Chicago Trip Report December 2018

Made another visit to Chicago to meet my sister and her family for Christmas and I am officially in love with this city! It helps that they were practically giving hotel rooms away over Christmas week – we stayed at The Blackstone in lake view rooms for $103 a night (AAA discount). The rooms were extremely nice and the hospitality from the staff was way above and beyond, truly special. But let’s get to the food.

Places We’d Go Back To:

Eleven City Diner. Pleasant walk from the hotel and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Open on Christmas. Just fantastic deli food and the best pastrami sandwich ever (from someone who has eaten a lot of them in her time).

Xoco. We ate here the last time we were in Chicago and had fond memories which were possibly exceeded by our experiences this time. If I lived in Chicago, I’d be a regular. Four of us times two lunches = 8 meals of incredible deliciousness. My favorite: the carnitas soup – but there was nothing on the menu that did not appeal. Nice folks too.

La Scarola. We had a reservation but waited 45 minutes anyway. They were apologetic. We had such fun people-watching we barely cared. Perhaps hunger enhanced the food but we thought it was fantastic. My first Chicken Vesuvio experience but I trust not the last. Crazy busy, crowded, waiters on the run. A very enjoyable evening.

Bavette’s. We had our Christmas Eve blowout here and could not have asked for a nicer or tastier steakhouse special occasion experience. Ambience, service and food was everything you could ask for. If I am in Chicago and need a special occasion place, I would return in a heartbeat.

Places We Enjoyed:

Dusek’s. My sister and I enjoyed dinner here last trip. We had brunch this trip. We all enjoyed our meals but they were not mind-blowing (other than the French toast we ordered for the table and fought over) and I was surprised at how little the menu had changed in 20 months or so. Would not argue against going back but wouldn’t propose it either.

Santorini. Fun flaming cheese, nice wait staff, perfectly good food. Again, would not argue against going back but wouldn’t propose it either.

The Duck Inn. We had pre-ordered the rotisserie duck (and there was a cute rubber ducky on our table, so signifying) and had looked forward to it all week. My sister and I planned to share it and my BIL and nephew looked forward to their duck Chicago dogs. We decided to share the brown butter Brussels sprouts and a bar salad first. Everything was good but everything was also heavy and rich. There was no balance. And the duck breast was not as rare as it should have been, nor was the fat sufficiently rendered from under the skin. Glad we went, there was nothing left on our plates, but also no need to go back.

The Deep Dish Pizza:

My BIL and nephew had a mission to try both Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s. We did both, ordering a large Caesar salad to share and the sausage deep dish at both. Our verdict (based on one meal at each): Caesar salad is better at Lou Malnati’s, pizza, ambience and service was much better at Giordano’s. So count us on Team Giordano. While I personally would not care if that was my last deep dish pizza experience, if I am in Chicago with this group again we will definitely be back at Giordano’s.

The Rest:

We had a couple of breakfasts at Yolk as it was near the hotel and while it was perfectly serviceable there was nothing special about it (or we ordered wrong). Nothing terrible but seemed like a waste of tummy space compared with what else was available. We would have returned to Beef and Brandy (which we enjoyed last trip) for at least one of those meals except it was closed which made us very sad.

I totally lucked out in that my departure gate at O’Hare was right next to Tortas Frontera so I had a cochinita pibil torta with a side of guacamole for definitively the best airport meal I have ever had.

Once again, I can’t wait to go back!


Consider me wowed. I have a dear friend living in Chicago and it appears a visit is overdue!

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Stuffed spinach+mushroom is our usual Giordano’s order. More than once we arranged to pick up a frozen one on the way to O’Hare to schlep home (always packed a big plastic trash bag in the briefcase just for this purpose when traveling to Chicago).


Nice report. I’ve been to bavettes a few times and this place is world class! I like Chicago chop house as well

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No. 19:

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Thanks for taking the time to do this! What hotel did you use?

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The Blackstone, on Michigan Avenue.
ETA: we looooved it.

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