We hopped the train to downtown and just outside of Union Station is Lou Mitchel’s restaurant. Since 1923 Lou’s has been at the start of famous Route 66, that American mother road connecting East to the West during the dust bowl ( 1930’s ) as people migrated to California hoping for new chances and prosperity.
Route 66 has long faded, replaced by the super highways that bypass the small towns, but Lou’s has kept some old traditions. You get a donut hole ( baked there ), a complimentary orange slice and prune with breakfast, and a free tiny serving of ice cream after your meal.
We had omelets which were light and fluffy, but the whole-wheat toast baked there was sublime. A bite of omelet, a bite of toast, a sip of fresh squeezed orange juice… life is good.
With a bit of ice-cream to cleanse the palate we were off. Chicago has adopted some European ideas for bike lanes and in many places the bike lane is next to the sidewalk inside the parking lane. This creates a wall of parked cars to protect cyclists – and I felt safe on those roads. We headed over to the 606, a new elevated bike/jogging/hiking path that runs over the streets. You can cycle for forty city blocks without a light or car nearby. It was one of the best planned paths I’ve seen – and at $95 million to complete – it’s certainly costly. But it makes Chicago safer and better for living.
Heading North about 35 miles through the luxurious Evanston and nearby burgs along the lake you view awe inspiring houses but we had The Botanic Gardens and butterflies in mind.
Then North another 15 miles for lunch…
Then ten more miles to the train-station and home. Chicago is a cyclist’s friend.
If you watch football you know of Mike Ditka, the Hall of Fame player and coach. He has a namesake restaurant in Chicago and after losing a bet on my beloved Browns against the Bears we settled with lunch at the restaurant of “Da Coach.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the milieu was upscale with some memorabilia but it was tastefully presented, this place was about the food, comfort food with large portions.
We started with a glass of cab, the “Hall of Fame” red and it was quite good. The house brand is made out near Napa by Terlato wines.
We had our eye on the filet mignon sliders, but chose the pot roast nachos. They were great, the kind of snack that you just can’t leave unfinished. The delicate meat combined with the salty chips and a zesty but not too hot halipeno slices was just right.
The bread rolls were excellent, but not photogenic. For my entree I had a pork chop ( well done by request ) served with mashed sweet potatoes and apple chutney and cherry jus with a side of creamed corn. The chop was cooked perfectly, and I admit I gnawed a bit on the bone after the meat had been dispatched. The sauce was very good.
The creamed corn was not your traditional canned green-giant corn of my youth. This wasn’t sweet and had a hint of garlic but was smooth and rich to the taste. It was outstanding. My friend took the remaining corn home and they fed it to his very aged mother in law who had been off her feed. She finished every bite. I suppose that solidifies the cream corn as comfort food!
For dessert, just a little vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce. The perfect ending to an excellent meal.
After an almost endless winter, on the first good day we took the train downtown for a road trip.
We got down early enough so the traffic was light and the drivers are cycling tolerant but those little bike lanes make city cycling exciting! As the city wakes, the energy is incredible.
There are so many things to see – we rode past a rugby team practicing, then along the beach front “Gold Coast” just full of young people and dogs strolling, jogging, riding, fetching – every possible combination.
I saw a woman body builder riding, and secretly coveted her triceps and her small stomach 🙂 We lunched at Super-dog, a wonderful one of a kind hot-dog place Chicagoans so love – there we saw a group of Hispanic kids acting like Hells Angels on their souped up mopeds.
We passed a cancer walk, and a bike race, and a run for charity and if you ride far enough, a temple.
We saw a model in a diaphronous gown posing in the wind at the waterfront – holding a yoga warrior pose while her gown danced in the wind. When we rode by and the photographer had to stop, she told us “Thanks that pose was killing me”
We passed a sculpture park, where we saw Adam and Eve and Martians – Skokie has a park that is full of modern sculpture making statements even I could comprehend.
but the image that stay with me — a little girl, perhaps three or four standing in the woods before her mother playing her tiny violin. Chicago is unusual in all things. I needn’t have ridden 62 miles to discern that, but like the woman cranking her wheelchair bike over the hill – some journeys are worth the effort.
In the middle of the cold snap I dropped my wife and daughter off at the airport for a trip to Costa Rica. That left me frozen and forlorn by Skokie Illinois. I stopped at a friendly looking place place called Kappys. A family owned and run place for thirty years, the owner came out and greeted every customer, many by name.
Imagine my surprise when I saw they had a premium root beer on tap, Sprecher’s from Wisconsin.
Since it was early, I went the breakfast comfort route…. Biscuits and gravy, eggs over easy and sausage…. Chicago is a great place to eat, there’s great places at almost every corner.
My dad enjoyed his cups. But every year for one month he would abstain from drink. Of course he always chose February, the shortest month. I suppose leap years were an extra trial. Therefore I will return in March to the blogging world. Hope to see you in a bit.
It’s funny how pecking order works at a business lunch. The waitress approaches the end of the table and asks the junior member what he prefers for a beverage. He hesitates, then blurts out iced tea. Around the seats she goes, and lemonade, Arnold Palmer ( a Chicago drink of 1/2 lemonade 1/2 iced tea ) , water, coke join the list until she comes to the leader. He looks around, says “I’ll have a glass of wine,” and immediately seven other orders get changed.
Restaurants grow and change, and this one continues to grow and gets better and better.
Cooper’s Hawk has a big wine list as they are a vintner, I took a taste of a Meritage ( a blend which should drink like a Bordeaux ), but it was a bit lite so I settled on a nice oakey chardonnay.
Of course a larger group means more appetizers — the Mexican egg rolls and calamari were fun, the potstickers outstanding. I even tried the crab-cake, and found it full of crab meat which retained the feel and light flavor crab is so famous for. This was a great warm up.
Then the cheese plate and pretzel bread. I suspect that if I were Super-man, pretzel bread might have qualities of kryptonite.
One thing I admire at Cooper’s Hawk is that they really offer good lunch selections with smaller portion size. I chose the pork medallions, mashed potatoes and asparagus. It was Estafee ( a reference to H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy Papers for Sci-fi fans, which translates to essential and great )
Then it was time for dessert. I was up for something different, and tried their home-made ice-cream sandwich. Thin slices of banana, a wafer with a crisp toasted texture delicious ice-cream and a very light subtly sweep syrup. Each bite was a delight of texture, balanced flavor, subtly sweet wrapped around the richness of ice cream. This is one of the best desserts I have chanced across.
Of course then it’s the expresso ( the smallest amount of coffee possible ) to get through the afternoon.
Great meals are always enhanced by conversation and company. The people and sharing are what makes dining fine.
Expense accounts are Sirens, urging us to abandon restraint and indulge the senses…. Oh the calories…. On the other hand I suppose we must help out the economy…. This has been a week of lunching out as the merger rolls on and local vendors stop by for one last visit.
When you dine at White Chocolate in Naperville if you can eat on the patio ( not feasible when the temperature is 8 degrees ) or in the small room the experience is the best. The big room is too loud for my taste as it makes conversation difficult. But when it comes to the table, only good words come to mind.
Start with the Ahi tuna sushi
Then move to the soup, a tomato gin soup with mushrooms and a hint of bacon. It’s a bit salty but rich and creamy. It was perfect for dipping the pretzel bread which came with honeyed butter.
Their French Dip sandwich and fresh roasted beet salad. The prime-rib is thinly sliced and so tender that it really does melt in your mouth. Their home made creamy horse radish makes the perfect compliment to this wonderful sandwich.
For dessert, a desert with one extra “S” we tried the banana creme pie. It has a thick crumbly graham cracker crust, filling and white chocolate swirls. It is very good. A little espresso to try to keep me awake in the afternoon.
I always enjoy visits here, too bad with the merger this might be the last one…
How to celebrate ? Call ahead to your favorite chef and ask them to do a foie gras. It’s not on the menu, but if you’re lucky….
Start with a sweet white, it adds perfectly to the rich taste of the foie gras.
Foie gras, on a roasted lady apple with mushrooms and a heavenly sauce.
Next the big red which opened up wonderfully as we dined.
For dessert, a cheese plate…
A wine infused fig, Amish blue cheese, Bellavitano with a wine rind, pistachios, local cheeses and a drizzle of caramel, organic honey, cranberry jam
Another great meal from Chef Amaury.
The plainest of doors might conceal the finest of surprises… Solemn Oath Mircobrewery is just down the road. They are a tiny place, with a tap-room and they sell all their beer at local restaurants, no bottles or cans to be had.
Chicagoland Microbreweries mean beer, fresh beer. How fresh? Well it’s made just over there.
What’s new today? A strong Belgian Ale aged in Cabernet wine barrels.
Must be solemn, they take their beer so seriously
If you don’t mind eating from plastic plates or your chowder in a plastic bowl ( but I admit it’s a bright color ), but you care about seafood, then Chin’s is a great place.
If you don’t mind bread rolls slathered in oil with big pieces of garlic on top, then you might find Chin’s fun.
I like it, but of course I don’t mind my drinking water in a throwaway glass, but I was thrilled my beer came with a glass tumbler.
A step down? Not at all – my favorite place for fish in Chicagoland.
When the texture of the potatoes is just right, the chowder is pure delight !
Then two en trays to share, blackened halibut, and crab legs. Like the old quote from the Japanese anime “Full Metal Alchemist”, these two courses allowed Jan and I “equivalent exchange”
The prairie by my house differs every day. Today a toad hopped in front of my bicycle risking life and limb in search of love. Small rabbits rest next to the path and dart into the deep weeds as I ride by. Where a few days past a million golden Black-eyed Susans danced in the wind, now ten thousand Queen Anne’s lace hold court. Which do I prefer ? The one that’s here today.