Trip Diary: Chicago

I was in Chicago in June for the ALA Annual conference, which was held at the Convention Center…three miles away from most of the hotels we were put up at. Very annoying. I was only there for the conference so I really didn’t do any Chicago stuff, but I look forward to going back next year for a different conference (which I don’t think is being held at the convention center, luckily).

Slept At: Intercontinental Chicago, on the Magnificent Mile. Note that if you’re walking from the Grand – Red subway station, you need to take stairs UP to Michigan Ave, which is elevated at that point. This is by a mall with a Nordstrom and is not well-labeled. As this tier of hotel always is, the room was clean and comfortable, and by some miracle they had a room for me at 9:30 in the morning when I arrived. (Perhaps because I was near tears due to dehydration and having just lugged my suitcase all over tarnation, but I’ll take it.)

The Starbucks in the lobby gets pretty packed, and the elevators were slow (to the point of waiting in line a couple of times). I didn’t eat at any of the hotel restaurants aside from the Starbucks, but I did have a bad bartender experience at the hotel bar. Either that guy read me as someone he could ignore or has a problem with people who set up with a laptop at his bar (which, at a hotel serving multiple conventions really shouldn’t be an issue, especially as I know the drill and went for the undesirable real estate). I believe he forgot about my glass of wine when I ordered it, and then he asked for my credit card and proceeded to leave it by the till for 10 minutes before bothering to run it. No tip for you! Also it is supposedly a wine bar, but you wouldn’t know that from the menu.

Ate at: As it has taken me so long to get back to this post and finish it up, the ate at will be a little more abbreviated than usual:

  • Chicago Firehouse – Gorgeous back patio. Ate catered lunch for 100+ which was ok.
  • Farmhouse Tavern – Stop reading and go there now. Baltimorons, think Woodberry Kitchen. I’ll be back. Great cocktails, big beer list, lots of wine, excellent food, friendly staff and charming atmosphere.
  • Forno – Hotel lunch, ok whatever.
  • Weber Grill Restaurant – Huge and loud. Kabobs were pretty good though.
  • Daily Grind – When your convention center doesn’t have enough lunch options, you sometimes have to eat a lunch of snacks from the upscale convenience store at the one hotel attached to it. See also: Forno.
  • Exchequer – Laid back pub. Friendly bartender who knew what I wanted when I did not. Tasty deep-dish.
  • Waffles – Exactly what you think. Totally delicious breakfast, if a bit indulgent for a conference day.
  • Sprigs and Red Mango – Airport lunch at MDW. Salad and froyo FTW.

Getting Around: I took the subway in from Midway airport, which was pretty easy except for the insane amount of stairs we had to deal with. If you have luggage and you can’t easily get it up and down stairs while keeping things moving for commuters and other regulars, either make a point of looking for the elevators or get a shuttle or a cab. I struggled.

I had planned to take the subway around for most of the weekend, but the stop closest to the convention center is closed temporarily, so that didn’t really pan out for me. I did wind up taking that a few times, when I was going somewhere in between the convention center and my hotel. But to get between the two, I did the conference shuttle, which was super crowded at this conference. (More so than at your average ALA Annual, due to how far away most of the hotels were.) Some people were also taking the city bus, but I didn’t wind up doing that.

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