Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chicago in Spring Part 2

Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers

Late Saturday afternoon, we relaxed a bit in our hotel before heading out to find someplace to have dinner. We considered the high end steak houses, which are numerous in Chicago, and thought about what ethnicity we might look for. Italian, Greek, Mexican or Asian choices were mentioned.
Mrs. Spadoman was perusing the Chicago magazine that was placed on the coffee table of our room and saw a photo of one of her favorite foods, a Rueben Sandwich. It was indeed a beautiful photograph and I immediately said, “I wouldn’t mind a good Jewish deli for dinner.”
The name of this place was Eleven City Diner and it was on the South end of downtown. We checked the hours and such and decided to go there and have dinner. I’m sure it saved us a ton of money over the aged ribeye I had in mind, and it filled us up.
We were finished with dinner rather early and thought of checking out Buddy Guy’s Legends Blues Club. I remembered seeing that Big Bill Morganfield, Muddy Water’s son, was going to be playing. But we looked at each other and after the day we had after the late night before, we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a night.
Barb walked a couple of blocks away to a large downtown grocery store that housed a Starbucks and captured herself a large cup of coffee. She also picked up some water.
We did buy bottled water, although the tap water in Chicago is, in my humble opinion, some of the best for a municipal water supply anywhere I’ve ever been, and that would include a lot of places over the years. I’ve had many a discussion about how and why commercial bread and food taste distinctively better in Chicago compared to, say, Minneapolis. It’s because of the Lake Michigan water.
Many people have tried to imitate the famous Chicago style Vienna hot dog in other cities. A steamed beef frank and poppyseed bun. Even though it uses the same ingredients from the same distributer, the taste is not the same in other places. It is our statement that it is indeed the water that makes the difference.
The hotel had a refrigerator full of booze, water and soft drinks as well as a cart on top of a credenza that featured a variety of snacks and candies. The prices were ridiculous and there was no way we’d pay eight bucks for a pint of water, although the bottle was pretty damn fancy.
Over eight bucks for this bottle of water, and it wasn't even chilled!

Barb walked to and from the nearby Dominick’s grocery store that housed the Starbucks. It was located on the corner of Grand Avenue and Columbus Drive. We recalled when we lived in Chicagoland in the 1970’s, there was Jewel Grocery Stores owned by Jewel Tea Company. Dominick’s was around, but not as big as Jewel at the time. I worked at Jewel during, and right after, high school.
Dominick’s first store opened in 1918 by a guy named Dominick De Matteo. My mother babysat his son, Dominick DeMatteo Jr. It wasn’t until 1950 or so that Dominick opened a full out supermarket. They sold out to Fisher Foods and eventually were bought out by Safeway with a brief period of time running the stores themselves.
This is Dominick's on Grand and Columbus, in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago

I’ve realized while writing this, the theme that has run through this trip is mostly Italian. Since I am of full-blooded Italian descent, you might think I planned it this way. I did not! This happened quite by accident. References to Dominick’s Grocery and the founder, Dominick DeMatteo, a Sicilian born immigrant, who arrived in America about the same time as my Grandparents, came from Italy.
Then, there was mention and eating at Pizzeria Due. The name is the Italian word for the number two and Pizza is Italian. The Jersey Boys were Italian kids from, where else, New Jersey, but they were all Italian. We also ate at Portillo’s and had Italian beef sandwiches. I posted a photo of Cincinnati Reds first baseman, Joey Votto, an Italian, in Part 1, and mentioned that Italian food was considered for our Saturday night dinner. Whew, that was a mouthful!
Meanwhile, as Mrs. Spadoman was at Dominick’s, I sat on a park bench across the street from the hotel and smoked a cigar. I watched the hustle and bustle of the taxi line as they were summoned to the hotel entrance by the doorman with his whistle, one by one. When Barb returned, we went to our room and sat out the rest of Saturday night. We watched hockey on TV and caught up with all the days baseball scores. I did stay up way past my usual ‘at home’ bedtime, but no night life for us.
We knew we had to catch the bus at 10:45 AM, but we had plenty of time. The bus stop was across the street from Union Station. Down one block from there was an established cafe called Lou Mitchell’s. I have been eating at Mitchell’s for years. Mrs. Spadoman and I ate there many years ago together when we had a lay over in Chicago when we were on our way to New Orleans via Amtrak.
Chicago's Union Station, (stock photo)

We had a great breakfast, enough to hold us for the eight hour bus ride to home, and caught the Megabus. Our daughter picked us up in Minneapolis and brought us to her house where our car was sitting. We drove home and were greeted by the dog, the cat and Grandkids.
We had a fabulous time in Chicago. I guess it’s being from there mostly, but to me, it is certainly one of the great big cities. We were planning our next visit as we were there. Next time, we might take the Amtrak, or if we do drive our own car, we’ll park it in the hotel ramp and use the taxi anyway.
I’ll be reviewing the restaurants and diners we frequented very soon. Portillo’s, Due’s Pizzeria, Glenn’s Diner, Eleven City Diner and Lou Mitchell’s. Some good eats. I also have some special words to say about The Jersey Boys. Stay tuned.


Jeannie said...

I like beaches more than cities but Chicago has always held a little more interest than other cities for me. I've passed through once and wished I could have visited longer.

SkippyMom said...

I love to read about unique and delicious restaurants, especially diners, so I am anxious to read all about it. And I am with Mrs. Spadoman, Ruebens are truly a great sandwich. These days I only allow myself one bite when Pooldad orders one, but the one succulent bite lasts quite a while until the next one. So, so good.

And I understand Chicago dogs are quite the dog to have. I have seen pictures but never had a true one or even a fascimile but boy-o they look so good and unique!

Our youngest was supposed to go on a marching band sponsored trip to Chicago later this year but a lot of parents didn't want to pay the fees associated with "just Chicago" and instead voted on "Disneyland" because we wouldn't want the kids to actually LEARN anything now would we - and of course Disneyland is so much more fun. So they are going to Florida. I am disappointed [can you tell?] because they were to see the symphony and all the sights that make Chicago so great. Oh well, on to Minnie and Mickey.

Isn't it great to love where you are from and be so proud of it? So nice that you were able [and will be able] to visit. Go Cubs!

Thanks for sharing such an obviously great trip. Can't wait to hear more. :)

Mel said...

LOL If you hadn't mentioned the Italian connection, I woulda! Sounds like all great things for the weekend in the Windy City.
And yaknow, you could be right about the water jazz--cuz you cannot replicate stuff that's found there. You just can't!

I'm glad you had a good time of it. Nostalgic and a bit romantic for the two of you to be spending the time away from the noise, just the two of you, in old stomping grounds. LOL I had NO problem visualizing you all comfy on the bench with that cigar.

Amtrak! Now there's an idea....and a taxi sure would beat that traffic/parking issue in Chicago.

susan said...

I'm so glad you had such a wonderful vacation in Chicago and you were wise to go by bus. City driving (or worse, parking) is never fun.

I hope your next trip is just as good.