Ah to be young, as they say. I'll be frank, this article is going to be written from as much recollection as I can muster. As Chicago treated me fair to above average, but not without an abundance of libation.
I was tasked with helping formulate our excursion to Chicago on request of two of my oldest friends in honor of their upcoming nuptials. That's right, it was time for a good old fashioned bachelor party... for two. And not just any two. One to be wed in October- an esteemed whole animal butcher, lover of tequila & breaking bread over stellar meals. The other taking the plunge next year- a rising physician, no stranger to the finer things, an above average Karaoke singer and always having, what the french call, a damn good time. So we all set about crafting an unforgettable weekend, that we, collectively, don't remember all of. While we experienced so much, I'm going to focus on grub & beverages.
Once we were able to corral the 16 attendees in to one direction after arrival, we made our way to Peqoud's Pizza. Iconic? Yes. Line from here to Indiana? You Betcha. Worth it? Absolutely. The ambience is loud and divey, the perfect way to get a group fired up for the weekend ahead. Give yourself 2 hours from reservation to exit, if not a little extra for a large group. Its no fast food joint.
I have had several deep dishes, correction, 'attempts' at deep dish pizza, in my life time. Most of which are mediocre amalgamations of doughy, over-sauced blobs with a stack of processed "mozzarella" that flakes off. But this was something entirely different from previous failures. A balanced amount of sauce, not overpowered by seasoning or sugar, has a surprisingly fresh tang- paired up with cheese that would string from two stories up. Toppings are up to you. But that caramelized halo. girl. GIMME DAT HALO. Perfectly browned from what I assume is more cheese, this the true piece de resistance. The recommended pizza drinkin beer was Half Acre Brewery's Pony Pilsner. And they were entirely right. Clean drinking beer without the frills. Great by the pitcher and easily one of my favorite beverages of the trip.
My only picture was of our table, knocked over beer pints, single slices left in pans, and crumpled up napkins. The wife suggested i just forgo the pic and let you know its a damn good pie and you should go. We finished the night at Kingston Mine's. College style well drink- but two blues bands playing on two stages back and forth all night made it worth the trip. Some really great music!.
A day in Wrigleyville was also completely in order. Our slow moving bunch stumbled our way to the brown line and hopped off at Southport, and made the block to Crosby's Kitchen for brunch. Im not a die hard for sweets in the AM, but this monkey bread made me a believer!
Traditionally, the monkey breads i remember had tear-apart pieces of high yeast dough like french bread and cinnamon rolls. But these little detachable pillows were more the stuff of angels. And brioche. Lathered in cinnamon sugar, baked in cast iron & finished off with housemade cream cheese icing.
The eggs dishes were fair to middlin, but i'll take that monkey bread and this bomb bloody mary (comes with a free pony of high life, because they know you're hurtin.)
Just 3 blocks northeast we found ourselves in the heart of Wrigleyville. And fortunately we came fully prepared! We decided that, with a group of 16 but no diehard cubbies fans, tickets to one of the rooftops was more in order. We used wrigleyrooftopsllc.com and I truly had no complaints with the whole experience. The view was similar to any outfield seating at one of today's larger stadiums, and 3 floors of open beer & wine, and unlimited brats, burgers, nachos etc; Standard fare for a ballgame- nothing to blow your socks off but plenty to soak up the free suds! Just good all around fun for a ball game, and an experience you can't really get at other parks. If you're with just adults & the cubbies win on a weekend, stick around for a great time. Every bar was packed!
I can honestly say I've become a smokehouse skeptic. Too many times i've felt the excitement of trying a new bbq joint- you know the one's that have so much age and character that they can't possibly be bad- just to see them come up short. I was hesitant to follow one of our crews need for some q with a reccomendation to visit Green Street Smoked Meats. And boy howdy do I stand corrected.
The entrance to this place is so subtle but entirely on point. An alley lined with a shed roof on one side, string lights guiding you to the rear entry. Inside, an eclectic open hall, rustic and naturally lit (accompanied with more string lighting) and the vibe of forgotten meatpacking districts of old. The vibe is spot on for a Sunday mid-morning. Won over by the charm of the interior and a solid margarita from our bartender- I decided I would drink the drink, and ride the ride. I went big on my menu choice, and I don't regret it one bit.
You know those gimmicky menu items they put in their own little box above the rest of the menu board. The "hey, you, guy who isn't sure yet. yeah you. try this" menu item. Well, I signed myself up for the full smoked beef short rib at $25. Coming in a little over a pound and a half, this bad boy was unwrapped from the parchment to release a cloud of peppercorn steam. Incredibly well seasoned in what I assume was their blend reminiscent of a Montreal mix, the attendant slid out the bone and sliced four thick strips of the short rib, each one I made in to redneck taco (folded in white bread and drizzled in their house q sauce). The sauce was tangy and not too sweet, which I appreciate. But little was needed. The meat had balanced smoke and salt and was cooked perfectly. This is an example of a local joint utilizing their own local products to do what they do best. They know beef, and they nailed it.
It wasn't until we left that I realized this place was part of restaurant guru Brendan Sodikoff's Hogsalt- including Au Chevaul, Bavette's & a few other of Chicago and NYC's finer new joints. Bravo on this one- I would recommend that short rib to any Texan, Memphisian, Kansas Citian, and all the other folks that think they own the right way to barbecue.
Stuffed to the gills, we took a solid walk through the city and sobered up a bit. Something we just couldn't have! So we made our way to the highly recommended tiki bar- Three Dots & a Dash. Okay. This place will hold a special place in my heart. Forever- or until the next tiki bar. The walk down to the basement floor was highlighted by an enormous wall of blue lit skulls. Like the call of the sirens to every Gilligan and Skipper-too who have made their way down to the rum filled concoctions below. Each signature cocktail comes in its own signature cast glass. Bamboo, tiki heads, skulls, coconuts. Garnished with cherry laden swords and purple orchids, these cocktails are no bathtub-amateur-hour-colada. No, these are craft cocktails made by people who really care about their skills and upholding the tiki vibe.
Oh, and big group rollin in deep? No worries, they have the most legit group cocktails for up to 12 that one can fathom this side of Easter Island. We may have indulged in... a few. Seriously, it is hard to make a flaming skull taste that delicious. But they did. Kudos to them. (see first pic!)
A few places we ventured to didn't make the list. Some of our more fine dining ventures, while excellent at service and technique (and even quality of ingredients), just missed the mark on flavor. Perhaps too much hype from reviews, or perhaps my own preconception was over-inflated. More on that in another post. I'm up for giving the finer restaurants of Chicago another shot on a return trip, so any recommendations on steakhouses and Michelin I am totally up for.
Chicago, we salut your classics & applaud your newcomers. Now if i could just remember where I left my damn shoes...