Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicago Weekend: July 2014 - Part One

We spent three nights in Chicago recently to hang out with friends and take part in the Rock and Roll Chicago Half Marathon/5K races. We'll save the race reports for another post, but we'll cover some of the bars and restaurants we hit over the weekend in this post.

Dave started the morning working at his company's new downtown offices. They recently opened this location to have additional meeting space and give employees some flexibility in where they can work. It's a 34th floor location on Michigan Avenue. The Chicago River is on one side, the Tribune Tower, Trump, and Wrigley Building on other sides. Excellent views and a great space to work.

One other benefit to working at this location: Howells and Hood is right next door. H&H has 114 beers on tap available at all three bars (including the patio bar). As a tap handle collector Dave does a lot of window shopping here. He enjoyed a great pulled pork sandwich and stout while having lunch with a friend whom works in the Tribune Tower. (Surprise: we ended up at Howells and Hood Saturday afternoon too). Once his work day was over he took a water taxi to get closer to the hotel - a new Chicago experience for Dave.

We met up at our hotel for the first two nights, The Palmer House Hilton, before starting our northbound trek. Our first stop was The Roof at The Wit Hotel. At night this place is like a high-end club with all the ropes and cover charges. In daytime it's a crowded bar you can walk right into. The bigger outdoor deck is on the northwest side of the building with some obscured views, but we lucked into seats on the smaller south-side deck. This gave us a unique view of The Loop, Lake Michigan, and Millennium Park. One-and-done and it was time to move on.

We walked to our next destination, or so we thought..... The website listed Three Dots and a Dash being located at 435 N Clark. This was actually the location of Bub City. Confused, we went in and asked the hostess, whom told us we had to go around to the alley. 3 Dots is a tiki style bar in the basement of Bub City and it's one of the hottest new bars in town. Calling it dark would be an understatement. The place had  Tiki design all over, but not over-the-top. Wait staff wore Hawaiin prints and every drink had it's own unique glass. It was packed when we first arrived, mostly couples pre-drinking before dinner, but it seemed to slightly thin out around 7pm.

We moved north towards our next stop.  We had ressies for a party of 11 at Ditka's. The decor fit the formula for a sports-personality restaurant: wood paneling, green walls, sports memorabilia. We sat upstairs within close range of the entertainment. The singer was good,  but LOUD. Everyone found something they liked on the menu which included surprisingly affordable signature cocktails for the neighborhood.

Some of us decided Ghirardelli ice cream was a needed dessert item. After that, we split off from the other 9 folks we dined with and ended up at 52Eighty, a rooftop bar at the Mile North Hotel. The deck itself was small - maybe a dozen seating areas. We had to wait for an outdoor seating area in the indoor portion, which was still nice. Soft club music and an old movie projected on the wall was the entertainment.

We walked back to the hotel - which was far - thinking we'd visit one more location. We popped into the Renaissance Hotel only to find they changed their sedate piano lounge into a modern clubby-thing. We decided this was not our last call drink place. We turned the corner and headed into State and Lake. We were seated right away but no one came over to serve us. We left. After two strikes we said we were out and headed to the Palmer House and to bed.

Saturday was race expo day. Our party was spread all over the city when lunch time came. We picked Dick's Last Resort on the river and had an advance team save two deck tables. They called for backup so we sent Holly and Eddie ahead to help secure the tables. In the end 2 tables for 14 were secured. You don't go to Dick's for the food or go there for fun and the  river-side patio. We had a great time watching the boat traffic go by, including a bikini-clad Christmas in July themed cruiser.....Ya never know what you're gonna get.

Dave made our dinner reservations for a party of 15 several weeks before our event. Imagine our surprise walking up to the podium to find they didn't have our ressie. The manager was far from being helpful or apologetic. We put our local knowledge to use and remembered we were close to the Italian Village restaurant. Their basement area, La Cantina, could accommodate us. We walked the few blocks over and found we had a long table in a semi-private room. Within a half hour it became a private room. Service was excellent and the food was pretty good too. Worked out perfect....

We'll stop here and save Sunday's fun for another post.

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