Outside Eats: Chicago
Go get yourself a snack, ’cause this post is long and full of deliciousness. I recently traveled to Chicago to visit some of my favorite relatives, and I kid you not, I think we spent 80% of our time eating and the other 20% talking about where we were going to eat next. In short: a perfect vacation. I just have to talk about a few of the places we hit.
1. Glazed and Infused Doughnuts (there are several locations, but I went to the one in Lincoln Park on my first day and the one in Wicker Park on my last day. Yes, it was that good.)
I literally walked off the plane, checked into the hotel, and went to Glazed and Infused. It was the first place I’d ever been in Chicago, and it was easily my favorite. You walk in and immediately smell doughnuts; you just get happy. There’s nothing else to say, you have to smile. There’s fresh coffee and warm samples and friendly employees wearing bandanas (a sure sign you’re in for a too cute/hip experience) and comfy benches and oh my gosh I did not want to leave. Even though it was 10 am on a Friday, I loved seeing people clearly “working from home” as they sipped from cartons of milk and pulled apart a doughnut while on a conference call. If you have to work, this is the way to do it, guys. Luckily, I was with four other people so I could order six doughnuts (yeah, one didn’t make it to the pictures) without getting weird stares from other customers or having to loudly say that I was taking them to a party and not in fact sampling them all for myself. This happens to me a lot. In places like this I tend to order multiples when I can’t decide on what to get. (I can’t decide the majority of the time, if you couldn’t tell.)
In case you’re curious, I’ll tell you which ones I got. And if you’re ever in Chicago, you have to promise that you’ll bring a bag of them back for me.
Terry’s Toffee: A yeast raised ring doughnut with caramel glaze, toffee bits, and chocolate drizzle. Pure candy deliciousness, even if I’m not the biggest fan of toffee on doughnuts.
Maple Bacon Long John: A yeast raised long john doughnut with a maple syrup glaze and a fat strip of real bacon. Not for the faint of heart. Or stomach. (Neither of these apply to me).
Chocolate Old Fashioned: A chocolate buttermilk cake doughnut rolled in a dark chocolate ganache. Without a doubt the best cake doughnut I’ve ever had. Tied with the crème brûlée for my favorite of the day.
Crème Brûlée: A vanilla pastry cream-filled Bismark doughnut with a torched sugar topping. This doughnut. Oh man. I honestly can’t tell you how good this doughnut was. To request one for my last meal would be an understatement. It was incredible. The end.
Mixed Berry Fruit Fritter: They offer a different special fruit fritter every day, which is super cool, but I’m so glad I was there for berry day. Berries are one of my favorite things to put in dessert. Not because fruit in pastries means they’re healthy and you can have them for breakfast (it doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop me), but I really feel like the natural tartness in berries lends itself perfectly to rich treats. And nothing is more rich than fried dough covered in glaze. MMmmmmMMmmm.
2. Waffles Chicago in South Loop.
Who doesn’t love waffles?? If you don’t, I don’t think we can be friends any more. Sorry not sorry. I’m so glad this place exists. I think waffles are a really incredible and unique food. Although they’re almost exclusively classified as a dessert-y breakfast food, I almost prefer them paired with savory components, be they literally within the waffle or served on top. The food at this place was delicious, but moreover it gave me so many great inspirations for my own cooking. I thank Waffles for that. Unless you’re splitting one dish with a group, I recommend coming HUNGRY. I don’t think this is a venue that specializes in a lack of butter. Or cream. Or bacon.
In addition to the dense and chewy Liege waffle, which came with blackberry topping and lavender butter (Y U M) and the sampler platter, which involved mini versions of the Mexican Chocolate waffle with orange Anglaise; the Red Velvet waffle with whipped cream cheese, strawberry compote, and candied walnuts; the Brussels waffle with blueberry sauce; and the Green Tea waffle made with Matcha powder, lemon ginger cream, shaved pistachios and candied ginger, all of which can be seen below in the pictures, we also sampled the more traditional savory waffle dish of Fried Chicken on top of a bacon waffle with spicy maple syrup. There were already too many things on my plate, but if I could go back I’ll be getting the parmesan and lemon tilapia over a garlic butter waffle and the mini waffle bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.
And now for some of my favorite specific dishes at more restaurants…
3. Brussels sprouts with marcona almonds and manchego cheese at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (incidentally, I think my grandfather once called me this -babareeba, not cafe-..weird nicknames for Rebecca ftw?) in Lincoln Park. I actually never like brussels sprouts, but this fantastic tapas bar changed my mind. They also served up some ridiculous fried goat cheese balls, chicken and chorizo and veggie skewers, red pepper aioli, handmade empanadas, and some magical white peach sangria. Was I drunk off three sips at lunchtime? Yes. Was it stupidly awesome? YES.
4. Homemade pop tarts at 2 Sparrows in Lincoln Park. A raspberry jam and basil (yes, basil) filled pastry with a vanilla bean sauce. The basil made this pastry one of my favorites of the whole trip. I’ll definitely be trying out something like this myself. They also make a mean Eggs in Purgatory (shirred egg in spicy tomato sauce served in a mini cast iron skillet). Yes plz.
5. Baby back ribs, coleslaw, mac & cheese, and cornbread at Smoque in Irving Park. Wow. This was some rockin’ barbeque. It’s incredible what good food does to a simple menu. Tender pulled pork, unbelievable baked beans, tangy coleslaw, and my first ever taste of brisket! This made me happy I was taking a break from pescetarianism. Sometimes it’s worth it to have a little meat-day once and a while! Also, Guy Fieri has eaten here, and he is a majestic creature.
And just in case you don’t think that’s enough food, there was more incredible coffee and pastries at Buzz Killer Espresso and the Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park (yeah, if you didn’t notice, Wicker Park is essentially Chicago’s Brooklyn. I was wondering where all the cute hipsters were hiding in this town, and they were literally all in Wicker Park. I felt underdressed the moment I stepped on the trendy graffiti-tagged sidewalk.) Also, the best Chai latte of my life at Dollop Coffeeshop in Lakeview. It’s gotta be really good for me to not order coffee somewhere, and this is one of those places. Last but not least, ice cream and ferris wheels at Navy Pier. Chicago, I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty into you.