The two highlights of the day: food and Hamilton. I got a good night’s sleep and started the day indulging in a “French toast flight” at Batter and Berries in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. I had been planning this breakfast for weeks, so it should come as no surprise that I didn’t even need to look at the menu. I ordered the “super flight”, which includes four of the regular French toast menu items (blueberry, strawberry, caramel, and lemon) along with this week’s special: Heath. I started by trying a couple of bites of each one and then decided to work my way up from my least favorite to my most favorite. I cleaned the plate.
Fortunately (for my waistline), I decided to walk from there to Lincoln Park to visit the conservatory and zoo. I have fond memories of the orchid room on my last visit to Chicago many years ago, but there weren’t too many in bloom today. The conservatory did provide a nice respite from the brisk morning temperatures. Then it was back to the cold as I walked around the Lincoln Park Zoo, a free Chicago attraction housing a large variety of animals. My favorites are always the gorillas, but I loved watching the monkeys swing (one kept hitting the glass because he overshot the rope!) as well. I spent a couple of hours wandering around the zoo and adjacent boardwalk before jumping on a bus to walk the Magnificent Mile. I stopped into a couple of stores before making my way to my afternoon destination: the CIBC Theater for Hamilton.
I’m not one of those people who has been wanting to see Hamilton since it first came out. I was ambivalent about going to see it in Boston. But, when I saw that it was playing in Chicago, I decided I might as well see what all the hype is about. I spent the first few songs thinking I should have saved my money, and then…. it won me over. Not being a history person, I figured I’d be bored watching people sing about one of the founding fathers for three hours and wouldn’t be able to follow the plot. On the contrary, I found myself having a new appreciation for Alexander Hamilton and I would recommend the show to anyone. It was that good.
I went back and forth on what I wanted for dinner tonight several times, and finally decided to forgo the deep dish pizza and head back to Lincoln Park for dinner at Riccardo Enoteca. It was a very good choice! I ended up eating at the bar instead of one of the cozy tables (which would have required a long wait) and enjoyed pennoni carbonara and panna cotta. A delicious end to the day!
First things first: it’s COLD in Chicago. Not just “Oh, there’s a little chill in the air” cold, but 18 degrees and blustery wind cold. At least that’s what it was when I was walking to my hotel a little after midnight. Oh, you want to know why I was out so late? Let me tell you the story! As I was getting to my gate at Logan last night, they were making an appeal for 5 volunteers to give up their seats on the 5:30 flight. In exchange for a guaranteed seat on the 8:15 flight. And a $700 travel voucher. Gosh, I’ll have to give this some thought. Just kidding! I immediately jumped into line and the rest is history. The flight was delayed but I eventually got to my hotel a little after midnight and…. wait a minute. I canceled that reservation and rebooked at a lower rate. What’s that? I canceled the wrong reservation and kept the more expensive rate?! Well that puts a little dent in the $700 I just earned. 😦
Fast forward about 6 hours and I was up and at ‘em at the crack of dawn. It wasn’t a matter of if I would crash today, but when. Spoiler: the answer is 1PM; that’s when I thought I might just curl up on a bench and sleep. I’m used to a faithful 9 hours of sleep every night and I fell about 5 hours short of that last night. I needed sustenance in the form of pancakes. And boy, did Wildberry Pancakes deliver! I had my mind made up on the signature “Berry Bliss” pancakes, and then the waitress asked if I wanted just the pancakes, or if I might like them as a side for one of the egg dishes. Well, I had been eyeing the skillets at a neighboring table that looked amazing. Which is how I came to feast on a skillet of hash browns, ham, and eggs smothered in melted cheddar and a short stack of berry bliss pancakes for my first breakfast in Chicago. Looks like I’m going to love it here.
After breakfast, I walked over to and around Navy Pier in the bitter cold before taking the lakefront trail over to Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. I took the obligatory pictures of the “Bean” and spent about 2 hours walking around the Art Institute. I’m not much of an art person, but I found myself drawn to the Contemporary Art section and I also enjoyed the American Art exhibits. It’s a pretty impressive collection. Afterwards, I hit TJ Maxx before heading back to the hotel. I was able to successfully plead my case to the hotel manager, who changed my room rate to the lower one I thought I was getting. I couldn’t spend much time in my room lest I give up on going back out for dinner.
Dinner tonight was at Piece Pizzeria and Brewery. I’d like to call it a little hole in the wall, but it’s definitely been discovered by more than a few Chicagoans. Nonetheless, I snagged a seat at the bar and settled in with a white pizza and cider. It wasn’t so good I felt I would go back again, but it did the job of filling me up. And now it is a little after 7PM and I’m already in my pajamas laying in bed typing this. I’m fading fast and I’m determined to get a good night’s sleep so I can get back out and explore more of the city tomorrow!