The time I ate everything in Chicago – Chicago Marathon Weekend, Part 3

So, our little trip to Chicago was supposed to be a vacation with a marathon thrown in, not a marathon with a vacation thrown in, which means that after my epic race on Sunday morning, AJ was still expecting me to function. I was cold down to the very core of my being by the time we got back to the hotel because every cab in the city was taken up by one of the other 45,000 runners, but I showered and rallied because we had a lot of eating to do.

I had heard a lot about all of the different “Chicago foods,” such as deep dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and of course all the beer, and I was ready and willing to try them all. The first stop was to head over to Gino’s East for some authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza. By this point, AJ and I were pretty much masters of public transportation thanks to Google Transit, so we made our way over to this Chicago landmark, as recommended by Otter. I rely on locals for their opinions on important matters such as food.

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As always, my eyes were bigger than my stomach and we ordered a medium instead of a small.

After filling up on pizza and beer (sorry in advance, stomach), we decided to continue the adventure and walk around for a bit, even though I totally could have gone to sleep. We decided to search google and see if anywhere had any red velvet cheesecake, which became a favorite of ours the last time we visited Asheville. Sure enough, Magnolia Bakery was said to have mini red velvet cheesecakes, so we set off in search of this destination. As it turns out, Magnolia Bakery is quite famous and only has 4 locations – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles…and Dubai.

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Icing emporium

Tragically, the red velvet cheesecakes were sold out, so we had to settle for red velvet cupcakes, which were also delicious. We then decided to hit the Goose Island Brewery, which is very famous locally. There are three or four different locations, but we chose the one out by Wrigley Field so we could kill two birds with one stone and potentially get crushed by the falling stadium check out Wrigley at the same time.

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Requisite picture in front of the Wrigley sign. As AJ puts it “This is where the Cubs lose.”

One of the things that surprised me most about Wrigley Field was the fact that it literally is just in a neighborhood. Like, it’s at the intersection of two streets with a bunch of stores and bars on them. There is no discernible parking area. You can practically spit on the stadium while standing in the street. Where I grew up in South Florida, stadiums take up vast amounts of land and have extensive parking areas stretching outside of them for miles. Not at Wrigley. It was simultaneously weird and cool at the same time.

After checking out Goose Island, we headed back to the hotel for a bit before meeting up with my friend Matt for a beer at the Hidden Shamrock. Matt and I are those facebook friends that used to know each other a really long time ago, never found each other annoying on facebook and so continued to pass the hate-spiral friend list cuts we’re all apt to make every once in awhile, and then we randomly met up 8 years later. Matt was my high school boyfriend’s fraternity’s grad advisor – essentially, he was a grad student who played the role of “house dad” for a year while working on his Master’s at the University of Miami. We bonded during all of the crazy parties as two of the only people there that weren’t completely belligerent, so 8 years later, we reunited in Chicago.

And I forgot to take a picture of it.

But he’s now an awesome sports writer for Red Eye Chicago and ESPN. And most importantly, he used to be one of the people in the brat race at the Milwaukee Brewer’s stadium.

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Go #3!! There’s not a lot of things I’m jealous of, but this is one.

It was great to see him, but Hidden Shamrock went from being a really cool bar before 11pm on Sunday to a bar full of Jersey Shore-esque douchebags as soon as the clock struck 11. On a Sunday. Are bros really out trolling at 11 pm on a Sunday? I need to have my guard up more often, I suppose. We couldn’t take all the arrogance in the bar at that point, so we parted ways and I immediately started trying to find places where I could get food delivered. Apparently, there was one near our hotel that delivers until 4 am every night of the week. Seems unnecessary, but what do I know about life in a big city? That turkey melt was delicious.

Monday dawned bright and early, and AJ and I were excited to have almost a full day in the city to keep exploring before we had to leave. First on the agenda was food, of course, but then we went to the Skydeck of the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower or something else stupid) and got in the eternally stretching line. We got there about half an hour after the tower opened to tourists, and it still was going to take an hour before we got to the top. However, they entertained us with lots of security screenings, a film about the construction of the building, and a host of fascinating facts. Did you know the Sears Tower is 286 Barack Obamas tall? Now you know.

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Chicago is badass both on the ground and from above.

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AJ loves pictures

It was pretty cool, but the highlight of the entire experience for me was the awesome scarf I bought in the gift shop. I have no idea why the sell scarves in the Sears Tower gift shop, but it’s fundamentally unimportant. Pretty sure I’ve worn it every day since I bought it.

After the Sears/Willis Tower, we learned why they call it the “Windy City” and made our way through downtown Chicago, which had suddenly been overtaken by a tornado, apparently. Thank Grilled Cheesus it wasn’t that windy during the marathon, because I could barely walk forward. We were heading over towards The Bean, which is a famous Chicago landmark that doesn’t sound that awesome, but was supposedly really awesome. On the way, we randomly ran into a parade.

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Oh you know. Just a parade. On a Monday.

So The Bean is like…a giant reflective bean sculpture that is in the park in the middle of the city. I’m going to be honest – I didn’t think it was going to be all that exciting. I don’t really get that hopped up about sculptures. But you know what is the best thing ever? THE BEAN.

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Apparently the Bean has a real name, like the Cloud Gate or something. This explains why I couldn’t check in at “The Bean” on my phone.

It reflects really amazing views of the city and also is just like looking in a mirror. I have no idea how the Bean Maker did it.

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Just us taking a picture of ourselves in the Bean.

I couldn’t stop taking pictures, but I’ll spare you from most of them.

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Under the Bean. Blew my fucking mind.

Anyway, so after the Bean, it was time to stuff our faces with more Chicago fare. Up next on the menu was Chicago style hot dogs, and we had been referred to Portillo’s by Matt. Now, I consider myself somewhat of a hot dog connoisseur. I have very high standards unless I am very drunk. However, I am a bit of a purist and don’t really put much of anything on my hot dogs because I actually like the taste of them, so I really had no idea what to expect from a Chicago style hot dog. I just knew they came with a lot of stuff. After navigating the terrifying maze that is the ordering system at Portillo’s (thanks for the warning, Matt), I just got two Portillo dogs and hoped for the best.

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When was the last time you had a hot dog that came with an ENTIRE pickle spear? Not never.

It was pretty delicious, but I think I’ll stick with my plain hot dogs for the most part. All those vegetables seem too healthy. Next, AJ and I decided to scope out prospective apartments because we totally want to live in Chicago check out the Lincoln Park Zoo, once again utilizing our superior knowledge of the public transportation system. Despite my severe intolerance of aquariums (for admittedly no viable reason), I really like zoos. Especially free zoos. It was a bit chilly in the wind, but we got to see plenty of animals, some of them a little closer than expected.

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I did not use zoom on my camera for this. That’s how far the tiger was. It was very angry.

The best thing about the zoo was when I saw one of those little machines that makes the crappy plastic figurines of whatever animal you are looking at. I LOVED those things when I was a kid! I was really sad to find that neither of us had enough cash to make my dream of owning a plastic gorilla come true. If anyone lives near the Lincoln Park Zoo and would like to send me one, I would be much obliged.

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It’s a MINIATURE PLASTIC FACTORY

After walking around the zoo and being reminded why we don’t want to have children for several more years and enjoying the views of the animals, we had a little bit of time to kill before heading to the airport, so we decided to head to the Navy Pier, which was one of the other big attractions in Chicago that we hadn’t covered yet. I knew there were restaurants and kind of a carnival atmosphere, but honestly we just needed something to do and so we figured we’d head over. Turns out they have a ferris wheel with a pretty good view of the city. It has a good view of the city because it is high in the air. And it shakes in the wind. And I’m pretty sure we almost died.

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Last picture in Chicagoicon_sad-20On the world’s most terrifying ferris wheel.

And with that, we headed back to the hotel to grab our bags before the long journey home. Although I completely and totally exhausted from the whole weekend, it was definitely one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Not exactly a relaxing experience, but Chicago was awesome, and I generally don’t even like cities. I did not think a homeless person was going to pee on me even one time. Can’t really ask for much more than that!

Leave a comment: What else do we need to do next time we’re in Chicago? Or, why do you think your city is better? Please leave the name of your superior Bean-like sculpture so I can google it.

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