Last month Ben and I decided to take a rather spur of the moment weekend trip to Chicago.  Our main objective was a weekend away so that we could relax without kids shouting at us or at each other.  You know…sometimes you just need a bit of silence.  We had big plans to be lazy and sleep a lot but as you will see below, we were anything but lazy.  We ended up packing a huge amount into just a couple of days.  Even though it wasn’t exactly rejuvenating, it was glorious to be able to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted, without worrying about babysitters or the always dicey experience of eating out with kids.  We had an absolute blast.  This is a peek into our weekend via my iPhone.  I didn’t bother taking my real camera because I knew I wouldn’t want to carry it around everywhere (or really, anywhere) we went.

It’s a quick three hour-ish drive from Indy to Chicago.  The drive was a little rainy, the first time it’s rained in far too long.  I was thankful to see the rain and hoped we were getting some back at home.

Being from Indiana, we’ve both been to Chicago many, many times before but it has usually been in the winter and usually with family.  This trip definitely reminded us what a great place Chicago is to visit.  There was of course no way we could do even a fraction of all the things we wanted to do, but we’re glad to be close enough that we can come back often.  We have resolved that we will be back again soon, and next time we may bring the kids along.  When we visit Chicago, I like to use Hotwire to find a good hotel deal.  This time we ended up at the Omni right on Michigan Ave.  It was a nice place and a great location.  We were able to walk to the majority of the places we went.  Gotta love that!

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While your spur-of-the-moment weekend trip to Chicago brought about much-needed relaxation and a break from the chaos of parenting, the allure of a distant destination like Hawaii beckons with promises of a different kind of escape. Imagine flying over the azure waters to embark on an authentic Maui Luau experience, surrounded by the mesmerizing beauty of the Hawaiian islands. It’s a quick flight from Indy to this tropical paradise, where you can immerse yourselves in the vibrant culture, savoring traditional Hawaiian cuisine, and being captivated by enchanting performances. From exploring volcanic landscapes to snorkeling in colorful reefs, Hawaii offers an array of activities that blend adventure with relaxation, providing you with the perfect balance for an unforgettable getaway.

So, we left on a Thursday evening immediately after work, checked into the hotel, and then headed out for a late dinner reservation at Naha.  (Let me just say right now, it was a personal kind of torture trying to narrow down where we would eat during our trip.  I asked friends for recs and read waaay too many reviews and menus online beforehand.  Thankfully, choosing Naha was a stellar move.)  To be perfectly honest, Naha was my favorite meal of the entire trip.  It set the bar very high, unfortunately for the other places we ate.

We went all out, ordering our own starters and entrees, though we did split dessert.  The menu online is not completely current and unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what my entree was – I know it was fish and I know it was wonderful, but that’s it.  I blame the bottle of wine we ordered.  The rest of our meal is as follows:
Ben’s starter: Roasted Young Indiana Farm Chicken, Organic Carnaroli Risotto and Chorizo, Wood-Grilled “Bermuda” Onions, Crisp “Ruffled” Kale, Zucchini and Green Garlic
Annie’s starter: Tortellini of Sweet Peas and Cracked Blue Crab Bisque with Pea Shoots (and other things I don’t remember)
Ben’s entree: Filet of Beef Tenderloin “Crusted” with Herbs, Grain Mustard and Brioche “Crumbs”, “Hen of the Woods” Mushrooms, Veal Sweetbreads, and Green Peppercorns
Annie’s (unknown seafood) entree – it was great, whatever it was
Dessert: Bittersweet Chocolate Pavé, Milk Chocolate Beignet, Chocolate Cream and Pinot Noir Ice Cream

I really enjoyed the entire meal but the highlight for me was the starter.  The interplay of all the flavors in the tortellini and accompanying sauces was just incredible.  Overall the entire meal was superb and we’ll definitely go back to Naha.  I also have to take a moment to mention that the waitstaff was awesome.  Our waiter was very attentive without being stuffy or formal, and genuinely friendly.  Well done, Naha.  Well done.

The next morning we went for a little walk out to the lake and explored the area a little bit.  Oh, and the weather was perfect!  The weekend we were there was the first break in that insufferable heat wave we had been having.  It was nice and breezy but still sunny – just gorgeous!

One of my best friends from med school is currently in his residency in Chicago, so we spent a lot of time with him.  We met up Friday morning and he took us to Bongo Room for brunch.  Dudes, it was awesome.  I had such a hard time deciding what to order, and am planning to recreate basically every dish I didn’t order because the menu was that good.  Eventually I settled on an omelette with chorizo, potatoes, and avocado.  It was very good but totally massive and really enough for two people.

That was great fuel for the morning of shopping that followed.  We walked around Michigan Ave. and browsed a few stores, and ended up at J.Crew.  Surprise, surprise, and time well spent, Annie.  Seriously, we have one in Indy but I’m just drawn to them!  I did end up with quite a few great finds there so I guess it was worthwhile.

Then, though it wasn’t exactly right nearby, I insisted that we walk over to a Paper Source store.  I’ve been ordering things from Paper Source for years and have always, always yearned to see one of these stores in person.  It was even more fun than I had imagined and I was on excitement overload at that point.  I could have stayed there all day but I don’t think Ben felt quite the same, so we headed back to the hotel.  I had a quick catnap and was excited to get moving again but Ben took the longest nap in the history of the world.  Maybe not really, but I was just so ready to go out and keep having fun!

Eventually when my patience ran out and tapping my foot got boring, I woke Ben up and announced we were going to XOCO.  We definitely wanted to eat at one of Rick Bayless’s restaurants and the quick, low maintenance approach of XOCO perfectly fit into our plans that day.  (Funnily enough, this is actually diagonally across the street from Naha.  There’s some good food at that intersection, my friends.)

XOCO has an amazing variety of tortas and, once again, it was an incredibly tough decision figuring out which one to order.  I ended up getting one with garlicky shrimp, caramelized onions, arugula and goat cheese.  It was fabulous.  I believe Ben’s had chorizo, poblano, artisan Jack cheese and came with tomatillo salsa.  And while the tortas were great, the highlight for me was the churros.  If I could, I would go back to Chicago for one right now.  Not even kidding.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

After XOCO, we hightailed it over to the Terrace bar at Trump Tower to meet my friend for happy hour.  Now let me say right off the bat, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this place.  I guess I had kind of a negative mindset about it being associated with the Donald and all, but this was a pretty awesome experience.  It was just a really beautiful, relaxing atmosphere and the cocktails we tried were all great.  Sitting and talking while taking in the blue skies, Chicago skyline and great views of Lake Michigan – it was just wonderful.

As a bonus, you can get a picture where you look kind of moronic as you are blinded by the sun.  Wahoo!  (On that note, if you go – wear sunscreen!  I did not have the foresight to do so and got a very interesting burn from my lace-backed Anthro dress.  Yeah.)

After happy hour, Ben and I wandered around a little more and then headed over to mk The Restaurant for dinner.  Our meal at mk, while very delicious, was not quite as magical as the evening at Naha.  I don’t blame the restaurant though, but rather the woman at the next table talking in the loudest voice ever, mostly about her childbirth experience.  Really, it was so bizarre I kept looking around to see if maybe it was some kind of hidden camera situation or if we had stumbled into an SNL skit.  Everyone else at her table was speaking in normal voices but wowza, she was on a whole other level.

As for the meal itself, we thoroughly enjoyed it.  We both did the tasting menu and, just like Naha, I did not take notes afterward and therefore have spotty memories of the specifics of the meal.   I completely forget the starters.  Dang!  The first entree was a whitefish that was probably my favorite part of the meal.  It was perfectly cooked and served with a parsley puree and glazed baby carrots.  The next dish was a steak (forget the exact cut) and it was mouth-wateringly good.  We ordered the optional pommes frites on the side because they really shouldn’t be optional.  It was another wonderful course.  The meal finished off with blueberry crisp for dessert.  Other than the neighboring diners, it was a lovely.  The service was impeccable, and only later did we learn it was actually our waitress’s first night.  She did a great job!

The next morning was another highlight of the trip for me.  Finally, after countless emails, I was able to meet up with my blogging buddy turned good friend Elly of Elly Says Opa.  We met for breakfast at Yolk, a restaurant we have loved since our last visit to Chicago.  I had the French toast sampler and it was great, but I was really having too much fun visiting with Elly to think too much about the food.  She is just a lovely person, and so much fun!

Ben finally bought himself a pair of sunglasses and we decided to take this photo on our walk back.  I laugh every time I look at it.  We just look like two…I can’t even think of a polite word to say, so I’ll be quiet now.

After breakfast we had a short little block of time to kill so we headed down Michigan to visit the Art Institute.  This is one of our favorite places in Chicago and it’s a must every time we visit.  We didn’t get to stay long this time but I made a beeline for my favorite part, the impressionist area with all the Monets.  My mom really loved Monet, particularly the water lilies, and she bought me lots of books about him when I was little in hopes that I would be interested too.  Now whenever I see them I think of mom.  I always stand in this room tearing up for a little while.  I wish we could have seen them together.

On our way back up Michigan we made a super quick stop at the bean because, believe it or not, in all our previous trips to Chicago, neither of us had ever been there.  I just wanted to see it in person.  Tourist!

We met up with my friend for an architecture tour on a riverboat.  I have mixed feelings about this.  It was a nice experience visually and I learned a few interesting facts but it was just a tad on the dull side for us.  I’m sure lots of people just love this but it really wasn’t my thing.

After a quick caffeine pitstop, we made it over to show at The Second City comedy club.  If you aren’t familiar with Second City, this is the starting place (or jumping off place) of many great comedians.  We have always loved improv comedy so I knew this would be a great time and it was even better than I had hoped.  The current show (“One Nation Under 1%“) is absolutely hilarious.  We laughed from beginning to end.  I’ll definitely do this again next time I have the opportunity.

After Second City we had dinner at a restaurant that was just okay at best and so I won’t be reviewing it here.  You can’t win them all, I guess!

The next morning was Sunday and that meant saying goodbye to our fun weekend.  Before leaving, we walked over to Yolk again for breakfast and on the way passed this truly amazing building that we had seen several times in our earlier walks around the city.  It’s the Poetry Foundation and it is just something you need to see in person.  I wish we had had more time to explore because all those books were just calling to me.  I could spend hours or probably days in a place like this.  Next time I’m checking this place out more.

And then we went home, and back to reality.  Bye Chicago.  It was fun.