Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Weekend Edition: A Weekend in Chicago

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It has become a bit of an annual trip for us in January to take a weekend trip to Chicago and mix friends, shopping, and food.  We have gotten pretty good at this, and we made a few great stops to recommend to the world.  First, here are the necessary ingredients to a great weekend in Chicago:
  1. A fun and funky hotel for your stay
  2. Some shopping on and around Michigan Ave.
  3. A delicious restaurant for dinner
  4. A purely Chicago brunch joint on your way out of town
We accomplished all of this and more!  Let me share my favorite spots from this weekend.

Hotel: Hotel Monaco, Chicago
I love to stay at Kimpton hotels in general, and Hotel Monaco in particular.  The décor is colorful and worldly, the entire staff is so friendly, and as a pet-friendly hotel, they lovingly provide me with a goldfish during my stay as a travel pet.  Meet Sven, my pal fish for the weekend:

I also love that I get to raid the mini bar with a free $10, drink wine during the daily happy hour in the lobby, and lounge around in my animal print robe.  The Monaco always has great rates during these slow weeks of January, and it is an awesome value.

Shopping: Michigan Avenue and the surrounding area
I make sure to do two things to prioritize my shopping time: I only go to stores that I can't shop at near home, and I make sure that I don't stay in one place for too long so that the hubs doesn't get too bored.

Dinner: Eataly, Chicago
The Chicago location of Eataly (a play on the word Italy) opened recently and has been incredibly busy ever since.  It is an all-things-Italian marketplace/restaurants/café/bar.  And it. is. INCREDIBLE.

The restaurants are so busy, you need to go put your name in and expect to wait 90 to 120 minutes.  While you wait, you can get a coffee, wine or beer, some prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, or buy anything from pasta to fresh meat and fish, cheeses and meats that you've never heard of, chocolates, or cooking utensils.  We ate at the pizza and pasta restaurant area, and everything we ate was incredible.  I have an entirely new outlook on what pasta should be, and I can't wait to experiment with my new found pasta respect.

Make sure you save room for dessert because the night would not be complete without a delicious LavAzza coffee and a gelato, artisan dessert, or crepe from the Nutella bar.  I bought a giant bag of beautiful Italian treasures that I have never seen before, and the next week will continue my culinary adventures.  Eataly serves as dinner and entertainment for a full night out.
Via Eataly
Brunch: Eleven City Diner
This cute, totally Chicago-type restaurant feels like a hybrid between an old school diner and a Jewish delicatessen.  And the food is impeccable. 

The challah french toast is a great staple to the menu, and the Bad A** breakfast sandwich was a perfect breakfast sandwich with perfect potatoes.  Intelligentsia coffee tops off the menu with love. While there are a lot of fantastic brunch restaurants in the city, this one continues to deliver every time I am there.

Mariano's Fresh Market, Halsted and Monroe
Even though we were so full from breakfast, we still managed to buy a ridiculous amount of fresh food.  Why go grocery shopping anywhere else when you can go buy lots of deli salads and pot pies, topped off with delicious gelato, oysters, fresh sushi, or bulk spices in the same place?

This was my own suggestion for a weekend in Chicago, but there are lots of other great weekend ideas for the taking!  If you need an idea starter, check out a book like this for your path of travel:
The New York Times - 36 Hours

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