My Foodie Trip to Chicago

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on here or not, but I love to travel. It brings me brand new experiences and opportunities to open up my mind. Every time I return from a vacation, no matter how long or short, domestic or international, I come back with a sense of renewed sense of purpose. Oh and I eat awesome food whenever I’m wandering around different cities.

Last week, I went to Chicago for the first time in 10 years. The last time I visited, I was 14 years old and barely remember the visit outside of visiting Saks Fifth Avenue for the first time and the Navy Pier. I was excited to visit again through the eyes of a twenty-something. I planned on treating myself to a nice shopping trip and eating some great food, including the classic Chicago deep-dish pizza and a trip to Food Network’s Jeff Mauro’s restaurant, Pork and Mindy’s. I ate a lot, so I’ll only highlight my favorite dishes. I’m pretty sure they changed my foodie life.

On the first full day of my trip, my mom took me to a breakfast joint she’d visited the last time she went to Chicago called Wildberry Pancakes and Café. Let me tell you, this place was jam packed on a Wednesday morning and not just at 7 or 8 before or while people head to work, I’m talking after 10 am when people are usually in the swing of their workdays. Anyway, I ordered their cinnamon roll pancakes along with a side of corned beef hash and eggs. I’m not sure if I was expecting heaven, but if I did, I thought I found it in those pancakes. The pancakes were so moist, so sugary and sweet. No syrup was required. If I had more time on my last morning there, I would’ve paid another visit just for those pancakes. Next time though? That will be one of the first restaurants I hit up.

Awesome cinnamon roll pancakes from Wildberry Pancakes! 

Awesome cinnamon roll pancakes from Wildberry Pancakes! 

My mom and I went to a nice Italian restaurant by our hotel called Francesca’s on Chestnut St. I had a tasty salmon with spaghetti and peas in a tomato cream sauce, but I’d say the star of the evening was their Bruschette con Prosciutto. It’s bruschetta with tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil extra virgin olive oil on garlic toast and topped with prosciutto. It was fantastic. I was able to taste all of the flavors and it tasted so fresh. The mellow flavors of the tomato, garlic and mozzarella combined with the vibrant basil and the saltiness of the prosciutto was delicious. It’s something I plan on recreating in my own kitchen and was the perfect appetizer to what was a wonderful meal. But to be honest, I could’ve had that by itself and would’ve been just as happy.

A light tomato and prosciutto bruschetta appetizer at Francesca's on Chestnut! 

A light tomato and prosciutto bruschetta appetizer at Francesca's on Chestnut! 

I paid a visit to Pork and Mindy’s, a fast-casual restaurant owned by Food Network’s Jeff Mauro. He’s one of the co-hosts of one of my favorite cooking shows, The Kitchen. I was very excited to visit this place because I’ve seen Mauro’s demonstrations on The Kitchen and heard he was the “Sandwich King” so I figured he couldn’t go wrong with barbeque sandwiches. I’d say I had a pleasant experience. I had the Chuck, which is a hand-pulled chuck roast sandwich with crispy spicy pickles, horseradish aged cheddar sauce, and pickled red onions served on a warm roll. I opted out of the pickles, but added all three bbq sauces at my table – sweet sauce, mustard sauce and the sweet heat sauce – to add more flavor to my sandwich. I loved how tender the chuck roast was, how the char gave the sandwich a nice smoky flavor and how the onions provided great texture. I also ordered a side of the tater tots. A simple side, but a great compliment to the sandwich. The only thing that would’ve made the experience better is if I met Jeff Mauro himself – LOL.

The Chuck sandwich from Pork and Mindy's! So delicious. 

The Chuck sandwich from Pork and Mindy's! So delicious. 

Lastly, what good is a trip to Chi-town if I don’t get their pizza right? Right. I went to Giordano’s Pizza near the Magnificent Mile for lunch. Too bad I didn’t know that I ate enough for both lunch and dinner. I originally wanted their lunch sized personal pepperoni deep-dish pizza, but of course, they ran out and asked if my mom and I would rather get a full-sized one for two instead. We accepted the offer and I don’t think we were prepared for what we ordered. I’ve had deep-dish pizza maybe twice ever, but this was a complete surprise. Our waitress told us they call it “stuffed” pizza because they stuff the cheese and pepperoni inside of the dough. Well, we were certainly stuffed after eating it, but it was completely worth it. The pizza was served hot, freshly made, and very cheesy. It’s not something I could eat all of the time, but it’s a treat that I wouldn’t mind having on the occasional Friday or Saturday night. This isn’t a knock on the pizza, it’s just…I’m sure I’d gain 30 pounds quickly if I ate it on a regular basis.

I mean come on..look at this pizza! How could you not get hungry when you look at this?

I mean come on..look at this pizza! How could you not get hungry when you look at this?

Beautiful, gorgeous, deep dish pizza. 

Beautiful, gorgeous, deep dish pizza. 

I had some great meals in Chicago and I didn’t even mention everything I ate. If I had, I’m sure someone would judge me, but that’s alright, I love food! Hmm. Maybe I’ll try to recreate them and make healthy versions? That sounds like a challenge I’d like to face.

Anyway, I look forward to visiting all of these places again whenever I return to the city. If you’re ever in Chicago, check out those restaurants. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for reading! Talk to you next time!

-       T’ara