Katie and I have traveled each of the last two weekends to spend time with her sister in Chicago and my brother in Austin respectively.
It was only my second time in Chicago, but the city struck me with some of its similarities to and differences from Houston. The two cities are around the same size in terms of population but have very different profiles. Chicago feels like a much “older” city than Houston, which is both good and bad. Some of the “old” feels dingy/grimy, but some of it is charming – e.g., many of the skyscrapers in downtown Chicago are much more interesting architecturally than are those of similar size in Houston. Chicago’s wide availability of public transportation is also a significant differentiator; we traveled all over the metro area and never had need of a car. Chicago and Houston both have huge medical centers, significant academic institutions (both private and public), and major international airports – but very different economies. Perhaps most important for our trip, we were pleased to discover that Chicago, like Houston, has a vibrant, thriving restaurant scene!
The trip was short, but we packed in a lot of fun (and a little business too, of course!). We stayed at a hotel downtown – where it turned out that Dan Akroyd was staying as well! Much of Friday was spent dodging torrential downpours as we walked around the Navy Pier or entertained ourselves indoors. Friday night we met up with some of Katie’s sister’s friends at India House, which provided not only dinner but enough leftovers for breakfast for the rest of the trip!
Saturday we made our way out to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game and, wow, I was really impressed by the team spirit on show! Everyone for miles around was in Cubs gear and the stadium was rocking as everyone cheered or boo’ed for even the smallest events. Fan spirit is clearly another area of differentiation from Houston!
Before the game we brunched at Uncommon Ground, which featured delicious, natural food and inventive drinks. Afterward we bar hopped a little in Wrigleyville, returned downtown, and readied ourselves for another night out. Instead of Indian we opted for Italian at Quartino, which was unfortunately unremarkable. We made up for it afterward, though, at Eno, a wine bar that offered flights of wine, cheese, and chocolate! One of my buddies from Rice football and his wife joined us, too, which only enhanced the experience.
Sunday morning we returned to Houston but soon we would be on the road again to Austin!