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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Road Trip - Chicago Style!

I have been very lax in updating this blog recently, but now that the spring weather is here I will try to get back on track by talking about our trips so far this year.  We’ve been to Chicago, Las Vegas and Toronto in 2019 and we’re planning another short road trip soon!

Over the Christmas holidays we took a trip back to Chicago.  We like travelling over the Christmas holidays because we’re usually off work, and often lucky to have mild enough weather for a road trip.  

Chicago is a 6 hour drive for us, which is definitely manageable, but this time we decided to break up the trip with a stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan for a night to check out all the new craft beer places in the city since our last trip way back in 2013. There are a lot of changes!

We stayed at a hotel close to downtown and walked to the new HopCat Kalamazoo first.  HopCat has really expanded over the years from their first location in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you see one on your travels, it’s an excellent place to try local craft beer.  The Kalamazoo location is huge and in an old train station. We made it in time for happy hour and had some delicious beer, cider and snacks.

Next we checked out Bell’s Eccentric Cafe.  Last time we were here, it was just a bar with a food counter, now they’ve expanded to a full service restaurant as well as the bar.  Their beer is some of the best in North America, and we featured it in the Beer Baron’s first post on this site!

We had some more snacks and beer and moved on to the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange where they have a stock ticker and beer prices rise and fall throughout the night.  It’s a cute concept.

The next morning, we decided to make one more detour before Chicago and visited the famous 3 Floyds Brewery in Munster, Indiana, about 45 minutes outside Chicago. We picked up some precious bottles and had a really spectacular lunch in their busy brewpub. The food was outstanding and the staff was super friendly.

Finally, on to Chicago!  On the way into town we stopped at Marz Brewing in the up-and-coming Bridgeport neighbourhood near White Sox stadium.  The brewery is gorgeous and the beer is fantastic. It’s a great community place.  

Our hotel on this trip was the brand new Aloft Chicago Mag Mile.  We like Aloft hotels - they’re a little bit modern and usually have a bar and live music in the lobby on weekends.  This one was perfectly located and an easy walk to Michigan Avenue and all Chicago attractions. One of the reasons we love Chicago, other than the amazing food, drinks and shopping, is that hotels can very cheap!  Our hotel was less than $90 USD per night in the perfect location. In the winter and spring on weekends, we’ve gotten some amazing hotel deals in the city.

On our first night we walked to Headquarters Beercade River North.  Matt loves an arcade bar and this is one of the best we’ve ever been to.  The games are FREE to play and they have a great beer and cocktail selection.  

Afterwards we tried Rick Bayless’s new speakeasy, Bar Sotano. We’ve enjoyed his Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Xoco in the past, so as soon as we heard about this new addition we made a reservation!  We’re so glad we did. The entrance is in an alley behind the restaurants and you check in at the front desk before being led behind a curtain and down the stairs (sotano means basement in Spanish).

The drink menu was spectacular and we tried several cocktails, including this mango cocktail served in a plastic bag!

The food menu is mostly small plates but Matt had the burger, which we were shocked to find was one of the best we’d ever tasted!

The next day we did a little walking and shopping and stopped by Millennium Park to visit the bean.  Matt had a Chicago Dog in the park.

That evening we hadn’t made plans but wanted to try one of Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s restaurants.  We ended up at the Little Goat Diner, We sat at the counter and had some amazing food!  Matt had the tallest burger in history!

We also checked out the Chicago outlet of one of Matt’s favourite San Diego breweries, Ballast Point, and played some more video games at Emporium Fulton Market.   The perfect end to a fun and filling trip.

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