June 13, 2014

US excursion 2014: Chicago views and deep dish

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I arrived in the Windy City today after my first long-haul flight while sitting in cattle class in a few years - in a US airline, no less.  A short flight delay meant I went through Friday after hours traffic trying to get into the city, but I didn't have much difficulty checking into the JW Marriott in the financial district.

I dropped my luggage in my room, picked up my camera gear, and walked two blocks to Willis Tower.  I had booked a fast pass online while transiting through Narita Airport, paying double the normal ticket price to make sure I wasn't stuck in line for a long time.  Well, as it turned out, there was no line on a Friday evening... so I got up to the 103rd floor Skydeck in no time.

The view was definitely spectacular.  I started by looking south, following the Chicago river down, with Lake Michigan on my left.  It was 7:30 p.m. but there was still plenty of light.

Then I switched to an eastward view, looking at Lake Michigan head on, and the famous Magnificent Mile in front of me.  Chicago's other famous skyscraper - John Hancock Tower - rises up in the distance.

Turning again, I followed the Chicago River northward and get a full view of downtown.

Then I turned westward, and waited to step out onto the Ledge.  A protective pane at one of the ledges was cracked recently, but had been replaced after the incident.  So I simply stepped out onto the bay, looked down below me through the glass pane, and snapped a picture of my feet.

The sun set slowly and late, and it was past 9 p.m. when the skies were dark enough for a nice view with all the lights.

It was late and more than 7 hours since my last feeding.  I was starving.  So I came back down to ground level, jumped into a cab, and headed for one of the branches of Lou Malnati's Pizzeria nearby.

Chicago's famous for their deep dish pizza, and I was determined to have my first taste of it since I last had it at Pizzeria Uno during college days.  After doing some online research, it seemed that Lou Malnati's is a local favorite.  Fortunately it was kinda late by the time I arrived, so it only took about 10 minutes for me to get seated.  I had pre-ordered my pizza when I got there, and about 30 minutes later, I had some food in front me.

The Malnati Chicago Classic - they actually offered their pies in "personal" size for one, so I took advantage of that.  The toppings were simple and classic - Italian sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce.

This came in their famous "Buttercrust" which, unfortunately, I did not find to my liking.  It was buttery alright, but I thought it was rather tasteless.  With many food geeks around me who age their own pizza doughs, I expect the dough to be yeasty and tasty.  This crust had almost zero flavors from yeast.  I didn't get any of that wonderful fragrance I was expecting.  I guess I just don't "get" Malnati's...

Chocolate chip pizza - also a personal size.  The menu led me to think it was something a little more special, but it was just a single chocolate chip cookie that came in a ramekin, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  Not bad, but nothing really special.

With my belly full, I decided to walk back to the hotel and get a feel for the city.  My first taste of "real" Chicago deep dish was a little disappointing, but the two meals tomorrow should be the highlights of this trip...

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