Sunday, November 4, 2007

What I ate and drank on my autumnal vacation

Pizza, garlic and fresh tomato: super-deep dish by North Dakota standards, "medium crust" by Chicago's.

Exquisite crab wantons (okay, wontons) and pat Thai at the randomly selected Thai Classic. They had an item on the menu called "Squid Disco," which is totally a name for a poem, but I didn't have the nerve.

Hummos for an appetizer and fish-n-chips for the main course at the Exchequer, an English-esque pub, with food selections from all over the place. Delicious. And the coffee....mmmmmmm.

Speaking of coffee, a "jack-o-lantern latte" at an artsy hipster cafe called Uncommon Grounds. I'd forgotten about those enormous bowls of coffee, this one with pumpkin spice and an enormous amount of whipped cream. Practically a meal in itself.

A cheeseburger at the Billy Goat Tavern which is, as guessed by Trish (who knows that what I'm reading is always a dead giveaway to something), is my new second-favorite bar in the world. On one my first trips to Chicago, we were walking near the river there and saw a placard on the sidewalk for the Billy Goat. My sister-in-law mentioned that it was the place known as the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live sketch, and that it was supposed to be a dark, divey bar in the basement. It was a hot day and we'd been walking, and I thought a drink in a basement dive bar sounded like heaven.

Because we had places to go, and I was sight-seeing with non-drinkers, we never got around to it then. But this place is totally up my alley, or one floor down my alley, as the case may be. It's basically under the street (and you still go down the stairs!), so it's always like nighttime inside.

My instantaneous sense of feeling at home made me realize what I like best in a bar: a place that's just been left the fuck alone. Maybe there's something to heredity after all. My great-uncle owned a nothing-fancy bar with much that character (get a drink, a burger, and maybe some free b.s.) in a small North Dakota town. We had a cheeseburger the night we went there with the Ghost Tour, and then back a few afternoons later to take pictures, buy the book, and have a quick gin and tonic, which was perfectly crisp and refreshing. If I lived in Chicago, this would totally be my home bar.

One of the million yellow clippings on their wall, from the Chicago Times, August 18, 1944, with a picture of a bunch of women on barstools, headlined "Women Without Men." Grammar is (sic), by the way: "In moderation, tavern drinking can be innocent means of relaxation; where carried to excess, girl can become 'female barfly.' "

Ha ha ha!

And I love the fact that, hey! There was a war on! They didn't have time to waste with "an" and "the."

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