St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago!

In an effort to post more in the “JVL Travel” category, I bring you the overdue highlights of my (very vegan) trip last month to Chicago! Yes, this is from St. Patrick’s Day…better late than never, right?

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Each year I travel with my bestie for a fun girls weekend over St. Patrick’s Day weekend and for 2014 we selected Chicago! (In 2012 we went to Savannah and in 2013 we flew to Boston.)  We travel to watch the parade, wear green, eat, drink and pretend we are Irish for the weekend.  It makes for a fast paced, super-fun girls weekend and I get to try restaurants in new cities that are on my vegan bucket list.

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Day 1: I arrived on Friday and our first meal was lunch at the 100% vegetarian restaurant, Blind Faith Café.  It is located in Evanston’s Chicago Avenue/Dempster Street shopping district, within walking distance from Northwestern University.

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The menu was extensive and it was hard to make a decision! Here is what we had between the three of us: Vegan Wonton Soup ($4.50), Fried Dumplings ($7.50), Spinach Lentil Salad ($7.50) and the Vegan Mexican Breakfast Plate ($12.45)

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Deciding on dessert was equally hard with a case like this on display (over half of it was vegan)! We finally settled on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Raspberry Sorbet ($7.50).

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After lunch we did some shopping on Michigan Avenue and visited Millennium Park.  Seeing the famous outdoor sculpture, Cloud Gate (a.k.a “The Bean”),  was on my must do list and it didn’t disappoint!
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Afterwards we didn’t really have a plan for dinner, but Thai sounded delicious.  So after reading several reviews on the various Thai restaurants in the area (thanks to our cell phones), we took a taxi to Star of Siam.  We shared the below: Fried Tofu ($4.75), Veggie Tempura ($7.75), Mussaman Curry with Tofu ($7.75) and a rice noodle dish that I cant remember the name of ($8.25)

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Day 2: The St. Patrick’s Day Festival!

We woke up and arrived early to see the river be dyed green! It gets is emerald green color from 45 pounds of vegetable dye.  They say the ingredients are not harmful to the thousands of goldfish that make up a large percentage of the river’s fish population. I hope not because it was a beautiful site!

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The parade started at noon and we secured a great spot on Columbus Drive!
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Satisfied that we had seen enough of the parade, we decided to explore on foot. It’s amazing how many large-scale outdoor pieces of art there are in Chicago!

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It wasn’t hard deciding on lunch as Native Café was on my must visit list!  I told the employee at the cash register, “I want whatever your favorite item is.”  The result, the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger: thinly sliced Native Original Seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions, and crispy Native Bacon on a bun slathered with BBQ sauce and ranch dressing, romaine, carrots, onions, and tomato. Topped with crunchy battered dill pickle chips. ($9.95)

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After lunch we explored some more!

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Eventually we found ourselves taking an elevator ride up to the top of the John Hancock Observatory!  We were seated at the best table we could have wished for, a corner window table on the 96th floor with a perfect view looking down Michigan Avenue!  Admission to the top is free as long as you buy an overpriced drink at the Signature Room Lounge.

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After some late night pub hopping (for some much cheaper drinks) we ended up at Hash House, Twisted Farm Food.  It was not really vegan friendly but they did manage to whip up this vegan hash for me with mushrooms, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and fresh spinach.  The portions at this place are huge (this could have fed a family of four)!

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Day 3: Although I had an afternoon flight and was pressed for time, I decided that I could squeeze in breakfast AND one hour at the Art Institute of Chicago before heading to the airport.  I am an art history major, so this was pretty important to me. I wanted to try The Chicago Diner soooo bad, but I also wanted something located closer to the museum due to my time crunch, so I opted for Karyn’s Cooked.  I ordered the Homestyle Breakfast ($10.95) and the Potato Pancakes with lemon-dill sauce and applesauce ($6.95).

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With a full belly, I took the subway to the Art Institute of Chicago. I called ahead of time to ensure that the museum coat check would hold my suitcase for me (as I had already checked out of my hotel), which they did!  It worked out perfectly!

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The museum has a “What to See in an Hour” list that contains their favorite 12 pieces. In my 57 minutes I was able to see six of them: Seurat’s A Sunday on Grande Jatte, Monet’s Stacks of Wheat, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Richter’s Woman Descending a Staircase, Charles Ray’s Hinoki and Jackson Pollock’s Greyed Rainbow!
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I was also able to see many other famous pieces by artists that are important to me: Warhol, Calder, O’Keeffe, De kooning, Motherwell, Kline, Rauschenberg, Rothko, Lichtenstein and Stella. Unfortunately, my memory card filled up as I entered my most favorite part of the museum – the Impressionism wing.  I was out of time anyhow, so it is probably a good thing, or I may have missed my flight.

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I had an amazing “taste” of what Chicago has to offer in my short two and half days there. I cannot wait to return to the Windy City soon!