A Weekend of Dining & Drinking in Chicago

The Chicago River.
The Chicago River flows right through the city's skyscrapers.

I’m addicted to its beauty.  The buildings climbing toward the clouds, some shiny and new and as blue as the sky; others old and delicate, with dainty details and intricate arches, each one unique but together telling the story of a skyline, a city.  The way the green river weaves peacefully through downtown, seemingly out of place among the noise of the traffic and the scream of the sirens; the way the turquoise lake peeks behind the buildings and stretches out like an ocean.  Even the wind has its charm when the sun is shining.

I am, without a doubt, mesmerized by Chicago.

The Chicago skyline as seen from the Adler Planetarium.
The Chicago skyline as seen from the Adler Planetarium.

Big cities make me swoon.  I love the constant buzz of noise and honking traffic, the stenches of mysterious terribleness as you walk along the street and the crowds of people everywhere.  I want to stop everyone that passes by to talk, to ask them their story; find out why they are here and where they are from.  There is so much to do and see; everything I could ever want feels within walking distance :: art and museums, all kinds of music and shopping, incredible food and outstanding bars.  There’s a story waiting to unfold everywhere I turn.

The Chicago River.
The Chicago River flows right through the city’s skyscrapers.

Last week my friend Meagan and I returned to Chicago for our third time.  Simply stated, we can’t seem to get enough of the place.  We first visited a few years ago because it was one of the few major cities I hadn’t been to yet (plus it has a great opera company).  I instantly fell in love.  We returned to ring in the 2013 New Year with our friends that had just moved there and recently went back to see some baseball, some Broadway and our friends.

The Wrigley Building, Chicago Theater and Tribune Tower.
The Wrigley Building, Chicago Theater and Tribune Tower.

Chicago may be a massive city but it manages to have an approachable feel to it.  (Maybe that’s thanks to its laid back Midwestern heritage.)  The list of things to experience isn’t nearly as long as, say, New York City, so most of our touristy To Do’s had been checked off on previous trips, leaving us free to roam the city shopping, eating and drinking.

Downtown Chicago lit up at night paired with a flaming bottle of champagne at the Paris Club.
The view of downtown from my friend’s roof and our Champagne at the Kaskade concert at Paris.

We evolved into nocturnal creatures this trip, exploring Chicago’s nightlife until the wee hours of the morning in exchange for wandering the city’s streets in the daylight.  And that was fine by me.  The first night we met another friend in town from Salt Lake City at Studio Paris where he had a table with Champagne bottle service.  One of my favorite DJs, Kaskade, showed up for an unscheduled concert.  I was in heaven!

A whiskey flight at Longman & Eagle in Chicago.
A whiskey flight at Longman & Eagle.

On other nights we drank at a sports bars downtown where we met a fellow Salt Laker cheering for the University of Utah football team as they beat BYU.  We drank on the rooftop of a touristy hotel where businessmen entertained us with card tricks until closing time.  We visited a country bar in Wrigleyville where we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Alabama Crimson Tide fans transplanted in Chicago.  All along the way I met people from around the country, some permanent Chicagoans, others temporary ones like us.  I loved hearing their stories, why they were there and where they were from.

The view of Wrigley Field from the bleachers.
The view of Wrigley Field from the bleachers.
The Wrigley Field sign in Chicago and beers with the view of the field.
Nothing beats beer and baseball, especially at Wrigley Field.

We braved the daylight to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, opting for the bleacher seats to sit with the rowdy fans.  Wrigley Field is the second oldest baseball stadium in the country, following Boston’s Fenway Park, which I checked off my Bucket List in April.  I love the charm of these old stadiums that lack the massive towers of seats and the high-tech scoreboards.  (Both stadiums still change the score by hand!)

The Chicago skyline from the Field Museum.
The Chicago skyline from the Field Museum.

Before I knew it, our time in Chicago was up.  Our list of restaurants to try had barely been touched, my wanderlust hardly exercised, my craving for Chicago only slightly satiated.  But, alas, Salt Lake City was calling my name.  So I returned home, full of memories of fun times, great people and incredible meals.  And, of course, still mesmerized by the beauty of Chicago.

Stay tuned for more Chicago posts on an insanely creative lunch, a late night meal of perfect small plates and an unforgettable whiskey-filled dinner.

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