Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 1: Two or three things I didn't know about you Chicago

I have never been to Chicago and I realize that there are a number of things I didn't know about this city. That ... a river runs through it. How beautiful much of it is in the downtown core. How friendly Chicagoans are. What the Magnificent Mile really means (a row of retailers, not Gilded Age mansions as I mistakenly thought).

We fly out to Chicago with another family - long time friends who have two teenagers. We fly Porter, the only way to go when you fly domestically or to the U.S. R found a great deal on Expedia- basically $500 per person for our flight and three nights at the Hotel Felix,
111 W Huron St. in the northern part of city. The Felix is clean, modern but the suites we have paid for are quite small, if tasteful and 
R on N. Clark St.

We arrive, unpack, and hurry to the nearest family friendly restaurant which happens to be the Stout Barrel House and Gallery, 642 N. Clark St. - a sort of sports bar. Quick, plentiful, friendly.

We walk down N. Clark St. to the El (not the tube, not the metro, not the subway, we are told at one point by a native Chicagoan) and take the El to a neighbourhood called Wicker Park or Bucktown that I guess would be similar to our Queen Street West here in Toronto. We cross many of the 38 bridges that pass over the Chicago River (pictured above).

Wicker Park seems to be in the midst of gentrification. Some very small quirky independent businesses - record stores, shoe stores - a bit small townish in feel, and some big chains like Urban Outfitters and American Apparel. J picks up some back to school Ts. A fruitful shopping spree for the youngsters. Not so much for me as group shopping does not appeal to me. 

First glimpse of the Chicago River
Back to the hotel for a brief respite. We decide to have dinner at an Italian restaurant called Quartrino Pizzeria Winebar, 626 N. State St., at a walkable distance from the hotel. It is enormous, and crowded (it has a bit of a saloon feel to it) and my heart sinks a bit at the crowds but the food is delicious and plentiful at reasonable prices (I recommend the cavatelli and the rapini - tastes just like homemade). It has enormous variety - pizza, pasta, appetizers, etc ...

Across the street is pinkberry, which I have only ever seen in Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes (the yogurt drives its star Larry David to make some very foolish choices much to his detriment). It really is the best frozen yogurt around ... despite an indifferent staff and not so great smelling retail outlet. 

A long day and a pleasant night ... back to our tiny perfect hotel room. 
At Quartrino

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