The impetus for our trip to Chicago was a visit to historic Wrigley field, for a bout between the impenetrable 2016 Cubs, and the Atlanta Braves. The previous two days had greeted us with punishing cold, but this day commenced with rain, the kryptonite of baseball. The game seemed destined for a rain delay, but, like every other fan hoping to gain access to the yard that day, we pressed on, hoping for an impasse in the storm.
I have a friend (a self proclaimed “cheeseburger expert”) who insists there is no better cheeseburger in the country, or the world, than that of Shake Shack, so, we headed to the Ohio street location to give her a whirl. https://www.shakeshack.com/location/river-north-chicago/
Shake Shack’s menu was far more comprehensive than I expected; I had assumed it would be parsed to CB and B, basically, but in reality, they offer five burgers, a chicken sandwich, four varities of hot dog, a load of frozen custard options, shakes (duh) dog treats, and, hallelujah, beer.
We went with one traditional (cheese, shacksauce, lettuce, tomato) and a smokeshack; Niman patty topped with cheese, bacon, cherry peppers and shacksauce, an order or crinkle cut fries, and of course, a nice cold pint of local beer.
The SS burger is smash patty style, which I like in theory, but unfortunately theirs, like so many burgers people rave about, was either unseasoned or terribly underseasoned, a fact that is perhaps overshadowed for some by the flavor of the shacksauce.
The rest of the elements were tasty, it wasn’t terrible by any means, but it would have gone from good to excellent with proper treatment of the meat (extra points for that soft, sweet bun).
Over in Wrigleyville, things were looking extremely grim. The ballpark was completely unmanned-not an employee in sight, concessions sat covered and cold, gates remained locked. Any hope we had of getting into to that beautiful old park were dwindling quickly. We took a stroll around the exterior, viewing neighborhood rooftop stands with heartbreak and envy.
We took the ubiquitous sign photo and made our retreat to a Wrigelyville bar,
Where we snacked on a surprisingly tasty short rib taco and hatched a terrible plan
Me, I wanted to go to Pequod’s for their deep dish pizza, but, we were with others now and I couldn’t shot call with my usual reckless abandon. They wanted to remain in Wrigleyville, and worse yet, they did want a deep dish, just, from Giordano’s. https://giordanos.com/
I know that Giordano’s is proclaimed King of the deep dish game by many a Chicagoan, but to me, it was soulless place, exuding that high traffic, vanilla, chain restaurant feel. Had the four of us happened to wander into a Giordano’s on our own, I’m fairly certain an immediate about-face would have occurred. However, pleasing our less food obsessed friends was the priority, so, we settled in and started off with a banal order of fried ravioli
Tragically, we were informed that the cook was solo that day, and the DD wait time would clock in somewhere close to the hour mark, so we heeded our caveman fears and ordered a thin crust “appetizer” to boot. Giordano’s version was what I have come to accept as Midwest style pizza; bland, cracker crisp crust, smothered in cloying tomato sauce, followed by toppings, and finally, cut into squares.
Forty five minutes later, the main event arrived. Perhaps I just don’t “get” deep dish. Perhaps I am the problem here, but I found the whole mess to be unnecessary and unsatisfying, starting with the overly floury, cake-like, vapid, crust, and ending with the gobs of mess contained within. I guess pizza on steroids is just not my deal.
Cool. Fifty pounds of cheese.
The saddest part, perhaps, is that once this constipator was consumed, our friends were willing to leave Wrigleyville, meaning, we could have just gone to Pequod’s in the first place. In fairness, Pequod’s is the same concept, just, housed in a dive bar, and I may have hated that too, though perhaps Giordano’s atmosphere was as much a problem as the pie itself; we’ll never know.
Back downtown, we sheltered at the Sweetwater Tavern and Grill, an “upscale” version of a hotel sports bar; a slick, loud, event, positively plastered with TV’s, to take in the Giants game while mindlessly shoving more food into our gullets http://www.sweetwatertavernandgrille.com/
Here, a collection of terribly unimpressive cheese curds.
I’m undecided if it’s a plus or a minus, but Sweetwater blasts music while simultaneously playing music videos, which is sort of awful but also, conjured memories of K-pop and Korea, and, warm fuzzies for that.
Post Giants game, we kept the Shakespearian tragedy that was our food day going, with a collection of chemically laden favorites from CVS to assist with our obvious need for a snack during our hotel room party
I mean, fuck it, right?
A nice touch, and topical at the time of this posting, the front desk, to whom we had complained about various room issues, sent up a little collection of “I’m sorry”, in the form of beer, popcorn, and Cubs cookies.
I’m slightly embarrassed to say, it didn’t end there. See, our friends had to get on the road to Iowa first thing in the morning, and they couldn’t bear to leave without saying adieu to the Billy Goat. http://www.billygoattavern.com/
Yes, there were Cheezborgers, of course there were there. But also, a toe dip into the rest of the menu, with a nicely browned and perfectly greasy grilled cheese
and an excellent ham and egg breakfast sandwich, with pleasingly thick slices of meat, American cheese and, of course, egg. Basic, and perfect.
I went to bed with one simple mission that night; come morning, I was going to right our damn ship.