Sunday, August 12, 2012

24 Short Hours in Chicago

Chicago is one of those cities that I wish I had more time in. This time around I was there for one night, which actually just about doubles the amount of time that I've spent here. With such a short amount of time, I limited the trip to the central area, including the "miracle mile" and Navy Pier.

We stayed at the Fairmont Chicago which ended up being a great choice. It's very centrally located and much to my surprise, parking was included in the reservation. When we found out after parking in the garage next door, the concierge offered to refund the parking fees from the other garage and told us to just drop it off with the valet downstairs. Great service all around and the rooms were comfortable, along with nice views.

In the afternoon, we decided to try out the Signature Room at the John Hancock Tower. I am a fan of skybars in general ever since a visit Shanghai. They are expensive and often not that great, but there is something nice about being able to sit high above the city and look out over it. The Signature Room and Lounge is on the 95th and 96th floor and provides one of the best views of the city.

The Signature Room, as opposed to Lounge, is more exclusive and upper crust. You can get a table there pretty easily and lunch starts at $14 for a main (dinner starting at $30). We had just come from Frontera Grill (see below) and were only interested in checking out the view with a drink.

Drinks in the Signature Lounge, just above the Dining Room, are "Chicago standard" priced: $13-15 a drink off the signature menu. However, I ordered a maitai and it ended up being a comparatively bargain basement price of $11. The Signature Lounge is is packed with people and generally seemed to draw a tourist crowd doing exactly what we were doing: Coming up, buying a drink, taking pictures, and moving on. It's not the worst deal in the world, considering the other skyview in Chicago is $17.50. 

And these views...

More of these views and more places after the break!

As mentioned, we had just come from Frontera Grill, which is restaurant by Rick Bayless. They serve up some very tasty mexican dishes, like these two: Queso Fundido and Verduras en Mole Verde de Cacahuate.

Our final stop in Chicago wasn't in the downtown core itself. The day after we met up with my girlfriend's parents and tried their favorite barbecue place, Smoque. Smoque is located in Irving Park, which is to the northwest of downtown and right by the Villa District. The neighborhood there dates back to 1902 and is heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. Many of the homes there look phenomenal, but in this case I was more interested in the brisket.

The interior is packed and barbecue fans are often found lining up out the door for this stuff. The platters come with ample meat and two sides, which is lined up and pushed out of the kitchen as fast as they can.

There it is: Brisket with all the barbecue sides you need. The sauce was tangy and a little sweet and the meat was succulent. For a last taste of this great city (until next time!), this was about as perfect as you could get.

Next time? Back to Seattle.

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