Scouting Out 'Summertime Chi'
Alas, I finally understand the phrase, “Summertime Chi,” and I don’t think there is anything that compares. After my first official trip to the "State of Chicago," it’s pretty safe to say that I am absolutely obsessed! Not only did this trip give me the recharge I needed, but it exceeded my expectations in more ways than one.
My trip to Chicago marked my inaugural ride on a train. I caught the Amtrak from St. Louis’ Gateway Station, all the way to the iconic and incredibly beautiful Union Station in Chicago. Although The Grand Hall was closed to the public due to private events, I plan on going back to see this piece of history in all of its architectural splendor.
The Grand Hall was one of many stops on my “Must See List” while visiting the city, but before the adventures continued, I was in dire need of some coffee. I popped into Peet's Coffee Shop to load up on a shot (or two) of espresso to get me through the day, and waited for one of my friends to pick me up and give me a personal tour of the city!
Now, it wouldn’t have been a true trip to “The Chi” if I didn’t stop in and have a classic Chicago Style Dog from Portillo’s, a popular Windy City staple. As much as I hate to say it, Portillo’s definitely lived up to the hype! The hot dogs were delish, and while I didn’t like fresh tomatoes on my frankfurter, a distinctive attribute to Chicago Style Dogs, this Portillo’s did not disappoint.
After lunch, it was time to hit The Magnificent Mile, or the “Mag Mile,” as Chicagoans affectionately call it. The Magnificent Mile is also the famous North Michigan Avenue, which houses Chicago’s premiere shopping district, lined with towering buildings of some of the world’s most iconic brands. From Burberry, Tiffany & Co., Nike and the dazzling (and fairly new) Starbucks Roastery Reserve, the Magnificent Mile screams New York City elevated with a touch of elegance and charm.
Adventures on the Mag Mile eventually led me back to Hotel Audrey, a “modern and bohemian chic” hotel where I linked up with my gal pals to jumpstart the rest of the three-day holiday weekend!
First stop for the evening was Utopian Tailgate, a bright, colorful spot with great drinks and tasty vittles to coat your belly as you load up on liquid courage. (For those of you that know me, I’m not a big drinker, but I’ll sip sip, every now and again). I sampled the ‘Be A Lot Cooler if You Did’ cocktail curated with tequila, cucumber, triple sec and lime, while my friends ordered “The Gameday Mule,” “Lip Service” and a pair of Key Lime shots. It’s safe to say, the food was good, the drinks were great and the vibes were even better!
After some time on the rooftop at Utopian Tailgate, we ventured into the streets of Chicago amid the nightlife! My girlfriends and I ran into local Chicago influencer, Jeremy Joyce, founder of Black People Eats, an organization dedicated to supporting Black-owned restaurants in the Chicagoland area and beyond! (Shameless plug: check him out and as always, support Black-owned restaurants and businesses!)
During our evening escapades, we ran into Chicago royalty, “Chance the Rapper." Needless to say, I'll have to get my fangirl photo next time.
I slept in the following morning and caught up on my beauty sleep. The day started with a cruising adventure on Lake Michigan. (Fun Fact: Lake Michigan is the largest lake that is entirely within one country). Viewing the Chicago skyline from the water was absolutely breathtaking! Oh, and I don't know if you know, but cruising on Lake Michigan, soakin’ up the sun and drooling over the Windy City’s skyline is hard work and can make you hungry.
So what do you do when you’re hungry in Chicago? You do as the Chicagoans do! After our time on the boat, we headed to Lou Malnati’s, another iconic spot in Chicago that’s been serving up deep dish pizza since 1971. We each ordered our own personal deep dish pizzas, and while I loved my pizza, there was one thing on the menu that I will definitely be going back for: The Malnati Salad. This tossed salad had Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, Volpi salami bits and gorgonzola cheese with our Sweet Vinaigrette and romano cheese.
I’ve been thinking about it ever since we left the dinner table. My mouth is watering just typing this post. It’s definitely a must order when dining in at the restaurant. Dinner was magnificent and shortly thereafter, we linked up with some more friends and went out for another night on the town.
We were pooped from the weekend’s festivities and slowly but surely, got up, checked out our hotel and made it to Hub 51. Two words: AH-MAZING. For starters, Hub 51 has brunch, lunch and Ben Pao, a sister restaurant that does in house Chinese food, which looked and smelled delicious. Normally, I would order something elaborate and dramatic, but for whatever reason, I was really craving breakfast food.
I ordered a basic three-egg breakfast with chicken apple sausage, which was to die for. I subbed the toast for a huge pancake, house hash browns and all of the carbs. But with everybite, it was worth it! My traditional breakfast hit the spot and gave me the fuel I needed to meander around the Chicago River later that afternoon before heading back to Union Station to catch my train home.
Why did it take me so long to visit Chicago? I have no idea! Needless to say, I enjoyed Chicago. I’m in love with Chicago. Literally, obsessed. We’ll see if this sentiment holds true when I’m in the Windy City for the winter.
Until next time!