Dining out in Chicago with our teenager
Dining out in Chicago with our teenager was definitely an adventure. I think he actually picked Chicago for his middle school graduation trip (solo with mom and dad) because of the food choices. The idea that he could experience Chicago pizza, popcorn, steak, and desserts if he chose Chicago might have been what tipped the scales for him.
Pizza: We can argue all day about the best pizza places in Chicago. Just know that it is a deep dish category all it’s own. This also means waiting 30-40 minutes for your pizza to cook. I’m not a huge pizza fan in general. But each of these places had some interesting salads that went well beyond a bowl full of iceberg lettuce. This trip was for Junior, so we targeted deep dish pizza places.
I’ll start with Hubby’s favorite Chicago deep dish…Giardano’s. Hubby claims he’s tried a couple of other Giardano’s locations in Chicago, and this one is the best. He and Junior will discuss as though they are food critics that the pizza pans at that location must be older and more seasoned. Really? It’s double crusted and cheese stuffed, while the sauce and toppings make up the top layer.
This trip we also tried Lou Malnati’s. Hubby claims that the pizza here, while good, has less cheese. I noted that the pizza sauce was a lot more chunky with vegetables than I am used to. While I liked it, some veggie averse children may not. The beer selection at the Gold Coast location was fantastic.
Personally, I’d like to add Geno’s East to this best pizza in Chicago list. As a mom, I especially like that this option takes reservations at the La Salle street location! I like that I don’t have to plan to wait in line along with waiting for my dip dish pizza to arrive. However, purists will say that the original location on Superior is the only way to go.
Snacks: The term snacks can be applied rather loosely. Who’s to say you can’t make a meal out of a snack. On our recent trip with Junior, we did just that. We woke up too late for breakfast and a little too early for lunch. Why not split the difference with a giant hot fudge sundae?
Ghiardelli’s delivers the goods when it comes to chocolate and ice cream. Oddly enough we were not the only ones ordering ice cream at 10am when they opened. Their location on the Magnificent Mile makes it easy to stop in while shopping or sightseeing. I made an attempt at a healthy choice by getting hot tea and a couple of chocolate covered strawberries. Technically I had fruit for breakfast, right? Junior’s favorite is the brownie sundae.
My favorite snack while in Chicago is Garrett’s popcorn. Our hotel on this trip was 2 doors down from a Garrett’s popcorn store. Although you can order it online and have it shipped to your door, there’s nothing like the real freshly popped thing. The famous mix (cheese and caramel) is by far the best choice. Although if using Garrett’s as a meal, you could always go for the caramel variety with your choice of almonds, pecans, or cashews. That way you have added protein for staying power. It’s just like eating a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, right?
Fine Dining: Taking our teenage son to a fancy restaurant on his 8th grade graduation trip might sound silly. I’d like to think he’s expanding his palate by the age of 14. And since we left his brothers at home, it won’t be quite as expensive an experience. My boys love a great steak, so this was definitely a treat.
After some research I decided on RPM Steak. Apparently, it’s owned by some reality TV stars, that I don’t watch, but I chose it based on the food reviews. I didn’t tell Junior or Hubby that fact, as it would have been seen as a negative. I’m happy to say that the reviews were right and it was fantastic! Our waiter, Joshua, went above and beyond. He went out of his way to explain things without talking down to us. Joshua helped Hubby and I pick out a great, yet affordable bottle of wine to share.
I tried the Kale salad (under duress) and it exceeded all of my expectations. Junior had bison, and Hubby had a house cut called the Duke. When you live close to cattle at home like we do, we are definitely steak critics. RPM Steak did not disappoint. The millionaire potato and bacon hash browns they chose as side orders, really have to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, I was in such awe of the taste I did not even stop to take photos.
After dinner, he brought Junior a bowl of cotton candy to celebrate his recent graduation. Of course that didn’t mean that we skipped dessert! Junior had to have the peanut butter popcorn ice cream, with popcorn inside of the ice cream. I had to have the baked Alaska that was lit on fire at the table and put out with chocolate syrup. Wouldn’t it be great if all fires were put out with chocolate syrup?
On a previous trip to Chicago, Hubby and I tried fine dining at Benny’s Chop House. It was great too, but definitely had a more traditional steak house atmosphere. Benny’s has a proscuitto that is freshly cut to order, that I will not soon forget. Both restaurants are a convenient walk from the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Reservations are highly recommended for both fine establishments.
The great thing about Chicago is that you can find a wide variety of great food. Food that even a teenager can love! We didn’t try any famous Chicago hot dog places this trip. I’m not sure my stomach could handle it, truthfully. So little time, so much food! Until next time!
PS. We paid every little penny of our own dining out experiences in Chicago. I’ve provided links for your convenience, nothing else. And as always, my opinions are uniquely my own.