In honor of Oz’s mega successful first trip out of Nashville, we decided to name this post “Chicago 3.Oz”. We felt very blessed that our trip was a hit in pretty much every regard – Oz was Oz-some, the weather was beautiful, the people were nice and cool to us with Oz, the new places we tried were delicious, and the old faves we returned to were even better than we had remembered. We also learned a few things on our first trip with a baby that will help us in our future travels.
Mindy’s HotChocolate – this Wicker Park gem has been open for 7 years but has just recently received national attention when chef/owner Mindy Segal won the James Beard Award for Pastry Chef of the Year. The restaurant also underwent a nice renovation this year and serves brunch, lunch and dinner in addition to their delectable desserts. Their cappucino with burnt honey infused milk was easily the “Best Coffee” drink either of us has ever had. A return here for that cappucino will be a must on future trips. We’ve also heard their burger is one of the city’s best.
David Burke’s Primehouse – located just off of Magnificent Mile in The James Hotel, critic favorite David Burke’s Primehouse has been specializing in preparing top quality aged steaks with creative side dishes since 2006. The 40 Day Aged Prime Steak Burker with bacon mayonnaise, crispy shallots and garlic spinach with a heaping dose of perfectly crisp truffle fries is an absolute steal for $12 on the lunch menu. The Cobia B.L.T. may have even been better with a beautiful cut of fish served open faced with Benton’s bacon and addictive garlic fries.
Slurping Turtle – new casual/chic noodle bar from Takashi in the River North area. The Duck Fat Fried Chicken and Hot Udon Noodles with tempura shrimp and vegetables were both excellent.
Au Cheval – popular new upscale diner in the West Loop from Brendan Sodikoff (Gilt Bar, Doughnut Vault). Their housemade fried bologna sandwich and french fries covered with a fried egg were as decadent and savory as they sound. Wash it all down with one of their 30+ beers on tap. Similar to Gilt Bar in it’s dim lighting and hip clientele.
The Goddess and Grocer – gourmet corner market in Wicker Park and Gold Coast with sweets, soups, salads, sandwiches and nice selection of wines. We picked up a tasty inexpensive Spanish Garnacha-Monastrell blend called Laya.
Wormhole Coffee – 80’s kitch coffee shop in Wicker Park. Movie posters adorn the walls and they have an actual Back the Future-esque DeLorean in the back of the shop.
Sofie Beer from Goose Island – Belgian Style Farmhouse beer that we got at XOCO – wine barrel aged with citrus peels and a refreshing effervescent crisp beer.
In our search for the best doughnut in the city we went to 3 doughnut shops and consumed 10 doughnuts. We love the $1 coffees that come with your doughnuts that these places offer (we didn’t realize you could get a cup of coffee for less than $2.50 anywhere anymore).
Doughnut Vault – get up early, find the line around the side of Gilt Bar and get in it. These doughnuts from Brandan Sodikoff are fantastic and they go quickly. Some mainstays (3 kinds of Glazed, Gingerbread Stack, Buttermilk Old-Fashioned) as well as rotating daily flavor (check their website for the flavor of the day). The vanilla glazed was an oversized fluffy moist treat.
Do-Rite Donuts – this small shop near The Loop had the best selection of creative doughnuts of the 3 places we tried and had the best overall doughnut – the Cinnamon Crunch which reminded us of the warm buttery cinnamon toast our moms made us as kids. The Carrot Spice was like a small round carrot cake for breakfast.
Glazed & Infused – we picked up some from Grahamwich as well as in Wicker Park. Their vanilla glazed was very similar to Doughnut Vault’s in appearance and taste.
Overall Best Doughnut Shop – Doughnut Vault
Dee Dee’s Top 3 Doughnuts – 1. Cinnamon Crunch from Do-Rite Donuts, 2. Vanilla Glazed from Doughnut Vault, 3. Vanilla Glazed from Glazed & Infused
Steve’s Top 3 Doughnuts – 1. Cinnamon Crunch from Do-Rite Donuts, 2. Buttermilk Old Fashioned from Doughnut Vault, 3. Double Chocolate Yellow Cake from Doughnut Vault
Bongo Room – we’ve had a lot of breakfasts in our lives, but we unanimously agreed that the Vanilla Bean Brioche French Toast with warm white chocolate cream, triple berry coulis, fresh berries and topped with oatmeal streusel crumbs was hands-down the Best French Toast we’ve ever had. The Breakfast Burrito, a cilantro-jalapeno tortilla stuffed with avocado and scrambled eggs, was an amazing savory feast. It has been and will continue to be a Chicago tradition for us.
The Purple Pig – this Michigan Ave. Mediterranean tapas restaurant is dollar-for-dollar and dish-for-dish one of the best food values you will find anywhere. The Charred Cauliflower, Fried Deviled Egg and Prosciutto di Parma were as delicious as last visit and the Tomato Smear (their uber-fresh version of bruschetta), Fried Eggplant Parmesan Balls, Housemade Veal Mortadella Sausage and Mussels with Pancetta were some of our new favorites. 9 amazing dishes (plus tax)- $78!
Big Star – we are determined to work our way through the menu at our favorite Wicker Park taqueria from Chef Paul Kahan. This time we tried the Taco de Panza (crispy pork belly), Taco de Pescado (beer battered tilapia) and Salsa de Frijole con queso (pinto bean dip with al pastor) with a refreshing La Paloma (Lunazul Blanco, grapefruit, lime, Mexican fresca). Everything was perfect – including friendly and excellent service. There aren’t may places we’d rather be on a beautiful day.
XOCO – we dined at this Rick Bayless casual Mexican eatery twice during our stay. First, to try their tortas – we had the Ahogada with carnitas, black beans, pickled onions, tomato broth and spicy chili sauce and the Pepito with shortribs, caramelized onions and pickled jalapenos. We returned for their caldos (soups) and had the Pork Belly Vermicelli and the Pozole. We loved everything we ate.
GT Fish & Oyster – we wanted to at least go back here for a dessert and we are glad that we did. The Salted Caramel Tart with bananas foster, chantilly cream and chocolate was every bit as good at the Key Lime Pie (our 2011 Dessert of the Year). It remains one of the most attractive restaurants around.
Although we did not do as much shopping on this trip as we normally do, we were still able to go to a few places that we loved.
Apartment Number 9 – Wicker Park men’s clothier with brands like Band of Outsiders, Paul Smith, and wings + horns. We picked up a great pair of Warby Parker sunglasses there.
Haberdash – both a casual work wear and bespoke men’s shop featuring brands like Woolrich, Gitman Bros., Alden and Filson.
T-Shirt Deli – hip Wicker Park shop that let’s you design and make your own T-shirts. We couldn’t resist making an “Oz-some” onesie while there.
Oz Park – Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, once lived in the neighborhood around this cute park near Lincoln Park. It provided a great photo op with it’s statues of the Wizard of Oz characters.
Lincoln Park Zoo – fun, free zoo and great place for a stroll. We particularly loved the baby zebra whose fuzzy hair reminded us of baby Oz.