chicago deep dish adventure: stop #1.

I had already marked Lou Malnati’s as a destination on my deep dish quest in Chicago.  After checking into my baller hotel (it’s baller, I just wanted to say it again), the concierge informed me that Lou’s was his favorite place to get pizza in the entire city, and that the popular joint had just opened a new location only four blocks away.

Holla!  I’m on it!

I walk four blocks in a downpour to reach Stop #1 (of course, after an entire summer of one of the worst droughts in history, my solo vacation is just a monsoon).  I run across the street, stomping the puddles as I go, and suddenly find myself standing in front of my destination.  The place is pretty big, and the front windows open up for that fresh-air-feel.  It seemed decent enough, but nothing to write home about.

I walked in, the host was pleasant, I said “just me!”, and he asked if I’d like to sit at the bar.  My boyfriend and I are both bartenders, so I do have a soft spot for bartenders surrounded by an empty bar.  I agreed to the bar seat offer, and quickly unloaded my umbrella and purse underneath my seat.

The “bartender” … (she didn’t do much of anything, which leads me to question whether or not she actually possesses this title), was slow to approach me.  Another girl sat down into a seat just to my right, (I had actually passed her walking on the sidewalk a few blocks south of Lou’s), and our bartender eventually made her way over to us.  The other girl ordered a beer (she’s clearly taking full advantage of her vacation, and in retrospect, I wish I would have done the same), and I just ordered a water.  Well, I looked at the menu for roughly five minutes, although it takes literally about 30 seconds to decide what you want for lunch, before the bartender offered to take my order.

I ordered a house salad, a personal deep dish sausage pizza, and a diet soda.  Let me excite you with this picture before i divulge into the details of the adventure:

The following describes my Chicago Deep Dish Adventure:  Spot #1:

House salad:  Umm…  well… I got a gorgonzola dressing, and it really lacked flavor – how does that happen?!  I feel as if that sums it up.

Deep dish pizza:  After I waited nearly ONE HOUR, no joke, it was just … okay.  Here is the story:  The girl next to me ordered right after me and had her pizza FINISHED by the time I got mine.  The bartender had to tell me three times that a manager was figuring out the situation (that’s about the only talking she did to me), and fiiiiinally a manager delivered it.  Now, I’ve been in the restaurant industry for eight years.  When someone’s food is clearly taking a very long time, a manager always addresses the guest, Imageapologizes, offers some sort of pleasant gesture (such as comping the meal, or at least half-ing it, etc.), and reassures the guest that they are doing their best to correct the situation.  This manager dropped my pizza off at the end of the bar, so the bartender could retrieve it.  There were two of us at the bar, and my neighbor girl had an empty plate.  Who the hell do you think the pizza goes to?!  This is not a difficult situation to correct.  So, my bartender brings it to me.  She checks back when I’m waiting for a box for the remaining half, and said “worth the wait, isn’t it??”  Well, no.  It was not worth my wait.  This is my vacation and I would rather not spend it waiting for your kitchen to fix their shit.

Service:  After much thought, I am going to rate this service as abysmal.  My soda came after I had finished my salad, and I had to ask twice for it.  My water sat empty the ENTIRE time I was there, except for the very end when I was ready to go.  Not having a manager address the fact that a small, six-inch pizza took nearly an hour was really just the icing on this shit-filled cake.  Do your job, man.  You’re in guest service, why don’t you offer some decent service to your guests.

Disclaimer:  I am NOT generally a complainer.  As I’ve mentioned, I am a bartender, and I know exactly how this shit works.  This service was definitely in the bottom 10% of my all-time rankings, and the pizza was just okay.  I brought half of it back to the hotel, and I just surrendered and gobbled the whole thing down as soon as I got back.  The crust was suuuuper greasy, but still a little too crunchy, and I had to add a shit load of crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese.

Overall ranking on my deep dish adventure:

Food:  6.5

Service:  1.0

Atmosphere:  4.5

It looks taaaaasty! …but greasy…

Lou’s did not prove itself in this adventure.  If I ever decide to eat there again, I’ll get delivery.  Or I’ll sit at a table with a real server.

Now I’m going to go shopping … and get a beer!  Cheers to solo vacation!

Much love,

Sara

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i’m ridin’ solo…on vacation!

VACATION! WOO HOO!  SOLO VACATION! …what?  That’s right, I’m ridin’ (actually flyin’) solo to one of my favorite U.S. cities this Sunday…

ooh la la.

Chicago.

Why am I going alone?

Because I am an independent human being that is capable of enjoying “me” time in a different city.

Trust me, I LOVE my boyfriend, and I would LOVE for him to join me on this adventure … but his current situation, (he cares for his elderly father on a 24/7 basis), does not allow him to go on vacation with me.  Not in the last year and a half … and not right now.

So, being the stubborn individual that I am, I decided to book a solo vacation.  And I.  Could.  Not.  Be.  More.  Excited.

I’ve got the following in mind, and PLEASE let me know if there is anything else I should add to my list:

  • Giordano’s (I’ve been here three times before, and I love it)
  • Yolk (for breakfast)
  • Al’s Italian Beef
  • Hot Doug’s
  • Billy Goat Tavern
  • Morton’s (The O-riginal)
  • Spacca Napoli
  • The Purple Pig
  • Haymarket Brewery
  • Revolution Brewery
  • Goose Island (I’ve also been here a few times)
  • The Art Institute
  • Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • the Newberry Library
  • Symphony Center
  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Chicago Cultural Center

Fat and happy is really what I’m going for …

mm hmm….

…and I’m also staying in a GORGEOUS hotel in the Golden Coast neighborhood that is 4.5 starts.  A king deluxe room all to myself?  Oh, you’re too kind.

I feel that an awesome adventure lies ahead, and I cannot wait to start.  I’ve also experienced some dramatic career changes within the last couple of weeks, so I definitely feel that this is the ideal time to get away and clear my head.

If you’re ever wondering whether or not you should just take a weekend to yourself to get away, then why don’t you just do it?  It may be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself.  I’m looking forward to sharing my first solo vacation with everyone!

Much love,

Sara

the day Aarón Sanchez made my lunch.

Aarón Sanchez, celebrity chef from Food Network and one of the coolest people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting, made me lunch earlier this week.

You see, I created my own local magazine (based out of Kansas City) for which I write nearly every article.  I focus my articles upon local restaurants and the people behind them all, which is really a killer concept for my city.  Kansas City is slowly becoming recognized as a culinary destination, and I am SO lucky to have such an exquisite, worldly cuisine available in my backyard.

So where does Aarón Sanchez come into this?  Well, he recently opened a restaurant in one of the suburbs of Kansas City:  Leawood, Kansas.  His restaurant, Mestizo, of course has Mexican influences … but the primary focus is: FRESH INGREDIENTS.  Everything from the chips to the guacamole is made in house, and Aarón really strives to make sure all of his ingredients are as local as possible.  When I was contacted by his PR rep, I instantly jumped at the opportunity to feature such an awesome concept and chef in our magazine.

Myself and my photographer, Lauren, showed up at Mestizo around noon on Monday, August 13.  We sat with Aarón for about 30 minutes as he described his concepts, his past, and his passion for cooking to us.  After the interview, he excitedly told us we would be receiving “the ultimate VIP treatment”.  I think passed out for a minute after that happened.

Luckily, I pushed back through to consciousness as he started bringing dishes out for us, delivering each one by hand and explaining every ingredient.  One of my favorites (but I actually think they were all favorites) was a small tortilla topped with avacado, crab meat, pickled onion, and a thin slice of serrano pepper.

Tortilla, avacado, crab meat, chili flakes, pickled onion, serrano pepper…I could eat 25 of these, no problem.

(Excuse the photo quality; I took these on my iPhone.)

I also thoroughly enjoyed the crisp pork belly tacos, which are available everyday on the menu.

Crispy pork belly tacos … piping hot, handmade tortillas came on the side.

Grilled Octopus Salad

The grilled octopus salad was also delectable, and I eagerly gobbled up all of the extra octopus left on Lauren’s plate (she’s vegetarian).  Sadly, I cannot divulge much more about my experience, as this will be an article in the next issue of our magazine:  concrete city magazine.  But I WILL say, if you are a Kansas Citian and have not yet ventured out to Mestizo, I highly suggest you do so immediately.  The atmosphere, food and cocktail selections are top-notch, and the staff is phenomenal.  Maybe if you’re lucky, you will also have Aarón take care of you, too.

Much love!

i’m excited for pizza today.

Guess what I did last night?  I went for a RUN.  A RUN!  In high school, I could have told you this every single day of my existence.  I swam, I danced, I volleyball-ed, I ran.  I ran a LOT.  But guess what happened when I left high school?

I went to college.  I discovered booze.  I LIKED booze, and I continue to like booze to this day.  But guess what else?  I turned 26 this year, and I started dating a guy that lives a stressful lifestyle and eats a lot of fast food.  Of COURSE I like fast food – it’s quick, easy, and full of all of the shit your body will never need.  Delicious!

So, I gained about 28 pounds.  I feel pretty effing awesome about it, ya know?

No I don’t.  That’s a lie.  I feel great when I’m laying underneath the depths of my sheets and comforter, but once I get up and look in the mirror … a 180 degree change in opinion occurs.

This is how I feel. Thank God I found a park where no one can secretly judge me running by …

 

So I’m laying in bed, watching more Lifetime forbidden love movies, and I decide “this sucks.  I’m sad, I’m frustrated, and discouraged in a lot of aspects of my life (is that depression?  Nah… and I’ll hit on more of that later)”  So I make the conscious decision to get my jiggly ass out of bed and do something that I clearly used to love:  I ran.

Ok, I walked … but briskly … and I even threw in a couple sprint-like dashes amid the brisk walking.  I burned 241 calories, went 1.7 miles, and it took me under 30 minutes (thank God for my iPhone and all of its technologically-awesome glory).

Yes-suh!  That rocked!  And I ate spinach, cottage cheese, and deli turkey for dinner!  What.  A.  Day.  Although it ended with a handful of popcorn and a Lefthand Milk Stout, I still feel pretty damn good about it.  AND I’m super excited to do the same thing tonight! …after I go get my local pizza lovin’ time on with my two business partners, of course. 🙂