I have always wanted to visit Chicago, and last week I finally got a chance to do it. If anybody reading this is a Chicago native or resident, let me just say that you’ve got one gorgeous home city.
My mother lived just outside Chicago as a child, so my sister and I treated her to a weekend there for her birthday. We stayed right in the heart of downtown for a couple of nights, then drove up to the Niles/Morton Grove area outside of Chicago to visit some family grave sites and see where Mom used to live.
Of course, part of visiting Chicago (or anyplace, for that matter) is noshing on some local fare. The first item on our agenda was deep-dish pizza, so we headed to Giordano’s. That’s where we had the scrumptious pie pictured above, which was stuffed with green peppers, onions, mushrooms and pepperoni. While eating my share, I realized I have never had a true deep-dish Chicago pizza until that moment. The crust was surprisingly thin and almost flaky, unlike the chewy, doughy crust I’ve had in so many restaurants.
While good New York pizza is certainly a treat, I can see why so many people argue that deep-dish is the way to go. But I have enough room in my heart for both of them, and I’m not even sure they can be compared because they’re so different.
The next night, we hit up Frontera Grill, which is owned by celebrity chef Rick Bayless. On the negative side, the wait was interminably long and one of my dishes was cold. I guess some of that is to be expected when you go to a special restaurant without making a reservation 10 weeks in advance. We ended up eating in the bar, in a dark little corner. At left is is a photo of my sister’s dish, smoked beef in mole sauce served with mashed potatoes and greens (the greens are under the meat). It was wonderful. My little corn masa cups with shredded beef and tomato-based sauce were also delicious, albeit cold, and the black beans with homemade cheese and fried onions were tasty and cute in their tiny cast iron skillet. Mom enjoyed chicken tacos.
On Saturday, we ventured outside the city to find some family history. After visits to two cemeteries to see the graves of my grandfather, great grandparents, great uncle and great aunt, we were ready to find some lunch. I was amazed by all the Polish and German-sounding names on the tombstones in the cemeteries — pretty much every single name had at least one “z” and very few vowels. My grandfather’s last name was Stoltz — his family was German — and I believe his mother was Polish.
We decided we had to find some Polish food before we left the area, so we ended up at a Polish buffet called Red Apple. There, we feasted on such yumminess as pierogies, Polish sausages, stuffed cabbage, plum-stuffed pork loin, sauerkraut, cheese blintzes and other meat-and-potatoes ethnic fare. Later, we felt as if our food had doubled in size in our stomachs, but the smorgasbord was certainly worth feeling a little uncomfortable (we walked it off in the Fashion Outlets of Chicago).
Overall, it was a fantastic trip. It’s always a pleasure to visit a new city and taste the cuisine it has to offer. I was impressed by how clean and beautiful Chicago was with all its green spaces and public art. One of these days, I hope to go back and have some more of that deep-dish pizza.
I’d love to hear from anyone who is familiar with Chicago. What food did we miss? Which do you prefer, New York-style or Chicago-style pizza?