Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fat in Chicago

Van Gogh, The Drinkers, Art Institute of Chicago

Just like my 27 hours in Chicago, we'll make this quick:
The bus plopped me down in the middle of downtown on a Friday night. I thought about joining the cluster of ragtag "Occupy" protesters, but the numerous restaurants, still brimming with patrons after 9pm, seemed more inviting. Once again, my hunger eclipsed my punk sensibilities.

Knowing full well I was stumbling into the tourist-iest of touristy tourist joints (totally not punk!), I headed into Giordano's, hoping to God I could get one of their "world famous" stuffed deep dish pizzas in a size I could handle, or maybe just bum a slice from someone. Sadly, the very smallest would have run me $20 after tax and tip. Happily, this led me to order the Italian Beef sandwich instead. Just think: A toasty roll filled with tender beef sliced a millimeter thick, dipped in beef gravy, which was more like a salty, herby jus. The bartender asked if I was in town to run the Chicago Marathon. I chuckled, shook my head, and took another giant bite.

Eye-talian Beef sandwich at Giordano's

For lunch, I couldn't help but try an Indian fast casual restaurant with a Qdoba-like assembly line. Look, I watched a whole season of "America's Next Great Restaurant" hoping the Indian guy would win so I could someday experience this very thing. Chutney Joe's Indian Diner is a budding chain with two locations so far, and more coming soon. I tried the Red Bean Rajma, with a yogurt, tomato, roasted cumin and ginger sauce. The beans were suspiciously canned and smushy, but the sauce, garlicky naan and basmati rice were right on. At under $6, it was the one affordable thing I found in the whole city.

Red Bean Rajma at Chutney Joe's

Chicago's famed deep dish pizza is apparently only good if you have friends to share with, as I couldn't find a single place that sold by the slice. With two hours to go, I got desperate and tried a regular crust at State Street Pizza Co. This pizza was heavy, yo. I think it weighed double your average. The crust was dense and had a hint of honey. I sat at one of the window barstools, watched some freaks and families stroll by, and felt rather at home in a big city. This place could be a prime spot to stop and re-fuel mid-evening.

Slice of Pep from State Street Pizza Co. 
The Big Three

There were also the Gin-Gin Mules at the Whistler and the beers at some Wicker Park bar. At the Art Institute, my Art History minor made me feel majorly smart. It was a good day.

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