Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chicago Part I: Windy City Tour

Last weekend was Labor Day, which means one thing: three-day weekend! To celebrate, my friend Carrie and I road-tripped to Chicago to visit Karen, another friend from graduate school.

Karen took us on a mini-tour of Chicago, showing us all of her favorite spots and sights. She really outdid herself!

Saturday morning started with brunch at Crepe Town, which was right around the corner from Karen’s Wrigleyville apartment. Crepe Town was so cute! When I hear the word crepe, I automatically think French, but Crepe Town seemed to have an Asian-fusion theme.

The decor was modern, clean, bright, and fun. The Austin Powers theme song played in the background while we ate.

Crepe Town had a variety of sweet and savory crepes, and you could even build your own. We all chose sweet crepes. I tried to build my own crepe with Nutella, banana, and blueberries, but instead, the waitress brought me the Red Bull, which had Nutella, strawberries, and blueberries. It was still delicious!



Next, we did a little learning and exploring, thanks to a Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Cruise

Normally, I love to explore different places on foot, but Karen (and several other people) suggested taking an architecture cruise. Our cruise left from the Navy Pier and sailed up and down the Chicago river, which forms a sort of sideways Y. See?

Map picture

Chicago is famous for its architecture, and is hailed as the birthplace of modern American architecture.

Cruising along the river was so relaxing, while our tour guide was engaging and informative. I definitely learned a few things!

The cruise allowed us to take in the views from a different perspective. You could definitely see more from the boat than from the sidewalk! This is an example of new school (left) and old school (right) modern design.

Interesting fact: Bertrand Goldberg, the architect who designed the building on the left, studied under the architect who designed the building on the right. When Goldberg began designing his own buildings, his designs completely bucked the style of his teacher, and he became famous in his own right!

Here’s another view of Marina City. Chicagoans call Marina city the “Corncob Towers”…I’m sure you can see why!  The upper, scalloped levels are condos. Below that is a parking garage, and below that, restaurants (including Smith and Wollensky). On the very bottom level is a marina where residents can dock their boats!

I just love city skyscapes!

Fun fact: The Lake Street bridge is famous because it’s hailed as the only place in the word where all known forms of transportation intersect one another.

In the air: The bridge is directly on the flight path of planes flying into Chicago’s O’hare International Airport. On land: The bridge accommodates train, automobile, bicycle, and all forms of pedestrian traffic. Under water: Boats cross under the bridge on the Chicago river, and Chicago’s subway system runs directly underneath the bridge.


After our cruise and a little walking and shopping on Michigan Avenue, we stopped at Portillo’s for a Chicago-style hot dog. Portillo’s is a Chicago chain that seems to be home to several different food concepts, but we went in search of one thing only—a Chicago-style hot dog. Portillo’s has been hailed “the best!”

Hi, Karen!

A Chicago-dog with “everything”: relish, mustard (no ketchup!), onion, tomato, hot peppers, a pickle spear, and a sprinkling of celery salt.

Very much enjoyed…


Lunch was followed by more shopping on Michigan Avenue. We shopped until we dropped! By the time we were finished, we were absolutely pooped!

Somehow, we rallied ourselves for a late dinner at SUSHISAMBA, an upscale Brazilian-Asian fusion restaurant serving small plates and sushi. I didn’t take any pictures because the restaurant was so dim, but it was definitely an unusual and amazing dining experience!

We started with a round of cocktails. I enjoyed the signature Palmia, which was a blend of Herradura Silver Tequila, Cointreau, lime, and muddled mint.
Next, we shared four selections from the dinner menu:

  • Yellowtail Taquitos with shiso avocado and garlic ponzu
  • Tuna Ceviche with coconut, ginger, and serrano pepper
  • Sea Bass miso with Peruvian corn
  • Celebration Roll with spicy snow crab, topped with assorted sashimi

We also shared a small bottle of sake with dinner.

Is any girls’ night complete without dessert? We shared the mochi, which are soft Japanese rice cakes filled with ice creams. We were served four flavors: green tea, coffee, mango, and strawberry. The green tea was our favorite!

The mochi were everything-all-at-once addictive: chewy, creamy, melty, cool. I think I’ve seen them frozen at Trader Joe’s, and I’ll definitely be picking up a box on my next trip!

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