I showed the last blog post I wrote to my dad, and he gave me some feedback: “Stop being so serious! Write about fun things that young people actually like to read, like food and parties!!!” So I suppose this one, the Chicago food tour, is dedicated to my dad, who has taught me to love food and to understand that a true meal is never just the process of eating.
Day 1: Wildberry Pancake Cafe, Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza, Tastee-Freez
We started our food tour at the Wildberry Pancake Cafe, I got a walnut-fig while Lulu opted for Oreo, and in my defense it was just as unhealthy (if not more, seriously the walnuts were covered in sugar! how did all that sugar even stick onto the walnuts??? A better question, why do walnuts even need so much sugar??)
Would suggest for a sugary treat as breakfast. They also have plenty of savoury options, but beware the portions are… very generous. Dinner, Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza! I was not able to capture the skilled chefs throwing around pizza dough, but with all of the bustling it was a magically lively place,and the pizza definitely lived up to its reputation.
Everyone was queuing for the same reasons: A passion for pizza and TripAdvisor. For dessert: Some tastee-freez. Now this may not be as eexotic to Americans but I thought the tiny building looked and felt surreal. Even the minimum-wage workers looked appropriately depressed due to of lack of social mobility!
The surrounding area was also relatively poor and desolate. Like I said, after being near skyscrapers for an entire day, surreal.
Day 2: Bang Bang Pie Shop, Kuma’s Corner, Magnolia Bakery
There are so many things about this place that I love: cardigans, mustaches, geometric tattoos, indie songs… oh and did I tell you it also has homemade pie that tastes like going to sugary, soft grunge heaven?
With coconut curry butter(very interesting) & pear jam.
Banana-Caramel(I think) Pie. And now for one of my favourite places in Chicago, Kuma’s corner.
Note on the right you can see a cute cartoon bear with blood dripping around its lips. Yes, this is a heavy-metal-burger-joint (with vegetarian options available). Constant heavy-metal in the background. Need I say more?
Bonus: We found this little place called wowbao which is so, so cute; they do all sorts of traditional/fusion baozi/dumplings. I actually had a baozi with pumpkin filling, it tasted just as deliciously culturally confused as I am.
Of course, magnolia bakery: This place is right near a lot of theatres, and it is open late for all of you that get peckish around midnight! We shared a lemon-cake and the banana pudding, and brought a tub of banana pudding back to our hosts and they loved it too. Please imagine the place filled with beautiful girls in vintage dresses sipping cups of caramel latte, giggling over cupcakes that look too delicate to be eaten.
Day 3: The Chicago Diner, Portillo’s Hotdogs, Garrett’s popcorn
Note, please ignore my failure in wordpress i.e. not knowing how to rotate an image and being too lazy to find out. I hope you’ll understand why I said Kuma’s corner was one of my favourite places in Chicago but not my favourite. Because The Chicago Diner is definitely my favourite.
Soul bowl with quinoa, pumpkin, black bean, kale and tempeh if I remember correctly. I will never understand how this tastes so good as I have been brought up in the age of excess, the age of a too powerful food industry telling me the only food I enjoy is the chemical-filled, mass-produced garbage. The soul-bowl is a necessity in everyone’s’ lives and it is absolutely soul-nourishing.
This is it, the Radical Reuben. This sandwich has won many awards, can be 100% vegan and Oh My God it is delicious. All of their stuff is vegan/vegetarian(meat free since ’83), everything looks mouthwatering (I did not mind the excess now) and this Diner is just pure magic. It is a place that serves honest, ethical food that has also stayed true to itself and to its customers. Places like this are so beautiful they pretty much reduce me to tears.
Of course, Portillo’s hotdogs & an Italian beef sandwich. At this point all I could think of was how nice it was to sit down and not feel my legs. The latter was worth breaking my (so far) vegetarian diet, but the hog-dogs were tourist traps that we knowingly fell into.
Lastly, Garrett’s Chicago mix with cheesy/caramel popcorn. A guy working there also makes terrible puns with stunning speed that will make you first shake your head but then in spite of everything smile and continue smiling for a whole day.
And that’s it, my Chicago food tour.
Funnily the Chinese version of “All good things come to an end” is “there is no meal that lasts forever,” and although the time I spent in Chicago was way too short, I am glad that it came to an end. “Life’s complete” is obviously not true, but this tour made me remember that nothing can quite make you feel connected and complete like being surrounded by loved ones and eating, drinking, laughing until you are full to the brim. Food in the hands of a magician becomes so much more than just sustenance, in the least it adds the final touches to an experience, and at its best it is an ideal, paving the way to our own personal utopias.