Recently Jimmy had a podiatry conference in Chicago. He was giving a workshop on PRP injections—whatever that is. I’d never been to Chicago, so I decided to tag along.
What a beautiful city. We loved running along frozen Lake Michigan. And the cool architecture! Jimmy was obsessed with the “corn cob” buildings from the opening credits of The Bob Newhart Show.
But let’s be honest, we were there to eat.
In my hot little hand, I held a list of 30 of our chef pal, Forrest’s two chef pals’ (former Chicagoans) fave places. Thirty restaurants.
So many choices, so little time.
The first night we checked out Girl and the Goat.
I don’t watch Top Chef, but apparently Season 4 winner, Stephanie Izard owns the joint. The place was slammed. As expected goat empanadas and goat stew were on the menu. Also braised beef tongue and the must-order dish, wood-fired pig face. Our bossy waitress told us we didn’t order enough. Truthfully, none of the selections grabbed us. Especially not poor Wilbur’s mug. We were definitely Team Charlotte.
We opted for the sautéed octopus and some other meh dishes that were way oversalted. Had the chefs raided the Morton Salt HQ’s we’d passed on the way in from the airport or what?
As we paid, we noticed our neighbors tucking into a pinkish patty served under an egg sunny side up with shoestring potatoes.
“How is it?” we asked.
“YUMMY!” they raved.
Back at the hotel I perused our list for lunch the following day. Vince and Vani’s cred had plummeted after Girl and the Goat, but Vince is executive chef at Levi’s Stadium, so I figured he knew his stuff.
“Should we go to The Purple Pig?” I asked, yelping it. “Says here, ‘… the chef boldly turns out meaty delicacies like sweet-crunchy pig’s ears with pickled cherry peppers.'”
“What’s with all this meat?” Jimmy asked.
“It’s the nose-to-tail movement.”
“You know—chefs creatively incorporate every part of the animal from snout to tail into their dishes.”
The next day we Ubered to Longman and Eagle located in Chicago’s hipster Logan Square ‘hood. A Bon Appetit darling, the restaurant had made both V&V’s (Vince & Vani’s) top three.
Outside, the restaurant resembled a concrete bunker. A sign read, “EAT SLEEP WHISKEY ROOMS.” We walked into a tiny, dark, gloomy room, the kind of place you’d go after tying up your horse to meet Billy the Kid for a whiskey.
So far not impressed.
We perused the menu. More meat. More pig. Slagel Farms bone marrow with green apple kimchi. Puffed beef rinds, salt and vinegar powder.
Oh hell no. I was still retaining water from the salty Girl and the Goat fare.
Still, with a vintage juke box, vases stuffed with arrows, and a slew of flannel-clad manly men tending bar, Longman and Eagle’s saloon vibe was growing on us.
Our sweet ginger waitress told us there was a three-hour wait on weekends for the coveted 12 tables. She steered us toward the the whole hog crepinette with cheesy grits and collards. Tastily seasoned, the slow braised pork was comfort food heaven.
Stuffed to the gills, we decided to walk the five miles home. It was fun to bundle up and crunch through snow while passing through various neighborhoods. We even spotted several spots included on V&V’s list. By the time we got back to the hotel we were famished. Luckily we had a dinner date with Nina, Tanner’s best childhood pal, who attends Columbia College.
V&V, back in our good graces after the superb Longman and Eagle lunch, had recommended DMK Burger Bar so we decided to check it out.
Grass-fed burgers, hand-cut fries and for desert, St. Patty’s Shammy Shakes (chocolate mint ice cream with a Lucky Charms cereal floater). Plus, top notch service. What a score.
Vince and Vani were 2 for 3! Now I wanted to hit their entire list, but the clock was ticking. Our last night was a freebie podiatry dinner at Maestro’s—steaks and lots of foot discussion—but according to our guru, Vince, we wouldn’t leave without visiting The Donut Vault. People line up early, he said, because they run out by 10 am. This hole-in-the-wall was a must.
So the next morning while Jimmy headed to his workshop, I braved the 15 degree weather and bought a box of piping hot, fat, salted caramel old fashioned donuts—worth the frostbite! I also stopped by Eataly, Mario Batali’s sprawling foodie emporium to grab a fresh baguette and charcuterie for the plane ride home. On the way out I noticed chefs in white jackets handing out free pork cheek samples. Pass.
Jimmy and I met in the lobby. “I’m so bloated,” he said. “I can’t eat for a month.”
“Me either,” I said. “By the way, how did your workshop go?”
“Great! I taught 18 doctors how to give PRP injections.”
“What did you guys practice on?”
“Pig’s feet cadavers, of course.”
“Wow, Chi-town chefs really do cook every part of the pig, and they donate whatever’s left to the doctors. Not bad.”
And with that, these two little piggies hopped a plane to Cali and cried wee wee wee all the way home.