Chicago is the perfect city for a weekend visit. Last Friday we took an early evening flight from Bradley Intl. (BDL) airport into Chicago O’Hare (ORD). The goal was to get to the Windy City in time for a late dinner of Deep Dish Pizza. The flight landed at 8:15pm, so we were hungry and ready to eat. First things first- to navigate the sprawling airport and get to our Uber.
We made our way, after much confusion, to the Uber pick -up area. It was cold, but thankfully we missed the polar vortex of a couple weeks back. After much research we decided that we should try Pequod’s Pizza in Lincoln Park (pequodspizza.com/). We have tried a lot of Chicago deep dish in our day, but never Pequod’s, famous for their caramelized crust. Because time was of the essence, and we were hungry, we showed up to Pequod’s with our luggage in tow.
Pequod’s does not take reservations, but you can call and let them know you are coming and they put you on a priority list for a table. We had anticipated coming in at 9:45, but we made it there by 9:15. The hostess said it would be just about a 1/2 hour wait, and to head next door to the Whale Tale (whaletalechicago.com) which bills itself as the holding tank for Pequod’s. We took our luggage and headed over.
Whale Tale has an extensive micro brew list, so we ordered up some local beers to enjoy while we waited.
As luck would have it, we drank about a third of our beers when our buzzers went off! Our table was ready. Alas, we were unable to bring our drinks over so we had to down them quickly.
Pequod’s is very large, spanning two levels, but it was packed. Others were clearly in the know about their fabulous caramelized crust. The menu is not extensive, and clearly Pizza is the star.
We sat down at a small high top. Because we knew the pizzas were sure to be quite heavy we decided to start with just a light appetizer. Chicken Wings. They were tasty, and very spicy.
Another beer was clearly in order.
The waitstaff were very friendly, and enthusiastic over our two small pizzas- one with sausage and extra sauce, and one with onions and extra sauce. After reading many reviews, we learned that extra sauce was the thing to get. Indeed- it was extra saucy!
Keep in mind, I was not partaking in the pizza, it was just my son and my husband. This was A LOT of pizza, even for them.
The consensus was that the side crust was delicious. It was indeed caramelized- burnt in a good way. The crust on the bottom was hard and soggy though. Maybe it was all the extra sauce. The sausage was tasty. All in all- good, not life changing. We were glad we made the trek, but don’t think we need to return.
At this point we were tired, and full. We called another Uber to take us into the City to the Langham Chicago (langhamhotels.com/en/the-langham/chicago ), a fairly new (5 years old) luxury hotel in the heart of the City. The one and only negative I could find with the hotel was evident as we drove up. Cars have to navigate to an entrance a level above the street that seemed to confuse every Uber and taxi driver we had. Once we finally arrived, we entered and then took an elevator up yet another level to reception. Finally we were impressed with what we saw.
This was to the right of the reception desk. I liked all of the floating orbs- they were like mini versions of the Chicago Bean!
These gates and the area to the left of reception seem to be where afternoon tea is served. Very glam. Because we arrived at about 11 pm, these areas were quite deserted.
We checked in and were given the keys to our River View Suite. Because there were three of us traveling, we opted for a suite rather than 2 separate rooms. We had heard the River View Suite was fabulous, so we were anxious to take a look. We headed up to the 10th floor.
As we entered room 1036, we noticed the powder room on the left.
We continued in to the living room, where the pull out sofa had been set up for our son.
There was a small table and chairs.
Then we noticed the view, which did indeed look out over the River.
Our bedroom was quite nice as well, very spacious, and very white.
The bathroom was very large and nicely appointed with loads of toiletries (the brand was Chuan, which is the name of their Spa).
There was a small issue with the temperature of the water in the shower- it didn’t get quite hot enough- though the bath was fine.
We settled in quickly and went right to sleep.
In the morning we had an early appointment in Evanston, so there was no sleeping in. Breakfast is served starting at 7 am, so we headed there just as it was opening. Not too many others seemed to be awake as early as we were.
The Langham’s restaurant Travelle is also on the second floor. It is a very nice space and one can choose from a buffet, or ordering à la carte. We chose à la carte, and also tried to be healthy as we had a big day of eating ahead of us.
Here is a shot of part of the buffet. The mountain of shrimp and crab claws did look inviting.
With breakfast under our belts, we headed to Evanston. Because our plan for lunch was to go to Au Cheval (auchevaldiner.com/), agreed upon by many foodies to be the very BEST burger in the United States we had to be clever about getting a table.
Au Cheval does not take reservations, and generally speaking on weekends there is usually a 3 hour wait for a table. The process is to put your name on the list, and then they have a fairly sophisticated texting system that allows you to check your place on line. They text you when your table is ready and you have ten minutes to claim it. Because we could not be in two places at once to put our name on the list, we hired a Task Rabbit (taskrabbit.com/) to do the work for us. Task Rabbit is brilliant. Its an app that connects you with people who are willing, for an hourly wage do tasks (small or large) for you. The woman we ultimately connected with had actually done this very task before. She got to the restaurant at 11:30 am and put our name on the list. They estimated our table would be available at 2:30 Perfect!
Following our visit to Evanston, we had enough time to pay a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago (https://www.artic.edu/) before our table would be ready. The Art Institute of Chicago is literally filled with treasures. It is a fabulous museum.
We were not the only ones with the same idea- the museum was mobbed. We checked out the impressionists, and moved on the the Modern section.
At 2:15 we could see there were 5 tables to be seated ahead of us, so we made our way out of the museum and over to Au Cheval. We were very very hungry, and the anticipation was killing us! When we arrived we had two tables ahead of u s. We waited in the vestibule and noted that people coming in were told there was now a 5 hour wait! Would it be worth it???
At 2:30 we got the nod- our table was ready! We stood at the end of the bar to take a peek at the grill while they cleaned our table off for us. The timing was pretty accurate. We were told 2 1/2 – 3 hours when our name was put on the list, and that was a pretty exact estimation.
The staff is exceedingly friendly and enthusiastic. I think the happiness of the diners rubs off on the servers, or the other way around! Because we arrived before 3, the brunch menu was still in effect. Luckily it included everything we wanted to try except the General Jane’s Honey Fried Chicken. Luckily the waiter reassured us that we could put our order in, it just wouldn’t be ready until after 3. No problem! We had studied the menu online, so knew just what we wanted.
First things first- an amazing Bloody Mary topped with a generous stack of homemade pickles. My husband had a bourbon.
My son had….. a Root Beer Float, with homemade Root Beer
The Float was insanely good. We put in our orders for burgers topped with thick cut peppered bacon, a fried egg, and cheese (an American/cheddar combo), as well as special sauce, chopped pickles and lettuce (in my case I had iceberg lettuce in lieu of the bun). I don’t remember being asked how we wanted the burger cooked, I think there was just one option.
Fries on the side, also topped with an egg.
And finally, the General Jane’s Honey Fried Chicken.
The burgers were absolutely the highlight- the flavors and textures combined perfectly to create an outstanding taste sensation. I’m not sure this is the very best burger in the US, but it is most certainly a contender.
The fries were good, but not outstanding. They could have been crispier. The chicken was excellent- spicy and sweet and crunchy. The towels served alongside came in handy.
Our waiter asked if we had room for dessert, and we said absolutely! Au Cheval is know for their Mille Feuille. Layers of crunchy pastry, cold vanilla custard and topped with a pitcher of Hot Fudge. Even if you don’t have room, force yourself. It is superb.
We continued to sit and pick at the crumbs of dessert and marvel over the burgers. The restaurant does not rush you in any way, which may explain the 5 hour wait! We loved it, and would most certainly return. We were able to make a stop back at the Art Institute in order to catch some of the exhibits we missed on the first go round. We were a little worried that we were planning on dinner in 4 short hours, so we decided to walk back from the museum to the hotel to burn some extra calories.
We got back tot he Langham and rested for about a half hour before we met an old friend currently living in Chicago at the hotel bar. The bar was hopping! It was nice, with very attentive service and crunchy homemade corn nuts. We had a $100 Virtuoso credit which we used towards our tab. Our breakfasts were also included thanks to Virtuoso.
Next stop dinner! We were meeting some (different) old friends, and had heard from multiple sources that Fat Rice (eatfatrice.com/) was the place to go. Fat Rice is a serious hipster spot. Maybe too hip.
There are two sides to the restaurant. The jam-packed main room, and the Bakery, a few doors down. Because we were 7 people, we were seated in the Bakery. It was a little quieter. You know you are out of your element when the option exists to add CBD to any drink. One of our party did just that. She seemed happy about it.
Fat Rice is a Maccanese restaurant- a Portuguese/ Asian mash-up that represents the food of Macau. Their signature dish is Arroz Gordo- Fat Rice- like a jazzed up paella.
We ordered a lot in order to get tastes of everything. Our server was very patient in explaining the menu, and guiding those with some allergies around certain dishes.
One of the favorites was a Sardine starter, almost like a sardine Ceviche which you then rolled in a sheet of Nori.
Dumplings were a crowd pleaser,
as were stuffed prawns. We had about 8 other dishes, but in truth, we were so busy catching up with friends we missed the photo opportunities. Also, the food was not exciting enough to take a break from chatting to photograph.
The Fat Rice came out last, which was a shame, as we were all pretty stuffed by that point. It was a great presentation though- chock full of meats, chicken and prawns.
In my opinion, the restaurant was good, nowhere near great. As always, I was glad we went, otherwise we would have been imagining that we missed out on a fabulous dining experience.
We had had a full and very fun day. We said goodbye to our friends and made our way back to the Langham (our Uber driver got lost AGAIN trying to access the hotel entry).
We left the next morning right after a quick hotel breakfast. It was snowing slightly which only delayed our take off about an hour. I wish we had stopped at Garrett Popcorn (www.garrettpopcorn.com) for a going away treat!