On the road: Chicago eats hearty, rich, endless

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Duck Confit Hash of KanelaÕs Breakfast Club offers new, delectable flavors. (Connor Mabon/Asst. Opinions Editor)

By: Connor Mabon – Asst. Opinions Editor

People from Chicago may argue there’s more to eat in their lively city of two million than just the oft-mentioned deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and Polish sausage. I traveled there to see why these creations have come to define this wind swept city.

Upon a late night arrival, my roommates and I found ourselves situated in one of our friend’s contemporary lofts – a stones throw away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. The hollow yet ever-present sounds of Chicago’s rail services echoed throughout the building, urging us to be as mobile and exploratory as the trains themselves. Once daylight broke, it was time to hit the streets and fill our empty stomachs.

According to locals, the preferred mode of transportation is the Chicago Loop, or the “L,” which can take you almost anywhere within the city limits. There are also plenty of cabs to hail. It costs more, but if you’re adventurous enough to spark up a conversation with the driver you may uncover hidden gems in the city.

Opting for the L’s efficiency, we made our way to the city’s front yard, Millennium Park. We likened ourselves to the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” crew, heads arched toward the skies, eyes spinning at the dizzying amount of skyscrapers, eager to try anything and everything Chicago has to offer. With the help from our friend as group tour guide, we found a restaurant to ease our rumbling stomachs.

Located a few minutes from the city’s prominent Michigan Avenue is Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta on 864 N. State St. Named after the restaurants founder, we chose Rudy’s Special deep-dish featuring a balance of sausage, mushroom, onion, green pepper, mozzarella, sauce and crust.

Not one ingredient had a subdued presence, which was surprising, given the crust’s size and depth, but it had an interesting equilibrium of buttery flakiness and supporting firmness enhancing the texture and while promoting the flavor.

As the post-meal induced coma settled in and the temperatures dropped, I understood why this city enjoys a hearty meal. Food here acts as an extra layer of clothing during colder months, protecting residents from the winds rolling in from the Midwestern plains, which are as chilling as that swig of cold water you feel running through your body in the wee hours of the morning after a rough weekend night.

We started the second day off right at Kanela’s Breakfast Club on 3231 N. Clark St. Proprietors at Kanela’s focus on locally-sourced organic food, which is accompanied by a vintage atmosphere with deep wood and brick accents. The menu offers sweet and savory French toast, omelets of various styles, salads and sandwiches. I ordered Duck Confit Hash that came with two sunny-side-up eggs, charred scallions, orange truffle vinaigrette, browned potatoes and multi-grain toast.

“Confit” simply means cooking meat in its own fat and making hash involves cutting the meat into smaller pieces cooked a second time, usually in potatoes. The duck was sweet, savory and rich, along with the potatoes and the eggs were cooked to perfection. Personally, I found it best to break open the yolks to allow their creamy consistency seep into the crevices of the duck and thyme-infused potatoes.

Given that a night out on the town was imminent, Kanela’s was the proper start to the weekend. After several hours of bar hopping a late-night snack was in order. Managing to wade ourselves through the hectic pool of unfamiliar crowds we stumbled upon a hot dog shack with a long line of locals at 3 a.m. – a promising sign.

The place was the Wieners Circle, home to delicious Chicago-style hot dogs. It was an experience similar to a grand theatrical performance. Employees and customers freely exchanged expletives as part of the ordering process. The hot dog, which was just as enjoyable as the atmosphere, had yellow mustard, neon green relish, sliced tomatoes, onions, a pickle spear and hot peppers all resting on a steamed poppy seed bun. The brilliance of this hand-held wonder is found in its flavor, which mixes sweet, salty and bitter tastes into a cohesive relationship.

Leaving this vibrant town was hard because I knew there was so much more to see. Claiming to know Chicago based on one
visit is like judging a book by its cover and reading the first sentence. Flipping through the pages of this novel city with its many neighborhoods and restaurants makes a traveler, like an avid reader, unable to get the sheer beauty off the mind.

Whether it is next semester or next year, Chicago, I will return.