Me: “You’re from Chicago? Great! Would you be able to recommend anywhere to eat?”
Everyone I asked: “Lou Malnati’s”
Everyone included the couple who went on the Gallier House tour with me. One of the girls at the hostel who lives in Chicago. Another of the girls at the hostel, who recently went to Chicago.
It seems, Lou Malnati’s is the place to go if you have one place to eat in Chicago. Which is strange if you ask me. It’s like me saying the one place you should eat at in the UK is Greggs.
Maybe that’s a really bad comparison. No, scratch that! It is a REALLY bad comparison. With 51 locations just in Chicago, Lou Malnati’s…
“… was founded by the son of Rudy Malnati, who was instrumental in developing the recipe for Chicago-style pizza, and it has become one of the Chicago area’s best-known local lines of pizza restaurants” – Wikipedia
That is me completely corrected…
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself though. I have an 8-hour layover in Chicago as part of my flight home. So while not Anthony Bourdain’s Layover series. I do have a little time to spend in the city, rather than pass out in the airport.
Which, if you need to be reminded, could completely happen considering I got next to no sleep last night. It’s 6:00 AM, and I am in an Uber heading towards Louis Armstrong Airport. The roads are clear, and my driver is just on the right side of the speed limit (Or the wrong side, depending on how you see it). It is a damn sight quicker than my trip to the city just four days ago. Mental note, taking the public transport is NOT always the best way to do things.
For the trip back I am checking my main bag in. Since I have the opportunity to go around town in Chicago, I don’t want to be lugging my luggage backpack, as well as the backpack for my gear. I already look enough of a tourist as it is.
Now the next few hours are inherently boring, mainly since a lot of it is spent dozing, or asleep. Or in a state of paranoia, again wondering if I’ve been snoring.
I had breakfast at the airport. And while not bland, it was easily forgettable. Like most airports in the USA, Louis Armstrong isn’t exactly filled with stores selling all sorts of random goods, and restaurants from Michelin starred chefs. Therefore I end up sleeping for thirty or so minutes in the departure lounge. And yes, I did set an alarm on my phone since I was that paranoid about just sleeping all the way through.
Slept on the flight, which was easier than expected since I somehow managed to bag a free upgrade to business class. What? Did I forget to mention that? Well, it didn’t come with access to any lounges at the airport (Louis Armstrong nor O’Hare International). And it was only for this section of the flight. I would be flying economy for the main stretch back to London. However, it did give me a nice three or so hours sleep. And it also meant I would be the first person off of the flight. I can’t complain.
Downtown Chicago is a 40 minute or so ride on the Metro, and you can get a day pass for $10. And again I’ve got Google Maps telling me where to go from the station. You can tell where this is going, can’t you…
While not as bad this time, I do end up walking for about 3 minutes in the wrong direction because Google can’t tell which direction I am facing. Which would not be so bad, if it was for the fact that it I AM FREEZING MY NUTS OFF!
Yeah, it’s about 0C (32F) at the moment, but when you throw in the “wind chill” factor then I’m half believing I’m about to die from frostbite.
I finally make it to Lou’s and it is fairly packed. Quite surprising really since I very few people on my way over here. Maybe they’re all just smarter than me and inside somewhere warm. Like here.
I get a seat at the bar, and after a few minutes looking at the menu, I make my order.
It’s obvious I’m having the pizza (or “pie” as they may, or may not call it here). And while my heart wants to order at least a medium, my head, and dwindling holiday budget has told me not to. Mainly because both know that I’m getting a starter as well.
And yes, it is fried calamari, and yes, I am still using the 50mm lens.
And for a starter, it is a worryingly large portion. I say “worryingly”, it’s not like that stopped me finishing the whole plate.
And I then we get…
Inch-thick crust, bubbling cheese and fresh out of the oven. If only you could smell this, it’s like Heaven in food form.
The problem now is waiting for the thing to cool. One of my sillier habits is eating hot (as in temperature, not spiciness) food before it has cooled down sufficiently. This then means I’m chugging down whatever drink I’ve got at hand (in this case, root beer) to cool my now scalding mouth and its contents. As you can guess this does mean I lose any sense of what the food tastes like, or textures since it all pretty much becomes mush.
So I wait. And it’s worth it.
I’ve spent an hour in Lou Malnati’s and decide it’s time to take a walk to see something, anything…
… I see trains
Now I’m not an architect, but I’m pretty sure it takes someone versed in The Sims to decide that trains running right by buildings is a good idea. Then again, that’s why they, whoever they are, are paid the big bucks.
The Riverwalk is a supposed to be a fantastic way to spend a day if:
- You had a day to spend there
- you weren’t worried about how you were getting back to the airport.
Also, ideally when it’s not sub-freezing temperatures.
I was planning to head back to the airport at this stage. Things being what they are, with my knee, and it’s cold, and I don’t know if there might be delays and… However, I decided that I was in Chicago, and I really don’t know when I’d be able to come back. I’d like to come back for sure. But don’t know when.
So I reasoned that I have enough time to see a few more things, including Millenium Park, and its weird stuff they call art. Including the Cloud Gate, which was created by British Artist Anish Kapoor.
So off I go walking towards the park, after all, what’s the worse that could happen? I forget to buy some duty-free cigarettes? I miss a flight? Meh, it could be worse.
So it’s with this that I pick up a cookie and coffee from Panera Bread. Have I mentioned Panera Bread before? I don’t think so. I initially went to a branch while in DC.
Small backstory. Last time I was in DC (in 2017), someone I met mentioned I should visit there. Now she mentioned this while we were in the departure lounge of JFK heading back to the UK. So, not useful at the time. But I remembered. So I went. Not a particularly interesting story I know.
What I did find interesting is that they have a cookie named the “Kitchen Sink”. Don’t know why they’ve called it that. However, what I do know is that it has 800 (EIGHT HUNDRED) calories in it. That’s more than a Big Mac. And I bought one, all for myself.
Twice. Once in DC, and again in Chicago, for… you know… statistical rigour.
Anyway, I make way back to the airport, still with over two hours to spare. I eat more food, I edit some photos, and yes I did get the cigarettes (not mine by the way).
The most eventful part of the flight back was seeing if someone is going to be sitting next to me.
Somehow, karma throws me a bone, and in what is otherwise a full flight, I count my blessings that no one is sitting next to me. So I have a row to myself. Yes, it is just two seats, the back row is just two seats where it should normally be three. But with the knee, it means I may as well be sitting in Business with the amount of stretching I can do. And I blissfully fall asleep (with the help of a few tablets of Tylenol).
Waking up just in time for meals…
But that’s another… actually it’s not even a story.
Now… where should I go next? I’m thinking Canada