Our last full day in Chicago was today and we tried to pack in as much things as possible by waking up earlier. With an early start time, we headed to Navy Pier by means of the CTA bus (that 1-day pass was still valid). We wanted to do a boat tour in Lake Michigan (yes, we fell for the tourist traps) and found one from Seadog Speedboat Cruises. We wanted something more fun than the typical boring architectural tour with the slow moving 5 mph ferry boats. This is why we chose Seadog. We bought tickets for their extreme tour of Chicago that consisted of a high speed boat ride (2 engines running at 1400 horses) with sharp turns and one heck of a wet and wild ride along Lake Michigan. After being completely drenched and drained from the sun, we looked to fill our empty bellies with some great food. We’ve been meaning to visit Giordano’s pizza as they were featured on many travel programs and television shows.
We arrived at the nearest Giordano’s (they have many restaurants sprinkled around Chicago) at 1:30pm but was told we needed to wait about 40 minutes for a table. When we finally got a seat, we glanced over the menu, and decided to order their Caesar Salad (again, 2nd day in a row now) and their small combination deep dish pizza.
The salad came out first, which satisfied us while waiting for the deep dish pizza’s cooking time of around 30 minutes. There was a lot of dressing but I’m the type that likes lots of dressing on my salad. Some others might not like it that much though because Caesar dressing itself is pretty tangy in large amounts. Now came the main reason we were here, their pizza. I personally liked this pizza over Bella Bacino’s from our first day in Chicago. The crust was fluffier, but also crispy and buttery at the same time. I think the important parts of a good deep dish is the foundation and structure which starts with the crust, then the ingredients. This pizza wasn’t as cheesy as Bella Bacino’s either which was a plus as eating too much of the cheese was a bit sickening. The other toppings inside were onions, mushrooms, sausage, and bell peppers. This tied everything together well and created a damn good mouthwatering deep dish pizza.
We walked off the pizza by heading to the nearest Garret’s Popcorn location. But before we got there, we passed by the famous Chicago theater sign, and as typical tourists, we had to stop and take pictures.
I had my first Garret’s Popcorn the first time I visited Chicago a few years back, and other times when other friends and family who visited Chicago brought some back. Of course when we are here for a food tour, we had to stop by and grab this sweet delight. They have many shops across the city and I strategically selected a store that was hopefully a little further away from the tourist spots in hopes of a shorter line, but we still had to wait about 30 minutes in line for our turn to order (who the heck stands in line for popcorn?). They offer 5 different types of popcorn, Carmel Corn with nuts (Almond, Cashew, Pecan), regular Carmel Corn, and Cheese Corn.
We ordered their Chicago Style mix which is half cheese and half carmel popcorn and their carmel corn with cashews. After forking over a few bills (albeit still cheaper than the overpriced movie popcorn), we quickly ran outside and opened our bags of popcorn in front of the growing line of eager customers and munched on the fresh, still warm popcorn. In my opinion, the carmel corn by itself is too sweet to eat. Even though I am a carmel lover, it was too candied in taste for me. To balance the taste out, the Chicago Style mix was perfect. By putting in one cheese and one carmel popcorn at the same time in your mouth, it made the taste much more enjoyable. The cheesiness balanced the sweetness of the carmel out and the snack suddenly became much easier on the taste buds. Does it live up to the 30 minute wait lines? Some might not think so, but I definitely did and so did the other thousands of reviewers online who praise Garret’s Popcorn.
After resting at the hotel for a couple of hours from a long day of sightseeing, dinner time came. We had originally planned to eat at the Purple Pig, which serves modern European food but had to change plans when we were told we had to wait two and a half hours for a table. We needed to go to plan B, Weber Grill, the same company that makes the popular circular grills. We called but the wait was also more than 40 minutes, so we walked to other places nearby and saw that big groups were waiting outside the restaurant doors. Chicago’s peak dinner time is no joke and reservations are needed at nearly every place. Our last resort was a sushi place nearby our hotel which still required a 20 minute wait.
A little Japanese food was a welcome to our mouths after having eaten American for the past few days. We planned this stop as a light dinner stop and ordered 4 things off their menu, Tuna Tartar, the Chef’s Roll, Tochigi Maki Roll, and a Scallop Tempura Roll. Unfortunately I only have a picture of the Tuna Tartar as that was the only thing I remembered to take a picture of (we were too hungry at this point).
The tuna tartar was excellent. I was a little worried that the fish wouldn’t be as fresh in Chicago due to no close proximity to the oceans but I was wrong. The tartar had a lot of flavor and when you add that with the little “chips” they give you, brings a mouthful of awesome. It was so strong in flavor that I almost forgot that I was eating raw fish at one point. The sushi rolls we ordered were also pretty good but I think we are spoiled in the Bay Area with better sushi there than here. What’s different though is that they serve 8 smaller sushi pieces instead of the typical 6 normal sized sushi per roll. Some of the sushi didn’t have that much flavor to it so a little extra soy sauce and wasabi did the job.
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
We left the place only half full and we had to forget any other Chicago exclusive restaurants due to the long wait times. So we trotted our somewhat satiated stomachs over to Gyu-Kaku, another Japanese restaurant. They have restaurants in other states, so it is not a Chicago exclusive (I’ve had it earlier this year in Honolulu, Hawaii). Their main specialty here is the grill it yourself Japanese BBQ. Again, I only captured a couple of pictures of what we ordered because of my forgetfulness. The portions here are small so we ordered many different things. We got the Sukiyaki Bibimbap (pictured), brisket meat, flank meat, hanger steak, short ribs, shabu meat, beef tongue (pictured) and a veggie assortment.
There were too many items to review, but overall, this place doesn’t disappoint. The meat platters are served to you raw, and then you have to cook it yourself on the table grill. This allows you to be your own chef and cook the meats to your liking. It might be on the pricier side for those who can eat because each steak plate costs about $6-8 and that only gets you 3.5oz of meat. To fill up, the waiter said typically 2 to 3 plates per person, and you can see how your bill will add up quickly. I loved Gyu-Kaku the first time I went in Hawaii, and it treated me well my second visit here in Chicago.
Sadly we’ve come to an end to my Culinary tour in Chicago but keep an eye out for more restaurant reviews in the Bay Area soon!