You would all be SO proud. Mark and I just attended the jewelry show in Chicago a few weekends ago and (drumroll please!!!) we didn’t eat at PF Changs three or four nights in a row…in fact, I branched out and tried 4 new spots! Totally nerve wracking for a routine lover but well worth overcoming my comfort zone. Here are our new try’s and what we loved best about them.
Sweet tooth first and foremost! After an arduous shopping afternoon, we were in desperate need of a delicious pick-me-up. Enter Sprinkles on East Walton Street. There is a line up out the door…literally. They specialize in cupcakes and they are incredible. I had the vanilla (wanted lemon but it wasn’t lemon day apparently) and Mark had a mini strawberry & mini banana. So yummy. Yes we waited in the line up because we wanted to rest a minute but if you are in a hurry, they have a Cupcake ATM. You heard me…an outside ATM. Satisfy your Sprinkles cravings at 2am.
Mark was IN LOVE with this. It’s Japanese BBQ…which means…there was a BBQ in the middle of the table and the menu was basically raw meat & veggies. We ordered the Harami Skirt Steak, which was marinated in a delicious light sauce, Filet Mignon & Pork Belly. Mark put his mad BBQ skills to good use and perfectly cooked the meat. I also ordered some fried Gyoza & a bowl of beef ramen. It was all absolutely amazing! Plus, as an added bonus, we happened to be there during happy hour and almost everything we ordered was half price. Including the drinks! It was super busy and we were told it would be a 30-40 minute wait but were willing to tough it out. Turned out we only waited 10 minutes. All in all, a must try in my opinion.
The Purple Pig (aka Cheese, Swine & Wine)
A bit of a diva, I must say. Situated about a block past Nordstrom’s, we tried to make a reservation on Friday night. Turns out they don’t take reservations AND there was a 2 hour wait. As I was turning over in my mind what Plan B would be…at 7:30 on a Friday night….my lovely husband innocently asks the hostess “what about that table by the “door?” Oh, by the way, the Purple Pig has an indoor section and a huge purple “tent” attached. The table Mark was trying to score was in the tent, by the huge open zipper. So outside. And it was freezing (April in Chicago is still really cold). She says “oh no one wants to sit there it’s too cold and the wind comes right up”. At this point, now even more hungry and uninterested in looking for yummy options, we take it. Turns out to be one of the best meals of the trip! We kept our coats on but with the heaters it was decent. We had the Greek cornbread with Feta & honey & the calamari for appy’s. Between the two of us we shared the Turkey Leg Confit which was heavenly. Turns out it’s braised in pork fat for like 6 hours…still worth it. Everything was so good up until this point, we took a Lemon Panna Cotta to go. It was amazing, especially under a fluffy white duvet 🙂
I think it was Saturday night we again didn’t have a reservation anywhere and the girl who helped Mark find Hugo Boss shoes at a wicked price (what is up with him finding everything that he wants, designer and at half price???) suggested Bandera right across the street. We went and the place was jammed. Jammed like there was a crowd standing right behind the poor people sitting at the bar, breathing down their necks and willing them to finish so their seats would be up for grabs. We were NOT getting in…at least not that night. We made a res for Sunday night and went to….OK it was PF Changs but don’t judge!
Sunday night we go back for our reservation and somehow, the whole mood was changed. It didn’t feel happening and fun at all. It was more awkward and uncomfortable. Mark asked the girl if they had any drink specials and she responded with a curt “it’s all on the menu”. Speaking of the menu, we both looked at it in silence for about 5 minutes. I had no idea what I was going to order. It all looked so uninspired. Turns out Mark was feeling the same as me, so after a drink we paid and made a break for it to take our chances elsewhere. Sunday night was less hairy and we were seated at the Purple Pig happily once again.
Sidepoint: I think Bandera’s had the worst lighting ever. Check out the dark eye circles. It was like The Two Face episode of Seinfeld. No first dates get out alive…
Just around the corner from Nordstrom is a two-story place called Eataly. The ground floor looks like a small grocery store and upstairs is heavenly. There are 9 restaurants under this little Italy umbrella. From what I remember there was pizza/pasta (we had the short rib tagatelle), seafood, meat, coffee bar, bakery & (our favorite) a charcuterie bar. We had 3 different kinds of prosciutto, salami & their top cheeses (the gorgonzola was incredible). Our only regret was not being able to spend more time with bigger appetites.
PS: Since we stayed about 5 blocks from Navy Pier and walked to everything, these are all really close by if you are staying anywhere near the Magnificent Mile.