If you like $600 rooms, $22 martinis, $12 beer, $4.59 gas, $7 water, $19 burgers and $72/night parking, then welcome to Chicago !
International Manufacturing Technology Exhibition
This is the largest automation exhibition in the world and has been participating for many years. All of McCormick Places’ halls are crammed with machine tools and other technology, including robotics. That’s why I’m here.
I’m supporting a Kassow robot installed in a customer booth. Standing and saying hello 8 hours a day was brutal, but when night fell, I was ready to explore.
Fulton Street Market
In the late 1800s, the area was a meatpacking center. Names like Armour, Swift and Morris dominated until the 1920 collapse when many warehouses closed.
Today, revival happened. The area is now a trendy corporate and entertainment hub filled with cafes, microbreweries, restaurants and Google, whose architecture dominates the area. So let’s get started!
I hopped a taxi from the hotel and my Ethiopian driver took us across the river to the market. He has been in the US for eight years, speaks good English, and has become a US citizen. His favorite Ethiopian dish is doro wat. This is a spicy chicken and potato dish served with hard-boiled eggs. Daniel used to offer it at Ligonier, but sadly he’s now closed.
He dropped me at the entrance of the complex, and after walking a few blocks, using the bathroom of another restaurant (Lyra’s was very good, it was packed when I was walking around), I found my mission!
Chef Joe Flamm specializes in Balkan cuisine, and his menu offers many samples of this Mediterranean delicacy. It has five sections: vegetables, pasta, risotto, fish and meat. It’s easier if you know Slavic. After some consternation, I decided to start with borek soparnik. This is a delightful package of puff pastry stuffed with Swiss chard, parmesan and mozzarella cheese. This and a glass of Grasevina Krauthaker (Croatian white wine) are a great start. This wine is so good I bought a bottle.
Go ahead, there are so many options. In pasta, lamb ragu Mafaldine Abruzzi looks interesting with caciocavallo, as does Skradin risotto. Skradin is a small town in Croatia famous for Skradinski Rizot – a risotto with veal rump that takes 12 hours to make!
Under meat, cevapi looks interesting. This is the national dish of Bosnia, Herzegovina and Serbia. Grated lamb kebabs are served with lepinja (flat bread), ajvar (roasted red pepper sauce), kajmak (new cheese made from unpasteurized milk) and red onion.
Instead, I decided to eat Peka-style baby octopus. Paired with garlic potatoes and chilli, this dish is just right. The octopus was so tender it really fell apart. Excellent, indeed! I will go back immediately.
I usually live on Michigan Avenue and Purple Pig is just around the corner. That was my goal for the second night.
Pigs are the brains of chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr. Since its opening in 2009, it has been well received by foodies.
The menu includes all pigs. Too many items to list here, but think braised pork tongue, pork fried almonds, pork chin, pork liver, pig tail casserole, crispy pig ears, and more.
On a previous visit, I liked the squid salad. So, I looked for something different and Bone Tomorrow immediately caught my eye. Sure enough, those two and a half bones were stuffed with butter tomorrow. Serve with toast points for an easy spread, then top with some sweet parsley salad. Every bite is exquisite.
Then I went wild with the squid ink noodles with prawns and scallops. It comes with a good quality tomato sauce. It’s also special!
Downtown Chicago seemed relatively safe, but as I left the pig, a group of luxury cars and trucks displaying Mexican flags roared past. Not sure how that happened, but the commotion quickly cleared the pavement.
Still, Chicago is a very beautiful place.