Tag Archives: travel

Chicago: Day Three

In which reach heaven via homemade tostadas... and then we go home.

Our third day in Chicago was really more of a half day, since we had to drive home in the afternoon. Despite having a whole lot left on our respective to-do lists, we couldn’t shake ourselves out of bed early enough to get in anything besides a decent breakfast. We hopped a train and a bus over to our final eating destination, Handlebar.

I may not be a bicyclist, but I seem to be endlessly fond of their dining establishments. Handlebar shares a lot in common with OTB Bicycle Cafe in South Side, a place I used to frequent when working in the South Side Works a few years ago. The focus of both bars is squarely on the cycling lifestyle, whether it be for intensive sport or for everyday getting around town. Unlike OTB’s biking-themed menu, however, the Handlebar leaves the theme to the decor and general philosophy of the establishment.

Both are exceeding vegetarian and vegan friendly, however, something that appealed to James, especially when Anna Sophia gave us a sterling recommendation of the place.

“Huevos Diablos,” she told us. I took it very, very seriously.

Handlebar on Urbanspoon
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Chicago: Day Two

The sky was blue, the sun was out, so we headed for the lake...

Saturday was so beautiful, the drinking I had done at Gallery Cabaret the night before could not keep me in bed. I wanted to walk in the sunshine, see a bit of the neighborhood, get a cup of coffee, and maybe grab a dose of greasy Mexican diner food.

Sadly, the only Mexican restaurant that fit the bill didn’t seem to be open at the time. A stroll down a few blocks back toward my hostel brought me another quick breakfast option.

Austrian Bakery and Deli on Urbanspoon

I have been in other businesses, mostly bakeries, that have a specific cultural cuisine focus, but they’re usually spare, family owned places with white walls and floors, spare shelves, and a strange sense of permanent temporariness. Austrian Bakery was warm and welcoming, filled with what seemed to be a good mix of locals and both stateside and international travelers. The small seating area was completely cramped with people, with just a little open seating at the counter in the window. My walk, however, had gone on a little too long and I wanted to get back to the hostel to rouse my partner from his slumber, so I ordered a coffee and cheese pocket pastry to go.


My mouth is watering just for the thought of it. The sweet pastry gave way to a surprisingly mild cheese filling that perfectly coated the inside layers. It was present in every bite, but not overwhelming and not too sweet. The only minor detractor was the abundant powdered sugar, which didn’t add anything necessary to the pastry and made it messier than it could have been.

But, like I said, that was a minor complaint. I gobbled the pastry down minutes after bringing it back to the hostel. For as leisurely as our trip was, I probably should have taken more time to savor its deliciousness.

Because Friday’s weather had been so crappy, we had stayed fairly close to Lincoln Park. Saturday’s gorgeous weather afforded us the conditions to stray a bit farther into the city. We took advantage of our three-day CTA passes and hopped on a train to Chinatown.


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Chicago: Day One

They could be playing "Stormy Weather" all night...

The weather on Friday was a dance between cold, wet, colder, and wetter. Every time we stepped outside the conditions seemed to have changed for the worse without somehow changing very much at all. We were colder with every new trip, or the rain struck us harder.

This did not make ideal weather conditions for taking photographs, but that’s alright with me. To tell the truth, I’m not much of a picture-taker when on vacation. I wish I was. I envy people who come back from long trips with a mile of photos glorifying their travels. They have pictures of everything they did, everywhere they went, everyone they saw. Drank a pint with friends? It’s in the pictures. Car got stuck in the mud? It’s in the pictures. Ate an amazing dinner at a famous four star restaurant?… Well, it would be in my pictures as well. But you get the idea.

As a result of the crappy weather and how it restrained us to our hosting neighborhood- Lincoln Park – and the surrounding territory, I don’t have much photographic record to share. The picture above was taken a few doors down from one of my favorite stores in Chicago, Shake Rattle and Read, on Broadway in Uptown. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Green Mill Jazz Club is a famous Chicago venue, opening in 1910 as a roadhouse complete with indoor and outdoor dining and dancing areas. In the twenties, Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn, henchman of Al Capone, took over a large percentage of the club’s ownership, and the place became a favorite mob hangout. The story of McGurn’s takeover is best described in the historical summary on the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge website:

“Manager Danny Cohen had given McGurn the 25% stake to “persuade” comedian/singer Joe E. Lewis from moving his act south to the New Rendezvous Café at Clark and Diversey. McGurn managed to convince Lewis by slitting his throat and cutting off his tongue. Miraculously, Lewis recovered, but his songs never regained their lush sound.”

Ah, isn’t history wonderful, kids? I’d love to be a school child on a walking tour of jazz clubs in the city. Way more blood, booze, and broads than an average Pittsburgh field trip to the zoo.

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Chi-CA-go, My Kind of Town!

 

It would be awfully nice if history didn't repeat itself while we were in town.

 

Forked! is heading on the road this weekend. Starting tonight, I’ll be headed to beautiful, windy, and probably still unseasonably cold Chicago for a three-day trip that should include miles of walking their wondrously flat streets, admiring many items that I can’t afford in stores that I should not go into (ie, record stores), and generally going every which way that offers the most interest for the least dollars.

Me and my partner are doing this on a shoestring, so this trip is strictly no-frills. We’re limiting ourselves to eating out once a day, so we’re bringing dry goods and any groceries that will last a seven hour car trip. I also saw that our hostel offers a free pasta dinner on Saturday for visiting guests, so as long as the sauce is not cheese or meat based, we’re going to get our grub on for free. Otherwise, I’m envisioning a weekend of peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, and whatever else is tasty and road-worthy.

Of course, there’s a limit to my thriftiness. I will be dining out in Chicago. Cheaply, yes, but dining out nonetheless. A trip to the Chicago Diner is already planned, so I ask you, my fellow eaters: If you’re from Chicago or have been there, what are some great places to try out?

I will try to post a bit on my travels this weekend. I look forward to sharing the experience with all of you. I promise that it won’t just be pictures of us eating out of a dumpster behind Whole Foods or stealing ketchup and mustard packets from hot dog stands. Although that isn’t a terribly bad idea….

Good Morning, Waffle House!

I have a pretty early commute on Thursday mornings, a 6:00 am start to my day that, no matter how much I do it, still seems almost a novelty. Getting up and dressing in the dark and trotting out to the corner to catch a bus into Downtown, then picking up a trolley and making the slow rail trip back to Dormont, my thoughts drift to other early mornings, the roads and places traveled through before the sun even had a chance to fully rise.

I think about rising for school all those years, how difficult it was to go from cozy in bed to the cold, sterile school environment. I think about early morning band practices, shivering through thicker and thicker jackets as the season went on. I think about college, years spent staying up into the wee hours only to get up two hours later to make it to class (or the unfortunate times that getting up two hours later never happened). I think about getting up super early for family road trips down to see my grandmother in Florida, usually sometime around 4 am. We’d be out of Pennsylvania before the sun rose, crossing the border into WV with the light still an hour away. I think of that highway terrain.

I think of Waffle House.

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