Tuesday, October 15, 2013

More Chicago Dining and Stuff

The morning after seeing the Jimmy Cliff show and dining at Takashi we made our way to The Adler Planetarium. Holly has wanted to visit this museum since she moved here in 1995. Getting there was interesting - we rented Divvy bikes. These are bicycles placed all around the city that you rent for 24 hrs at a time. The catch: you have to re-check the bike into a station within a half hour of starting in order to avoid additional charges.  A rack was luckily right outside our hotel. We were able to cut through Millennium Park and ride along Lakeshore Drive. That was the nice part. The not-nice part was the fact that there was only one rack in all the Museum campus and it was far from the Planetarium. Later when we were renting them to head uptown it took over a half hour to get a bike because of user errors by other guests and the misadventures of a family of ten trying to rent these things.

The Planetarium was good, but didn't occupy us for more than 2+ hours. We watched two shows - one boring presentation with photos from the Hubble Telescope and another one starring Big Bird and Elmo. Staff members kept cautioning us that we picked a kid show (and we didn't seem to have any kids with us) and maybe wanted to go to another offering. Who would skip a show with Elmo talking to a Muppet from China?

Time for lunch. Based on the success of Takashi's dinner we decided to try the chef's other Chicago concept: The Slurping Turtle. This is a more casual outlet with a lot of the focus on traditional ramen style noodle dishes. Dave's entree was much better than Holly's other than the fact that all the hot sauce was floating on the top and not mixed in. There was a good portion of meat in the bowl, but it all just seemed a little off. The best portion of the meal was getting a smaller serving of the pork belly appetizer we had the night before.

After a little shopping and trying a Firecakes donut we stopped for a beer at Howells and Hood. This spot has a prime location in The Tribune Tower across from The Wrigley Building. 120 beers on tap with a decent local focus. Good spot.

Usually when we go to Chicago we have a dinner reservation somewhere. This time we decided to wing it - and by winging it we mean Dave came up with a list of restaurants to hop between - if it was too crowded at one place we'd move on..... First stop was RPM - made famous on Giuliana and Bill. The place was packed and it wasn't even 7pm yet. We stood by the bar and were able to get seats within ten minutes. We tried two appetizers - provolone stuffed peppers and zucchini blossoms. Both were very good and some of the other food being delivered to other guests looked tempting.

Our next stop was at one of Chicago's newest restaurants: Tanta. This is a Peruvian restaurant concept from The Emeril of Peru - Gaston Acurio. We've been looking forward to visiting this restaurant because we enjoyed two of his restaurants when we visited Peru last year. The place wasn't very big and it was very crowded. We again lucked into bar seats within 5 minutes of arriving. There were three staff members behind the bar desperately trying to keep up with the drink orders. We found a nice selection of signature drinks using Pisco and some good beers available. We ordered the chicken skewers which came with mashed sweet potato and large kernels of Peruvian corn. We also finally tried cerviche. This version had a bit of a Thai influence - heavy on the cilantro and peanuts. Dave liked it, Holly not so much. Everything coming out of the kitchen to other diners looked good so I am sure we will return.

The final dining spot was SushiSamba Rio. This is a large restaurant with a big sushi bar set in the middle. It had a dance club atmosphere with lower-lighting and in-house DJ. The cocktail bar area was small - about seven stools and two couch areas. We sat at a couch and had two rolls - one crab and one waygu. Both were enjoyable. Eventually we moved up to the bar seats and got to enjoy some people watching. Our bartender was one of the nicest servers we've ever had in Chicago. Another fun place to put on the comeback list.

We decided to have a nightcap at the Conrad Hotel's bar since it was on the way. When we got to their bar and found it was in the middle of the bright lobby area we turned around to head to our hotel. We were at the Hyatt where we knew we had two decent bars to visit.
Our only plan for the next day was to find a place on the north side of the city to get lunch. We were hungry for burgers and our research brought us to The Bad Apple. This corner location has a neighborhood bar feel covered in tattoo art. One of the most impressive things about The Bad Apple was the beer list. Huge! The only complaint about the list was the fact that it was sorted by country/state and not beer style. #firstworldproblems. We decided to be daring and try their burger called The King: hamburger with peanut butter and bacon. Yeah sounds weird.........but it's our new obsession. The combination is fantastic. The Bad Apple used a homemade peanut butter that held to the heat of the burger.

One thing we "lucked" into was Half Acre Brewing was across the street from The Bad Apple. Half Acre was recently rated the best brewery in Illinois by one source. We've never been  fans since their flagship product Daisy Cutter is nasty (hoppy). We figured let's sample a few other products to give them a fair-shake. The verdict: still bad. Everything was over-hopped, even styles that should be low on the IBUs and malt-forward. Half Acre is a one-trick pony.

Overall a great weekend filled with lots of new experiences.

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