Kevin and I had a long weekend free and we had several new domestic cities on the table. When we heard my brother was going on a work trip to Chicago with some co-workers we have gotten to know, the decision was easy. We were also in the peak of our Hamilton musical frenzy and the show had just opened in Chicago. I remember vividly when we confirmed we would go to Chicago with my brother- “Hey… Hamilton…Chicago…Could we?”
However, it being December in… Chicago… we knew some homework needed to be done to ensure our comfort and warmth. First thing we did was pick up new winter coats to replace the north face soft shell jackets we typically wear. These were the most legitimate winter coats we have owned in our adult life- thanks Macy’s! Then I knew the layering technique was going to be critical- freezing outside but it would be hot inside. My co-workers mentioned that fleece lined leggings were in existence so I quickly jumped on getting a pair of those along with black leather knee high boots. I also packed my two heaviest sweaters (wore one, packed one) and long sleeve shirts for layering. Since we wore most of our clothes, packing in the backpacks was simple since we were really just changing the first layer of clothes every day and the other layers were consistently the same.
We took an early AM flight out to Chicago into the Midway airport. Once we landed… easing our way into the cold, we took the train from the airport into the city to meet my brother at the hotel. Arriving around lunch time, we dropped our bags and made our way to his office where we grabbed food and caught up with his co-workers. While they continued the work day, we were surprised to learn that Jeremy McCarter was actually speaking in the area about his writing and his time working on Hamilton (bizarre timing since we solidified last minute tickets for the show tonight!). It was a great talk about a range of topics and a pleasure hearing about his experiences helping in the production of Hamilton and the cultural impact it has had. We swung by La Colombe for some warmth and refuel before picking up my brother.
Dinner: The Berghoff Restaurant
We met up with my brother’s co-workers and friends as a party of seven for dinner at this Germany styled meal at one of the oldest restaurants in Chicago. Over drinks and fun fair, we indulged in a variety of German classics, I myself got pierogies, as we kept an eye on the clock for our 7:30PM show time.
Yes, we got tickets. The resale market was not nearly as overpriced as the NYC area so we grabbed three reasonable tickets the week of the trip and prayed the overnight shipping of the tickets would reach us before our flight on Thursday. Bless the postal service- they arrived Wednesday night! The seats were high up but we didn’t care. We all had the soundtrack constantly on repeat and the songs memorized. We were now about the see the entire story unravel itself and we could not contain our excitement.
I do not think any of us blinked during the show. When it concluded, I turned to my right and my brother and Kevin barely moved from their positions, taking everything in, that we just witnessed. It was far better than we could have imagined (and we did imagine)- the songs took on another meaning and there was not one moment that the stage was still- there was constant movement and momentum in the show that simply listening to the soundtrack cannot portray. I know listen with an entire new perspective and it is truly incredible what the Hamilton team was able to accomplish with this show. I feel truly lucky and honored to have had to ability and opportunity to see Hamilton.
We found this well rated restaurant in the area and made the decision to give it a try! Southern cooking with an interesting dog with an under bite mascot, we settled in for hearty breakfast that had all the favorites on the menu. Solid breakfast choice that would keep us full for our morning.
Christkindlmarket was in full force and on our “must see” list to get into the holiday spirit. Different craft tents and tons of food and drink options lined the square as a traditional German holiday market. I would have loved to have spent so much more time here but the cold was unbearable (the cold pierced through 3 layers of socks- one of which was my HeatHolder socks– to pain my toes) so after a lap we took cover in some stores to thaw. We were so impressed with the area, even with the short time we spent there, and would love the chance to really explore every tent that was there.
After warming up a bit, we did a little bar hopping and found ourselves within a few blocks on a giant Christmas tree. Intrigued, weighing the cold with the “need to see things”, we walked (fast) to the tree and noticed we were not only next to an ice rink (could not handle being outside for that long!) but that we were near the bean! THE BEAN (why isn’t this in Boston? Or rather, why isn’t Chicago’s nickname “the bean”?)! Took the photo-op, and then ran back into another bar where we met my brother’s friends and drank spiked hot beverages.
Dinner: Au Cheval
A recommendation from one of my co-workers (as a MUST MUST MUST do), I decided we had no choice but in incorporate this into our plans. They do not take reservations so when we arrived, we put our names in and spent over an hour wait nearby. We got to our table and you could barely see in person sitting across from you- it’s quite dark with the tables lite by a single low-lit bulb. We were here for the burgers so did not fuss too much with the menu. Splurging a bit, we never say no to bone marrow and split that among the three of us. It was beyond delicious and the marmalade was so tasty! Shortly after, the burgers appeared. We each dived in and with the first bite we continued dinner with our heads down, so involved in this burger experience, eating in silence. I recall pausing for fresh air, lifting my head, and saw (barely) my brother sitting across from me licking his fingers and an empty plate simply exclaiming, “Well, that was amazing”. We each tried to identify why this burger was superior to previous burgers. Was the it meat? It was juicy and flavorful and fresh. Was it is bun? It did soak all the burger goodness quite well. Was it the cheese? Perfectly melted covering the surface area of the meat. Was it is sauce? I think so. I still do not know what the sauce was that covered the burger but it was insane. The combination created an euphoria for our taste buds, followed by massive food coma.
Well rated and recommended to us by my brother’s friends, this delight breakfast spot is adorably decorated and features a fantastic menu. We each got something very different and each meal was very good- from pancakes, crepes, a few different egg dishes, this was an excellent breakfast spot! Yolk has a few different locations so it makes it convenient to try from any part of the city.
With several museum options in the city, we narrowed it down to the Art Institute of Chicago (we learned is a world ranked art museum, up there with the Louvre!), the Field Museum (natural history) or the Museum of Science and Industry (yay science!). Only having time (and energy) for one, we collectively chose science since it is all of our first academic loves. We tend to judge a city by the caliber of the science museum- I know, nerds! We ended up hitting every exhibit in the museum- which was enormous! First stopping by the Christmas display of trees from every country, then the genetics area (go DNA!), a whisper gallery, mirror maze (numbers in nature), an entire area on weather, a section on the human body and affiliated sub sections, space exploration, to an entire World War II exhibit with U-Boat in the basement. One could spend multiple days here reading and learning in each exhibit. I do not think we could have made a wrong choice with any of the museums but I know we were all glad to have experienced this one. (My brother visited the Art Museum on a return trip and raved about it!)
Dinner: Spacca Napoli
We got a car to go a bit out of the center of the city to a neighborhood where our local friend lived, raving about this pizza place. After the long hours at the museum without sustenance, we were ready to eat. When seated, the five of us got several pieces and bottles of wine that kept us occupied for a lovely, long dinner in great company. We are privileged to continue to connect with new people in our travels and foster new friendships. You never know who you will meet and the stories you will share that spark a bond. Cheers to our Chicago friends!
Breakfast: Wildberry Cafe
Alas, the end of another quick trip. My brother had a very early flight back west so Kevin and I went to Wildberry Cafe for breakfast. Hoping to sneak in without a wait since it was still early, we were quickly seated among the line (pays off to be a party of two!). Another awesome breakfast spot, we filled up before we headed to the airport. I recall the jam being extra good here!
Chicago, you were awesome. While we didn’t have time for the deep dish pizza or famous hot dogs, we survived your brutal cold and indulged in some excellent food and (cough) saw Hamilton. We can’t wait to return in a warmer month when we can really enjoy all of your many offerings. Where did we miss that we need to hit on the next trip?