Friday, October 1, 2010

Eats + drinks + sights = A good evening in Chicago

UPDATE: El Souk has since closed.
Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 – After picking up an advance ticket for the elevator ride to the observatory atop the John Hancock Center I looked for a place to relax and catch a quick nosh. I didn't have to go very far at all.

Located in the lower level of John Hancock and accessible from the street via stairs, L'Appetito is a small Italian deli, bakery, coffee shop and gelateria. Ogling over the cheeses and entrees in behind the glass I wished they had offered a cheese and meat plate, not unlike what I've grown fond of in Omaha at La Bouvette [see blog post].

After a pee break to clear out bladder and mind, I came upon their selection of gelato. My first and foremost choice is and always shall be pistachio but today I went for the spumoni, which still gave me a taste of pistachio along with layers of chocolate and cherry gelato. A bargain, one scoop cost less than two dollars.

Afterward I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to catch the opening performance of The Astronaut's Birthday, as performed by Chicago's Redmoon Theatre. Seated outside on bleachers, the audience watched as animation cells and shadows of the performers were reverse projected onto three stories of the museum's windowed exterior, covered in opaque material [see blog post]. An enjoyable and unique experience for in attendance, even with the cooler than average evening.

Finishing up around a quarter to nine, I went back to John Hancock for a view from the observatory at night. Having been up before a few years back I can enthusiastically say that I prefer the evening view. It was spectacular, especially that night from the open air viewing area. Cool but with nary a breeze I was surprised to find moths and a monarch butterfly briefly resting on the other side of the steel mesh, 94 floors above the rest of the city.

An added bonus to my visit to the observatory was the addition of a Lavazza coffee shop serving up beverages and food. I ordered up a triple espresso macchiato and sat down in the lounge to take in the evening's sights.

Giddy with caffeine I ordered up the cafe's signature drink – the Sky High Cocktail; raspberry vodka, blue Curacao and lemonade with a slice of lime over ice – and returned to the open air "SkyWalk" to leisurely sip my tasty beverage and take in the night over Chicago [see blog post].
With the clock passing eleven I bid a reluctant adieu to the view, and came down to street level looking for eats. Over on State Street I spot a few bars serving food but I kept walking looking for that certain something that would ring bells. I didn't have to go very far until I stumbled upon a duo of eateries that piqued my interest, and my stomach.

With window signage touting hummus and falafel I was drawn into El Souk, a few doors north of the corner of State & Chicago. For starters I tried the spinach pie, chopped spinach with onions, sumac and Lebanese spices, baked in a bread pocket. With a glass of fountain lemonade, I was momentarily sated but anxious for the main course.

An insanely good bargain is the falafel sandwich for only four bucks. Crispy fried nuggets of ground chickpeas seasoned with onions, parsley and spices, stuffed into a split pocket pita and garnished with shredded lettuce, Tzatziki sauce and red chile paste upon request. I savored every crispy, savory bite.
Feeling fine but desirous for one more bite I retraced my way back a few doors down on State Street to Mister J's for a Chicago Dog, and unlike my experience at Portillo's [See blog entry: Portillo's Hot Dogs. Meh.], I was not disappointed. With mustard, chopped onion, relish, sport peppers, tomato half-slices, and the real kicker, lightly-pickled cucumber sliced on the bias. Flavor and crunch complimented the skinless Vienna dog and soft bun.
L'Appetito on Urbanspoon Espression By Lavazza on Urbanspoon El Souk on Urbanspoon Mister J's on UrbanspoonPhotos from the Picasa Web Albums: Sept. 2010 Vacation and Stills from The Astronaut's Birthday

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been to El Souk as well.... You should have also tried their hummus - it's to die for.