Bean and Nash In The Windy City

Emphasis on windy. Super emphasis. The most emphasis.

I spent the last five days in Chicago visiting my best friends from abroad. Two of us are based in Chicago and the other two are based in New York and Boston, so we figured we would bring the fun to the midwest for a change of pace. Yes, it was cold. Very, very cold. Like, I can’t feel my fingers or face and I want to punch someone and then jump in a hot tub cold. Alas, we survived the sub-zero temps and managed to explore the city’s landmarks, streets, and restaurants. Here’s a quick round-up of the places we want and noms and we consumed!

After we arrived on Friday afternoon, food was necessary. Our hostess took us to Taco Joint for some bomb.com tacos and guac. Honestly, what is better after a flight? I ordered the al pastor, ceviche, and cochinita tacos and was not disappointed. They were all flavored perfectly and paired well with the guacamole that I more/less drowned myself in. After tacos, we walked to The Bourgeois Pig for coffee, where we sat down and chatted with a slightly off couple about hand cream and funny Instagram accounts. ‘Twas a memorable afternoon spent at the adorable cafe, full of adorable antiques. We then took the CTA downtown and roamed about until we found ourselves at Zara and Sprinkles Cupcakes. Once a basic betch, always a basic betch, right?

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On Saturday, we trudged through the wind and rain to start our day at Intelligentsia for coffee. I must day, I tried my friend’s mocha latte and it may have been the best I’ve ever experienced.

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After charging up, we headed to Millennium Park to see “the bean,” which looked like a giant silver lima bean to me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The Bean was followed by a stop at Lou Malnati’s for some deep-dish ‘za that thinks it’s better than New York-style pizza. The deep dish was good, but it was no NY pizza. Sorry Chicago, you come in second.

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Following our visit to the bean, we took a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry, which was thoroughly enjoyable. Unfortunately, we got there an hour before it closed, which left us with little time to explore. Honestly, I think that every adult turns into a child when at a museum; I’m not saying that I didn’t get super excited to see all these planes! The museum also has an exhibit where chicks are hatching and we watched a few break out of their shells and enter the world. Like magic!

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Sunday started out with brunch at Meli Cafe, an upscale cafe serving everything you could ever want for brunch. What did I order? The oatmeal with bananas and a brown sugar crust. Obviously. If I ever get back to Meli, I’ll be ordering one of their breakfast bowls. Read the menu; do they not sound divine?!

Our hearty brunch gave us energy to shop in Wicker Park, an area full of unique shops and restaurants. The falling snow was tough to trudge through, but we made it! When we couldn’t handle much more, we stopped for coffee at brü. The chai latte was just the right thing on a snowy day.

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That night, we met friends for dinner at Au Cheval, which is supposed to have one of the best burgers in the US. I can confirm that the burger is, indeed, one of the best, if not the best, I’ve ever had. The ‘single’ burger is topped with two prime beef patties, cheddar cheese, a dijonnaise (a mixture of dijon mustard and mayonnaise), and sliced house made pickle. Oh, and a fried egg to take it over the top in the most perfect way. Au Cheval’s french fries are fried in pork fat, which blew my freaking mind. They might be the best french fries I’ve ever had, no joke. Perfectly indulgent, with a deep, salty flavor from the pork fat and a crunchy outer layer that protects a warm, soft inner layer. Served with a saucer of aioli for dipping, these fries are completely worth every single calorie. If you really want to get crazy (I did), dip a fry in the aioli, stick the fry in the burger, and take a bite. Prepare for the dreamiest, most indulgent culinary experience of your life. LOL, do you guys think I liked Au Cheval? I tried a friend’s order of the toasted open-face ham and cheese fondue sandwich with a fried egg and all I can say is yes. As I shared the burger with a friend, I had my own order of matzo ball soup, which was everything that a catholic girl who went to high school with lots of jewish friends could ever want. The matzo ball was baseball-sized and served in a light, savory vegetable broth. Okay, should we move on from Au Cheval now? Ugh, I’m not ready…

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After awakening from our food-coma on Monday, we decided to visit the Shedd Aquarium because fish are friends, not food. I have no pictures of the fishies, so you’ll have to imagine what they looked like. The view from the aquarium featured Chicago’s skyline, which was really something to see. Sometimes that you forget that cities other than your own are equally as awe-inspiring.

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We tapped into our inner tourists after the aquarium and rode over to Sears Tower to elevate over 100 floors for an unforgettable view of Chicago. The tower features a SkyDeck where visitors can check out Chicago from all angles.

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On Tuesday morning, we hung out at Dollop Coffee and sipped while chatting. The cafe features a back room filled with art and inspiring decorative pieces. Everything down to the tables and chairs felt like it was done by hand.

Having never before visited Chicago, my first trip there was certainly a memorable one. Although I might never live there due to the frigid temps, I hope to get back one day soon to explore even more. And to return to Au Cheval for that burger.

-G

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