Chicago Bites – “I’ll have what she’s having”

Chicago…My city away from New York City. FunnyGirl and I recently took a few days off to celebrate our graduations and one year anniversary. You may wonder why Chicago??? Well we wanted something fun, inexpensive, and active. And we were soooo NOT disappointed!

It was a sweet vacation complete with lazy mornings, great food, beautiful sightseeing, and excitement to say the least. I’ll be the first to admit that we ate like pigs. And the best part was that it was ALL GOOD FOOD. If you ever make it to Chi-Town, hope you get to try some of what we had. Your stomach will thank you. We promise.

So here’s the story with Eleven City Diner, we ended up here because of the crazy long lines at Yolk [I’ll get to them in a bit]. Luckily we had asked the bell hop at our hotel for places where the “locals” frequent for lunch, and Eleven City Diner was the first one he gave us. I have to preface all this with the fact that we arrived on a saturday, so most places were bustling with brunch diners and those getting over friday night hangovers. So any place we went to would have some kind of wait.

Our wait was a mere 15 minutes and then we were sat at the bar area and truly loved it. We were lucky enough to get the spot where all the Bloody Mary action happens. They are known for their Bloody Marys which is why it was no oddity to see three quarters of the place sipping on one. We had the sweetest bartender keeping us entertained while he gave us his own personal restaurant go-to spots.

He made at least 21 Bloody Marys while we had brunch

We opted for sweet and salty, so FunnyGirl got their famous Eleven City Diner French Toast with chunky hints of coconut…YUM.

And I went for the freshly ground turkey burger. I’ve never been a fan of turkey burgers but this was the BEST one i’ve ever tried. It’s made with in-house freshly ground turkey breast [NO dark meat in here]. And if that’s not enough, it’s laced with fresh herbs. If you ask me the sage  and rosemary make this burger exquisite.

During the week we came back for this breakfast which hit all the right spots! The potatoes were seasoned so simply with sea salt, black pepper, garlic and onion powder, and parsley [I had to ask the waiter what was in them because they truly stole the show]. We altered their spinach omelet and had them give us eggs over easy and the spinach sauté on the side, it was genius. We were able to taste the spinach, tomato, scallions and feta! AND THE BEST FOR LAST, the Smoked Apple & Gouda Chicken Sausages. These were sweetly juicy and savory, my favorite combo.

You got a problem? Just Yolk it. Although the long lines pushed us else where the first time around, they also solidified the fact that it was a place to definitely come back to. I mean really, we just needed to see what all the fuss was about. A coworker recommended this place and boy were we thankful. Every meal we had there was AMAZING! They serve breakfast all day long although at lunch time you can also get regular midday food fare. The lines for this place especially on a weekend day are insane. The first time around we were told it would be about an hour wait, no bueno said our famished bellies. Which is why on our first attempt to eat there we ended up at Eleven City Diner instead. But before heading out I asked the guy at the door, so when’s the best time to come here and not stand in line? Before 9:30 and after 1:30 is all he said, and all we needed to hear.

The cup of Joe is freshly brewed and accompanied by a variety of creamers. Every time we got a fresh pour, we’d create a new concoction. My favorite turned out to be a combo of both white chocolate mocha and French Vanilla.  And then there was the little doily they put under your cup…how stylish!

FunnyGirl officially added this to her ‘Last meal(s) before I die’ list. She’s a total sucker for anything with peanut butter. So although she got an Italian omelet, she opted to add a side of the French toast too. This has to be one of the best versions of French Toast ever. They take banana nut bread and dip it in a cinnamony batter and then you indulge with extra banana topping, peanut butter and syrup.

Just as she’s a sucker for peanut butter so am I for eggs benedict. This was the South of the Border Benny. English muffins topped with chorizo, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and cilantro. My first bite melted all of me inside and out. My eyes did that crazy roll to the back of my head thing. The chorizo added the perfect amount of heat and really complimented the buttery hollandaise sauce. And the fresh fruit washed it all down to counter any guilt I may have felt.

We just couldn’t get enough of this place. They even make great salads for lunch like The Citrus Blast. This one truly quenched my hunger but left me feeling light and healthy at the same time. I truly give it up to those who create great salads. Every time I try and make one at home it just doesn’t taste the same. I was skeptical at first when I saw oranges in my salad, but the acid in the oranges really cut through the heaviness of the blue cheese and avocado.

Last year I had visited Chicago on my own and discovered this french bistro. The food was divine and I knew I wanted to come back to this place again. So I called to make reservations and there was so much noise in the background that I could barely make out a word the hostess said. All I understood was “Ok, Candice, party of 2, 8 pm see you then”. So we get to the area and we keep looking for the restaurant and just can’t find it.

We come to find out that Bistro 110  was now Bar Toma. Our little sulking hearts filled with frowns. We had chosen Bistro 110 as our anniversary dinner place. But, like what is so great about our relationship, we looked for the silver lining and decided to try out Bar Toma. So in a flash we went from French Bistro to Italian Tapas. See people, life really does happen while you’re making other plans. This ended up being a great last minute change.

FunnyGirl was a bit apprehensive at first but in the end both of us devoured it. This is what you call Treviso which our waiter explained is like a distant cousin to Endive. It’s marinated in balsamic vinegar that has a sweet twang and rests on top of a pillowy mound of creamy goat cheese.

A sinfully delicious food thing.

The toppings alone intrigued me. I really had to contain the satisfying moans so I wouldn’t freak out the couple sitting next to us. The Merguez Pizza had Green olives, tomatoes, pistachios, lamb sausage, manchego cheese and lemon zest which all exploded into this harmonious symphony of  flavors. This pizza is a serious contender in my list of ‘Last Meal(s) before I die’.

So we couldn’t come all the way to The Second City and not try the deep dish pizza. Last year I was totally not impressed by the common touristy spots people end up at for Chicago style deep dish pizza. So this time I really asked around for what the ‘locals’ eat, and time and time again I got, Lou Malnati’s. After a day of sight seeing all we wanted was our nicely air-conditioned room and eat dinner in our underwear. Luckily we had a Lou Malnati’s location near by so we ordered in. I gotta say I will always be a thin crust kind of gal, but this was pretty awesome. We went with The ‘Lou’ and requested it with the buttered crust, at the recommendation of this sweet man we had bumped into at Millennium park that day. The ‘Lou’ is topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach. Eat it on an empty stomach. Trust me. Or you’ll end up like me passed out in a food coma afterwards.

Chicago food gets a million thumbs up! Don’t necessarily go for the touristy spots first. Ask around and you’ll find precious food gems. Next post will cover Chicago’s sight seeing, so stay tuned. 

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