I’ve decided to lump all of my Chicago food adventures into one massive post. I was in Chicago for parts of 7 days and ate meals there on 6 of those days. Some of them great. Some of the good. Some of them bad. All of them photographed.
I started the trip with $481 in the Per Diem Fund.
Meal #1 – Day 1 Lunch – Capriotti’s
My goal whenever I travel is to eat in a place that isn’t near me. I actually failed twice on this trip. First, was Capriotti’s. I didn’t know it at the time, but there is actually a Capriotti’s in Clive. I don’t regret it though because this was one of my favorite meals on the trip.
Per Diem Balance: $458.26
Meal #2 – Day 1 Supper – Giordano’s
Giordano’s is the second restaurant I ate at that I could have eaten at in Iowa. I’m not a big fan of Chicago Style Pizza. New York Style Pizza is also trash, if you think I’m taking a side. While the appetizers were good at Geordano’s the pizza was definitely not all that great.
Per Diem Balance: $428.24
Meal #3 – Day 2 Breakfast – Wow Bao
Also one of my favorite meals. Wow Bao was actually in the hotel and if I wasn’t trying to spread the wealth, I might have eaten there more than once. It was also dirt cheap. I don’t drink coffee because I don’t actively hate the environment, also it tastes like ass, so they gave me milk for free. Which was a bonus!
Per Diem Balance: $422.33
Meal #4 – Day 2 Supper – Wrigley Field Concession Stand
I really thought I would eat more at Wrigley than I did. Especially considering I didn’t have time to eat lunch. I have to say that the concession stands at Wrigley were a real disappointment. I thought there would be better food options at a Major League Baseball stadium. Especially one as historic as Wrigley Field. But my “Bison Hot Dog” was just okay.
Per Diem Balance: 404.63
Meal #5 – Day 3 Lunch – Taco Truck
The area where we stayed at was very nice, but it is lousy with corporate restaurants. Lowell and I probably walked close to a mile to get to some food trucks that were near The Bean. It was worth it. This was one of my favorite meals on the trip. There were 8 food trucks there. 6 of them served tacos. They mostly all seemed to serve the same menu. I’m not even hating. 6 taco trucks isn’t enough if you ask this guy. My only regret is also not getting an order of Mexican Street Corn.
Per Diem Balance: $391.13
Meal #6 – Day 3 Supper – Broken English Taco Pub
Between the Street Tacos and the Taco Pub there was a Computer Mine “Party” hosted by our Sales Team (or whatever they have been branded as this week) that included free appetizers. There are no pictures of that and it was free. I made a pretty huge mistake by not going for tacos at a place called Taco Pub. I zigged when I definitely should have stayed the course. These were amongst the worst nachos I’ve ever had in my life. The nachos at The Other Place hold the distinction for the “Worst Nachos Ever” for me. At least it was free. For reasons I don’t understand, Cathie paid for everyone’s meal at the table. It was about the last time I saw Cathie socially on this trip. She lost her voice the next day and I don’t know she ever left the hotel besides to go to the convention. I need to find a way to pay her back at some point. Like maybe she could make me monkey bread and I could eat it. I think that would make us square. I should have bought her meal at Zeno’s. Dang it!
As for the group photo… It is the only one from this trip. The THE WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE for most of my time in Chicago was FRIENDS. I briefly toyed with the idea of having servers from various restaurants take very poorly lit group photos of all my meals and then submit them to THE WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE under the name “Our Server at Place X”. But I didn’t do it. Maybe if I ever go on a work trip again.
Cost: FREE! Thanks Cathie!
Per Diem Balance: $391.13
Meal #7 – Day 4 Lunch – McCormick Place Food Court
I should have been like Tony and done a walkabout of the Convention Center and scouted out all of the food locations. I only knew about the balcony food court. There was a long line for the “burger” place up there. So I just grabbed a wrapped Caprese sandwich. I was trying to eat a healthy option and I do like a good caprese sandwich. This wasn’t it. I don’t want to give a way the ending of this blog… so I won’t.
Per Diem Balance: $376.13
Meal #8 – Day 4 Supper – McCormick & Schmick’s
This was supposed to be the most expensive meal of the trip for me. But, once again it was free. Gina paid for my meal and Lowell’s meal. I got the New York Strip which I think was in the $40-50 range. I added an extra side of grilled asparagus, which was around $11. Then I got their “Classic Crème Brûlée “, which was around $10. I wasn’t trying to stick it to Gina. I ordered all that stuff anticipating paying for my own meal. Then she picked up the check for Lowell and I. I should have anticipated that happening though. It is her move.
But there are two incidents at the restaurant I need to bring up. As Micky can tell you, I like a good bantering with the server. I had an intense discussion with the server about the dessert menu. As you can see from the pictures above, for the dessert I had crème brûlée . I have no complaints about it. It was excellent. It wasn’t what I wanted though. On the dessert menu they had something called “Chocolate Bag”. The menu described “Chocolate Bag” as “White Chocolate Mousse and Fresh Berries Topped with Whipped Cream”. What the menu doesn’t tell you is all of that is put in a bag. A bag made of chocolate. Yes please!
Only the answer came back, “No!” McCormick & Schneebley’s or whatever this dump was called, was out of chocolate bag. I had to settle for crème brûlée like a commoner.
The other dessert menu moment was the reason I love banter. On the dessert menu was “seasonal” cheesecake. When I inquired about what the current “seasonal” cheesecake was and what the cheesecake was for the other seasons is, the banter escalated to the point where the server said, “Yeah, for the spring cheesecake we should serve it with a dead bird on top of it!” Bingpot!
Cost: FREE! Thanks Gina!
Per Diem Balance: $376.13
Meal #9 – Day 5 Lunch – Connie’s Pizza
Another lunch on the convention center floor. Connie’s Pizza wasn’t great, but a considerable upgrade over the sandwich I choked down the day before. I was thankful to Tony for pointing it out to me.
Per Diem Balance: $364.13
Meal #10 – Day 5 Supper – Soju BBQ
I might give Kim a hard time for having a Midwest white woman’s palette, but she was a trooper for giving Korean BBQ a chance. Even if she ate next to none of her food. She at least gave it a shot. So snaps for Kim for challenging herself.
I on the other hand loved this meal. Everything was fantastic! The “Kimchi Dumplings” that Tony ordered was possibly my favorite food item I had on the entire trip. Also snaps to Tony for going out to eat with a group larger than 4 people. Which is some kind of arbitrary rule he established for himself.
I haven’t had Korean barbecue since DaeHee’s mom made some for me. I made sure to send him plenty of pictures of it, cause I’m a swell guy. He was slightly jealous. By slightly, I mean extremely.
Per Diem Balance: $327.13
Meal #11 – Day 6 Lunch – Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs
The final day of the convention. This is basically a polish sausage with barbecue sauce thrown on top of it and grilled onions on top of it. It was by far the best thing I ate on the convention floor. If I had found it first, I might have just had it three days in a row. A guy I’ll assume was Robinson said, he would “hook me up”. And I think he did. I have no complaints about it.
Per Diem Balance: $310.88
Meal #12 – Day 6 Supper – Lou Manalti’s
Way back on Day 1 I stated I don’t really like Chicago Style Pizza. Give me a good Quad Cities Style Pizza and we are talking. But Chicago Style Pizza doesn’t do much for me. However, this pizza might have changed my mind. This was one tasty pizza! I would have this pizza again in a second! It was a perfect way to cap the trip!
Final Per Diem Balance: $277.13
Day 7 didn’t involve any eating. At least not eating I would consider that came out of my per diem. We got up early. Didn’t eat breakfast. Flew back to the Cyclone State.
Those of you with a keen memory might recall that I did go through the drive-thru at Ted’s Coney Island on my way back to my house, but I don’t count that towards the per diem.
If you are wondering I’m doing with the extra $277.13 I just pocketed… I guess I spent some of it to send some of you postcards that I think maybe 2 of you cared about. I also bought a Chicago magnet for my fridge. But truthfully, the full $481 went into savings. A couple of weeks ago I outlined some goals I have. One of those goals is to switch banks. I took this coming Friday off as a birthday present to myself. My big plan is to start the process of moving banks. At the very least I will open a couple new accounts in a new bank. Actually a credit union. I don’t know how long it will take me to phase out of Bank of the Bear, but at least the process will finally be started.
The last bit of business for this blog is that I want to rank my Chicago meals from worst to best.
Chicago Food Adventure Power Ranking
12. Caprese Sandwich – Convention Center Food Court
11. Nacho Mama-s Nachos – Broken English Taco Pub
10. Sausage Pizza – Connie’s Pizza (Convention Center)
9. Bison Hot Dog – Clark Street Grill (Wrigley Field)
8. The Special – Giordano’s
7. Super Polish Sausage – Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs (Convention Center)
6. Breakfast Bowl – Wow Bao
5. New York Strip Steak – McCormick and Schmick’s
4. BBQ Chicken Cheese Steak – Capriotti’s
3. Street Tacos – Sabor Taco Truck
2. Malnati Chicago Classic – Lou Malnati’s
1. Korean Brisket – Soju BBQ
If I still make the cut for next year’s convention team, it is New Orleans. That could also make for a fascinating food adventure. We’ll have to see what happens.