December 3, 2012 by Melissa
A few weeks ago, I hopped on a train with my mom, Barb, my sisters-in-law, Nicole and Robyn, and my grandmother, Ardith and we headed to the great city of Chicago. It was a great time-perfect weather, terrific food, and superb company.
We left early on a Friday morning to get to the local Amtrak station here in the Twin Cities. I don’t know why I never think of the train when I think of getting anywhere in the country but for shorter trips like this it was perfect. We brought a cooler of our own food (highly recommend Nicole pack your cooler when you go on your own trip) and beverages and though we didn’t get seats close to one another we brought our cooler to the dining car and spend the majority of the trip there – talking, laughing, eating, and catching up. The trip took more than 9 hours (a bit longer than driving) however we could all be together and just relax.
We rolled into Chicago’s Union Station around 6pm and got ourselves the sweetest Amtrak employee to help us wrangle our things, transport my grandma, and even hail us some cabs to get us to our airport. We stayed at the MileNorth Hotel just off of Michigan Avenue and close to Northwestern University. It was a beautiful hotel and the service we received was outstanding.
That night we had reservations at the Market House restaurant – much talked about restaurant within walking distance of our hotel. The menu they serve is big on local and seasonal products and they even have a rooftop garden. The food was terrific here (I had the meatloaf with pan sauce that I wanted to dive headfirst into) and was a great start to our weekend in the city.
After a childless night of sleep (!) we decided on breakfast at Wildberry Cafe. What a phenomenal decision that was. Good god was that a good meal. We went to the location right across the street from Millenium park and it was insane busy (the best sign of great food) but we were seated right away and had one of the best breakfasts I can remember. I had an omelet that had figs, bacon and havarti cheese stuffed into it and Berry Bliss pancakes on the side (don’t judge me, I’m pregnant and was on vacation). If you’re anywhere near Chicago, you’ve got to check this place out.
We then worked off a bit of our gluttony by wandering the city and shopping. You forget what a treat and a luxury it is to shop with no kids in tow. You can actually stop and look at things, you can walk into a Tiffany store without holding your breath and saying a prayer. It was lovely and so nice to be in such a beautiful city with time to enjoy it all.
After several hours we made our way back to the hotel to change clothes to get to our reservations for afternoon tea at the Drake. I had been looking forward to this part of our trip for a while-I’ve heard fantastic things about this experience and could think of no better excuse than this weekend with four fantastic women. What a beautiful setting the Palm restaurant at the Drake provides. Classy and elegant, yet surprisingly fun and informal at the same time. We had, once again, outstanding service, and had some fascinating conversations with the staff on hand about the history of tea and the reasons for some of the customs.
After tea we needed to find a bookstore to browse in and found our way to an old Barnes and Noble several blocks away. Once again it was nice to have time to browse for books and to find ideas for Christmas gifts for our nieces and nephews. By the time we found our way back to the hotel, it was decided that we eat dinner close by and, luckily for us, Gino’s East Pizza was right next door. We ordered a Chicago style deep dish pizza (of course) and some bread and salad and had a cozy meal on the floor of our hotel room later that evening. It was delicious and a perfect Saturday night meal.
Sunday morning we could afford to be lazy and lounge about as our train didn’t leave until 2pm. We lounged and meandered until we had to be out of our rooms then left to find some good deli lunch before leaving for home. We found our way, ultimately, to Eleven CIty Diner, and, wow, am I glad we did. It was incredible-pastrami, corned beef, ruebens, matzo ball soup, you name it, they had it and it was delicious. Here’s a picture of my sandwich:
Isn’t it lovely? We then bade our farewells to Chicago and headed back to the train station for our ride back home. It was so good to get back to my husband and kids and to hear what they’d been up to while I was gone. It was also good for my husband to get a chance to be alone with the girls for a while. They all had a great time, as did I.
I’m such a lucky girl to have such an incredible family and to have such strong and amazing women around me. It was good for my soul to be surrounded by that for a few days. My body and soul were well nourished. Thank you, Chicago!