Yesterday I returned from a 4-night business/conference trip to Chicago – one of my favorite cities. On the way there I figured out that it has been about 2 ½ years since my last visit, a tragedy on all accounts. Only a 4 hour drive from Toledo, we used to visit quite often. Being “married with child(ren)” makes it hard for a quick trip to the windy city but this trip showed me that we all need to go back soon. I saw it for the first time through a mother’s eyes and saw how walkable the city is, how safe most of the streets feel and how kid-friendly it can be.
But I was on my own for this trip (with two colleagues whom I consider good friends and a host of others from my department) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The weather was incredible – a bit of Indian summer with 80-degree days featuring crisp blue skies. We stayed at the Sheraton, which although showing a bit of wear around the edges, had a great location and my room faced Navy Pier. The first night after a nice long walk down the Lakefront Trail from Ohio Street Beach to East Chestnut and back down Michigan Avenue we indulged in a movie, Dark Knight. Since my coworker is male and both Chicago baseball teams were playing we ended up at ESPN Zone for dinner. Not much to talk about there, but if you need a testosterone kick this is the place to go.
Unfortunately, I woke up at 6:30 AM the next morning and was unable to fall back asleep. Luckily I had Mark put 30 Day Shred on my iPod so I got that hooked up to the TV and got to work (yes, I packed a set of 5 lb. dumbbells in my suitcase). Level 1 rocked and I felt so good afterwords I decided to hit the lake trail again for a few miles. By the time I checked out the cafe at Fox & Obel for a chai my muscles were screaming at me. That Jillian ain’t no joke!
That afternoon included some power-shopping and lots of walking with my boss who was in search of a formal for an upcoming event. We took to the State Street area and hit Loehmann’s, Nordstrom Rack, Filene’s Basement, TJ Maxx and finally Macy’s (in the beautiful Field’s building) where we found the perfect dress. We then meet some others for drinks and a light bite at Su Casa – good drinks, crappy food. After heading back to the hotel for a quick change we ended up with everyone from my office – 12 people in all – at the Terrace at Conrad. The drinks were extremely pricy but the vibe was great and a vendor who is also a friend generously picked up the tab. This is a rooftop bar and had some pretty views and comfortable seating. Several people ordered from the tapas menu, but I wasn’t hungry. It’s a cute place if you’re looking for a place on Michigan to get away from the crowds.
On Friday afternoon we headed to Giordano’s on North Rush to satisfy a deep-dish pizza craving at lunch. Good food and the lunch special “personal dish” was cheap and relatively fast since they were pre-made. I guess it would be a good spot if you’re in the mood for deep dish but I really don’t have much to compare to. After a session or two I managed to eek out another round of 30 Day Shred before I headed out to Navy Pier with a colleague. We ended up at Riva, sipping drafts, soaking up the sun and watching dozens of sailboats and hundreds of people go by. I had been there years ago with my Uncle and it was a nice place to return to. You can’t ask for a better view and their hummus was delicious.
That night I went up to Andersonville to have dinner with a college friend, Tom. It was great to leave the downtown area for the evening and, of course, to catch up. It’s been way too long since I’ve seen him and we had a fantastic time gabbing away. As he showed me around the neighborhood we passed Hopleaf, which Danielle had recommended as one of her favorites, so we stopped in. Danielle specifically said “You MUST go and get the mussels” and she was right – they were perfect! Paired with a Bell’s Amber and I was very, very happy. After dinner we strolled up the street to another bar for cocktails so we could continue our conversation. It was a perfect, relaxed time and I’m so happy to have seen Tom. I can’t wait this long for our next visit.
Saturday was the last day of the conference and after a quick jaunt the the West Egg for a very hearty and delicious breakfast we wrapped up our “official” reason for being there. After that I strolled over to Uncle Julio’s to meet an old neighbor to catch up over some standard Mexican fare. Their shrimp quesadilla was very good and the sopaipillas were better. I made my way the 3 miles back to the hotel, patting myself for not getting lost once on all my walking adventures, and caught some of the college football on TV with a friend. After an excruciating session with Jillian I dragged my travel partners to my favorite Chicago eats: Shaw’s Crab House. We were seated in the bar right away and had a couple of good, strong fruity drinks. But what I had been looking forward to all week was the lobster roll and it did not disappoint. I’ve never been to New England for the real deal but this thing has to be close – a toasty, buttered roll loaded with huge chunks of sweet lobster lightly dressed in a mayo dressing. It’s about as close to a religious experience as you can have in a restaurant. Everyone was happy, even the guy who “doesn’t eat things that come out of the water”. Even though I was very full, I had to take another of Foodmomiac’s suggestions and get the raspberry pie. I DID share mine but have to say that it’s everything Danielle said and more. Even if you don’t like seafood, if you are in Chicago go to Shaw’s for the pie.
Sunday morning I was up at 6:30 AM again (damn it! why can’t my body let me sleep in when I have no responsibilities to tend to?) so I dragged out the weights and tacked the Shred again. That’s right – I did it every day I was there. If that’s not a testament to it being a workout you can fit into any schedule I don’t know what is. By the time I was done the sun was rising so I decided to head south on the lakefront trail and took my football-fan friend with me. We walked down past the harbors and parks so he could see Solider Field – a round trip trek of almost 6 miles. It was an okay day but cloudy with a stiff breeze blowing off the lake; a signal that it was time to head home.
Since I ate my way through the city I was a bit nervous about the damage I had done. I was pleased to find out when I got home that not only did I not do any damage, but I lost weight on my trip. I guess walking several miles a day along with getting your ass kicked daily by Jillian is the way to survive a trip to your favorite city when you have an expense account and vendors picking up the tabs. I highly recommend it.
*I also highly recommend getting dining suggestions from Foodmomiac if headed to Chicago. Then do exactly what she says, she won’t disappoint! I was bummed I didn’t see her while I was there, ironically she was in Ohio.