When we wrapped our monster road trip last summer in Chicago, we knew we’d have to return. We’re here for the Just For Laughs festival, an extension of the iconic Montreal comedy event, and also to check out some of its iconic eateries and famous food.
Arrived in the windy city just before noon on a pleasantly cool summer day. Our flight was at a civilized 9:50 am, and oddly, there was no one behind us or in front of us at check in, security or immigration AND our bags were the first to come off the carousel on the other side. Quickest airline experience ever. After an uneventful flight, the best kind, we arrived in Chicago and checked in at The Wit Hotel. We were eager to hit the bustling streets and enjoy the city. Conan O’Brien is taping his late night talk show ight next door this week and carrying out his antics on the State Street Bridge which we have a view of from our hotel room on the 24th floor.
We walked snapping pics until we got hungry. We decided on Pizano’s simply because it was in front of us at the moment of need. It was well after 1 pm and the place was hopping inside and out. We opt for a seat inside. It is rather cool outside and street traffic is heavy. Turns out to be a good choice and we have a great view of the street from our table.
The restaurant is decorated in “amateur Italian mural” and the walls are adorned from the bottom up with framed sports figure photos and local celebs. Baseball and football have a huge presence. The Blackhawks have disturbingly little love from what I can see on this my second visit to the city. They won a cup in very recent memory. What have the Cubs done? I digress.
Our friendly waitress starts to rhyme off what she has on tap. We stop her at Blue Moon. Two refreshing glasses of this delicious wheat beer that is unavailable north of the border. Our beers come and she answers our menu questions. I order the Italian sausage sandwich which is her personal favorite and a big seller. Rob is determined apparently to find out what all the fuss is about Italian beef, a Chicago special. We had it on our last visit and declared it to be ….well….awful. He believes we had a bad one and are missing out on something. Our waitress agrees with him and says their Italian beef is excellent. Turns out they were both right.
We have time to finish our beers before our food arrives. This is a good sign. They are making stuff fresh in the kitchen. Our plates come heaping with excellent fries, crispy, skin on, perfect. A very good vinegar coleslaw and a decent dill accompany both sandwiches. Mine comes with a small cup of very good meat sauce and Rob’s comes with au jus dip and and a sport- and cherry-pepper-laced gardinere.
My Italian sausage is juicy but a tad salty. The bun is perfectly toasty, warm and chewy but not tough. A little cheese and an excellent tomato sauce makes this a great choice. Rob gives me a bite of his Italian beef and I have to admit…he was right. We just had a bad one on our first try. This is beefy, tasty and spicy hot with piles juicy beef, sweet peppers and a generous application of hot Italian gardienere. The bun is as mine was, toasty and nicely chewy. The sandwich was not pre-dipped and therefore not a soggy mess, which some Chicago native’s find a plus. It comes down to personal taste and this was more to our taste.
On our walk back to our hotel we stopped in at Garrett Popcorn to buy some of their famous Chicago Mix popcorn. Lucky for us there were no lineups today. Sometimes they go down the street. Garrets famous blend is completely addictive and made fresh without preservatives every day.
The Chicago Blend is a delicious blend of cheesy and caramel popcorn. The caramel coating the kernels tastes lightly of burnt sugar and the heavily cheesy corn of cheetos. OMG delicious. BEST. POPCORN. EVER. I cannot stop eating it and my fingers are permanently stained orange.