Of course I cannot talk about Chicago without mentioning some Chicago eats. This city is known for its food scene and there are definitely no shortages of restaurants to choose from to satisfy your taste buds!
Although I was only in Chicago for 3 days, I was still able to enjoy some great food! Here is my Chicago food roundup:
Deep Dish Face Off: Lou Malnati’s VS. Giordano’s
I couldn’t leave Chicago without trying their famous Deep Dish Pizza!!! I love cheese, flavourful tomato sauce and oven fresh bread equally on their own…but put them all together and I am in love! Deep dish, ain’t your regular pizza. It’s thick, dense and packed with cheese! I had a hard time working through a second slice. Two slices is plenty, trust me!
Before I left several people gave me their opinion on where I had to go for the best Deep Dish. There are many pizzarias offering this dish and claiming theirs is the place to go for deep dish. It was hard to choose as everyone has a different say in which is the best. We ended up going to two different pizzarias (yes two!). We decided to go with a Chicagoan’s recommendation, Lou Maltanti’s, and another suggested restaurant, Giordano’s (also, Giordano’s was close to our hotel and we had a coupon for this place, so that may have played a part in helping us choose :)).
So, after trying deep dish in both chain restaurants, here is my say:
We went with the small 9 inch “Malnati Chicago Classic” ($12.70). The small serves 2, with 2 slices per person. The Classic is topped with Lou’s specialty lean house sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce on their famous Buttercrust. The pizza was delicious! I love me a good tomato sauce; flavourful and extra saucy! This pizza had just that! The right amount of yummy sauce topped on lots of oozing cheese, a layer of sausage and a crispy crust. Although I did enjoy the sausage, I felt like there was a bit too much of it. I would have preferred it if it was just sprinkled on top. The Buttercrust is quite heavy, almost like a pie crust, but it was still tasty. Having said that, customers are able to tailor their pizzas to their liking, like going easy on the sausage. Knife and fork required!
I love the atmosphere of the Gold Coast location (1120 North State Street). Laid back, great place to hang out and socialize over food. The restaurant is sectioned off, they have a quieter, more private area and a large seating section equipped with large screen TV’s to watch some sports.
This place was packed and hopping! We went on a Monday night at the 730 N. Rush St. location around 8pm and it was moving! Giordano’s was much more touristy then Lou’s. This place is a pizza making machine, getting people in and out quick all while pumping out the pizzas. Giordano’s had a more rushed feel to it. For me, this somewhat took away from the feeling of sitting and enjoying my food. There was a long wait to be seated (although the tables seemed to be moving quickly) and an even longer wait for the pizza to come. They did have a neat system where you can place your order 30 minutes before you are expected to be seated (ie. Our estimated waiting time was 45mins, so we placed our order about 15mins into our wait time). You can also watch the cooks make the pizza while you wait. Pizza dough was flying through the air!
We ordered the medium ($17) this time so we could have leftovers for the ride home the next day. We decided to go with just plain cheese and regular crust. This pizza was also good. I found it to be thicker than Lou’s and the pizza seemed to have a lot more cheese in the middle, but a little less sauce on top. The crust was nice and soft and chewy. Knife and fork required.
After trying both Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s, I think I prefer Lou’s. They are both very similar. Here’s why I choose Lou’s: I enjoyed the tomato sauce more. There was a little more of it and the sauce also seemed a little fresher to me. Lou’s had just the right amount of cheese, I found Giordano’s to be excessive even if it is deep dish. I liked the feel of Lou’s location and atmosphere better; it was more relaxed. Also, Lou’s was my first, so it will always have a soft spot in my heart for that reason :).
Side note: I have also heard that Gino’s and Pizza Uno are good as well. I’ll probably give those a try next time I’m in Chicago.
Shaw’s Crab House:
This place is all about the seafood, specializing in King Crab (hence the name). We had a nice lobster boil dish that came with corn, coleslaw, potatoes and melted butter for dipping ($25). All parts of the meal were very tasty, with perfectly cooked potatoes and sweet corn. The lobster was very tender and tasted especially nice with the butter! Mmmm.
Shaw’s (21 East Hubbard Street) is a large restaurant with two seating areas: a more casual room and a formal dining room. I have to say that I found the seating system to be quite odd. We walked in without reservations to learn there was a 1.5hrs wait. We could either go to the casual area where the wait is not as long, wait for a table to open up on the formal side or grab a table in the bar area as soon as it becomes free (which is just a free for all, whoever grabs the table first gets it, no matter how long you have been waiting). We got lucky and were able to grab a table at the bar within 10 minutes of arriving. The restaurant had great ambiance, but we were a little put off by our server. She seemed to change her level of service, for the worse, when she learned we were from Canada. She gave us a disappointed “oh” when we told her we were from Toronto. But we still had a great time despite this.
Along with great Blues music, Kingston Mines had delicious ribs! Food is ordered at the kitchen window of “Doc’s Rib Joint” located at the back of the club. We had the “New Orleans style Barbeque Ribs” ($15) with fries, coleslaw and corn bread. The ribs were sooo good! The really enjoyed the fries and coleslaw as well. The cornbread was good, but it was drier than I liked. The half rack of ribs is plenty. This dish is really good for sharing, as the portions are quite large. You can read more about my experience at Kingston Mines here: http://bit.ly/ChicagoPart2.
This cafe was attached to our Hotel (the Inn of Chicago, 162 E Ohio St.) and was our go to breakfast place and coffee joint in the evening. They have really great coffee and coffee based specialty drinks! Their croissant breakfast sandwiches were scrumptious. Favourites of mine were the ham and cheese as well as the hazelnut croissant paired with a nice iced coffee with a shot of coconut syrup. The sandwiches are a little pricey, but for me it was worth it. It can get quite busy here in the morning during the AM rush hour before work. There is a small seating area, along with a short bar where you can sit in singles. Wifi is also available in the cafe.
I wish they would bring Argo Tea to Canada! Stores are only located in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Boston. I loved stopping by here for an iced or hot tea. They have unique combinations of teas in a variety of flavour combinations. Some of my favourites are Carolina Honey (hot or cold blend of tea, honey and lemon), iced Coconut Chai (Chai latte with coconut flavour) and iced Green Tea Ginger Twist (Sweetened or unsweetened Green tea with ginger). Uber refreshing!
Feel free to share any of your favourite Chicago eats! I would love to hear about them!