Just A Moment In Chicago
24 hours in The Windy City
Cut up by the majestic Lake Michigan and Chicago River, each section of this city has its own voice. From Boystown to Navy Pier and from Lincoln Park to Chinatown, there’s more to see and do than one day can allow but that’s okay because it leaves us wanting more.
From the time of the first French settlers in 1673 to it officially being named a city in 1837, Chicago's consistently been growing. By 1870 the population of Chicago had risen to about 300,000. However, Chicago was devastated by a fire in 1871 caused by a cow knocking over a lamp. Fortunately, industry in Chicago survived and Chicago was soon rebuilt. In the late 19th century it continued to grow rapidly but its part in The Chicago Outfit is probably what it's most known for. The Outfit, a group of the American Mafia originating in South Side, Chicago, rose to power under the control of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, and the period was marked by bloody gang wars for control of the distribution of illegal alcohol during Prohibition.
Today, it is the second most traveled to city in the US and home to some of the most notable American sports teams and their diehard fans (The Bears - The Bulls - The Cubs). The food is good, the people are fun and there is so much to do that having only 24 hours is a daunting task.
September seems to be catching the Chi-town at its finest - our day being almost no temperature and low humidity, no wind! As we walked in the early morning to catch the sunrise through the skyscrapers, we were astonished to notice how quiet even a big city can be. Although it’s got all the feels of New York, it doesn’t have that wall to wall mayhem. The city reminds us more of Canada’s Toronto, just north. It would be easy to say Chicago is Toronto’s more sophisticated, better dressed but kind of dangerous cousin.
Even though it has the highest murder rate of the US, Chicago never felt unsafe, even with the constant sound of sirens mixed with the Cicada. However, the PD presence is real and everywhere on every corner and there are many buildings that show signs that there are no guns permitted (and not just the museums).
Having finished our long walk downtown, it was time to grab something for lunch. It is easy to nosh on one of the street hot dogs and deep dish pizza the town is famous for, but we went in for something a little more adventurous. We headed into one of the more bustling neighborhoods, The Gold Coast, for an early lunch at Le Colonial. This restaurant completely transports you to French Colonial Southeast Asia circa 1920's once you step in their doors (a New York City original but also now 23 years strong here in Chicago).
Quite possibly the best Vietnamese food we have ever had, this place had that exquisitely easy two glasses of wine at lunch kind of atmosphere. We in particular loved the tuna tartare and the chicken dumplings.
One of the cool things about Chicago is that you can kind of experience the whole world within its city limits thanks to the many museums the city boasts. There are quite a few of note, each in its own sprawling historical temple-like venue. Our favorites included the Museum of Science and Industry, The Shedd Aquarium, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
All very different experiences, all worth the time and energy. But whatever you expect, dream bigger. All of the museums pack a lot of shows, interactive elements, and walking… so much walking.
Once our shoes were bare (one day - almost 6 miles), we decided to take in a little bit of comedy and a cocktail. The famous Second City improv show did not disappoint!
Some of you might be wondering if this is where we get to tell you about dining at potentially the hardest place to get a table in the world, Alinea. Well, we didn’t get in, sad to say. Next time! However, we did dare to have the 8 course pre fixe menu and wine pairing at Spiaggia.
There are many reasons why Spiaggia remains one of Chicago’s most beloved Italian restaurants as there are are bells and whistles aplenty. History isn't just on offer, it's celebrated, where on any given night the bucatini pulls from the archives to show off a recipe from 1985.
The wine list and pairing for each dish on the pre fixe was exquisite. Each glass takes you to a different region in Italy, with a sommelier who expertly explains the rock, soil and regional aspects and what to expect from the taste. Every dish topped the next, from a simple olive bread and ricotta all the way through a soup, vegetable terrine, risotto, pasta, fish, quail and dessert - quite possibly worth almost having to go to the hospital after eating and drinking too much.
After dinner we headed to the Thompson Hotel to get a drink before ending our day and we can't help thinking that Frank said it best...
"And each time I leave, Chicago is tuggin' my sleeve, Chicago is one town that won't let you down. It's my kind of town..."— Frank Sinatra