So last Friday, after a full Thursday of Thanksgiving festivities and eating debauchery, I tied up my walking shoes and hit the streets to meet up with my tour group. The plan? To start off at a traditional Chicago eatery and eat our way through WP / Bucktown for 3 hours, learning tidbits of Chicago history along the way. Though the stops are laid out beforehand, I didn’t quite know what to expect in terms of serving sizes. Let me tell you, it is not a good idea to have dinner plans the evening you do this tour (sorry Michelle, I ate as much as I could!). You leave stuffed. Full. Or as we say in Latvian, “puizins pilns”
Our first stop was George’s Hot Dogs, a traditional Chicago hot dog stand established in 1948. Of the roughly 2,000 (!) hotdog stands in Chicago, this was the best I’ve ever tasted. The Tribune agrees with me, rating George’s hotdog #1. It’s served with fresh onions, tomatoes, relish, mustard, a hot pepper, pickle and celery salt. The husband fell in love with the pepper, and requested we find them at our grocer to keep for homemade sandwiches. Leaving stop #1, I was already full from this full and hearty dog...
Which was ok, because the next stop involved a drink to savor not devour. What you ask? Why only renowned Mindy Segal’s famous Medium Hot Chocolate from the hip and delicious restaurant and pastry shop Hot Chocolate. I’d tasted Mindy’s creations at MK before, and was thrilled to see her name associated with this restaurant now. She is one serious pastry chef – having worked at places such as Charlie Trotters, Ambria, MK and others. She knows how to throwdown a mean hot chocolate, served with homemade jumbo marshmallow to boot. I’ll be going back to try the Mexican Hot Cocoa - - who doesn't love a spicy kick in this rich treat?
the homemade yummy gooey treat
We hit the streets again and crossed the border to Wicker Park, the neighborhood which was once the more gentrified neighborhood of the two. Our forth stop was Piece, the trendy pizzeria and brew pub. Piece is often raved about by friends, and I was excited to test it out. After absorbing the laid-back atmosphere, great food, and bona fide beer (2006 World Beer Cup Brew Pub Champions!), I knew why the place has infectious charm. A slice of their classic New Haven pizza and a small glass of their Golden Arm light German beer, had everyone, including the hearty men, *happily* complaining of bulging stomachs. Our tour guide Kent told us not to worry because we had a good 40 minutes of Chicago history coming up, that should give us time to digest… (yeah, riiiight)
This was quite possibly my favorite part of the tour. I know what you’re thinking, a girl that loves to eat is going to talk up history on a _food_ tour? But when you’re hearing quirky stories about the neighborhood and houses that look like this, how can you not be wonderfully entertained?
a real & official cannon, owned by the U.S. Navy sits in this particular yard
Last stop capped it all off – a new ice cream parlor concept bringing the whold idea of ice cream to a new level. How would you like to see milk brought to ice cream in under 2 minutes using liquid nitrogen? How about over 259,000 options to personalize your ice cream, down to what milk, flavors, and mix-ins to use? Seem overwhelming? iCream does a fantastic job of simplifying a seemingly imperious process and has tested and approved flavor combinations to try if you don’t want to go out on a limb with your own. We sampled the white chocolate & cream soda, with a mix-in of Nutella, and let me tell you, I didn’t think I would enjoy it on a chilly fall day – but this last stop warmed my soul.
Chicago Food Tours are closing doors just for the winter, and will open again on April 1 (as I doubt anyone would want to trudge around in the Chicago winter for a 3 hour tour!) I’m a new fan to the food tour idea and the husband I agree we'll seek out these sort of tours in other cities we visit, as they’re a great way to get to know the “local gems”. For those in the Chicago area, consider bringing your family and friends on a Chicago Food Tour when they visit, or grab a local friend and go yourself just to learn some more about the city you call home. You just might run into me going on their Old Town tour come spring. :-)