Cali Girl Does Chicago - AGAIN

8:49 AM

Chi Town, weeeeeee'reeeeee baaaack!
Lucky for me, I get to travel domestically for work once (now really twice) a year for tradeshows. This year brought us back to Chicago, which I couldn't have been happier about. This place, minus the random weather, has so many fun things to do and see, plus all the amazing food. I will say, being there for a week is a little much, but just enough to make you miss good 'ol California!

Thankfully, my fave traveling partner could join me again. Vaycay for him, work for me...with a little playing too ;) We were able to add to our silly little hashtag - #SAndJTravels_Chicago

If you want to see what we did last year, here are the three posts recapping our 2015 trip:

Because I love everything new, we tried not to repeat any places from last year, that was essentially our only criteria for our gallivanting!

For some reason getting from Sacramento to Chicago seems to take a majority of the day if you chose Southwest. Good luck getting a direct flight (please note the sarcasm)! We had a little layover where we immediately lost $40 total in five minutes, can you guess where we were? The flight attendant on our second flight was very insistent that we have a second drink, who were we to say 'No' to her and it was gratis too!
We finally landed in Chicago and it was prime rush hour traffic, just like last year. Yet, we we were able to get to the hotel pretty quick this year. It's like home away from home, since this is where I always stay when I'm in Chicago. I say that like I'm a here on a regular basis...

My co-worker was already in town, so I hit her up and we met and her girl friend to go grab dinner at Bridge House Tavern. A cool, hipster Chicago spot on the Chicago River. Sadly, no room for us on the patio, but it was pretty windy anyways. We had a lovely wooden table right next to the large windows, so we essentially got the patio vibe without the side of wind.
Our eyes were a little huge and we ordered lots of appetizers to share between the four of us. I washed those down with the prettiest drink, the Prairie.

Prairie // Prairie Cucumber Vodka, Watermelon Puree, Fresh Cucumber
Popcorn // honey, bacon, jalapeno, smoked salt
Pretzels // beer cheese sauce, apple fennel relish, stone ground mustard, house pickles
Beef Carpaccio // spicy horseradish aioli, truffle dressed arugula, peppadew peppers, grilled scallions, Parmesan, grilled lemon
Tavern Fries // sauce béarnaise, bacon aioli, remoulade, spicy ketchup
So, after all that, we still ordered dinner! J and I probably should have shared, but  we didn't. It was our first night in town, I decided to go BIG! The Steak Frites were amazing. The sauce was a little much, but the steak was tender and juicy. The fries were crispy and always pair well will steak. J was trying to act skinny and ordered the Grilled Cheese, it left a lot to be desired in my opinion. It was missing a burger patty ;) The girls shared the chicken dish and it was really tasty, the shared a few bites of course!
Steak Frites // 12oz sliced Prime New York strip, fresh fries, sauce béarnaise, crispy shallots, truffle oil
Grilled Cheese // grilled chihuahua, read oak leaf lettuce, tomato, ancho chili ranch, onion rings, potato buns
Red Roasted Chicken // ancho marinated chicken, Anson Mills white cheddar grits, grilled asparagus
We ordered a dessert, solely based on a pic on Yelp and they failed miserably. They did put in the dessert order right before the kitchen closed, but you'd think they'd not forget the ice cream...the main component to the brownie sundae. After dinner, we were all pretty tired -- us from a day of traveling, them a day of sightseeing. We did have time for a post dinner photo shoot on the steps up to the to the street level. As we were walking to find our uber, we did see a cool Ghostbusters public transportation bus, obviously I snuck a pic!

Travel day aside, it was time to start the prep for the tradeshow. Luckily, I had a little time to squeeze in a workout before I had to go set-up the booth. Luckily, working in the booth is another workout in itself. They exhibition center doesn't turn on the AC until the first day of the show. So, two days before, we all get to sweat it out together.

I had Bobbie send me her workouts while I would be gone. J and and I did her tabata. They always seem so unsuspecting, but damn! We decided to do it on the patio/roof top-ish part of the hotel gym. It was really muggy out, mixed with our body weight exercises, we were dying the the end of our workout. The hotel gym is pretty decent and they are stacked with cardio machines, but I love that they have a rower and kettle bells.
Work out of the way, we decided to go eat. Cause that's what we do best. I've said it somewhere before on here, but Chicago has one of the best burgers I've ever had before. J needed to try it, so we headed to Au Cheval to make it happen. We didn't care how long it would take, we'd wait it out. We were hoping last years 3hr wait wasn't waiting for us this year. Once we arrived, we were told it was about an hour and a half wait time. We accepted it, left my cell phone number for a text, then went to go and find a snack. There are so many options near Au Cheval, but we ended up almost next door at de cero. Starving and trying not to over indulge on a snack is a hard balance, but guac and chips are always a good snack.
The Da Casa guacamole was good, it was their 'house'  guac and it did the job! Their chips were awesome too and the chip-to-guac ratio was good. $8 guac seems a little steep, but I guess that's what happens in Chicago. We sipped on two of their seasonal cocktails, him a watermelon margarita, her a white wine strawberry sangria. The drinks were okay, again, a little pricey for what you get. I will say, their decor and set up is really, really cute - they consider it cantina meets warehouse. I also love their marketing and slogan Hello Tacos! We still had lots of time to kill, so we walked around the neighborhood until we got our text.

It was finally happening! We were seated at the bar at Au Cheval. Cool thing about this is that we could watch them cook. And by cook, I mean make copious amounts of burgers. And a few other things, but mostly just burgers. I totally messed up, I forgot that a single is really two smaller patties. So my dumb ass ordered a plain double, sauce on the side. J ordered a single w/ an egg and bacon.
It was as good as I remembered. Amazing actually. Its simple and that's what makes it so amazing. I was reunited with the burger almost three years to the date, thanks to IG I was able to look it up. The art of exacting simplicity of a burger is probably why they are considered the best or one of the best at making burgers in the US. Don't quote me on that, but I know they've won a lot of awards and their wait times prove it. We also ordered fries and shared a Sprite, pretty wild, huh?!? The funny thing about sitting so close to the chefs and sous chefs is listening to them talk all their shit to each other, about orders, and and in general. It almost takes away from the experience, I said almost. I was super hyped to share that eating experience with J, he had to try the burger that I've been raving about for years.

We needed to walk off some of all the food we ate, so we headed to the Magnificent Mile. I sit here and say we were stuffed, but I forced us into a Garrett Popcorn. They had a fun seasonal flavor, Strawberry, and it tasted like fruity cereal. It was good for sampling, but I couldn't imagine eating a whole bag of it. But I am addicted to their CaramelCrisp, seriously! I'd eat myself into 20 cavities if it were possible! We also hit up the Nike Town, Gap, Under Armor, and a huge Disney store. I'm sure there were a few more stops, but you get the point. We shopped, but mostly just window shopped.

Food styling in a hotel at its finest!
Cute Walt Disney quote as you walk into the store.
Thanks to Open Table, changing dinner resies is super easy. Since our wait at AC was longer than expected, we knew we wouldn't be hungry any time soon. So we chilled at the hotel and then headed out to what I heard was a cute neighborhood, Lincoln Park. I've wanted to try Italian in Chicago forever. Carmine's seemed like the ideal option, but also the most touristy. So I looked to Taylor from The Daily Tay, who is a local and always posting the goodness that is Chicago. She sent me suggestions last year, so this year I followed through with Rose Angelis.

The outside is so cute and its nestled in an adorable little neighborhood. It felt like we were dropped of at a little hidden gem. We had to wait a little bit while they seated a bunch of people, but we finally were brought back to the dark, romantical dining area.

We both weren't super hungry, so we decided to share an appetizer, a salad, and an entree. I would have loved something with seafood, but J doesn't mess with seafood. Our server was awesome, she was super laid back, helpful, and very genuine. Sharing all of these dishes was the exact way to go, our server even said it too. Their plates were fresh, tasty, and large in portion. 
Bruschetta // toasted Italian bread topped fresh tomato tossed in basil pesto
Insalata di Caesar // romaine lettuce tossed in a dressing of Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and lemon with croutons (order split in half)
One of the Specials of the Evening // Manicotti with chicken, spinach, and a variety of cheeses
We couldn't even fit dessert in anywhere. We perused the menu, which we always do, but we just couldn't do it. Especially seeing how large the portions are here, the dessert would have been way too much. It was the perfect little date night in Chicago, for the two of us -- especially before work life got too crazy and tradeshow mode was in full swing. The staff was so good to us, from the servers to the bus boys! I wish we could have spent more time in this neighborhood during the day, it looked really quaint and fun. Less Chicago, more small town.
Chi Town always does us good! I always lose track of the days when I'm traveling for work. Technically, it would be coming on the weekend, but I had to work both days, so it was all a blur. A good mix of work and fun always happens and this trip wasn't any different.

Moderation is party of the Windy City!

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