If you need another short get-away, in the same amount of time it takes you to drive to Chattanooga (click here for a blog post about that), you can fly to Chicago! Of course it may cost a little more.
Here are some recommendations from a recent visit we made to the Windy City.
First, the restaurants. We made our reservations before we left Knoxville to be sure we got in all the places we wanted to go. That turned out to be a good thing as the waits were long at all three of our major selections. We were quite deliberate in our choices. We wanted to go to a celebrity chef’s place, to a “classic” Chicago spot, and to a restaurant in one of Chicago’s famous ethnic neighborhoods.
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, checked into our hotel, the historic Hilton Chicago at 720 Michigan Ave. (recommend an upgrade to a lake view room!), and headed to the Frontera Grill, chef Rick Bayless‘s very popular place on North Clark Street. The food: trendy, organic, delicious Mexican.
Back at the hotel, we parked ourselves at the little Irish pub which was the friendliest spot we could find. There we participated in a tradition the four of us have when we travel together — a competitive game of Hearts.
We think a “must do” in Chicago is an architectural cruise. It’s a wonderful way to see all the fabulous buildings and hear a volunteer, in our case a grad student in architecture, describe the history of the most significant ones. We hopped on a one-hour cruise Friday morning.
Many, many industrial and office buildings in Chicago have been converted into condominiums. Our guide said the first thing the new owners do is add balconies to all the units. He called it the “balconization of Chicago!”
Then we took a cab to the Shedd Aquarium which is being run by former Knoxvillians Penny and Ted Beattie.
The Shedd, which opened in 1930, is a historic landmark. It is home to 32,500 animals. Interesting fact we learned is that when it opened, salt water was shipped to the aquarium from Florida via railroad tanker cars. Today, the sea water is created from fresh water mixed with salt additives.
A special exhibit on jelly fish attracted us. The jellies will be there until May 2012.
But now, the jellies!
There are other interesting creatures, of course.
The gift shops were super clever!
They featured all things “jelly.”
On our stroll back to our hotel, we encountered this right on Michigan Avenue. I think it belongs to the nearby Field Museum.
Friday night was our evening for dinner at a quintessentially “Chicago” restaurant. We selected Gene and Georgetti, a classic steakhouse located on North Franklin Street. We were not disappointed. The food, the decor, the atmosphere and the staff could have been straight from 1941 when the restaurant was established and quickly became the hangout for famous gangsters and Frank Sinatra and his pals. As if to confirm our choice, a few nights ago I saw Gene and Georgetti featured on Emeril Lagasse’s Cooking Channel show, “The Originals with Emeril,” which reports on classic American eateries.
Our friend Richard loves steak and he is opposed to fancy seasoning on it. “Let the meat speak for itself,” he says. At Gene and Georgetti, they do just that. The steaks are unseasoned, but heavily charred in a 1,100 degree oven.
Nobody leaves this place hungry! We were so full, we couldn’t even think of dessert. But we did!
Another must-see is the view from the John Hancock building. Specifically, the Signature Room on the 95th floor.
Then it was back to the Hilton Chicago for our traditional late night game of Hearts!
Saturday was our last day in Chicago. The guys had planned long ago to take in a baseball game while they were there. The Cubs were not playing in town. But the White Sox were. So Alan and Richard headed to U.S. Cellular Field to see the Sox take on the Dodgers.
While the fellows were at the baseball game, Dawn and I headed to the Art Institute of Chicago where there was a fabulous exhibition called “Kings, Queens and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France.” Unfortunately, photos were not allowed of that particular exhibit. But here are some other things we saw there.
For our final dinner — the one we wanted to have in one of the ethnic neighborhoods — we chose Santorini in Greek Town.
Then, back at the hotel, we played our final game of Hearts. This time in the lobby on our floor. I think I finally won a game. Yay!
I hope this blog post inspires you to take a great trip to Chicago. It’s inspired me to want to go back!
Photo credit: Richard Ford took the photo of Alan at the baseball game. Thanks, Richard.