For me or my colleague. And yes, pictures can be deceiving.  The dumplings were good, fine, ok but our main dishes- nope, not good. I always order either Pad Thai or Pad See Ew and opted for the latter on this night.  Convenient to walk from our hotel but convenience doesn’t outweigh a bad meal.  I should have walked the extra block to Eataly. Sorry Star of Siam- I won’t be back.

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Siena Tavern
IMG_4848YES!!!  I chose right and can say we had a second fabulous meal in Chicago!!  I had wanted to go for dinner(instead of Star of Siam) but they had no availability and I did not have a reservation.  It was lunch and I wanted something to keep me full for my flight home but not something too overwhelming since I had one more meeting.  I ordered the Butternut Squash Tortellacci and it was the perfect lunch.  I will definitely be back to this spot.

I have another trip to Chicago early next year- any suggestions??

On the Road Eats: Chicago

I have something to share with you.

New Restaurants, a new hotel and a dinner with a friend from high school who I haven’t seen in over 20 years!  Throw in some successful client visits and you have a great trip.

imageI had business a few blocks from Acanto and decided good Italian was on the menu for me.  I wanted something simple but with great flavor.  Cacio e Pepe Risotto, the special of the day. Cheese, Pepper, no frills but is the perfect combination.  It would fill me up but would not be too heavy.  A simple, classic dish.  I had a table with a view of the restaurant so I was able to people watch and see the outdoor activity. Dinner menu looked fantastic….will need to remember this spot for another trip!

Cherry Circle Room
I met a dear friend from boarding school that I have not seen in over twenty years.  It was a wonderful reunion and I was happy to reconnect with her after all this time.  She chose the restaurant and what a great pick she made.  We started with drinks(mine was the Old Cuban), and then shared a beet salad with goat cheese.  I will admit I am not usually a fan of goat cheese but this was absolutely delicious, in fact, I would order it again since I enjoyed it so much.  For dinner we each ordered a main dish, I had the halibut with the squid ink pasta, added a side of creamed kale and of course we had to finish our meal with an “adult” milkshake.  I cannot wait to continue to “eat” this city with her!



Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine
imageI have known about this spot for a while but never stopped in for lunch.  Since my hotel was so close it was the most convenient place for me to grab a quick bite – eat at the hotel and get some work done before my next meeting.  It probably took me ten minutes to make a decision because of all the great options.  I finally chose the Sinfully Healthy sandwich-  roasted local turkey, Fromager D’Affinois, mango chutney, whole grain Dijon mustard and field greens on cracked wheat.  What a perfect sandwich!  I enjoyed it so much I have been buying the cheese with a fig preserve to eat on crackers at home.  As a side I picked up the bacon potato salad which I thought I would love but it was just not my thing.  Good thing there are numerous other sandwiches I want to try so I can return again soon!

Renaissance Chicago
 Love when I have a great experience at a full service hotel.  The doormen were great, the concierge was fantastic, the front desk was awesome and I had access to the lounge for a quick breakfast.  I had an upgraded room and even had a view.  Hope this hotel is available at a decent price the next time I am in town!!

On the Road Eats: Chicago Suburbs

I have something to share with you.

For 4 years I have followed the same routine.  Fly into O’Hare, jump in a cab or take the train and head downtown.  This trip was different. I was staying in Schaumburg and had appointments in Barrington and Oak Brook.  The suburbs- hmmm…where the heck was I going to eat?  I have a list of must try restaurants for downtown but the suburbs, no list for that.  So I googled, and posted on Chowhound and came up with a plan.  I was arriving early enough to eat lunch so I made a reservation at Grillhouse by David Burke, right near my hotel.  Then I could head to Barrington for my meeting, go back to the hotel to do some work, have an early dinner at Chef Vince’s Zeal, and then finally get a full night of sleep. Lunch in Oak Brook the next day after my meeting and then back to O’Hare.  The plan on day 1 went astray.

Ciao Baby
I ended up in Barrington for lunch – more on that later.  Since I had no idea where to eat I pulled up yelp and opentable.  Italian, good reviews- done.  But I didn’t want to have a heavy lunch since I was going to try to rebook my originally planned lunch for dinner.  So I deviated from my want of pasta and figured since I’m in Chicago area and I was wanting to try the cheesy beef egg rolls at Chef Vince’s Zeal, I’ll order a “mini me” – a small version of the restaurants italian beef sandwich with a side of sweet peppers and a salad.  No au jus but the meat was moist and flavorful.  The house dressing was just ok but overall, good meal with a  server that was friendly and quick.  The dinner specials looked interesting too so if ever in Barrington again at night, I would go back to check it out.  After all,  I do love a family owned italian restaurant.

Grillhouse by David Burke
I made it.  Finally.  I walked in at 8:15pm with a last minute reservation courtesy of opentable(love my points), and had a wonderful dinner.  I started with the Caesar salad since the chili oil drizzle caught my attention and then I pulled a MD ordering technique…you choose for me(MD is a close girlfriend who is going through a phase where she lets the chef or server chose the entrée for her so she can be [pleasantly] surprised).  What did they bring me?  Even though David Burke is known for his steaks I requested no meat so they chose the Roasted Branzino for my entrée with tomato and zucchini chips.  My server was fantastic and asked a bunch of questions before she put in my (or I should say her) order.  Thank you to the two chowhounds that made this recommendation!
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Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe
I woke up at 5:30 am this morning, not sure why.  My meeting wasn’t till later in the morning but I could not sleep.   So I showered and found a breakfast spot.  And I decided to treat myself to a big plate of pancakes, the healthy part being the fresh blueberries, strawberries and blackberries on top.  Delicious.


Mon Ami Gabi
I think I was at this restaurant in Vegas but it has been too many years for me to remember.  But I had a craving for mussels and something rich on this rainy day.  So I made sure that happened.  I ordered two appetizers – the scallops gratinées with a fennel, onion and mushroom cream and the mussels marinière with a wonderful sauce that I almost finished with the warm bread they served before the meal.  I headed to O’Hare happy knowing I would probably be sitting delayed for a few hours.


Marriott Schaumburg
Let me start with the good.  The hotel is clean, the location was convenient, 20 minutes to each client and about the same to the airport, and they had a concierge lounge with bottled water, snacks, etc.  But they need to get their act together.  I missed my lunch reservation because they misplaced my package that arrived at the hotel the day before and I needed to bring the package with me to my client appointment.  I had to wait 20 minutes for them to find it in housekeeping, which meant I missed my lunch reservation and would have to find somewhere super fast to eat once I made it to Barrington.  I planned  to try to move my lunch reservation to dinner but ask if they could recommend any other restaurants in the area since I like local hot spots.  The front desk team did not understand what I was looking for and recommended Maggiano’s and a nearby tavern that had fabulous chicken tenders.  I tried to explain what I was looking for but the term foodie was a bit of a foreign word to them.  There were a few other issues during the stay and I tried to contact the GM via the checkout email I sent.  No response due to miscommunication.  But finally, after a Tuesday night stay, I got an email and call on Friday.  And yes, part of it was because I completed a survey via email.  I finally spoke to the GM on Monday, gave him a lot of feedback and he seemed genuinely interested to fix the issues to improve guest experience.  Without asking, 15K points were added to my account as a goodwill gesture. Maybe I will return to see if there is a difference if I have business in the area again.