Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chicago – Day 1

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We chose to stay at Hotel Allegro, and boy was the the ideal location! It’s close to the trains and pretty much right in the heart of everything we wanted to see. The hotel is actually right next to the Cadillac Theater which is a huge landmark to tell cabs who are unsure of the hotel name. 

The lobby has a warm and cozy feel to it. Since it’s a pet friendly hotel they have water dishes out for the dogs. During the week they have a wine tasting in the lobby from 5-6pm.

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The rooms are a nice layout, even though I appreciated the full length mirror it was a little odd right in front of the bed. Overall really clean and comfortable. If you sign up for their loyalty card on their website you can request what type of pillows you want, newspapers, floor height and more. My only complaint was that the walls where a little thin and when you are in the bathroom it sounds like a party chat line with 5 people talking at the same time. 

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The bathroom was small, but had everything we needed.

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After we checked in we headed to Rick Bayless’s original Frontera Grill. I can’t tell you how excited I was about getting to eat here. As much as I had my fingers crossed to meet him, he was at home filming his upcoming season. The menu changes monthly so be sure to check the website for details. We didn’t have a problem getting in for lunch on a week day, but if you go on the weekend be sure you make reservations 8-10 weeks in advance.

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When you sit at your table (which is really tightly packed in the restaurant) they bring a small bowl of mixed nuts and seeds. They had a nice spice to it which was really addicting.


D started out with a Topolo Margarita $10 (Sauza Conmemorativo tequila, Torres orange liqueur, housemade limonada, shaken tableside.) It was really fresh and tasty.


We asked for chips and salsa thinking it was included, but was an additional $3. The sauces where fantastic, the red sauce had a nice smoky flavor and the green one had a slight sweetness to it. 


Since we where meeting friends for an early dinner we decided to get 3 dishes and share. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a perfect amount.

First up was the Queso Fundido de Carnitas y Tocino – $8.50 (Otter Creek Farm organic cheddar melted with golden pork carnitas, Greg's bacon, grilled tomato-jalapeno salsa.) Basically a fancy queso. I really enjoyed it, D just said it was too cheesy for him.


Next came the Frontera Chili – $9.50 (Grill-seared Crawford lamb & Gunthorp pork, ancho chile, roasted garlic, Negra Modelo beer, spices.) Oh wow this is fantastic! The meat is tender, the flavor is spot on and you couldn’t ask for anything better in a meaty chili.


Now for the star of the meal! Enchiladas de Mole Poblano $16 (Homemade tortillas rolled around Gunthorp free-range chicken, doused with Mexico's most famous mole. Black beans.) I read reviews that Rick Bayless has the best mole and they where right! I’ve had some really really bad ones before and really was nervous about trying it again, but I’m a believer that some people know how to make it right. If the restaurant wasn’t so packed I would have licked the plate!


Overall I highly recommend this place. I can’t wait to get back to Chicago to eat here again it was by far the top place we ate at the whole trip.

The weather caught us off guard when we arrived in Chicago it was 42 degrees F. and raining! Since we walked to the restaurant we did a fast walk back to the hotel to warm up and change before heading out with friends.

We met up with our friends at the Encore bar which is the lobby of our hotel before heading out. (I didn’t take pictures yet, because I didn’t want them to think I was crazy photographing everything since we hadn’t met them face to face.) After a few drinks we headed to our reservation at GT Fish and Oyster. The dress is casual.


You’ll want to be sure to make a reservation if you can since the space is small.


The restaurant has a tapas style feel to it so you order a few small dishes to share. Don’t be put off by the prices, all of the dishes we tried where really good and worth it.

Tuna Poke $12 (mango, cucumber, black sesame) This was a very refreshing dish and I liked the flavor the mango added to it.


Foie Gras and shrimp Terrine $13 (apricot chutney, pickled onion, szechuan peppercorn) This dish had mixed reviews at our table. I really liked the pickled onions on the dish. 


Crab Cake (4 oz.) $16 (red bell pepper aioli, pickled vegetables)


Glazed Cod $13 (miso, asparagus, preserved mango) This dish won us all over and was the star of the night for us. The preserves really worked really well with the fish and it all just melted in your mouth.


Grilled mahi taco $12 (achiote, torreados, smoked crema) These where also a hit at our table.


We also had a gnocchi dish which is new to the menu so I don’t have a description or price for you, but it’s a basil gnocchi which was really nice and light with seafood and a nice broth.


Soft shell crab was also newly added to the menu and also a hit at our table.


Lobster Roll $22 (lobster salad, toasted roll, fried onions) Such a fresh roll with lobster as the star of the dish. I really appreciated the fact that they didn’t drowned the lobster with mayo. (sorry for a blurred pictures, for some reason my camera wanted to focus on the yummy onion strings.)


With our tummy's full we popped in a few local bars to find a place to have a drink, but with the Chicago Bulls game on we had a challenge finding a spot.


We settled in a jazz bar before heading back to the hotel after a nice walk along the river and learning more about the city we had come to visit.


A special thank you to our new friends for taking us out and showing us a great time!

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