Illinois: Evanston and Chicago

I need to catch up and Chicago is a well-known and well-covered city, and we mostly hung out with Kenny (first-year MBA student at Kellogg), so this will be a fairly cursory overview of our time in the Windy City.  By the way, many assert this nickname has little to do with weather and actually refers to the hot air bellowing from politicians.

September 14, 2013 (Saturday, cont’d) – On the drive from Milwaukee down to Chicago we noticed the Apple Holler was packed and saw a sign for Wilmot Ski Mountain.  We arrived in Evanston around 6 pm.  Evanston is a Chicago suburb and home to the Northwestern University campus.  With a population around 75k, it is a small city in its own right.

The Northwestern Wildcats football team started the season ranked well inside the top 25.  They have since collapsed to mediocrity and perhaps beyond, but locals were excited when we were there.  So our first activity was attending a small Kellogg tailgate on the golf course by Ryan Field, a couple “L” stops away.  The scene was pretty good.  Food options at the stadium were better than expected.  The ‘cats started slow against Western Michigan but finished strong, though we left at halftime and took the free shuttle back to Evanston.

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After a quick visit to BK we went to JT’s to watch the Mayweather vs. Alvarez fight, which was lame.  Kenny already knows tons of people here and the MBA students like to drink.

September 15, 2013 (Sunday) – See my post on the Packers game here.

September 16, 2013 (Monday) – Today was a lazy day.  We walked to Bagel Art where I got a Lox & Key on an everything bagel.  It lacked the overall size and lox quantity of a NY bagel but cost less at $8.95 and was pretty good.  Jenni dropped off her bridesmaid dress at A-1 tailor and she thought they did an OK job.  I caught up on some Newsroom and Boardwalk Empire episodes back at the apartment.

For dinner we walked to Lou Malnati’s (a respected deep-dish chain) on Sherman Ave for some famous Chicago deep dish pizza.  The pizza was good but I would say the Malnati’s salad was more impressive.  We washed it all down with a bottle of pinot noir then went to Forever Yogurt for some make-your-own with an even more impressive topping selection than what is typical these days.  Back home we enjoyed nice views of the Chicago skyline from Kenny’s roofdeck, followed by a Samburu board call and Monday Night Football.

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September 17, 2013 (Tuesday) – We revisited the 7-minute exercise routine and then took public transport into Chicago.  It takes much longer than I would have thought, especially in the middle of the day when commuter trains do not run and “L” line changes are required.  More than an hour later we disembarked at the Monroe stop and walked past the Art Institute to Lake Michigan and then cut back in at the Chicago River.

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From here we walked north on Michigan Ave and saw the Tribune Tower with its embedded rocks from various historically important sites throughout the world.  See more information on prior link.

We browsed in a couple shops and then headed west on Onatrio Street to Portillo’s.  We were after another Chicago classic, the Chicago Dog.  This is an all-beef frankfurter with mustard, relish, fresh chopped onions, red ripe tomatoes, crisp kosher dill spear and sport peppers on a steamed poppy seed bun.  It hit the spot and was within budget at $3.  Jenni got mostaccioli in red sauce which was OK.  Portillo’s is like an amusement park with lots of neon and two levels.  There is a drive through in back.  And if it is good enough for The Fridge, it is good enough for me.

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We returned to Michigan Ave and walked to Oak Street Beach where there is a lakeside path with lots of runners and cyclists.

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Then we headed west yet again and saw a dog stalking a squirrel in the park.  I figured there was no chance he could catch it, but I was wrong.  Heading up Wells Street we passed Concord Lane which looks like it would be a great place to live.  A New Leaf is a fabulous floral and plant shop (yeah, I said it) with a little garden and all sorts of accessories.  This would be a good place to shop for gifts.

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I heard the roof deck at Hotel Lincoln is nice but we did not make it.  Ditto Toast for brunch.  By the way, this is all in/around Lincoln Park.  I knew Kris just moved there and heard it was a nice part of town so we were happy to amble through on our way back towards Evanston.  And indeed we really liked this neighborhood.  It reminded us some of Boston with its brownstones and many homes on the historic register.  We walked on Armitage to Halstead and took the purple line by DePaul University.

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Jenni was after some quiet time so Kenny and I met some of his friends at Tommy Nevin’s before a KWEST Arubacao group dinner at Cozy Noodles and Rice with BYO beer and wine.  After this we hit 27 Live for a Kellogg band performance.  Kenny told me that not only is the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday, but to MBA students the following Monday is known as Black Monday because so many return to school having broken up with their significant others.

Oh, most important, during video presentations made by MBA student groups a week or two back Kenny had been cast as The Most Interesting Man on Campus.  A legend, already.

September 18, 2013 (Wednesday) – I got the very tasty Black Belt breakfast sandwich at Delbe’s Corner and Jenni a pastry at Bennison’s.  We did laundry then met Kenny for an excellent lunch at Bat 17.  One can order a full-size sandwich but we got the regular size which was plenty large.  Kenny and I split a turkey reuben and a chicken salad while Jenni got egg salad.  The gorgonzola cole slaw was on point.

That evening we took a cab to Chicago Cut for a big steak dinner.  The spectacular lightning show over downtown eased the pain inflicted by our awful cab driver.  As soon as we walked in we saw Grant Hill.  This good sign was supplemented by the two high class pros sitting at the table behind us.  Décor is red leather and velvet chairs with high ceilings and big windows to enjoy the river front location.  Kirkland & Ellis has their office in this building.  My steak was not as thick as expected but it was great.  The creamed spinach was, too, and the lobster mac and cheese was good.  We also got the Neuske bacon – triple cut, which was different than I expected but my notes are too shoddy for an accurate description.  I think it was more like different styles of pork belly vs. your now-typical Peter Luger style thick cut bacon.

September 19, 2013 (Thursday) – Another lazy morning followed by Jenni’s first foray into Five Guys while we got a double order of wings from Buffalo Joe’s on Clark Street.  The wings were crispy but slightly dry.  They were still tasty, but I was appalled they only have ranch and not blue cheese.  Waffle fries with a side of cheese sauce probably would have been better if eaten immediately rather than carried home.

Nice mosaic in
Nice mosaic in “L” station

Things got hectic when we began to grasp the difficulty of health insurance logistics and visa issues.  We had left Jenni’s passport in our safe deposit box in Los Angeles yet one of the travel insurance plans we thought would suffice for our full medical coverage would not take effect until we left the country.  And it can take a while to process visas and we knew we would have less than two weeks back in Los Angeles in November before flying to Chile.  I will not bore you with all the details, but the important part is that it is nigh impossible to get health insurance if you do not live anywhere and Jenni almost flew back to Los Angeles to get her passport.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and this situation now seems to be under control.

Kris came over after work and we all walked to Bar Louie for beers, a daily special $5 martini with blue cheese stuffed olives, tasty chicken nachos and some other bar snacks.  Thanks again to Kris for his generosity in supporting us three voluntarily unemployed degenerates.

September 20, 2013 (Friday) – This was one of the worst days of the trip.  After some more frustrating health insurance calls, I moved Sven from his parking spot to load him up for our drive to upstate New York, and when I tried to restart him he failed us.  Kenny was in the middle of an exam and keys to his apartment were now locked therein.  After waiting more than an hour for a tow truck to arrive, it turned out we could jumpstart the car.  Which worked fine and then we drove to the Howard Orloff Volvo dealership and arrived at 1 pm for a 1:30 pm appointment.  The space is comfortable with free wifi and juices and a fancy coffee machine, but they took forever and we finally left at 5:30 pm with no conclusive resolution to our car troubles.

Already about seven hours behind schedule, I missed the ideal highway turn.  All I can say from this jaunt through Indiana is it has basketball players and people who drive in the left lane for no apparent reason.  And a very poor value toll at $7.90.

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It rained for 4+ hours and we arrived at 3 am to our tolerable Microtel in Olean, NY.  I was thankful we booked this stop a couple hours short of our destination of Ithaca, NY.  Despite the misery, it was a milestone day as we entered the eastern time zone.

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