I started my Saturday morning like every other day off I have: delirious and delighted at the same time. To be able to sleep in and turn off my cell phone is a godsend, and when I finally rolled out of bed at 9 a.m., I was rip-roaring ready for a cocktail. Go figure.
Intending to just start walking and see what I could find, I tossed on my tennis shoes and filled my backpack with the day's goodies (namely my trusty notebook for noting new finds). Then that moment of utter indecision: Do I wanna head north or south, east or west? This time the North Side was tugging at my taste buds, so I skipped off the porch and started trucking.
I love nothing more than investigating Chicago. The city can change almost overnight and I'm always stunned to realize that a cool new restaurant I ate at last month has already shut down. So many things can slip through the cracks...like when did Book Cellar, Inc. set up an outdoor cafe?
After cruising north on Bell Avenue and hitting up the Lincoln Square strip, I couldn't seem to find what my mood was craving until I hit an old favorite, Mekato's Colombian Bakery. I sorely needed one of its eye-bulging cafe con leches, and grabbed one loaded with sugar to take with me on my walkabout.
Munching on one of its addictive soft cheese sticks while sniffing out new restaurants (I must come back for Korean), I jammed back down Lincoln Avenue until I hit Garcia's Restaurant. This super popular south-of-the-border restaurant is famous for its kickin' margaritas and cozy atmosphere, and I always position myself on the west side of the restaurant neat the men's restroom. The tables over there are way off-radar and are much easier to spread out on.
Within minutes, I had a giant frosty margarita plopped down in front of me and two seconds later, nothing but a big smile on my mug. I'd almost slurped the whole thing down in one sip when a random stranger rolled by on his way to them men's room and offered to buy me a round. Done and done. We sat for a spell and chatted about buying land in Mexico and how there are indeed extraterrestrials with us. Turns out Raul is the head plumber at UIC and he was downright gleeful while explaining to me the inner workings of precisely how the plumbing is set up at the University. I love strangers.
After we exchanged cards and hugged goodbye, I tripped out the door on the make for something good to toss down. I was in a Southern mood and knew that Smokin' Woody's BBQ was on my way home. I've enjoyed meals at Calvin's, the sister BBQ joint, but I'd never eaten at the original.
Funnily enough, Calvin, the owner, happened to be chillin' out on his front patio. As I glanced at the menu, he boomed, "Girl, sit your butt down and eat some BBQ." I'm just that easy, especially with a good buzz going. I let him order for me and a short while later, out rolls a monstrous BBQ pork sandwich with fantastically soupy baked beans, potato salad and coleslaw.
As I slammed down that wildly inebriating meal (I swear, pork is God's gift), Calvin and I reminisced about our individual sailing adventures (mine happy-as-a-clam in Mexico, his terrified on Lake Michigan because he's about three hundy on a good day).
I am now convinced more than ever that what I'm sorely missing in life is good solid conversation, one that has nothing to do with the industry that I work in (film and television). I guess if you put yourself out there and smile at the world, the world smiles back. Plus, you get a fully belly out of it.
The Final Rave: No matter which way you head in the city, there is an adventure to be found. Just keep your eyes open, your mind free and your belly empty and the stories will follow. At least, that's what I've found.
Keep It Going:
Do it: Chicago Traveler
This handy website offers links to a variety of tours all over the city. Be it walking, biking, air, boat, trolley or carriage, you'll be discovering new things every which way you turn.
See it: Chicago Food Planet, Inc.
This company offers walking tours through Chicago's most historic and food friendly neighborhoods. Plan on tasting the wares of a fudge factory, artisan bakery, Jewish deli and a tea merchant among other treats.
Eat it: Grazers Gourmet
While walking up to Mekato's, I stopped in this tiny coffee shop and was overwhelmed with the most incredible baking smells I've ever smelled. Snatch some cookies and homemade granola before they ship them out.
Get crazy with it: Start your own foodie tour
Can you imagine getting paid to traipse around the city and show people all the great food finds you've come across? I'm thinking all ya need is a website and a Paypal account. Wait a minute, is it really that easy?