Chicago’s Eats – My favourite meals in the Windy City

I can’t say enough about the delectable food I sampled while I was in Chicago. I don’t think I ever had a poor meal, and some of the meals were incredibly memorable.

A small cafe a few streets from the hotel yielded a huge spinach salad for my first day, enough to keep my energy up for over five hours at the Newberry Library. That night, my parents and I went with my aunt and uncle to Topo Gigio, an Italian restaurant in the Old Town. I had the fish special, and it was tender and delicious. We also visited a nearby spice merchant, and spotted the Bistrot Margot (more on this later).

Our hotel was right next to Ditka’s, and I ate there once, having their New Zealand lamb chops appetizer. I also learned first hand that when you ask for a Jack Daniels on the rocks, it’s not like a Canadian bar where they give you 1 oz. I almost didn’t make it down the stairs from the lounge after two drinks!

After dinner at Gibson’s… it was a little chilly in the restaurant, hence my pashmina and cup of tea.

After our trip on the tall ship Windy, we went to Gibson’s steakhouse for dinner. If there were celebrities in attendance, I didn’t see any, but I was probably too busy looking at the gorgeous old 1920s decor… when I wasn’t trying to decide what to eat. Eventually I settled on some oysters to start, and the smallest steak they had on their menu. That’s one thing I can say about American restaurants — you get a lot of food for your money. And at Gibson’s, that means a lot of steak.

Now, one of my favourite meals in Chicago was one of the most unexpected. That is, it was a completely chance occurrence, as we’d gone to visit the Art Institute (and stand in awe in front of Georges Seurat’s painting ‘Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte’ — well, that part was perhaps just me) and after several hours of looking at art (more on that in another post, as I could go on about art for ages… you know me!), we were starving.

The best tea cup I’ve ever seen.

Right across the street from the Art Institute was a crowded and large pub. We didn’t go there. Instead, we went to the Russian Tea Time. It took a bit of convincing mom that there was something on the menu she could eat, but once we were there and eating, she was quite happy. Dad had a flight of the house vodka – 3 flavours (coriander, black currant tea and lime), 3 oz – and a beer. I opted for tea, and they kept filling my glass. It was really lovely strong dark tea, and I drank quite a bit of it before the end of the meal. I had potato latkes (with sour cream and apple sauce) for the first time, and they were excellent. Of course, I was so hungry from having eaten very little before we went to the Art Institute that probably almost anything would have tasted good. 😉 The service was good; our server was very definitely Russian. I think he was a bit nonplussed when we laughed after he asked my father if he wanted more vodka. You see, 3 oz of vodka, plus a large beer, was more than enough alcohol for an afternoon… but I guess we ought not to have laughed. (and my dad says it was excellent vodka.)

And finally, one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had was at the Bistrot Margot on our last evening in Chicago. I wish I’d thought to take photos of the meal, but I was too busy eating… that’s my excuse. I had a vegetable risotto to start, and it came with a soft-shell crab. For my main meal I had a smoked duck breast with green lentils. And dessert was a delightfully delicious crème brûlée. I have a fondness for French food (as you might have guessed), and I was even happier at the Bistrot Margot when I saw that the menu had its dishes labeled if they were gluten-free. It made it a lot easier and I didn’t have to guess. Also, as it was our last evening, I decided to celebrate with a glass of champagne.

Now I’m starting to feel a bit homesick for Chicago… I know I’ll go back, and I’ll be well fed when I do!