Saturday, July 20, 2013


The Bean...Click any photo here to enlarge.

After stepping off the Orange Line train at Roosevelt Road and walking the four blocks to my hotel, I had noticed that Chicago is spotlessly clean, quite an undertaking by the City, or is it the people that live and work here take pride in their city?   I was told that wife of former Mayor Daly was responsible for a very clean initiative.  In fact a city employee told me that hundreds of people were hired to keep the city clean.  It's really something compared to many East Coast cities!
We took a ride to Union, Illinois, which is the home of the HUGE Illinois Railway Museum, which is on the must do list of any responsible lover of trains.  The Museum is private, receiving no funding at all from the State.
That being said, one is able to walk "all over the place" and photograph everything in site.  Hint:  Bring water with you, as the public water supply
didn't look too appetizing.  The hot dogs and pizza in the restaurant were not exactly great looking either.
On the way there, I found the Marengo Cafe on Yelp, for breakfast.  
Large portions, LOTS of coffee, reasonable prices.  

Downtown Marengo, Illinois is somewhat like Mayberry.  It's the county seat. Even though this is Mid-America farm country, there was an odd absence of pick-up trucks and cowboy hats!!  Nice small town with nice people.


Below Michigan Avenue lies the famous Billy Goat Tavern, the original one from Saturday Night Live.  I ordered a double cheese.  It comes on a hard roll or kaiser roll which overwhelms the burger.  Ordering a single is not recommended.  A double is OK, but try to go for the triple.  It's not seasoned, but there is a "fixin's" bar with good tomatoes, onions and pickles.  The Greek guy behind the counter actually said; "No fries, chips!"
Chips in this case are actually bagged potato chips.  
There is no waiter service,as you order from the counter.  There is a guy that has been working there for a very long time.  You'll recognize him by his bad teeth and matching attitude.  If he sees that you went to the bar for a beer, you will be instructed to order it from him by him and he will stay at your table for a tip.  Be aware of this scam.  He got his tip from us, but the New Jersey attitude made him aware of using proper etiquette on how to get a proper tip.  I later met the nephew of the owner at Navy Pier.
When I started to tell him about it, he interrupted me and asked; "What did he do NOW?"  That got a laugh from all of us.

Three extraordinary restaurants for breakfast that I came across were The Yolk  and Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe and 11 City Diner.  All three are different in their own way and the menus are very creative and GOOD! 
 Now, IHOP sells pancakes, but Wildberry makes pancakes!!!  To eat their creative artwork is really ashame. You will sit there and ask yourself; "do I want to ruin this?"  the answer is an astounding YES and you will feel much better after consuming the artwork!  The Yolk has a very modern feel, at least the South Loop location, while Wildberry is more traditional...

Berry Bliss Pancakes at Wildberry

Roast pork, mango salsa, topped with goat cheese and a fried egg on a
pretzel roll at The Yolk.  Delectable!


Owner Brad Rubin  offers the big city deli / diner experience with a touch of "Jewishness" on the menu and in the restaurant.  Upon entering you will observe several items, three of which are a menorah, Junior's cheescake and a painting of a Rabbi or is it someone's grandfather or both!  
You name it, you can order it.  Everything from eggs, bagel and lox to pastrami and corned beef.  Who knew?  I ordered the lox platter with a poppy seed bagel.  Can you get a real bagel in Chicago?  Yes.  Eleven City has bagels made locally by a real bagel guy who uses NO preservatives or softeners.  The bagels go stale after about twelve hours, so delivery is daily.  After all if New York is number one for bagels, Chicago would have to live up to their name of the Second City!  Well it sounds good anyway.  On a Saturday morning there was a line of people waiting and it must have been at least a twenty minute wait for a table.

Traditional diner counter seating

Lox Platter...enough onion?


I learn about many places by watching Anthony Bourdain on tv.  One of historic bars he visited in Chicago, a city loaded with historic bars, was the legendary Green Mill Lounge.  This amazing bar has been around since the days of Al Capone. He supposedly owned it which is why alcohol was served all during Prohibition.  Many will say it was a speakeasy but I was told it was not.  Many will also say there were at least two "escape tunnels" leading under Broadway and across the street in order for patrons to escape during police raids.  The original bar, taps and fixtures are all intact and it is like taking a step back in time. The only missing fixture is the old telephone booth in which one of those rip-off ATM's now sits.  There is live music nightly and if you listen carefully, you might hear Al Capone and his boys discussing plans to foil Elliot Ness.
I had a local Chicago brew; Old Style and a shot of a local libation; Malort. The locals say Malort kicks in within twenty minutes. Belive me, it did.  I knew the sidewalk was wider when I entered the Mill!!

Local beer, Old Style

It's 5 o'clock somewhere
You don't see clocks like this anymore!


No trip to Chicago would be complete without a stop to compare "their"
pizza to "my pizza".
Well, there is NO comparison.  The two pizzas are COMPLETELY different and are in two different catagories and cannot be compared. There, I said it.  Both are equally good in their own way.  The only thing to do is compare the different Chicago pizza "pies" from Giordanos and Gino's East, but that's another trip.
The pizza "pies" are called pies as it's all in the crust.  Malnati calls it that because the crust is buttery and flaky like an apple pie crust.  Yes, I did like it, BUT I felt their special sausage was more along the lines of a chopped up sausage patty from an Egg McMuffin.  Many people I've spoken with agree, so, maybe it's a Chicago thing.

Many pizza ovens in a spotless kitchen

Lou Malnatti's sausage pizza "pie"

Sinful deep dish warm chocolate cookie with ice cream
and whipped cream.


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