A Visit to the Windy City, Part 2: Eating Our Way Across Chicago

Since retiring, my husband and I have been eating more lightly. Traveling with my daughter and son-in-law reminded us of what it was like when we were young and could eat without the subsequent explosion on our scale. Chicago has so many good restaurants, a visitor could eat at a different one – a good one – every day for ten years!

Giordano's pizza
Giordano’s pizza

We began our gustatory adventure our first night, at my favorite pizza place in the whole world, Giordano’s. The fact it was about 5 min from our hotel meant I thought about returning before we left. Their stuffed pizza is sheer heaven, and I had my usual stuffed super veggie choice — mushrooms, green peppers, onions, broccoli, black olives, artichokes and spinach. We got a large and did half and half, with the guys getting the meat and more meat stuffing.

The next morning we hit Wildberry Pancakes and Café for breakfast. Wildberry CafeI had my favorite egg white, spinach and feta omelet, light as a cloud and too big to finish. The guys had eggs and hash and biscuits and gravy, Cameron had Belgian waffles, and we ordered a Signiture Berry Bliss Pancake to share. It was too good not to try, with vanilla anglais, blackberry coulis, berry mascarpone and fresh berries.

Inside Portillo's
Inside Portillo’s

After a morning exploring Navy Pier, we indulged in margaritas at Magaritaville on the pier, then headed to Portillo’s for hot dogs for lunch. The first Portillo’s hot dog stand, known as “The Dog House,” opened in 1963 on North Avenue in Villa Park. 20150522_141632 (2)

Owner and founder Dick Portillo invested $1,100 into a 6′ x 12′ trailer without a bathroom or running water. To get the water he needed, he ran 250 feet of garden hose from a nearby building into the trailer. Today Portillo’s and its

Portillo's hot dog
Portillo’s hot dog

branches is a billion dollar business and offers hamburgers, brats, Italian sausage and lately, pasta, braised beef and custard ice cream. I had a hot dog and it was every bit as good as I remembered. The kids returned there for more hot dogs after we left on Monday.


We had dinner at the Greek Isles Restaurant that night, the best Greek restaurant in Chicago in many surveys. Ouzo, retsina, sagananiki, moussaka, spanakopita – the food kept coming. I had to eat small!

So ended our biggest day of eating. BURP!

Saturday Cameron and Nathan left for a wedding in Michigan, so Gene and I skipped eating any meal except

View from the 95th
View from the 95th

for dinner on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building – salmon for me, lamb for him, and a sea food terrine to open the meal. This terrine is one I plan to try making myself – delicious with slaw with a mayo and wasabi dressing. The view of course is spectacular and we got a seat by a window, with a promise to the hostess we would finish in two hours.

Sunday, Gene and I had a flatbread egg sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts (it’s under 200 calories), and I skipped lunch except for a bite of a forgettable Reuben at an equally forgettable Irish pub – but the Irish coffee was good!

That night, the kids wanted to try another pizza place, so we went to

Gino's pizza
Gino’s pizza

our other favorite place, Gino’s, which specializes in deep dish. It takes 45 minutes to cook the pizza, so you order it before everything else. Gene’s did his residency practically across the street at Northwestern Hospitals, so Gino’s pizza was a constant part of his menu. Again, I managed to restrain myself but it wasn’t easy. I am a pizza monster and have been known to eat cold pizza for breakfast.

The following day, after we had left, Cameron and Nathan tried one more pizza place, Lou Malnati’s, another deep dish specializer. Cameron said she liked the cheese crust there the best.

So there you have it – three plus days of eating our way across Chicago. Next time, we’re going Indian and Czech and Greek and Korean, although there’s always the pizza…



36 thoughts on “A Visit to the Windy City, Part 2: Eating Our Way Across Chicago”

  1. Ah now I understand why it is called the Windy City! My daughter would be in heaven there. And the breakfast – groan, I need your omelette!

    1. Easy to make and the egg white ones are very light and fluffy. Chop the spinach up small – you could saute it first if you use a lot – and put in however much feta you need to get the flavor!

    2. And if you want a stronger flavor you could add green onion (sometimes I use wild onion from our grassy area!) or a bit of garlic…

  2. One of the best parts of going on vacation is eating out, but it sounds like you don’t over indulge all the time. It sounds like you had a great trip. I’m going to have to get to Chicago one of these days. I’ve never been!

  3. Oh, it was painful to read this!! I am currently on a very strict diet and all of those photos were making me so hungry!! But, I am glad that you had a great time. Eating stuff like that is always great. 🙂

  4. I’m hungry now. Thanks for the reminder about the history of the fire. I thought about going to Chicago when I was doing my PhD on David Mamet as he’s originally from there and a fair amount of his early papers are in the library there, but didn’t have a chance. I saw your message on my post. I sent you the-mail to the gmail account on Monday but I’ll try again. Do check just in case… Thanks!

  5. Wow, looks to me as if Chicago is the capital city of food. I’ve gained a few pounds just by reading your post 🙂

    I’d love the look of the hot dogs and the pizzas. I also remember how big the food portions are when ever I visit the States. Makes up for me not liking the chocolate very much.

    1. The portions are large – but you can choose your own pizza slice size! The higher end restaurants serve smaller portions. As for chocolate, people who don’t like it usually have different bacterial flora in their GI systems. You’d have to infect yourself with chocolate-loving bacteria to develop a taste for it…

      1. But I love Cadbury’s chocolate and don’t want to risk not liking that. I suppose it is a bit like me not liking the taste of dark chocolate but loving both milk and white chocolate.

  6. Reblogged this on Covey View and commented:
    Noelle takes us on a food tour of Chicago City. I’ve put on two pounds just by reading her post. There is some wonderful mouth-watering foods on offer. Come and take a look…maybe just before your next meal.

  7. I grew up just outside Chicago and still have family there…so I can relate to this. I’ll be visiting Chicago this weekend! Thanks for the great post!

    I don’t totally agree with all your conclusions (Margaritaville and Dunkin Donuts? Really?), but for sure nothing says Illinois like Portillos.

    Portillo is legend. I don’t care where you go in this world, if you run into anyone from north east Illinois they know what Portillos is.

    And oh-my-god, I hope you DID NOT put catsup on your hot dog because if you did, you outed yourself as a uncultured tourist. Catsup on hot dogs is a HUGE local food no-no. The proper Illinois hot dog is on a poppy seed bun with mustard, onion, a pickle spear OR that bright fake green relish, a single sport pepper, tomatoes, and celery salt.

    1. Catsup on a hot dog? NEVER, although my husband likes it. That was a stock photo – I like mine with just mustard and a pickle. Have a great time this weekend and hit Portillos!

  8. This is a wonderful accounting of great food in Chicago, all the best pizza for sure. I wrote about the restaurant you visited in the new novel, Facing East. Only wish I had been trailing behind you right up to the Hancock restaurant for the view and the company. Is the Navy Pier age appropriate for me? The Chicago Chamber of Commerce thanks you, me too!

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