Chicago Trip Blog – Day One
I am finding myself at risk of never giving you a Chicago trip blog, so here is one that is broken up in chunks! Part one of… ??? (I am going to try to give you the whole story)
Note: This trip was dual in nature. It was primarily a Culinary and Cultural adventure. Our goal was to take in awesome historical stuff while also experiencing some of the best food around! No calorie counting, no ‘healthy’ analysis of any food. Period! I recommend such a trip to anyone. Try to eat better day to day but you have to treat yo self.
The intrepid crew on this trip was comprised myself, Kevin Young, and Todd Yarger.
Part One – Wed. June 26th
We left Memphis and stopped in St Louis to eat at Iron Barley, a restaurant that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives as well as Man v Food. Todd got the extremely reasonably priced lunch special (I think it was $7), Kevin got the “Monte Christo Hot Dog” featured on Man v Food, and I got the schnitzel and spaetzle featured on triple D.
I really should do a special Stephen O Show review of Iron Barley, and I will, but for now suffice it to say that it was absolutely delicious! Todd could not believe how good (and cheap!) the lunch special was, while Kevin marveled over the double hot dog concoction that he was presented with. It was basically two big hot dogs split in half and grilled topped with jam and swiss cheese. I guarantee it tasted much better than it sounds. Kevin is totally right when he speaks of it as being a ‘gut bomb’ but for a dive type establishment it was tasty!
The schnitzel and spaetzle was absolutely as good as Guy Fieri made it seem. This is the menu description: ‘Two break pork cutlets served in a white wine sauce, spaetzle is a german dumpling – also comes with sauté green beans with bacon and onions.’ Come on now! It was so succulent I may have stopped short of licking the plate but it was not easy.
One thing that was NOT awesome was their bathroom had no ventilation so it was about 90 degrees in there. Yikes!
Since we were blessed enough to have gotten a parking spot right outside the restaurant it was easy for us to hop back on the open road and head further north.
Todd and I really wanted Kevin to get to spend some time with his Grandma so we made a pit stop in Morris, IL. I really cannot say enough kind things about Kevin’s grandma, Mary Heath. Morris, IL is where Kevin’s grandparents on his mother’s side are from. His mom Carolyn grew up in Joliet and his dad Robert grew up in Elgin (Chicago suburbs). Kevin himself was born in Rockford, IL. We were all fortunate indeed that God brought his parents to TN and into our lives.
We pulled up at the house and Todd and I talked to Uncle Doug while Kevin hung out with his sweet Grandma. There is never a boring moment talking to Uncle Doug, we got lots of stories about the family and the farm and the historical significance thereof. Awesome stuff!
Our ultimate destination was the Homewood Suites in Schaumburg, IL. Schaumburg is about twenty miles outside chicago and SO much less expensive to stay there than it would be to stay in Chicago and plus it was near a destination we wanted to experience. We got to our room, which was awesome. The A/C worked amazingly, the fridge was full size, and the internet appeared to be simple to set up.
We all rested after our journey and tried out the (decent but not amazing) cable. Watched some TV, and looked up the nearby “Woodfield Mall” which apparently is awesomesauce. We had no intention of travelling into Chicago for dinner after a long day of driving (well, Kevin drove) so we looked up local places to eat.
In the end we chose The Cheesecake Factory because they really do not disappoint. The secret to eating at the Cheesecake Factory is NEVER THINK ABOUT CALORIE COUNTS when eating there. Seriously. As long as you don’t ‘go there’, you will have a superlative experience. We only waited about fifteen minutes and got our table.
If you have not been to The Cheesecake Factory, let me illuminate you: you do not get a menu, you get a comprehensive breakdown of a variety of food cultures and genres. It is like War and Peace: The Menu. What I have discovered over the years is that the food is pretty amazing no matter what you get (astonishingly). Our server was somewhat *less* than amazing (pretty terrible actually) but since we had a few dozen pages of menu to read it wasn’t so bad.
We started out with the Tex Mex Eggrolls. You need these in your life. Menu description: ‘Spicy Chicken, Corn, Black Beans, Peppers, Onions, and Melted Cheese. Served with Avocado Cream and Salsa’. Come ON. Next, I went for a Greek Salad [pic]. Menu description: ‘Feta Cheese, Tomato, Cucumber, Kalamata Olives, Red Onion, Arugula, and Vinaigrette’. Surprisingly, I did NOT have them remove the tomato. *Unsurprisingly*, I got extra dressing. I cannot recommend this greek salad enough. It is probably the best I have had, edging out Mellow Mushroom by a tiny bit.
I have to admit I overdid it on the dressing at this place. Todd and Kevin were both laughing about my greek “soup” when my salad was about half gone. That stuff was delicious though! For the record, I did not drink it hahaha.
For an entree, Todd and I both got the Stuffed Chicken Tortillas. Menu: ‘Corn Tortillas Stuffed with Spicy Chicken, Cobvered with Melted Cheese, Green Onion, Tomatillo Sauce and Cilantro. Served with Grilled Corn Cakes, Black Beans, Salsa, and Sour Cream’. … read that again. LEGIT. [pic] I cannot… it was just so good. I could not finish it but… I wanted to!
Kevin got the Baja Chicken Tacos [pic] .Menu: ‘Soft Corn Tortillas Filled with Spicy Chicken, Cheese, Avocado, Tomato, Onions, Cilantro, and Crema. Served with Black Beans and Rice’. It looked delicious and certainly less gut busting than our dinner. I think perhaps his Monte Christo Hot Dog from earlier influenced (understandably) his decision.
For dessert we of course got cheesecake, but I do not think any pictures exist (due to our inhalation of said cheesecake). I do not remember what I had, but it was amazing. We had our last adventure of the day trying to get a server to bring us our check. We were there pretty late and the place was shutting down, I think it probably took 20 minutes or more just to get a check, then 15 more to get it back and leave.
In retrospect, this was probably a good thing. I am not sure we could have walked out of there without time for all that food to settle. We made our way back to our hotel and settled down for the night. What an awesome start to our amazing trip! Next up? Day Two!
Random Thought #1: I wish we had had time to go back to that mall on the trip. It is considered by some to be a “destination mall” and it had a Pepper Palace. I am always looking to injure my palate to get more hot sauces, much to the amusement of my friends. That mall had a ton of awesome stores I would have liked to hit, but there just wasn’t time. One day!
Random Thought #2: I haven’t been to Wolfchase in forever and a day. Is it still any good? Let me know in comments below.
Random Thought #3: I love The Avenue at Carriage Crossing, but almost never get out there. This year I need to do it “for reals” after they decorate it for Christmas.
One More Random Thought: Yay Fall! Yay Halloween! Yay Christmas! It’s my favorite two seasons of the year (fall and winter), my friends, and I couldn’t be happier about it!!