We were fortunate to be in Chicago when it was not yet cold – I wasn’t sure what kind of weather to expect in early October and cringed when I saw rainy days in the forecast, but it actually stayed relatively dry most of the time, allowing us to explore the city and – oh, who am I kidding, walk from one restaurant or cafe to another.
After lunch at Little Goat, we headed to the River North to explore the shops and sights, and also for a delicious purpose: churros. On my first visit to Chicago, the churros at Xoco were definitely one of my most memorable bites and I knew we had to return. Even though I really wanted tortas, we were still relatively full so this would be a churros-only visit.
Churro with Chocolate Shot [$1.60 + $1.25 for the chocolate]
Chocolate-Peanut Glazed Churro [$2.25]
Yes, you can tell that this was a chocoholic trip… hehe. The churros here are light and airy, with a perfect crunchy exterior, and the plain version is dusted with cinnamon sugar. Of the two, I preferred the plain churro with the chocolate dipping sauce, which was rich and smooth. The chocolate-peanut glaze was much less exciting by comparison, even though it was also really delicious.
449 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Another place that I really enjoyed on my first Chicago trip was Eataly, the famous Italian marketplace/food hall, and I knew that I wanted to revisit with J. It was difficult to choose from the several restaurants in the food hall, but we finally settled on the seafood-centric Il Pesce.
Cannelloni con Melanzane e Pomodori [$20]
Housemade spinach & ricotta-rolled pasta, roasted tomato-eggplant sauce. We decided to order one pasta and one seafood, and J chose this dish. The ingredients were simple, but every component was wonderful – pasta cooked to a perfect texture, creamy spinach and ricotta filling, and a savory and flavorful tomato-eggplant sauce to top it all off.
Whole oven-roasted sea bass, sunchokes, lettuce, cannellini beans, lemon. I love whole roasted fish, and the branzino stood out to me. I was so, so happy with this choice – the sea bass was fork-tender with plenty of flavor, and I loved the refreshing accompaniments that complemented the fish. I probably spent half an hour picking the fish clean – J was joking that the kitchen staff would think that we were hiding a cat in my purse, after seeing how clean the bones were on the plate. I couldn’t help myself, though – it was that good. I’ve had whole-roasted fish at a couple of other places since then, but this branzino was still my favorite.
After lunch, we ventured downstairs to browse the marketplace and… yeah, the desserts. We chose several individually-wrapped chocolates sold by the weight (as souvenirs to take home, of course), and then my eyes wandered over to the pastry case. Resistance was futile.
Mixed Berry Tart
We chose a lighter dessert since our Alinea dinner was that night, and we didn’t want to be too full! This definitely hit the spot with fresh fruits, a light pastry cream, and an ever-so delightful flaky crust. Normally I would have chosen a richer dessert, but I was quite pleasantly surprised by this mini tart. Another great visit to Eataly.
43 E. Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611
Lunch the next day would be our last meal of this short weekend getaway, and we wanted to close it out at Roister, the casual eatery by Grant Achatz, mastermind behind Alinea and Next. We had such a fancy yet creative and fun meal at Alinea that we were super curious about what Roister would be like, and luckily we were able to secure a table at lunch time.
Aged Cheddar Rillettes [$11]
The rillettes (similar to pâté) was served with cauliflower, truffle oil, and grilled sourdough bread. A nice starter with plenty of flavor, but it wasn’t super memorable.
Fried Chicken Sandwich [$13]
Now before you balk at how this fried chicken sandwich costs $13, let me just say that this was mind-blowingly good. The chicken had a super crispy exterior with juicy, moist meat underneath. I don’t know how they were able to get chicken breast to taste so good. The accompaniments were simple, making it clear that the chicken is the star of the show. Neither of us wanted to share this sandwich and agreed that we should have probably skipped the rillettes and ordered 2 more of these… ha! We still talk about this fried chicken sandwich now, almost 4 months later. Probably my favorite non-Alinea bite on this Chicago trip, and a perfect last meal in the Windy City. We’ll be back.
951 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
You can read Part 1 of my Chicago trip recap here. Stay tuned for a recap of the “meal of my life” at Alinea!