chicago two

The second half of the weekend, or “When B and N realized there was more to do in Chicago than eat.” (You’d think they starved us out here.) So while everyone else in the city was at brunch, we roamed the thankfully still-empty halls of the Art Institute and fed on Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon, Caillebotte’s Paris Street, Van Gogh’s Bedroom, and a whole room of haystacks. Besides this greatest hits tour of the Impressionists and Post, though, we spent the most time in their brand new, light-filled Modern Wing, which has all the modern European and (a bit later in the chronology) American names you’d expect, plus a whole other contemporary exhibit. More musings on this to follow.

What a terrible refrain, I can hear you moaning: then we were hungry again! In our defense, though, there’s not many places in Iowa City that serve Scotch Eggs. Which were one of Time Out Chicago’s “100 best things” two years ago and yes, we are horrified you hadn’t heard Scotch Eggs until now. Naturally we hightailed it to said Scotch Egg place, The Gage, for lunch.

It’s frankly incredible that this Irish gastro-pub exists right on Michigan Avenue, not even three blocks from the Institute. You’d never find such a place on Fifth near the Met, where the avenue through the eighties is entirely given over to classicizing apartment buildings and, a couple blocks over, nothing but delis, Chinese, and a fancy dinner spots. But the Gage exists and it is delicious, from the surprising Scotch Egg to the artsy, well-considered beer list to, well, the fish and chips.

Or what was fish and chips. Doesn’t fried food feel less gluttonous when it’s an haute cuisine version, with a delicately flaky battered crust around the delicately flaky fish? And when the tartar sauce comes in a wee cauldron? Hand cut fries, anyone?

No then. Oh well. On we trudged, straight through Millennium Park to the legendary Field Museum, which knows exactly why most people are here, and wastes no time delivering the goods. First a teaser dinosaur outside, and then Sue’s complete skeleton in the lobby. A T-Rex in the foyer! Clearly this is where dreams come true.

Sue’s five foot long head is housed upstairs in a great glass display case, as it’s too heavy for the steel armature that keeps her body together. This is the marvelous part. It took a team of seven scientists over 3500 hours to clean and repair the skull. Some teeth are a foot long. The Field Museum paid $8.4 million for her, the most ever paid for a fossil. And the hypotheses that X-rays and modern technology have allowed scientists to tentatively form are cooler still — that Sue had a broken rib, that she was an old dinosaur, that she was bitten in the cheek by another dinosaur (a theory that has since been refuted). It’s not even known whether Sue was a girl!

We also went through the Field Museum’s recreation of an Egyptian pyramid, which — being Sunday, being the afternoon, being designed for children and full of them — sent us straight into a cab and back to the hotel for some light Mexican food and blessedly, sleep.

The following morning, Monday and our last, we had a sunny side up breakfast at the Near North Side’s cheery Tempo Cafe. (Thanks, Kate!) The place was busy but the service was speedy and the eggs were hot. And after an entire skillet-full of eggs, hash browns, and sausage (dear lord, it did not seem like quite so much at the time), we had enough ammunition to mosey back down Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park and, for the first time this trip, behold the Giant Jellybean.

In sum: we didn’t cover everything in Chicago, and first and foremost on our return agenda will have to be some proper deep dish (no more stuffed!). But it was fabulous and then, just like that, it was time to go. The process of getting back to our doorstep was not “just like that” — we didn’t walk in until around one am — but that is, of course, a different story.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Nice photos! It seems it was quite a trip even if you couldn’t cover everything in Chicago.

    The giant jellybean looks amazing! O.o

    Reply

  2. Love it. Reminds me that I need to give Chicago another try… some day! xo

    Reply

  3. Posted by Bill on January 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I have always tried to avoid Chicago’s unbearable winter weather. Having followed your first winter in Iowa, Chicago’s winter seems almost mild by comparison. That, plus your two part account of your weekend, makes it seem more than worth the freeze.

    Reply

  4. […] later), and then traipsed across the street to what has become our post-Institute lunch staple: Gage, an English-style bistro-pub featuring what I’m calling haute barnyard fare, plus a masterful […]

    Reply

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