I'm from Chicago. Well, not "Chicago" Chicago, but more like a south suburb of the Windy City. A more accurate way of stating it would be to say I'm from the Greater Chicagoland Area, but other than car dealership commercials, who wants to waste time on that?
Anyway, I was back in the Chi (pronounced 'shy') last week for work. I moved away from Illinois almost a decade ago and each additional time I've visited since, I've felt more and more like a tourist. Which is fine, because Chicago is a wonderful place to vacation, even if it is a 80% work vacation.
In addition to having a pretty successful work experience this time, I made a little extra time for fun stuff. I've been to the city enough in the last several years, even after moving away, that I don't ever feel the need to hit up anywhere special (other than Portillo's, which I failed to visit this time). This time, I was perfectly happy to allow others to lead the way, focusing more on the company and the fun than on specific locations.
Even so, I had one of the best pizzas of my life at Santullo's in Wicker Park, where my pal and I were kicking around, hitting up Myopic Books and other cool spots. I got to lounge for a minute in the loop location of Reckless Records and scored some cool books (including some great weird ones for Cookbook as a thank you for watching my pups while I was away) at Afterwords.
Perhaps best of all, though, was the Saturday morning/early afternoon outing with another friend to Wrigley Field for a tour of the stadium. That was awesome - nearly 2 hours long with trips to both clubhouses, the press booth, the home dugout, and even part of the field! An event to remember for this lifelong Cub fan. So much so I found myself looking up the Cubs schedule to see when they'd be playing nearby. (FYI - there are some tempting series coming up in early June in Pittsburgh and late August in Cinci.)
To make it even better, afterwards we walked a few blocks to this vintage dive bar my friend had heard about and discovered an incredibly charming little watering hole. The patrons were welcoming, the bartendress both attractive and cool and also born the same year as me, which made for some great conversation about 90s radio alt rock. There is nothing better than meeting a stranger and bonding over that old missing children Soul Asylum video. Seriously, who else is going to get how awesome it was to drink during high school at abandoned country houses code-named things like 'Soundgarden' and 'Candlebox'? Or that you want to give a high-five to when you hear their first show was a Ned's Atomic Dustbin gig?
A handful of beers and a shot from some anonymous person down the bar from us later, we stumbled over to the thoughtfully named Taco and Burrito House for some killer tacos and nachos. Then it was back to work, albeit a bit glassy-eyed and happy.
God I love that town.
4 years ago