I’m a firm believer that food always tastes best at the place where it originated. I’m also the kind of crazy/dedicated person who will go to a city just for a slice of pie. After spending an awesome week at Ann Arbor at our annual summer picnic, I jumped on a plane to Chicago to reconnect with my good buddy Krishna from Chennai and PIZZAARGHH.
Yes, you read that right, pizza. Good old cheesy Chicago-style deep dish pizza.
Also, Krishna lives in Chicago now and creates drugs for a living 😛 It had been nearly two years and it was about time I caught up with both. As soon as I landed, he picked me up from the airport and we decided to put business first and take the Chicagoan bull by the horns. (get that NBA reference?! :))
The fresh pizza of Pequod
One of my friends Dennis who lived in Chicago for a while recommended Pequod’s pizza and w/o thinking twice we headed there. Word had it that the Pequod pies were baked in cast-iron pans lined with a sprinkling of mozzarella, so when the pizzas came out of the oven, they would have a crispy, brown, caramelized cheese crust. (Drooool!)
When we finally got our pizza after a two wait, an hour for the table and then another hour for pizza-prep, we ripped through it like hungry hyenas. Flavors of the tart tomato sauce, oodles of mozzarella with garlic, spicy jalapeno, and green peppers, and buttery burnt cheesy crust burst in our mouths with every bite. Pequod served, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best deep dish pizza I have ever eaten. The inner (and soon to be outer) fat kid in me was very very satisfied.
Hostel Jones aka the most expensive and delightful hostel I have ever stayed at
When I looked up places to stay in Chicago, even the cheapest Airbnb and roach motels were in the ballpark of 250$. The only thing I could afford I realized was a hostel, the best being Hostel Jones where a bed in the 8 dorm room set me back by 85$ :O Later I discovered, I was in Chicago during the thick of Lolapalooza music festival. Impeccable timing eh? *smh*
Regardless, I loved the quirky decor and chill vibe of the hostel. The exterior was a brick stone facade and the walls inside were adorned with white tiles, colorful vintage suitcases, and boom boxes. To top it off, the hostel was pristine, the amenities were top-notch and my bed was super comfy. The idea to make friends in a hostel may seem daunting at first, but when you come across decent people, you realize that staying in a hostel isn’t as bad as you initially thought. I ended up chatting for hours with a couple of girls who were in my room, all visiting Chicago for the music festival. 10/10 recommend this hostel if you don’t mind coughing up that much 🙂
Breakfast at 5411 Empanadas
Bonus: The hostel shares space with 5411 Empanadas, a super cool Argentinan breakfast joint that serves you’ll never guess what – empanadas 😛 The place was named by the founders after the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina 5411. The next morning, I got myself a luscious cup of cappuccino and freshly baked spinach and cheese and Nutella and banana empanadas, that bolted me straight to empanada-heaven.
After my meal, I aimlessly wandered around Wicker park.
Little Puerto Rico, Humboldt Park
Soon Krishna joined me and we drove to downtown Chicago. En route we stumbled upon Little Puerto Rico, my second happy accident of the day. The entrance to the neighborhood is flanked by a huge blue and red Puerto Rican steel flag. The streets are chockful of Spanish colonial buildings and colorful street art depicting the history and the lives of many first and second-generation migrant families who continue to live in this neighborhood. The flags (another one at the edge of the neighborhood) were erected in 1995, an effort to recognize and calm the continuous cultural divisions and discrimination faced by the people of the community. The coup worked and some stability was restored.
Despite deciding to skip lunch (as if Lol!), a quick yelp search led to us Papa’s Cache Sabroso for their famed jibaritos sandwiches. A specialty invented in this neighborhood, a jibarito consists of fillings sandwiched between tostones or plantain slices fried to perfection with garlic, olive oil, and seasoning. I got the vegetarian jaborita and my only regret was that I wish I had stuffed my face with more than just one.
We parked our car at one of the parking lots downtown and spent the rest day walking along the magnificent mile and along Lake Michigan.
It was one of those days we didn’t plan anything and even if I had attempted to plan, it might not have turned out to be half as wonderful.
Until next time Krishna, Chicago and pizza. 😀