Oh, wow. I never thought I would miss Butternut bread, but boy, does it taste deliciously nostalgic when I haven't had it in a long time. The only bummer part of that statement is that I didn't get to pair with some Harold's Fried Chicken. Next time.
This time, my trip coincided with National Doughnut Day! And right now, there is no city better to be in for that day than Chicago!! With gems like Doughnut Vault and Do-Rite as new world doughnut shops and classic old world shops like Country Donuts and other suburban great hits, you can't go wrong with a nice glazed classic almost at any shop. This great day was celebrated in trendy Wicker Park, where two new world shops compete right across each other at the Damen Avenue L-stop:
1. Stan's Donut, on one side of the street, is probably on the upper-eschlon of trendiness, where you can order from a three-tiered system: standards (aka classics at $1.75 each, which a tad higher than old world places); specialties ($2.50 each with flavors like Lemon Curd), and Dough Boy's Best ($3.25 each, with unique flavors like the Biscoff Pocket). I bought a half-dozen to bring to a friend's party, with the intent to taste a bit of each of: glazed (hit), chocolate glazed (nice chocolate used), maple long john (didn't get to try), lemon curd (didn't get to try), captain crunch bismark (good), and biscoff pocket (really good). It was really busy, with a steady line, and sensory-overwhelming, but fun.
2. Glazed and Infused, on the other side, is equally trendy, but with less options, so it was less overwhelming. The average doughnut ran around $3 per, which is about the same Astro here, but tastes better. By the time I arrived, there were only 2 flavors left: peanut better & jelly and the white-praline. The PB&J was awesome, with the PB oozing out quite nicely after a bite. The praline was too cakey for me and a tad on the sweet side, though.
If doughnuts aren't your thing, then you might think about stopping by Sugar Bliss cakery. Owned by a college friend, I happily noshed on lemon, pumpkin, and chocolate flavors last weekend. Good cake.
I don't really know if this is a secret or not, but I think Chicago serves some of the best Southern cooking ever. I was spoiled by Dixie's Kitchen & Bar back in college, and now that the location I used to frequent no longer exists, but I was craving it, my friend introduced me to Pearl's Place instead. Mostly, I miss rib tips. Many won't know what I'm talking about, but I think rib tips are the best part. Pearl's barbecue sauce for the tips were kind of weak and the tips a bit fattier than what I was used to, but it was still nice to have, since my other favorite place, Rib n' Bibs, has since closed, too. But, the must order from this place is their shrimp and grits. Other than Grapeseed's fine version, these grits were nice, creamy, and buttery. Quite tasty, as was their fried green tomatoes and collard greens. Total comfort food. If you dine there, be slightly careful, as Bronzeville, where the restaurant is located, is still in transition.
Also still an experience is riding the Cottage Grove bus. Brought back memories. Wouldn't recommend for first-timers. There are just certain bus lines visitors shouldn't take.
I also managed to gorge on pancakes and waffles while in Chicago. I haven't found DC places that are as good. Maybe it's the water, or feel free to PM me of places, but I liked Wildberry's Gluten-free honey cakes, even if they are a chain. I like that they served Intelligentsia coffee there, too. If you are looking for a vegetarian and gluten-free brunch place, then you might think about going to Victory's Banner up in Roscoe Village. A vegetarian, gluten-free friend suggested this place as our meetup and it certainly hit the spot. Especially their housemade chai. I really liked their buckwheat waffles with real maple syrup.
Another friend recommended Cai in the new Chinatown plaza area. (aaronsinger--why didn't you tell me Kung Fu Tea was there!!!! So awesome.) HUGE bonus points for Cai is that you can order online for pickup. Including dim sum options during their dim sum hours. So awesome, awesome. And convenient when the friend you're staying with has a newborn. It was nice to have good dim sum in Chicago.
Finally, I forgot what it was like to buy liquor in grocery stores. My mind was blown when I went to the South Loop Whole Foods (it is equally mindblowing to see South Loop become trendy), but then on an entirely other level when I saw that Koval distillery made these little Asian/liteweight-friendly bottles (200mL) of bourbon and rye whiskeys for $17. Needless to say, I bought one of each and the Letherbee flask-sized fernet. So happy. One last very happy thing was to buy Metropolis beans (I like them better than Intelligentsia and someone should try to bring them out here!) and to tryout Bowtruss for the first time. Will have to report back on the latter.