Tonight, I’m writing from the Marriott Suites in Oakbrook outside Chicago. I’m actually taking six days of vacation and Chicago is my home town, a place I love to come back to. Now, although I’ve eaten at some very upscale places in Chicago, i.e. Charlie Trotter’s, when I come home, I go for my favorite comfort foods. Nothing glamorous, and in almost all cases, not particularly healthy…but delicious!
First up: Hot dogs. Chicago is known for them and don’t give me any crap about New York. I lived in New York as a child and have been back to visit and both their hot dogs and pizza are inferior. What is that brown garbage they put on a hot dog in New York anyway? You call that sauerkraut? Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw and the sauerkraut you get on your dog is the real thing. A Chicago dog has a Vienna dog topped with things like bright green sweet relish, yellow mustard, onions, tomatoes, a dill pickle slice, and, if you feel like it, hot peppers. Or you can have it with sauerkraut too. It’s a complete meal. My favorite place is Henry’s on Ogden Avenue just west of Austin Blvd. For $2.39 you get a dog with fries wrapped up in a single large piece of wax paper. I usually order three at a time. No wine or beer as they don’t have a license. Just go with a soft drink.
Next, pizza. Deep dish was invented here. None of that soggy flat anemic crap you get in New York. My favorite is stuffed pizza, another Chicago tradition. Giordano’s invented it, and I’ve been eating it since the original one opened in Marquette Park. Now they’re pretty much all over Chicago. The pizza consists of a thin crust layered over the bottom of a deep pan. Then they fill it with cheese, and other goodies, top it with a second thin crust, incredible tomato sauce, and you’ve got a two inch behemoth. It comes in 10, 12, and 14 inch sizes. My wife and I split a medium and take the leftovers back to our hotel for a late night snack. The pizza is filling, so rather than a beer, we go with a red wine. In this case, I recommend a Clos du Bois Merlot, deep red color, fruity bouquet, and a blend of cherry, raspberry, and cassis flavors. For two, get a bottle. It’s 7.25 per glass. Tonight, ours was stuffed with cheese, spinach and mushrooms. My favorite, however, has Canadian bacon and mushrooms. The best in the world, no argument.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t hit my favorite place for breakfast—Omega’s on Ogden Avenue, just west of Main Street in Downers Grove. The restaurant is Greek and has all kinds of comfort food for lunch and dinner, but I go for breakfast. Great omelets, with my favorites being feta cheese or lox and onion. Also the traditional ham, cheese, etc. But if you go, I would recommend one of two breakfast entrees. The first is their junior apple pancake. It’s more like a coffee cake, about 9 inches in diameter and an inch thick filled with apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a custard-like dough, baked to perfection. Under no circumstances get the regular size. The junior is more than enough! The second thing to try is the Dutch baby miniature pancake. It’s like a giant puffy turnover and you smother it in butter, maple syrup and a touch of fresh squeezed lemon. The large size is called a German pancake but it’s big enough to feed the state of Connecticut.
Back at the hotel, I like to stop at a liquor store and buy a bottle or two of wine rather than get anything from the hotel. The average mark up at a hotel is at least 3X plus, if you order through room service, there’s a service charge, built in tip, etc. A $15.00 bottle of wine will cost you $50.00. So, first I tried a New Zealand Riesling as their wines are really outstanding. The wine was a Giesen East Coast Riesling, $13.00. Wow! What a find! Surprising. Clean, crisp, and slightly sweet, but not as cloying as some Rieslings. Sort of midway between a traditional Riesling and a Sauvignon Blanc. Hints of citrus with a touch of honey. Refreshing. This is one of the best whites I’ve had in a while and I’ll definitely look for this back home.
That’s it for now. I’ve still got three bottles of wine to review…but I’ve got to drink them first. So until next time.