Thanks to all that provided suggestions for our weekend trip to Chicago!
DH and I went to Chicago because DS' high school band was performing at the Windy City Band Festival at Dominican University and then marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. On Friday, the chamber strings, the band and the jazz band all performed well. Giant trophies travelled home on the busses! Saturday was the parade - lots and lots of standing around in the cold, but I think the kids enjoyed all of the excitement after they thawed out and they got to spend some time downtown both Saturday and Sunday.
We stayed at the Swisshotel on a great rate we found at bookit.com. I thought the hotel was in a great location...would have been even better if it had been a little warmer. The wind really blows on Wacker! The view of the the green river, Navy Pier and Lake Michigan from our room on the 34th floor was great, if overcast most of the weekend. The front desk staff was courteous and helpful; both check in and check out were a breeze. The desk kindly kept our bags with no time limit on Sunday afternoon after check out. The room was very modern and clean, the beds are heavenly, the separate glass shower in the bathroom was a very nice feature. The lobby bar was always bustling - between the St. Patrick's Day visitors and the Big Ten Tournament in town - there were people coming and going all of the time. A nice treat in the lobby - they have two large glass water dispensers filled all of the time; mornings were usually lemon or cucumber - tons of fresh slices in each - evenings were usually strawberry or lemon. Very attractive and tasty and beats a drinking fountain or a office-like water cooler. We did not try the Palm Restaurant in the lobby.
Friends stayed in the Hotel Burnham and had an equally nice experience. They said the service there was impeccable and would stay again in a minute.
With the Big Ten Tournament and St. Patrick's Day revelers, dining was a little bit of a challenge. We arrived downtown kind of late on Friday and just wanted somewhere we could easily get seated with a group of 11. Ended up at the Tilted Kilt. Not exactly fine dining, but my fish and homemade potato chips were good. For those not in the know, the Tilted Kilt is basically an Irish Hooters. If you are offended by very short kilts, red plaid bras and lots of cleavage, you might want to go elsewhere. I think the women in our party were the only ones in the place. No guys in kilts, to our dismay.
Saturday morning we went to Yolk on E. Ohio, a reasonable walk from the hotel. We timed our arrival for 10 am figuring that many would be watching the river turn green and we might be able to get in more easily. We had a party of nine, but volunteered to be split 5/4 if that made seating easier. We were told a 20-30 minute wait, but were split seated in about 10 minutes, but right near each other There was a resounding thumbs up from everyone for the food! As a group we had: the pumpkin swirl bread french toast, several omelets, the peach cobbler crepes, the nutella and strawberry crepes (me, yum!) and the corned beef hash. Well worth the trip - even if you have to wait!
The parade took up the rest of the morning and early afternoon. We hung out with the band in the staging area while they were waiting to walk and later watched some of the parade. Afterr we saw the kids march, we headed to Macy's and had a late lunch at the Walnut Room. We didn't think we would be hungry again until dinner, but standing around in the cold and wind made all of us hungry. Everyone enjoyed their food. Service was verrrry slow, however and they were out of quite a few things.
The group split up so people could do their own thing for the rest of the afternoon. We really didn't properly plan for dinner on Saturday and ended up getting reservations at a jazz place for dinner at 9:15 through OpenTable. A few of us arrived early and found out there was a $15 pp cover charge on top of dinner; some of the group did not want to spend that much - I know not bad for live entertainment but the unexpected $105 to walk in the door caused us to cancel our reservation. We tried Bar Umbrugio nearby, got in after they verified we were not crazy drunken revelers and were seated in about 10 minutes. At this point in the evening, the police paddy wagon was nonstop travelling up and down the streets while Chicago's finest placed those arrested inside. The drinks and food were fine and no one left hungry.
We just went to a corner coffeshop on Sunday morning for a bagel and coffee as some had to leave earlier than others. DH and I went strolling down Michigan Ave, stopping at interesting shops along the way afterwards.
Around 2 we decided we would try for one of the restaurants recommended here on Fodors before we headed home. We called The Purple Pig and found that there was only a 20 minute wait so we headed over. The other friends still in Chicago were finishing up a short visit to the Art Museum and they jumped at the chance to join us. We sat outside in the purple tent, a little cool but not cold enough to wear my coat while eating. This was definitely the dining highlight of our visit. Our friends like to share like we do, so we got to try lots of things on the menu. We tried the milk braised pork shoulder with creamy whipped potatoes, the salt & pepper beef tendon chips, the whipped feta smear with toast, the chicken kabobs, the fried brussels sprouts and the JLT (jowl, lettuce and tomato). A lot of the 'J' on the JLT was too fatty for me, but the fried duck egg on top made up for it! The yolk was huge and made an almost dressing on the open faced sandwich. The artichoke salad takes potato salad to a whole new level. We split two desserts, the lemon panna cotta and the bread pudding. Both recommended! I would highly endorse The Purple Pig! Next time I think I would go for the pig's ears - I heard rave reviews from other diners. Since the busses were leaving with the kiddos, we had to head out so that they didn't beat us home. We had a very nice weekend. I would definitely try to make more dining reservations in advance - but since we really didn't know how many were going to want to eat together until mealtime, it would have made that difficult.
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Thanks to all that provided suggestions for our weekend trip to Chicago!