Last weekend Nate and I went on a whirlwind trip to Chicago! I went to college in the Chicago suburbs, and my swim coach just retired after 41 years of coaching.. #bless. That’s a lot of laps!
We went to the suburbs for one night, and I had 24 hours of catching up with college friends and showing Nate around my 150-year-old campus. I took exactly 0 pictures from that entire time.
Then we headed downtown for 24 hours of exploring the city! We stayed at the Aloft Chicago City Center, which I would highly recommend! I’ve always had good experiences with staying at Aloft hotels (I’ve also stayed at one in Dallas and Houston.) They’re always clean, trendy, friendly, and a good value!
Coffee shops are high on my list when I’m traveling. I love seeking specialty coffee roasters and tasting high-quality beans. Metric Coffee is a small roasters that was started by the guy who used to be head roaster at Intelligentsia. Their small staff includes a lot of people who used to work as baristas at Intelligetnsia, too.
We dropped our bags at the hotel, then walked 1 block to Firecakes Donuts. GAH! Just one block! Do you understand how exciting that was to me? We went twice in 24 hours.
We were also just two blocks from Rick Bayless’s restaurant XOCO, so that was dinner! I’ve been to two of his restaurants now (last year I went to Fonda Frontera, his Mexico-city style restaurant), and I LOVE LOVE LOVE them! Hey Rick….wanna spread the love and open a restaurant in Austin?? 😉
XOCO is a more casual, street food concept. You order at the counter and then sit down with a number, and they bring you your food. It’s equally delicious as Fonda Frontera, but a bit more casual.
We had to stop at Chicago’s most famous third wave coffee shop! Intelligentsia always delivers.
I just love Chicago. I lived downtown for a year (from 2012-2013), so I’ll always have happy memories from my year of living there, braving the cold, waking up at 4:30 for my (crappy) barista job, and playing the violin with the Civic Orchestra, and learning how to be an adult. (Still learning.)
But I also just really like the vibe of the city, memories aside. I respect the way that Chicago has a healthy energetic buzz while still being kind and friendly. I’ve been to New York, LA, and Chicago, and Chicago has my heart. It’s not bossy, snobbish, or rude. I find that Chicago residents are typically down-to-earth and helpful.
(I hate the cold, which is why I moved back to Texas. I was getting SAD every winter, and I just couldn’t handle it when I thought of trying to make it through decades of those winters!)
I met up for dinner with three of my college girlfriends at Saint Lou’s Assembly. This restaurant is hard to describe; a google search calls it an “American spot for creative takes on old-school, customizable comfort-food platters.”
There’s a lot of cultures represented in the food here: ceviche, burrata, oysters, burgers, beef tartare, fried chicken… A little bit of everything!
I loved their creative take on ceviche. There was popcorn on top! Never seen that before. 🙂 Mostly, though, I loved getting to hang out with these girls who I’ve known for almost a decade. We talked and laughed (and cried a little) late into the night.
I slept in just a little on Sunday morning, but not much…there was so much exploring to do!
After a failed attempt to get donuts at Doughnut Vault (we stood in line for 30 minutes and didn’t even get halfway to the front door….I guess I’ll have to show up earlier next time!), we headed to coffee instead.
If I don’t have coffee within about 2 hours of waking up, I start to get a little bit grumpy. I mean, just a little. 😉
Ipsento 606 in Whicker Park roasts their own beans. I didn’t love their beans quite as much as Metric Coffee, but it was still nice. The side of the building opens up to a park, and the sunny 70-degree weather in Chicago was such a treat!
AND THEY HAVE MINI DONUTS. So that makes a perfect morning, in my opinion.
Ipsento 606 is next to the 606, an elevated park/path made from an old track on Chicago “L.” Nate and I got the rest of our coffee to go and went for a short walk on the 606 to brunch.
Walking/running around neighborhoods is one of my favorite things to do in a new city. I didn’t bring my running shoes on this trip (I just didn’t have enough to squeeze in a run), but I always love going on a walk with my man and a cup of coffee. #happyplace
We had a 10 minute wait for a spot at the counter for brunch at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. Mindy Segal holds a James Beard award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef,” so I couldn’t wait to try this place!
The restaurant is called “Hot Chocolate,” so that’s what we got to start! I tried the Pumpkin Spice hot chocolate (1/3 caramelized white chocolate, 1/3 white chocolate, 1/3 milk chocolate, + spices). It’s an incredibly thick, creamy drink…it almost felt like I was drinking a cup of half and half with syrup!
Since that obviously wasn’t enough sugar, I paired it with the coffee cake: banana cake, pecan praline, cheesecake and milk chocolate fudge. YUMS.
Meatloaf Hash for Nate (the man always orders a hash….what can I say?) and a Breakfast Sandwich for me. Everything was LOVELY!
I have a love affair with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. I’ve eaten plenty of tubs of that ice cream, and I went to one of her scoop shops for the first time last year during our Thanksgiving trip to Ohio. So, I made sure to stop by one of the Chicago stores for a few scoops: sweet potato with torched marshmallow on the bottom, and brown butter almond brittle on top.
Hey Jeni, you and Rick both need to open up shop in ATX!! Just saying.
More walking. More bopping about. More coffee! This time it was at Gaslight Coffee Roasters for cold brew. It worked out well to love trying local coffee roasters on this trip, because we needed the caffeine!
We headed to a Cubs vs. Reds game at Wrigley Field in the afternoon. HELLO perfect fall day! The sun was shining, it was cool yet not too breezy, and everyone was in the best mood!
Nate’s a Reds fan, so he really wanted to see this game. I am definitely not an avid sports follower….really, I’m the worst. I know zero players on any team. But I love going to baseball games because they’re outside and just fun.
We had to pack up and get to the airport pretty quickly after the game. We had wanted to go to The Publican but ran out of time, so we were happy to find a location at O’Hare! Hot dog + beer for a quick dinner before boarding the plane.
There are vacations, and there are trips. Our honeymoon in Spain was a vacation. We were lazy, slept in, did 1-2 things as day, and took our time everywhere we went. This weekend in Chicago was a trip…it was busy, full, fun, and non-stop.
I love traveling with my husband! We made a bunch of lifelong memories on this trip. While we were walking around, we spent some time talking about future cities we want to visit, and there are lots.
We did Ohio last year, Chicago this year, and we want to do another quick trip to city in the midwest next year…right now we’re thinking Minneapolis!
Happy weekend, friends!