Chicago 2014 Trip Recap: Culture and food

The Windy City.

The Windy City.

I didn’t expect to see one elderly man’s mouth on another man’s penis, then again, our trip to Chicago this past weekend was full of surprises.

Rather than the time-honored Karol tradition of planning vacations to the hour (or minute), Caitlyn and I opted this trip to go with a hybrid model of strict planning the first night, followed by two days of randomness in a city that has no shortage of things to do.

Chelsea Handler was lewd, sassy and in-your-face.

Chelsea Handler was lewd, sassy and in-your-face. We sat in the “peasant” section.

The culture

We left straight from my office and headed up I-65 to be embraced by Chicago rush hour at its worst (5 pm on a Friday – joy!). We drove instead of taking the bus because we were on a tight schedule – we still had to get there, park, eat dinner and get to the Harris Theatre to see comedienne Chelsea Handler by 7 pm central time.

Caitlyn was stoked to see Handler and she didn’t disappoint – lewd (as evidenced by the photo in her on-stage slideshow depicting what the first paragraph of this blog post noted), sassy and in-your-face, the E! star dazzled the crowd with stories about her friends and her recent trip to Africa. The aforementioned photo was, supposedly, of her dad. If you’re bummed you missed it, no worries; the performance will air on Netflix in October.

Birthday presents for EVERYONE!

Birthday presents for EVERYONE!

In addition to taking in some comedy, we also took in some art at the Gold Coast Art Fair. With more than 350 vendors, the show is one of the largest and most critically acclaimed art fairs in the country. It’s a great venue for picking up birthday gifts. A bonus for us: Morningstar was on site giving out free samples of veg-friendly creations. Yum! The show organizer, Amdur Productions, puts on other art shows in the area throughout the year. Check out their website for more upcoming events.

Who knew awkwardly tall bikes could be so much fun?

Who knew awkwardly tall bikes could be so much fun?

Comedy and fine art weren’t enough to satisfy our cultural thirst, so we checked Groupon to see what was shaking and found a great deal for admission to The Chicago History Museum, where Caitlyn once interned, in Lincoln Park. A special exhibit called Railroaders highlighted pictures from the glory years of the train industry in the Windy City. A photo exhibit featuring works from nanny-turned-amateur photographer Vivian Maier also chronicled life in Chicago and the ‘burbs in the 60s and 70s. Downstairs, you can even take a turn on a legit penny-farthing bike or lie in a giant, plastic hot dog bun and have your loved ones pile stuffed toppings on top of you.

 

The best chocolate cake icing in the world is at Magnolia Bakery, according to the Mrs.

The best chocolate cake icing in the world is at Magnolia Bakery, according to the Mrs.

The food

Speaking of food …

Chicago is no stranger to great cuisine, especially for vegetarians like the two of us. All the cool people, we’ve been told, head to Handlebar in hipster haven Wicker Park. The long cab ride in the pouring rain across town was worth it. A falafel burger with couscous? Yes, please. Plenty of other “vegetarian comfort foods” await visitors, including chili mac attack with veggie chili, smoked Gouda, pickled jalapenos and more.

Mmm...felafel burger.

Mmm…falafel burger.

Also of note on the dining circuit was Magnolia Bakery. This New York City staple also has a location on State Street and has what Caitlyn decreed “the best cake icing ever. Period.” The cheesecake brownie was my personal favorite. Definitely a good place for a night cap, too – the bakery is open until midnight.

We even revisited a restaurant from one of our prior trips to Chicago, Bistrot Margot. This cute French bistro, in Lincoln Park’s “Old Town” (on Wells Street) was still serving up brunch when we arrived, but that didn’t stop Caitlyn from getting a tasty Florentine Benedict, complete with spinach, tomato and poached eggs on an English muffin and a side of potatoes. I was boring and opted for corn chowder and a Caesar salad, with a chaser of Reese’s ice cream to come at Baskin-Robbins on the way out of town.

Chicago makes us happy!

Chicago makes us happy!

We’ll cover lodging and transit in the next post.

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