Gaining Weight in Chicago

We recently popped up to Chicago for a four-day food and fun-fest. It’s our 35th wedding anniversary and we want to see Hamilton again. It’s cheaper to see it in Chicago than it is anywhere else because you can get tickets straight from the box office and cut out the scalpers. Anyway, we have seldom seen a city that has so many restaurants. Where to start?

Our first meal is salads and sandwiches at the Goddess and the Baker. Beautiful desserts and a wait staff that was a little (rhymes with) witchy. We take no pictures, but the rainbow cake is something you might want to try.

It’s time for dinner, and we hop over to Hugo’s Frog Bar for a Chicago steak.

Hugo’s is a seafood place, but it’s owned by Gibson’s Steakhouse, right next door. They share the same kitchen.  When you order a steak, it actually comes from Gibson’s. Our table is not ready on time, and the manager brings us a gift.

There is nothing small about these shrimp. They are fresh and cold and perfectly steamed. It’s the lowest-calorie dish we will have all night. We mentioned the steak, a rib-eye to be exact.

Don’t worry, we shared. It’s a huge cut of tender meat and they cut it in the kitchen for us. I got to chew on the bone.  Speaking of huge…

The twice-baked potato is almost as big as your head. We waddle out of Hugo’s, very satisfied with our choices.

After a trip to the top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) the next day, it’s time for brunch. Like Atlanta, Chicago has its share of brunch places, like the Hash House A Go-go. We had to go just for the name alone.

Turns out it is a big-city chain, with locations in San Diego, Orlando and Las Vegas to name a few. It’s a hipster hangout, and I’m sure we are the oldest cats in the joint.

The food is quite good. So is the hot chocolate, perfect on this windy winter day.

Check out this Texas-sized blackberry granola pancake.

There’s no perspective to the size, but you could barely fit it inside of a large frisbee. It’s very tasty, with the granola getting baked right into the batter. There a few “hashes” on the menu, and we try one.

This hash features artichoke hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. I like the seasoning, which gives the hash a little kick. The scrambled eggs are nice and fluffy as is the biscuit. Southern biscuits are better than this one. It must be the water.

We are supposed to take a “Devil in the White City” bus tour after brunch, but the bus never shows and the tour gets cancelled. Just our luck. No worries–it must be time to eat again. When in Chicago, you must eat Chicago pizza, the city’s deep-dish, gooey take on the Italian classic. A good place to go is Due. (Pronounce it “doo-ay”. Like the number two in Italian.)

It’s owned by the same people as Uno, the most famous of Chicago pizza places. You can wait in line at Uno, or walk right into Due across the street.

It has been in this old house since 1955.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the cheap wine, less than $20 a bottle.

It’s Chianti. How could it be bad? Check out this gorgeous pizza.

An interesting Chicago pizza feature is the cheese, which sits atop the thick crust and then gets covered with the chunky tomato sauce.

It keeps the crust nice and crispy while you eat the pie. No flimsy Neapolitan crust here.

We are really into classic restaurants, and the next day, after a trip to the Museum of Industry and Science, we find a German restaurant that has been here since 1899.

Imagine the party they had here when Prohibition ended in the early 1930’s. They have Ayinger Celebrator beer on the menu, one of my favorites. We don’t usually have beer at lunch, but what the heck–let’s share one.

And it pairs well with the bread basket they bring you before lunch. Pirogies are another Chicago favorite and we try the Berghoff potato version.

Our best comparison would be to potato blintzes. So let’s continue the deli theme with a Reuben sandwich.

Those are house-made chips.  We are splitting everything at lunch to cut back those calories. Our waistlines don’t seem to notice.

Tonight is our anniversary dinner and we visit our favorite kind of restaurant, the Belgian beer bar.

Welcome to Hopleaf, a beer-centric gastropub.

It’s almost impossible to pick a beer on this menu, and we make an amazing choice.

You Belgian beer bums will recognize St. Bernardus Apt 12, a quad that boasts 11% ABV. The anniversary version of the beer adds even more flavor. This is a very limited-edition beer and we feel lucky to drink it.  And we get to keep the souvenir tin.

When in Belgium, eat the mussels. When in Chicago, eat these mussels.

The mussels are huge.

They come with a giant basket of frites that we gobble down. On Mondays, there is a chicken and waffles special.

This chicken comes on a beet waffle and is covered in a bok choy slaw. The waffle gets a bit soggy, but the chicken is nice and crispy. Think about it…two southern food bloggers come to Chicago and wind up eating biscuits and fried chicken. Very strange.

Are we full yet? Yes, but we are still eating. For our pre-theater meal, we go to the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago.

According to the sign, the village was founded in 1927.  Have you noticed all the vintage neon signs in this post?  Chicago must lead the world in neon consumption.

It’s actually three restaurants, one on each floor. We go upstairs to ours.

You can close your eyes and see the ghosts of Al Capone, Frank Nitti, and the rest of the gang in this stairwell. This place is right out of The Godfather.

Don Corleone would appreciate the food. We are in a parmigiana mood today. First, try the veal…

Or the eggplant…

Can you overdose on mozzarella cheese?

One thing you must buy in Chicago is Frango Mints.

They have been making these things since 1929, first at Marshall Fields, and then at Macy’s, who bought them out in the early 2000’s. Only the Frangos sold in Chicago are made in Chicago. The rest are made in Pennsylvania. Now you know.

We have saved room for dessert, our only one of the trip. For our last course, we go to the lobby of the Palmer House, They don’t build them like this anymore.  They built this one in 1925. The bar is hopping with post-Hamilton diners as well as business travelers. And us. We order a mudslide and a slice of carrot cake.

Check out the unique presentation of the cake. This must have been the flattest carrot cake ever, but it’s full of plump, golden raisins and yummy cream cheese icing.

We have eaten like we are “running out of time” (Hamilton fans will get that joke), and it’s time to put an end to this gastronomic fete. You can read about our non-food adventures in Chicago on our travel blog, We’ll be back, especially if Hamilton tickets remain so “cheap”.

2 thoughts on “Gaining Weight in Chicago

  1. Read both blogs while eating our breakfasts. Should have done the food first! The tour of Chicago “walked” off the virtual calories but not the delicious looking food. We always learn something from y’all. And that is a good thing. :):)

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