Monday, May 20, 2019

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Chicago

by Brad Sutter (Contributing Editor)

Chicago, the "Windy City" as they say. I have been planning a trip to head out to Chicago for a few days. Hailing from the Washington, DC area, I frequent many of my favorite restaurants on a weekly basis. Depending on what area I was in and what time it was, there was always that "favorite diner" in that particular area. I've visited them so often, I started to become like one of the restaurant's décor. I will certainly miss my favorite eateries while I am away for a few days. For a change of pace, I decided to go on a "gastro-tourism" adventure while sight-seeing in Chicago. After all, how can one thoroughly enjoy the attractions Chicago has to offer when one is running on empty?

The most important meal of the day is breakfast, and I wanted to go to a restaurant that was beloved amongst its locals. I was looking for a restaurant that survived the test of time and was still thriving. I was going to be staying in the downtown Chicago area and was looking for that special place. So, I contacted one of my friends who was more familiar with the area. I texted and said, "What's a good spot for breakfast out here in downtown?" He replies, "breakfast downtown Chicago?" I replied, "Yes, downtown Chicago." He calls and tells me, "I know the perfect place. It's been around for ages; around 94 years! It's called Lou Mitchell’s. It is a classic Chicago icon. My grandparents love the place, and they also serve lunch." I thanked him, and was on my way.

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the storefront. Like something that was left untouched by time, the restaurant sported the classic diner look. You can almost imagine what it was like stepping back in time and arriving in the 1920s. Famously located along the road that begins Route 66, this diner of diners had patrons waiting in line outside. It was early so I was lucky enough to get a seat in no time. Beginning my gastro-tourism trip, I ordered the Greek Sausage Special omelette. I made it a hobo skillet by telling my server I wanted potatoes mixed in with it. The food was delicious. I could see why this restaurant is a favorite of Chicago residents. I took a quick look at the time and realized I had to hurry and finish my meal, so I can start checking off the to-see and to-do list.

After breakfast, I headed towards Willis Tower. Being extremely full from eating, a walk wasn't a bad idea. I took the elevators up to the Skydeck. I marveled at the panoramic view of the city. Stepping on a clear-glass-boxed ledge, I saw Chicago from a bird's eye view, looking down. I stayed a little longer and decided to depart, as the influx of tourists started to become overwhelming. As I headed out and back unto the busy Chicago streets, I decided to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. My goal for the next few days was to visit at least one or two well-known restaurants and at least two attractions per day. I began my walk, taking note of the various places that caught my eye. I took pictures along the way. This was my first time visiting Chicago so I wanted my experience to be as thorough as it could be, packed in just a few days.

I arrived at the Art Institute and was greeted by a green lion at its steps. I went up the steps and entered. About an hour or two, lunchtime arrived. "Where to go?" I thought to myself. I then remembered breakfast and how lovely it was. I decided to go back to the diner I had breakfast at. I just couldn't get enough of the place. I decided this time, however, I would take a ride on the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority.) Again, I arrived back at the diner. I waited in line for a seat. Once seated, I browsed the menu again. This time I ordered the Rueben sandwich, grilled open face on homemade rye, thinly sliced corned beef piled high with sauerkraut, 1000 island dressing, and topped with melted swiss cheese. Lunch did not disappoint. It was equally as good as breakfast. I took a look at the line outside. I quickly paid and departed, so that someone else can have a seat. I walked back towards Union Station and decided to walk around the waterway.

Dinner quickly came, and my tummy was looking for something that Chicago is also known for, deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. I was told this particular establishment has been around since the 1960s. It has now grown to add locations outside of Illinois. I arrived at what locals say is the original and first location of the establishment. I ordered, and the pizza arrived. Gigantic does not even begin to describe how big the pizza was. The pizza was wonderfully flavored: It did not disappoint. After dinner, I headed towards my hotel. On the way, my excitement grew for the next day's activities - and meals.