My overnight in Chicago was less than optimal in my tiny but comfortable room at DeWitt Place: insomnia had robbed me of a decent night’s sleep.
Finding a Starbucks on Chestnut St. that opened early I trekked across Michigan Ave. for a fix and possibly a line on breakfast. I usually drink decaf to combat ‘old man problems', but having been awake since three and desperate to nip a dull headache that had been plaguing me for days, I sought refuge in a full-octane dark roast. Some pyrography on a table, taken out of context, amused me somewhat.
A fellow patron clued me to a breakfast spot down the way at the corner of Chestnut and State. Eagerly I snagged a top for my coffee and ventured off. Five minutes later I found a bright spot in the still dark morning – the Tempo Cafe. And its a 24 hour joint! Oh the endless minutes spent earlier at Starbucks when instead I could have been stuffing my cake hole with eggs.
I was offered a complimentary orange wedge and a pitted prune for starters, something I’ve not seen since six years prior at Lou Mitchell’s, a popular Chicago restaurant just a stone’s throw from Union Station. I suspect this is an only-in-Chicago tradition.
The homemade orange spread is quite sweet. Too sweet for my taste; I’d much prefer a marmalade with pieces of rind that add a contrasting bitterness. Something I fondly remember from my visit to Lou Mitchell’s [see blog post]. However the salsa verde is excellent, being both picante and delicious.
Tempo Cafe’s Gold Coast omelet, with mushroom, tomato, spinach and onion, is superb. The bed of sliced potatoes it lay upon wasn’t too shabby either: fork tender and with tasty spots of browning.
After such a fine breakfast I took a leisurely walk north to an outpost of Lavazza Espression – my favorite Chicago area coffee chain – nestled within the Drake Hotel. I settled down to a double espresso with a dose of half-and-half for about an hour before returning to my hotel.
Check-out time came, and being anxious for the road, opted to go straight to the train station, but not before picking up some supplies for the trip. A one-pound Snickers bar called out to me, but I grudgingly resisted temptation. The remaining hours in Chicago were spent at Union Station in the sleeper passenger’s Metropolitan Lounge, where I partook of the complimentary snacks and juices for a light lunch. I would have much rather munched on a gynormous Snickers bar.
Aboard the Southwest Chief bound for Arizona, we glance the inclement weather bearing down on the Midwest all the way up from Kansas. As for the sleeper I was pleased to find it was a refurbished car, which meant more leg room where it counts, in the toilet. Newer sleeper cars feature WCs that are uncomfortably small, all for the sake of squeezing in another loo.
In Fort Madison, the station platform was completely glazed over in ice. Dinner shortly thereafter in a notoriously bumpy section of track crossing over into Missouri did not sit well. It was a confused mélange of sun-dried tomatoes, edamame, goat cheese, and bucatelli. Two wilted strands of asparagus atop was not a well thought out garnish. Not as horrible as the gut-wrenching black bean burrito I had on the Southwest Chief a number of years back, but pretty darn close. Edamame burps all through the night weren’t terribly pleasant.
I rather wished I spent another day in Chicago.