Chicago is this foodie’s kind of town
By Judi Gallagher
What happens when you take great Italian cuisine and blend it with the attitude of a happenin’ steakhouse, add some great Chinese and mix it well with friendly service, clean streets and an all-around big-city feel with small-town spirit? You get an eating vacation of a lifetime in one of the nicest cities in the world: Chicago.
Gibson’s service is on a level like no other.
On our most recent visit it took but five minutes to drop our bags at the hotel and hop into a cab to the Italian Village for our first meal. Imagine three levels of restaurants, basement on up, and you have one-stop shopping for wonderful Italian cuisine. Their veal Parmesan is beyond respectable, but the veal saltimbocca brought us back for a second helping the following night.
The Italian Village ( firstname.lastname@example.org) was a great choice from Chicago/ Sarasota friend Larry Hoffman along with a Chicago standard: Gibson’s Steakhouse. Gibson’s is an institution and not to be missed, although I can honestly tell you I have had better meals at larger, well-known steakhouses. Gibson’s however, is the quintessential scene. There are politicians, well-respected restaurateurs from other areas of the country, firefighters, wine enthusiasts (the wine list is well worth the visit) and lots of attorneys. The service is as pleasant and professional as I have ever experienced, making up for the overcooked steak we were served on our last two visits. Across from Gibson’s is its sister restaurant, Lux Bar, one of my favorites for sliders (mini sirloin burgers), quesadillas and all-around good energy. In fact, the whole area is pretty cool; and the owners of Gibson’s clearly hold the monopoly on real estate with a casual seafood restaurant located right next door that we promise to try next visit.
Riva’s won my heart from it’s name.
Perhaps the most touching was our visit to
Riva’s. My Mom’s name was Riva and walking at the Navy Pier (a bit touristy but worth checking out) I stopped right in my tracks to admire the sign and take a picture. Riva’s is about seafood and beautiful views of the lake and city, but it is also about the food. The cedar-planked salmon with Asian BBQ sauce was cooked a perfect medium rare, as requested, and the fish and chips, light tempura style, were just delightful. Skip the crab cakes, though—Ezra in Bradenton far surpasses these.
The three best of show in Chicago?
Ben Pao Chinese Restaurant. The crab rangoon served pencil style was amazing while the seven-flavor chicken made me sigh with pleasure. Next up was Eno, the wine, cheese and chocolate bar in the InterContinental Hotel—sensual decadence as I sipped a flight of port. But the best of all- watching my husband eat a Chicago dog at the Cubs game—priceless.
Crab rangoon gets new respect at Ben Pao.
Do you have a favorite summertime vacation eating destination? Please post below! You can also ask a question about food or wine for me to answer at our Ask Judi feature on our Web site—go under the food and wine drop-down box to find.