Thanks to all who offered suggestions in my original thread about possibly going to Alinea.
Ultimately, I decided not to go to Alinea this go-round, opting instead to hang with family/friends like a real dummy. Next time. I also figured I'd focus mostly on some of the Chicago classics vs. hitting up the trendier spots that I feel I can prolly get a rough approximation of most places. If that makes sense.
Picked up a pepperoni/giardiniera and sausage/red peppers and went to the Map Room bar near Bucktown, where they allow you to bring in your own food and even give you real plates to use. Pequod's is famous for their cheese charred crust (reference image from Yelp below). The sausage/peppers one was just ok. Felt a bit too bready. But watch out daddy that pepperoni/giardiniera was something special. Maybe they just got the bake on it better since the cheese charred crust was more pronounced and the topping-to-crust ratio was perfect. Such a treat.
photo from Yelp
The Polish places I wanted to try were all a bit too far for the quick lunch I needed, but I lucked out because Bohemian House (Czech/German/Austrian - not Polish) was fantastic. The potato pierogi was a masterclass. Daintily plated with edible flowers, followed up by the comforting, almost sweet, cream and potato. The mushroom spatzle was reminiscent of a Thanksgiving stuffing. I was missing a bit of the spring I've had in other spatzle, but the flavors were spot on. Finished the meal of with the open-faced schnitzel sandwich. Lord on high hear my prayer. It was so hearty and delicious.
spatzle photo from Yelp
schnitzel sandwich photo from Bon Appetit
super small pierogi photo from Yelp
photo from Yelp
The man, the myth @djquinnc wasn't lying about the churros and chocolate. Really great. The bite had it all - a solid crunch, warm/gooey interior, sweet grainyness of the cinnamon/sugar and the chocolate dip was dense and rich. The rest of the menu looked good too, but it's not a bad stop just for the churros.
Not my selection (big group dinner), but most everything was really solid. A whole assortment of anitpasti, salads and pastas. The bone-in ribeye was great, which makes sense since there is also an RPM Steakhouse sister restaurant. I really enjoyed my meal, but you can probably find a meal like this in most big cities.
both photos from Yelp
I love this place. The interior is kitschy and chaotic. The workers are rushed but still friendly enough. The Chicago-style hot dog is a perfect food in my eyes and in my mouth. Their version doesn't disappoint. Their Italian Beef was good, too. I got it with "Extra Gravy" (next time I'd probably go for the full dip) and hot peppers. Perfect food for a blustery day.
Picked up a small on the way out of town. Ditched my luggage and took it as my carry-on. As soon as I got home, I set the oven to 350deg and popped in a piece in for 10 minutes. Probably not as great as fresh out of the pan but still great. Man, I should have gotten a large.
Chicago is a great town.