Trip Diary: Chicago Redux

I was back in Chicago recently to attend the Medical Library Association conference and make a site visit to Northwestern’s campus in Evanston. This trip was a bit longer than my usual work trips, and I was on my own for much of it. As I speculated last summer, this conference was not at the convention center, but at a giant Hyatt much closer to interesting restaurants and stuff to do. I’ll be back again in January for another conference, presumably back at the convention center.

Slept at: The conference was held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, which was where I stayed. While it’s typically very convenient to stay at the conference hotel, the setup of this one is very confusing, with two towers of guest rooms and meeting rooms. The referred to the conference levels by color, but it was still confusing because the guest elevators didn’t go all the way down to the conference levels – I don’t understand why. Once I figured out how to get down to the conference levels, it wasn’t too bad. Anyway, as expected the room was clean and comfortable, and I employed my newfound trick of leaving the “do not disturb” up permanently so as to avoid maid service.

Fun stuff: There was a lot more pre-travel prep than usual for this conference, and so I’d been very busy for the last couple of weeks. It had felt a little non-stop, and I needed a break. So, I took some time on Sunday to take a trip to The Field Museum, which was awesome. My main objective was to meet Sue the T. Rex, which I accomplished, and then I wandered around and looked at some of their other exhibits, and wished I’d had time for more. I also took some time to go shopping at a giant Ulta and feed my burgeoning interest in cosmetics. I had walked down to the Field Museum in order to go by Millennium Park and see Cloud Gate, which was really neat.

Ate at: Per usual, I had my map of interesting sounding places to go to, many of which were pubs that looked to serve lots of local beers. But there are always a few random finds thrown in.

  • Public House: Awesome gastropub, highly recommend. Lots of interesting beers on tap, make your own tasting flights and a great system of iconography on the beer menu. Oh and tasty food.
  • American Craft (hotel restaurant): Foodwise, this is about what I expect from a hotel restaurant. They did at least have an interesting beer list.
  • Field Museum Bistro: Upscale cafeteria food with some good options. Past the checkout there’s a bar where you can separately order beer, wine or espresso drinks. It’s the only place in the city to get Tooth & Claw, their Sue the T. Rex branded lager. Yum.
  • Sweetwater Tavern: A good menu and friendly bartenders, though my streak of being left alone at the bar was broken by a chatty guy in town for another convention.
  • Hoyt’s: The Wyndham’s restaurant. Very tasty though and lots of interesting options ranging from bar food to healthy stuff.
  • Sushi Taiyo: This had pretty good ratings on Yelp, and the food was good. I got the sense the waitress was kind of annoyed to have such a small check to deal with, which I understand – except when the place is practically empty.
  • Hannah’s Bretzel: A yummy sandwich spot with pretzel rolls! I had breakfast here one day with Handsome, who blew through Chicago in less than 24 hours on a business trip of his own. Very tasty. The Michigan Avenue store is actually not at street level and very confusing to find, but was somehow connected to the Hyatt through a concourse connecting several buildings in the area. Ask your concierge for help, you will never find that address by walking down Michigan Ave.
  • Naf Naf Grill: Falafel! I was glad to spot this as it was a great option for lunch. Very close to the hotel, very fast and I was able to to takeout, so I could go back and sit in the hotel lobby and use the wifi to do some work while I ate. It was also super yummy.
  • Slurping Turtle: A sushi bar and noodle shop. Very tasty with a nice beer and sake selection. I was glad to have had it recommended to me.

Getting around: I learned from last time and took a shuttle up to the hotel from Midway, instead of the subway. But it took me longer than I expected to actually get on a shuttle, and by the time I had I was wishing I’d just taken a cab. In part this was because I’d flown over lunch time, and was hungry. But in part I was also annoyed – I had pre-paid my shuttle reservation, and the confirmation said to check in at the desk by bag claim. I dutifully wanted in line behind a bunch of people making reservations on the spot, only to have the one clerk working the desk barely glance at my confirmation and send me out to the curb. So, pre-paying didn’t get me any special priority. Other than that, I walked everywhere I needed to go until it was time to go up to Evanston, at which point myself and a colleague took a long cab ride up (I think about $35), and a longer one back to Midway (close to $70). I took taxis back and forth to BWI, but I think next time I might try an Uber, at least on the way down – the weather was nice so I didn’t mind walking over to Penn Station to grab a cab, but since I can get a receipt from Uber, I think I’ll give that a shot next time as in my experience, they are more likely to actually show up when called than a cab.

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