The Taste of Chicago………….. Eating good too!

If heaven was a buffet with only delicious gourmet food and huge portions along with colorful people serving, that heaven would be Chicago.

During my many visits to Chicago, I have learned to never eat at a restaurant or eatery that I could eat at home.  The reason is, there are so many great places to eat.  So if I eat something I could have eaten at home……. why eat at all.  I love to experience new foods.  My eating habits and adventurist nature in regards to food is definitely thanks to my parents.  If you are not trying new foods and tasting new cultures, you are missing the boat and need to free your mind.  Try it, you may like it.  However, if you don’t like it, jump off the boat and swim to shore.

Our first night in the “Windy City”, we went to a very well-known restaurant.  My wife and I absolutely love this eatery and stop here during every visit to Chicago.  This visit however was a bit less than  average.  First off, on the way to our booth I slipped on the tile floor three times because of the grease.  Second, our booth was extremely dirty.  I remarked to my wife that we could probably eat and be satisfied if we only ate the food from underneath our table.  The bright spot in our visit was the great customer service given by the server.  He was very attentive to our needs.  When we mentioned the smorgasbord under the booth, he very quickly summoned someone to clean it up.  He also made great suggestions on appetizers.  He was very professional.  There were 8 in our party and he remembered all of our orders even though we made it very difficult as we were tired from travel and very hungry.

The next days plan was to eat good at “The Taste”.  Therefore, we made no plans to eat at any specific eatery.  We made our way to Grant Park to stuff our gullet with the food goodness of some of the most tasty, exotic, and decadent cuisine Chicagoland offers.  But guess what?  It was raining.  So after we got off the train we ducked into a restaurant to get a small appetizer.  It was just about lunch time so the restaurant was packed.  We were seated quite quickly even though we had a large party.  We were given water and menus almost immediately.  Here comes the kicker.  We sat for about 30 minutes before our waitress came to the table.  By this time the rain was pretty much over and I was dining with among others 3 women.  They were for sure ready to eat and very upset at the wait.  Of course we gathered our party and left for “The Taste”.  Maybe next time they will get a second opportunity at a first impression.

Now “The Taste” will never disappoint.  If you have never been, just look for the roasted corn on the cob (delicious).  Also, you have to get some of the Chicago Style Pizza (upside down and unbelievable).  One of my new favorites is the monster size Churro (Spanish doughnut).  The Churro was so delicious, but probably 2000 calories alone.  Totally worth it!  While we were down there we also enjoyed some of the street performers.  Style Pro Crew, a few contortionists, and one memorable girl with multiple hula hoops.  On “The Taste” main stage Rapheal Saadiq opened up for Chaka Khan.  Cool show!  Overall, “The Taste of Chicago” didn’t disappoint.  Make your reservations now for next year.

On our last day, we went out for breakfast at a well-known nationwide breakfast restaurant.  I won’t divulge their name but a hint for you, they serve pancakes (horrible hint…LOL).  Once again 8 person party and a great server.  The bright spot was that we really didn’t wait that long.  As we were waiting a server from another section came over and started a conversation with the whole table.  She was great at engaging the whole table in the conversation.  We were all having this great conversation that it felt like no time before our food came out.  These servers are working for small tips because the price range really dictates the tip.  This is a lower end restaurant price wise.  This was actually the best service we received during our trip.  This goes to show, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

So the next time you are in Chicago, go all out and have some fun.  Remember to seek out restaurants that you have never eaten in because if you can get the same food at home, maybe you should have stayed home.

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The Taste of Chicago……….sleep so good.

I love Chicago.  Everything about this metropolis is totally inviting.  Recently I along with some of my closest friends took on Chicago during the famous “Taste”.  There are a few important choices to make if you are vacationing in Chicago.  Choice number 1: Which of the many magnificent hotels you will lodge.  Choice number 2: Of the many amazing restaurants, which few are a must to visit.  Choice number 3: Too many historic locations to visit.

Now the really cool thing about Chicago is that of these three choices, you can almost throw a dart and be guaranteed a great trip.  When planning my trip I did not however throw that dart.  As I have spent countless long weekends in the Windy City, I was a little more deliberate in my selection.  I decided to bed in the west suburban city of Rosemont.  The plan was to take the Blue line from Rosemont into the city daily.  Normally we bed in downtown at one of the four or five-star hotels(I’m not rich just a smart consumer).  Now these hotels have location hands down.  You can access all the major museums, all the pro sports venues, too many restaurants to name, and the nightlife is amazing.  Some of the challenges are parking is sky-high(all big cities follow suite), the wait for any of the eateries is 1 hour or more, and it usually takes forever to check in to your hotel.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CHICAGO.  I know when I go downtown to eat I’m going to wait for an hour at least before I sit down.  For me, the challenges are part of the adventure.  Knowing this, if you’ve never been to a monster sized city you will be faced with these challenges.

“Buckingham Fountain” in Grant Park downtown Chicago Illinois

Anyway, we bedded in Rosemont.  The hotel/resort we stayed in was a very nice hotel/resort.  We were greeted with a warm formal introduction by the concierge.  He welcomed us to his hotel/resort and asked if we needed help with our luggage.  I proceeded to check in while the rest of the group helped with the luggage.  When I go to check in I was greeted with a smile and was made to feel comfortable.  During the check in process, I was engaged with small talk and was asked what was on our agenda for our weekend.  I mentioned that I was starving and then was offered a paper menu from the restaurant in the lobby and was also given a list of some of the local eateries.  I love local eateries in the Chicago area.  As the check in process was coming to an end I asked for a complimentary upgraded room(be careful what you ask for, you may just get it).  The CSR informed me that the hotel/resort was completely booked for the weekend; however, she could put me in a corner suite with more square footage and a better view.  Of course I accepted and thanked her.

Our suite was very spacious.  It had a sitting area with a love seat, a coffee table, a desk, and a magnificent view.  Also it was at the end of the hall.  Quiet and very secluded.  We stayed for two nights.  For breakfast we had a good amount of choice.  We could have a nice breakfast in bed, we could have a five-star breakfast experience in the restaurant, or we could get bagels and cream cheese in the cafe.  We chose the cafe as we were saving room for the “Taste”.  One of the surprises was that there was a casino in Rosemont in walking distance from our hotel.  And even cooler, there was a free shuttle bus from the train station.  We went to the casino for entertainment but I didn’t win any money.  I never do.  The casino always wins.  Don’t go to casino’s to make money.  Go to casino’s for the entertainment.  Back to my hotel/resort.  As we went to check out the CSR asked how our stay was and I informed her that we had a great time and would definitely bed there again.  We checked out and headed to the van to shove off.  However, we never paid for parking.  So I rolled back to the desk to pay for parking so we could be on our way.  When I arrived at the front desk and told the CSR that we needed to pay for parking she took my ticket validated it and told me it was on the house.  I was blown away.  She basically saved us in excess of $75 for parking. AMAZING!

Overall my stay was great.  I didn’t come across one issue until I arrived home.  The issue didn’t have a thing to do with the hotel/resort.  It was my fault totally.  As I was unpacking, I realized I had left my toiletries in the hotel room.  I was kicking myself, kicking myself, kicking myself.  I left my crazy expensive toothbrush, some of my favorite cologne, and my grooming kit.  I was totally bummed that I forgot my toiletries.  I couldn’t let it go.  I had to get my belongings.  On Tuesday morning I called the hotel and informed them of my belongings being left in the room.  They tracked down my things and told me they would send them to the shipping department.  I would be called to verify my address and shipping preferences.  Now I was feeling good that I would eventually get my things.  However, I never got a call.  Wednesday came and went no call.  I was being very patient because this situation was totally my fault.  On Thursday lo and behold my package arrives.  Unbelievable!  Due to my absent-mindedness I left some belongings in my hotel room, and in less than a week I had them back in my possessions on the hotels dime.  This customer service was far above and extremely beyond normal.  Just to put it into perspective, during one of my many trips to Vegas I was gifted $1000+ worth of gifts from vendors.  These gifts were stolen from my room by the housekeeping staff.  I did get a tour of the back house of one of the more famous casinos; however, I never recovered my gifts.  But my Rosemont hotel/resort made me whole in less than a week.

My hat is off to the folks at the Westin O’hare in Rosemont, Illinois.  You made my stay a very memorable one.  I will definitely be back.

The Taste of Chicago……….tastes so good!(#1 in series)

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time in one of the best cities in the world.  CHICAGO!  My Mother, Stepfather, and Sister lived in a suburb of Chicago for years and I have spent plenty of time there.  Also my sister did her undergrad at Northwestern.  Too bad for her.  I went to Michigan State University.  Home of the mighty Spartans.  I should stay on the subject.

The Taste of Chicago gives the public a chance to sample foods made by some of the many great restaurants in the greater Chicago area.  For those of you which are unfamiliar with Chicago, one of the reasons people love the city is because of the plethora of amazing eateries that are exclusive to the city.  Now keep in mind, I love to eat.  Whenever I spend time in Chicago, I come home at least 10lbs heavier.  This trip was no different.

During my time in Chicago I had many encounters as a customer.  During my next few blogs I will cover my trip in detail.  I will focus one post on my hotel accommodations.  This one is a total surprise to me and may surprise you because I will break one of the first rules I have imposed on myself as it pertains to my blogging.  When I sat down and decided to blog about customer service, I agreed to never mention the companies I was blogging about.  Have to break that rule.

Also, I will tell you about the restaurants I had the pleasure of visiting.  And here is a shocker, the four star restaurant had the worst service and the one star had the best service.  There were also a few in between.

Loads of great stories that I braved through so you wouldn’t have to.  STAY TUNED.