Kathy's 10 Favorite Bites from 5 Days in Chicago

Editor's Note: You all may recognize Kathy from Serious Eats New York, where she wrote the Sugar Rush column for years. When asked if she could write about her recent vacation to Chicago in February, I immediately said yes. I'll let her take it from here.


[Photographs: Kathy YL Chan]

A friend and I found plane tickets on a whim, Chicago in February? Why not! We piled on scarves and thick socks, the heavy duty winter boots, our warmest coats... and off we went. It was a short five day trip, with most of the dining ideas pulled from the archives of Serious Eats Chicago. Scroll on down to find my 10 favorite bites from 5 days in the Windy (no kidding) City.

1. Warm Mushroom-Leek Quiches at The Peninsula


The first thing I do when visiting a city is to scout out the best afternoon teas in town. Look no further than The Peninsula for classic afternoon tea at it's best. Highlights include the spicy house blended chai, warm mushroom-leek quiches, and tiny red velvet whoopie pies with a whipped cream cheese frosting.

2. Duck Served Five Ways at Alinea


What's a trip to Chicago without a visit to Alinea? The best way to score reservations is to follow Alinea on Twitter or Facebook for last minute cancellations. Our favorite dish from this meal was the duck served five ways (confit, neck, breast, mousse, and foie gras) with 60 different accompaniments. Chocolate! Fruits! Booze in various textures! Almost anything and everything you can imagine pairing with duck.

3. Aztec Hot Chocolate at Xoco


Breakfast on most mornings was a warm mug of "Bean to Cup" Chocolate from Xoco. There are five variations, and I'm partial to the Aztec, which blends the ground chocolate with water, a good dose of chile, and allspice.

4. The Elegant Hot Dog at The Violet Hour


The theme of the trip was hot chocolate in the mornings... and cocktails at night. The Violet Hour was one of our go-to bars, and the food menu was another lovely bonus. Do try The Elegant Hot Dog, which pairs Toulouse sausage with a smear of onion jam and Boursin cheese on a toasted brioche bun.

5. Housemade Sweets at the Palm Court inside The Drake Hotel


For another take on afternoon tea, visit Palm Court inside The Drake Hotel for old world elegance and a live harpist who plays daily. The hotel is one of the few in the US that offers unlimited replenishments on the housemade sweets (think passion fruit tarts and delicate cream puff swans) and savories.... surely reason enough for a visit.

6. Wagyu Wellington at The Aviary


The Aviary is all about cocktails, but don't skip the food (which comes from the kitchen of Next). Pictured here is the decidedly tender and buttery Wagyu Wellington.

7. Old Fashioned at The Office


After The Aviary, ask nicely to see if you can secure a seat at The Office right downstairs. A classic Old Fashioned is all you need to end (or begin!) the night.

8. Sicilian Iris at The Purple Pig


Brioche! Stuffed with fresh ricotta and dark chocolate. Deep-fried! What more could you want at The Purple Pig? The Sicilian Iris is the ideal dessert-for-people-who-don't-like-dessert, perfect for two to share. Split it open down the middle and go at it with your fingers.

9. The Chicago-Style Hot Dog at Allium


The Chicago-Style Hot Dog at Allium made the Serious Eats Staff Picks of What's the Best Hot Dog in Chicago? and for good reason. When they say "homemade everything," they mean it. From the toasty plush bun to the dog itself (careful when you bite, super juicy!), crisp fries, and all the condiments, this is a fancy hotel hot dog worth going out of your way for.

10. Strawberry Jelly-Stuffed and Chocolate-Dipped Yeast Doughnut at The Doughnut Vault


Gotta finish on a sweet note. The Doughnut Vault posts daily doughnut flavors on Twitter every morning. Imagine flavors like chestnut, gingerbread, and pistachio. Make sure to get there early (they usually sell out by noon) for specials like this strawberry jelly-stuffed and chocolate-dipped yeast doughnut. It's as good as it sounds.