Cali Girl Does Chicago - AGAIN, AGAIN

8:40 AM

Sometimes you gotta GRIND on the weekend!
In case you wanted to see how the trip started, peep this post:

l SATURDAY l
Tradeshow life means that I give up my weekend for a cool experience, with a side of working. We got up early to go grab some breakfast, away from the hotel. Hotel breakfast is overrated and too expensive. So I used good 'ol Yelp and we found our way to Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. It was a great decision, because it was delicious, but bad decision because the Rock N Roll Chicago 5k just finished and way too many racers decided to go here too. Due to the close proximity to the finish line. The wait to eat there was about two hours, of which I didn't have since I had to get to work. So we ordered food and coffees to go and found a lovely little (illegal) spot to picnic for breakfast. That spot happened to be backdrop of the fountain of the Founders of Millennium Park.
People should picnic for breakfast more often! It's fun...maybe it was because we climbed up on a statue-ish thing and had a great view and were secluded by ourselves. Well, that was about 3/4 of the way into our breaky, when the security lady said we had to get down. Funny thing was she just told us, then drove off. I don't think she really cared if we stayed, she just had to tell us that ;)
 
I went big, since I knew I needed sustenance for the day. Also, I knew J would share with me. The Mexicana was sooo good! Hidden in the pic is a bed of hash browns, covered with Cheddar & Jack cheese, 2 Eggs (over easy), chorizo sausage (a little heat), (sans) jalapenos, avocado, cilantro, and (sans) onions. It also comes with a side of pancakes, which we barely touched. They were good, but the to-go syrup left more to be desired. I was happy to see that they brewed Intelligentsia coffee, its soo tasty!
WORK. Yup, got it out of the way. Set up the booth for opening day, which was the next day. Went smoothly as we had plenty of hands this year. Post set-up we had a meeting and then we were done for the day. Again, it was hot and we were working hard, so I was in workout clothes as we set-up the booth.

We were starving again, so we decided to get our workout in to earn the calories. We decided to get some Chicago miles in by running to Shake Shack. Yup, you read that correctly. I was beyond excited, since I've been dying to try SS. Like, seriously upset that there isn't one near Sacramento to try! So, this was my happy moment of the trip. Finally!

On our run L called us, so we stopped just a block short of Shake Shack and chatted with her for a bit. We happened to stop right near the entrance of a small, little nook of a city park. There were statues, people milling about, and best of all...shade. After we spoke to L for awhile, we said our goodbyes and walked straight to SS!
This location is very odd. You have to walk through the main entrance of some fancy building. Hotel, not sure? Business building, not sure? Anyways, J saved our seats and I went to find out how to get us some SS. I went in the exit and had to find, really snake, my way to the end of the line. I grabbed a menu on my journey and perused until it was time to order. I went for it! Ordered the trifecta of a burger, fries, and a shake! J got a hotdog with cheese and we planned to share the fries and shake! 
I'm just gonna throw this out there - SS is better than In-N-Out! I'm sure I'll lose friends over this statement. But for sure, their fries are beyond superior. The burger was just as good to me, not really better, but it was just as tasty. I'd say maybe INO has the leg up on the fresh ingredients, but other than that I'd kill for a SS in Sacramento. The choco shake was good, just hard to kill after a 2.24mi run! I was happy, I would have gladly gone back again, if time permitted! 
We had to get back to the hotel to relax for a bit, then we had to get ready for a fun evening and adventure with my co-workers. One of the boss-dudes son's lives and works in Chicago, which is where this whole adventure derived from. First we all met in the hotel lobby and cabbed over to Blue Agave for some pre-fun dinner. Really, just carbs and libations before we got our work-out on!
We were kinda pressed for time, so we all ordered a round of drinks and our meal at the same time. I can't remember the name of my pretty pink drink, but it was tasty. I'm pretty sure I was the only non-tequila drinker there, besides my co-worker who loves white wine! I ordered the steak fajitas for dinner, they came out sizzling. J ordered  a nacho salad, if that's a thing. That's what it looked and tasted like, along with the random tongs it came with! Our server, bless her heart, seemed overwhelmed, a few drinks and dishes came out wrong -- but we rolled with the punches!
Sadly, while we were on the patio a nearby table had eggs thrown at them from the tall building that housed the restaurant. Then, whomever threw the eggs, threw down flowers. I was pissed for that table, because they had small children. They could have hurt someone, even worse a small lovebug. I'm not sure what came of it, but I know that table was mad and we kept checking to see if anyone would throw it to us.

We weren't too rushed, but everyone scarfed down dinner and we walked toward the Chicago River for our adventure -- kayaking to watch the Navy Pier's 100th Anniversary fireworks...at NIGHT! My co-workers son works for Wateriders Kayak Tours, who we would be using for our fun adventure. I will say this, for a hot mess of the situation of 50 kayakers, the fellas did a great job with everyone. Yes, 50 kayakers, their biggest group EVER. It took forever to get everyone checked in, kayak and safety lessons, then get everyone situated in a kayak in the water. This isn't to say the six employees weren't working their asses off, it was just a lot of people and disorganization going on. J didn't want to tandem, since this was his first kayaking experience. I didn't mind either way!
Once we were all in the water, we followed each other like little ducklings. Our goal was to get to the 'locks' where the Chicago River and Lake Michigan reach a culmination. This is where we would grab on to the wall and fellow kayakers to watch the fireworks. The Chicago River water was so gross! Luckily, it wasn't too cold. Immediately, you got water on you from the oar. You couldn't NOT get at least somewhat wet. The chaos of the group continued the entire 2 miles to the locks. Passing each other, hitting each other, jabbing each other, splashing each other -- all of which was expected. It felt long, but it was exciting to get to the locks. You also share this waterway with larger boats, so when they create wake, you really get to rockin' in a kayak. 
There was also another company who does the same thing, however their station is 1.5 miles further out, so they kayak a total of 3 more miles than we do. I dared to bring my iPhone on the adventure, even though I knew I may fall in. I double Ziploc bagged it. I pulled it out a few times, but it was never in real danger of falling in. I didn't capture the best images, it wasn't for a lack of trying. J and I went back and forth between being near each other and then not being near each other. When we reached the wall, we were next to each other to watch the fireworks together...aww, how romanitcal.
On the trip back, I was ready to be done. I was tired and it was getting late, thankfully it went faster than the trip out. This isn't to say that this wasn't a cool experience, I was just tired. I am super grateful my co-worker bought everyone waters, it was nice to sip on as we worked hard! We seriously worked up an appetite, but didn't want to go out to get something to eat so close to midnight. We munched on our Garrett's and fell asleep, fast!

l SUNDAY l  
Tradeshow day! The first day always starts a little later, which is nice. I was able to sleep in a little, which was much needed after our kayaking adventure. I grabbed coffee at the hotel and TRIED to get Postmates to deliver breakfast, but that was a FAIL! They totally messed up and I didn't get any food.
The first day is always a little exhilarating, since everything is new. The final touches for the booth were completed and it was time to rock and roll! The ladies decided to wear scarves this year, they made our outfits super cute! It was a great first day at the show, only two more to go!
A couple of us went out to dinner after the show. Some did their own thing with family, friends, or customers. I was excited to try another Chicago staple, the famous Gibson's Bar & Steakhouse. We grabbed drinks at the bar as our table was being set. J has his first ever martini! They packed this place with people in every nook and cranny, seriously, tables on top of tables. I loved the table cloth, it reminded me of a Hipster flannel! HAHA! It was a fun and loud atmosphere, but really cool. The history and longevity of this steakhouse staple oozed from every corner. The service was beyond awesome, they are on top of it there! 
Someone made the executive decision to order the lobster as an appetizer. Generally I'm not a fan, but this was cooked perfectly. I realized at this moment, that if cooked correctly, I like lobster. However, most places overcook this delicacy and it is too tough for my liking! J even tried it, despite is aversion to seafood. 

I was told this place was know for it's Bleu Cheese, I'm a believer now! The salad dressing was amazing, even though I was taking a gamble on my lactose intolerance. It made a very plain and basic salad taste amazing. Like most steakhouses, the sides are family style, so we ordered Blue Cheese Scalloped Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts (with maple Bourbon butter & bacon), and Creamed Spinach. They were out of creamed spinach, so the table optioned for mushrooms -- both of which I had no plan on eating :p Those potatoes. That's all I can say. The brussel sprouts were good too, but I'll be forever craving those potatoes again.
For my main course I went with the 10oz Filet Mignon. That's my go to meat choice when I'm at a steakhouse. J went with the most popular item, W.R.'s Chicago Cut. He literally didn't leave a piece of meat on his plate, just the bone AND he finished off mine too! Both cuts were tasty, juicy, and tender! Like I doubted they wouldn't turn out amazing steaks.
W.R. Chicago Cut
Filet Mignon 10oz
The entire meal we saw other tables order dessert. These things were on steroids, no joke. I didn't even know this was another specialty of Gibson's. I had seen a specific, huge dessert walk by a few times and I knew I wanted that -- the Macadamia Nut Turtle Pie. There were tons of other dessert options, but this was what I wanted...and they all didn't mind sharing it with me. I kid you not, this thing is massive. The bus boy carved it for us, because of its size. He used a steak knife, it was that intense. It was delicious, but I can't lie...almonds would have been much better, not being biased or anything ;)
After that we all guaranteed ourselves a food coma and headed back to the hotel to rest up for day two of the show. Oh what a day! Perfect way to finish out the first day of working the IFT 2016!
Day one success, good show, good food, good people!

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