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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chicago - It's My Kind of Town

Chicago is my kind of town.  Amazing architecture, a beautiful lakefront, iconic food, fascinating neighborhoods, world-class museums, and especially, my kind of people too, people who, smile at you.

Yes, I was born and raised in this city, second to none in my opinion, a great place to visit and a great place to be from. Recently I took a trip back there to revisit special places and to spend time with special friends and family.  Food of course played a key role in my excellent Chicago adventure....

Breakfast day 1 was at a place called Hash House A Go Go, a rustic yet modern diner located in the fancy yet friendly Gold Coast neighborhood.  Nearly every time a waitperson delivered a customer's order cameras were flashing photos of the "twisted farm food" placed in front of them.  My Apple Cinnamon Flapjack was no exception, and no, I didn't finish the whole thing but I wanted to.  HHAGG's are in San Diego and Las Vegas too.

One must-eat iconic Chicago food is the deep dish pizza and my bff Sheila and I ate at Lou Malnati's on Rush Street twice because 1) it's her favorite and 2) I insisted we go a second time.  Honestly I would have gone again but there were just too many other must-eat, must-go places.  P.S. Lou's will also ship their awesome pizza directly to your home anywhere on the U.S. mainland.

The Chicago Diner on North Halsted is not-your-mama's classic vegetarian restaurant, with a modern yet cozy diner ambiance, an expansive menu of standbys, re imagined veg favorites, and original creations, plus the added bonus of knowing what you eat there is not only full of flavor but full of compassion.  I had to order their popular Reuben sandwich because it's one of the dishes I measure vegetarian restaurant excellence with, and it was excellent.

Another night Sheila and I were joined by our bff Joyce for a trip down memory lane dinner at Hackney's in Glenview.  Best known for their old school atmosphere (founded 1939), fried onion ring loaves, and more standard meat + potatoes fare, I'm happy to report that the large pile of fried onions I ate were accompanied by an excellent veggie burger with all the trimmings.  Thank you Hackney's for coming into the 21st century.

My bff Julie took me to Green Zebra on West Chicago Avenue for a wonderful belated birthday dinner.  Green Zebra's contemporary vegetarian cuisine definitely does not include Reuben sandwiches, but does dazzle with dishes like Smoked Salsify Risotto, Crimson Lentil Croquettes, and Carrot Spaetzle. We shared several small plates, a bottle of bubbly, and lots of laughs for my idea of an excellent celebration. 

Two nights later I met my two business bff's Brenda and Patty at RPM Italian in River North.  I'm a big fan of co-owners Guiliana and Bill Rancic and followed the development and opening of the restaurant on their Style network show.  Our dinner was amazeballs (a Guiliana created word which literally translated means excellent), especially these two desserts that we shared.
Pistachio Cake & Gelato with Roasted Grapes, above.

Bill's Chocolate Budino with Salted Caramel &
Cocoa Nibs, left.  Double amazeballs!

View from the Hancock

Sheila in front of the Baha'i Temple
Those were some of the food highlights of my trip.  Other highlights included a memorable visitor tour of the city, drinks on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building, a walking tour of the Kenwood/Hyde Park neighborhood (including President Obama's street and house), the magnificent Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, and especially a meaningful drive through the old neighborhood in Rogers Park with bff Sheila.

 As delicious as the food was, and as fantastic as the sights were, the real highlight of my visit was spending time with the aforementioned bff's Sheila, Julie, Joyce and their families, plus Aunt Pearl (age 97), Cousins Gail and Michael, Brenda, Patty, and Shadowcat Baley Michelle too.

You can take the girl out of the city, but you'll never take the city out of the girl.  Thanks everyone for a very memorable and excellent adventure.  Chicago is one town that won't let you down - it's my kind of town.  (

Love, Nancy