There we were, in Chicago. It was about ten o’clock at night. We checked into our hip boutique hotel on the Magnificent Mile. We were about a half a block off Michigan Avenue at Ohio. We swished open the drapes in our room and it became clear we were not going to be sticking around for the view — as charming as it was.
No, we were hungry. My husband wanted to check out a bar (preferably dive). Always. I wanted to check out the food scene (preferably slow, locally grown, organic, grass fed). If possible. So, we decided on a crawl. When you crawl you go from one bar or restaurant to the next. You don’t stay long. You just check it out… have a drink… a bite to eat…move on. That way you can get a little more out of a night on the town.I was up first and I knew exactly where I was going. We headed straight for The Purple Pig, a short walk away. We turned left onto Michigan Avenue, and it was supposed to be on the right. We walked up to the number 500. I peered into the lobby of a high rise at a woman behind a desk. We walked in looking lost. She said, “The Purple Pig?” Yes! We went deeper, behind the elevators. And suddenly we were inside a fabulous room with high bar tables and a patio that spilled out onto a courtyard with a view of Michigan Avenue. The Purple Pig is all the rage. I had read about it. Young guy. Newly opened. It certainly had a buzz. You could feel it. Everyone looked happy. Chic. This was going to be fun.
We found a place at the community table in the bar. Oh, I should have added that to my list. I love a good community table. We met the cutest girls from Mexico City, bankers, on a birthday weekend. I ordered our small plates since this was my stop. The Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes looked good, along with the Charred Green Onions with Romesco Sauce. The waiter thought a Merlot would go well with the dishes. My husband ordered a beer and a tequila. Always. I looked into the open kitchen for the Chef with a black bandana around his head. He’s the one in charge of all of this. He made his mother beam with pride in this article I read. He was there. I was proud too. The food came. The pork was fantastic, soft, buttery. So were the onions, although I noticed Jim trying to keep his alter ego, Negatron, in check about those. We enjoyed our snack and our drinks and said goodbye to our new friends.
Suddenly, we were back out on Michigan Avenue again. We walked toward the river. It was Jim’s turn. We descended down a set of stairs across the street from the Chicago Tribune Building. We sunk to the street below and there it was, The Billy Goat Tavern.
It’s the home of Cheezborger, Cheezborger Cheezborger. You can watch the Saturday Night Live skit that made it famous right on the Billy Goat Tavern website. All of Jim’s SNL favorites are in it, except Tina Fey. And they still do all the things the skit makes fun of. They don’t serve fries, “only cheeps.” They call it a “cheezborger,” I mean why wouldn’t they. Yelling that out like that… “CHEEZBORGER!”.. has probably attracted millions of people over the years. We were among them. We were not disappointed. Yes, we had the cheeseburger, cheeps, no fries. And we had a drink. They do have a full bar. And sitting there, in the middle of that SNL history.. under Michigan Avenue is pretty good. And so is the cheeseburger. We headed back to the hotel then, to enjoy the view.
P.S. A note about the hotel. I used to do everything short of hand-to-hand combat – search, surf, and bid – to secure a great rate on a fabulous hotel room in the city of Chicago. And I’ve had some successes. And then we would show up to claim my hard fought room and never spend ANY time there. Instead we were out watching our daughter play volleyball or checking out the town. This trip, I found an interesting page on the University of Chicago website. I noticed I could get a room at The Inn of Chicago for only $79 dollars, (practically free), because I am affiliated with the College. They actually charged $105 (still pretty free) and didn’t ask for proof of my affiliation. But if they had, I could have produced something, maybe a drained bank account ledger, as proof that we are parents of a college coed. And the room was just fine for the 20 waking minutes we were there. The lobby is fun, happening. And I‘m sure if you felt you needed it, you could get a room with a view.