blah blah

I’ve never been to Chicago.  Ever.  I am so damn excited.  Yes, I want deep-dish pizza, but beyond that, I’m not sure where I should go.  When I travel, beyond doing a lot of walking and pointing with my camera, I’m usually focused on the food (the hole in the wall with the best damn whatever).  It’s as if I like something more if it comes from a dump of a place.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to go to Alinea or Charlie Trotter’s (I own almost all of his cook books), but I’m traveling alone.  I have no one with whom to eat.

I was recently in New York, eating with another couple at L’Impero (I highly recommend it to anyone in NY), and beside us sat a Japanese woman, by herself, blowing out a candle. I clapped and wasn’t sure what to make of spending your birthday alone at a formal restaurant.  Yes, we come into this world alone, leave it alone, blah blah.  But celebrating it alone?  I just don’t know.  Yes, we can say it was a lovely birthday because we spent it doing what we love, writing in a cafe, eating a good meal, blah blah.  But really, is it special if no one is in your life to watch you blow out the candles?  Life is special.  Having my health.  But it’s not really birthday confetti material. Though if you are traveling alone, it somehow makes it more palatable to celebrate your birthday with linen at a formal restaurant (if fine dining is your thing).  So, even though by October 10 my birthday will have passed, why shouldn’t I celebrate something while dining at a fine restaurant in Chicago?

This year is the first time I’ll be celebrating my birthday without my friends or immediate family, aside from Senor Suitor.  I’m happy though, despite missing the evites and the drinks and the excuse for us to all get together (I also just saw everyone at the wedding).  I might be the woman who eats alone at a restaurant like Alinea, but I’d enjoy it so much more with company.  And I’m thankful that I won’t be alone on my birthday (which is this Friday, Sept. 29… not in October when I’ll be on tour).

I would however LOVE to go out for an evening with my Chicago & San Francisco readers.  I think it would be nice if, perhaps after the reading and signing, we all go somewhere for adult beverages (yes, blah, blah, we know mine will be of the maternitini variety).  Suggestions for a place are welcome (preferably close to the reading), along with anywhere else I simply cannot miss while I’m in town.  I’ve been to San Francisco four times, and I adore it.  There are certain places I will absolutely hit (like Bell’occhio, my favorite ribbon store!), but I’d love some shopping companions… so just speak up.



  1. What time do you get into Chicago? I'd be happy to meet you for lunch and some wander if you have time. Karen

    FROM STEPHANIE: Thanks. I don't have my flight or hotel info yet. I also might be exhausted come lunch time. I do, after all, have three heart beats inside me. Ultrasound today went swimmingly.

  2. the hotels, at least the swanky ones are downtown, so many, but not all of the following are downtown (i'm not sure where your reading is, either in linclon park or the gold coast, both, like downtown, on the northside and quite walkable). So-the bar/resturant on top of the john hancock, what is it, the 99th floor? amazing views of this very pretty city by the lake, just gorgeous, and reasonable fancy cocktails ($9). chicago has great hotel bars, and a new yorker (i'm from chicago, but have lived in nyc for 11 yrs) would even appreciate them. the drake for high tea. palmer house for brunch. top of the w for more cocktails, in minimalist hip, well, w sort of way. the incomparable judy collins singing jazz standards at the hotel intercontinental. the green mill, in uptown, a 1930's speakeasy, preserved and also featuring great jazz and vocalists. moto, for experimental bacon on a swing, that sort of thing. the museums, especially the art institute, natural history museum, and the adler planetarium. walking through the gold coast. and of course, the chicago style hot dog, one of the greatest culinary inventions ever. ny and chicago have different pizzas, each with thier own merits, but chicago hotdogs (npr has a great history of the veneral salad ona bun) win hands down. wiener circle, devil doggs, wrigley dogs are just a few places you are guaranteed to have the best hot dog of your life. oh-fannie may candy. dark chocolate vanilla buttercreams, trinidads, mint meltaways, and carmarshes. seriously.

  3. Go to Home Run Inn in Little Village and go to Parky's for hot dogs or the Weiner Circle (know what you want instantly for fear of getting shouted at). I'm going to Chicago in December. Oh and Maxwell Street(spelling?) for polish dogs.

    FROM STEPHANIE: I don't think I'm allowed to have hot dogs. Believe me, I wish I could. But pregnant means no soft cheese (or raw cheese), sushi, high-mercury fish, or deli meats… including hot dogs.

  4. hi,
    i just started reading your blog s few months ago…you're a great read and i've already recommended to my girlfriends. i just moved back to chgo last year and LOVE it. i grew up in a suburb outside of chgo (15 mins northwest). unfortunately i never truly appreciated this city 'till coming back after spending several years in a small town in vermont, and a couple years in syracuse (NY, not italy). anyway, i've been discovering chgo and wld love to share. it's as great as NYC..but in its own ways… you can't compare an apple w/a bean (go to millenium park) ; ) your reading is taking place in a fun area. much around there.
    ps. i wld advise against charlie trotters–it's great, but not consistently. if you like thai food, go to arun's for a treat.

  5. If you have time to shop, I'd hit Old Town. I live in this area and I absolutely love it. There are great little shops and fun little restaurants. I love to just wander around the neighborhood, there are so many pretty home on the backstreets.
    Armitage and Halsted is also a fun area to shop.
    I'd also recommend Naha, Frontera Grill, or Blackbird on Randolph for some good dining.
    For dessert, Sweet Mandy B's on Webster is a must. I used to swear by the cupcakes at the Magnolia Bakery, but Mandy B's are better. It's in a cute area too, there is a very cute maternity shop across the street called Swell.

  6. I live in Chicago and know some of the BEST places. Mia Francesca's for Italian, Gibson's for Steak, Lou Malnatti's for pizza. Dollop for coffee. Schoolyard for wings.
    I could go on and on…..
    And maybe I will later when more inspiration has hit….

    I am excited for you to come….
    (I am the one who dated the guy with the nickname…the Kennedy)

  7. Hi Stephanie!

    I have been to Chicago several times, if it weren’t for the cold winters I would live there (I am originally form FL)! One of the best places in town was George and Georgettis – it’s an old school steak house. Everything is al la carte so you can taste all of the yummy stuff. I remember calamari that was divine. It has been quite a few years since I was there, so double check that its still under the same management, etc.

    I know you said that you cant do hot dogs, but just stopping by weiner circle and having some fries would be a good idea. It's a hilarious experience! If you cant make it there, try Ed Debeveks…. huge menu with a similar atmosphere.

    Also, you should absolutely try the Museum of Science and Industry! I am not that into museums (I live in DC, so I am museum-ed out) but this place was so fun! They have a great open field in front that would be great for people watching. They had a kite festival when we were there last.

    Well, this is my first post. Your blog has entertained me for years now and I devoured Straight UP and Dirty in less than a week! I think we may have been at Colang together and I am looking forward to your next book!

    I hope that you will soon be scheduling a book signing in DC as I have all of my girlfriends addicted to your writing!

    Travel happily!

  8. Not like I really expect you to take my advice, but that Borders is in my old 'hood. Good restaurants around there: Monsoon (Chinese/Indian fusion, right across the street), Yoshi's (Japanese/French), Cornelia's. If you want a truly original eating experience, jump in a cab and head to Andersonville (about 20 minutes away). Reza's and Andie's are great, but the real gem is the Hop Leaf. Authentic Belgian food- honestly the best I've ever had. Also an extensive beer selection, not that you'll be able to take advantage.

  9. Stephanie,

    I've so been looking forward to your October visit to Chicago. In fact, I just told my boyfriend on the phone the other day that I'd love to have a few hundred dollars sitting around so I could take you to one of those gourmet and finely-infused restaurants to show you around. I'm still new to the Windy City, but I will sift through my native and veteran friends here to learn your best options.

    Drinks and socializing would be wonderful. I hope your Chicago readers with more knowledge of the area can direct you to the best places. You're at no loss for eats, I can assure you. And shopping on Armitage Avenue and thereabout is quaint and unique.

    I'm so glad we're one of your dates!

  10. PS- there's also a good Turkish restaurant right across Clark, next to Monsoon- I'm having a total mental block on the name- anyone? Also Twist, nearby, does excellent and clever tapas.

  11. I'm in SF. I can take you maternity shopping- in fact, I'd be happy to. I know all the places to go.

    Or eat with you. Because I LOVE to do that.

  12. Chicago has so many great restaurants, you'll love it (and I'm a total New Yorker, but went to college in Chicago) – not sure what's still there, but check Chicago magazine dining section or – both very reliable.

  13. I'm so excited you're coming to Chicago! I've only recently moved here but am already in love with it. If you like Indian, there's a fabulous place called Tiffin on Devon Ave. For breakfast, I'm completely taken with M Henry on North Clark… they have a good selection of sweet or salty dishes. I'm actually "between careers" (lots & lots of free time), so I'm free if you're looking for a shopping companion.

    Can't wait to see you at Borders on the 10th!

  14. I was in Chicago in the summer of 2001 to perform at a comedy festival…I had (and this was a shock to me) the BEST guacamole EVER at a little Mexican restaurant next door to The Second City. They made it tableside! Not sure what it the place was called, but if they're still there run – don't walk – or waddle, whatever :)

    FROM STEPHANIE: Oh god, no. NO MEXICAN FOOD! I live in Texas! Tex-mex is everywhere, and the babies HATE it.

  15. Wooo-hooo! Glad you're coming to my new hood. I have TONS of recommendations for you, especially as a new mom. Will send them outside of the comments. But for now, see if they will put you up either at the W hotel or Hotel Burnham if you're more into boutique-y accomodations.

    Embrace some of our low-culture food options, while you're here, too. I think those twins really need to try Chicago pizza.

    I'm off to get a babysitter so we can go to your reading…

  16. meh – I think Gene and Georgetti's is only average steak-wise. Maybe even less than average. Better for Italian food though, I've heard (I had steak there). Also for italian – Volare downtown, Mia Francesca's, Rose Angeli's (no red meat, but oh so good).

    I am still obsessed with Japonais, although that place isn't chicago-specific and you can't have sushi. Tru, of course, is fantastic. Cafe Babereeba is a must for tapas (and in the great Armitage/Halsted shopping area) – it's cute and cheap with a laidback/social atmosphere and great food. There is also a great fondue place called Geja's on armitage that the Boy and I love.

    I would highly recommend the lounge in the Hancock for cocktails – it's so Chicago cliche to go there, but so worth braving the tourists… wonderful views. Cocktails – good. Food, OK but super-rich and more of a 90's decadence feel to it than modern luxury.

    Let us know when you'll be in Chi, I'd love to meet up for the reading and meeting.

  17. hey stephanie, a friend recently told me about your blog and i'm addicted. i live in austin, am a fellow foodie, and am planning on attending your book signing with a few friends here in austin. looking forward to meeting you.

  18. Just sent you an email with a couple recommendations. I just spent 2 weeks entertaining clients (that sounds dirty!) during a tradeshow, so every night was a new place. I'm from Chicago, but there are always so many amazing places to try! Definitely avoid the tourist traps, though the Signature Room is incredibly worth it…

  19. Hey Stephanie,
    Welcome to Chicago! Don't miss Millennium Park, with a Frank Gehry designed ampitheater, the Bean, and a very cool faces fountain. Of course, there also are tons of cool buildings in the Loop, old and new alike, to photograph, as well as the El. Hope you have a wonderful time. I will try to catch your book reading.

  20. My parents met in San Francisco, and one of their favorite hole-in-the-walls is a place called Cordon Bleu Vietnamese Restaurant. It's tiny, uber-casual, and is home to some of the best 5-spice chicken and imperial rolls you'll ever eat.

  21. Hi, long time reader, first time commenter. I'd be happy to make some suggestions of things to see/eat/buy here in Chicago, and I'd also be happy to take you out. Drop me an email if you'd like, I promise I'm nice. :)

  22. Just for the record – Frontera Grill (previously suggested) is not your normal mexican rest and DEFINITLY not Tex-mex. It is Rich Bayless's restaurant and won he James Beard award for it. It is very high brow mexican but either way – the babies rule!
    I would repeat the encouragement for Mia for Italian and you MUST go to Tru if you are in the mood for white table cloth – it is hands down the best restaurant in Chicago and even if you are alone you will have a wonderful experience. IF you only have time for one meal though – you just must do the pizza (Ginos or Lou Malanatis is the best in my opinion)… All suggestions so far are great though – you cant go wrong!
    I will be out of town when you are here – but I loved your book and love your blog so I hope you have a great time here!

  23. Just for the record – Frontera Grill (previously suggested) is not your normal mexican rest and DEFINITLY not Tex-mex. It is Rich Bayless's restaurant and won he James Beard award for it. It is very high brow mexican but either way – the babies rule!
    You MUST go to Tru if you are in the mood for white table cloth – it is hands down the best restaurant in Chicago and even if you are alone you will have a wonderful experience. IF you only have time for one meal though – you just must do the pizza (Ginos or Lou Malanatis is the best in my opinion)… All suggestions so far are great though – you cant go wrong!
    I will be out of town when you are here – but I loved your book and love your blog so I hope you have a great time here!

  24. Hi Stephanie!

    I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED about your book reading! I am skipping class that night to go, ;o). On Diversey, which is just down the street from Borders (2 minute walk), there's a little place called Matisse. If you want tapas, there's a great place called Sangria near (North/Clybourn, short cab ride away). There's a lot of places and options. Noteworthy while you're in town: the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

    Where ever you decide, I'd love to join!


  25. Definitely go to the Red Head Piano Bar…too bad you can't have martinis but hopefully the music will make up for it. Also check out "American Gothic" and "Nighthawks" at the Art Insitute. Trying to think of more sites to recommend but I'm realizing none of them would be helpful since I pretty much drank my way through Chicago New Year's Eve 2005. Anyway, just dicovered your blogs a couple of weeks ago and I love, love, love them! Please do a book signing in Los Angeles.

  26. As a Chicagoan and fellow foodie, I will offer up some of my favorites.

    For Chicago style pizza, there are a few good options: for deep dish, go to either Pizzeria Uno (original deep dish, very tasty, but crowded and touristy) or Pequod's at Webster and Clyborn (the outer crust is carmelized cheese… so good). Lou Malnatti's also has excellent deep dish pizza and is at Lincoln and Wrightwood. Don't bother with our thin crust. It is a completely different food from New York's and not as good. Deep dish is the way to go in this city.

    For a nice steak dinner, Sullivan's is one of my favorites. It is located at 415 N. Dearborn. The food is amazing and the atmosphere is a little less old-manish than some of the other joints. Do not go to Gibsons. The crowd is awful (dirty old men hitting on dirty young women) they pack way to many people into the space and they make you eat your dessert at the bar so they can flip the table. Not conducive to celebrating anything.

    For seafood, go to Catch 35 at 35 W. Wacker. It has amazing food and a wonderful atmosphere.

    For something a little different, go to Le Colonial at 937 N. Rush Street. The upstairs is far less stuffy than downstairs as far as atmosphere goes, but you will probably be happy in either. It is French/Vietnamese food. Lots of light, healthy options that taste freaking amazing. I highly recommend the banana wonton for dessert.

    For an amazing brunch, go to the Signature Room in the Hancock building. It is on the 95th floor, so it has one of the best views in the city. The brunch has every type of food you can think of, from scrambled eggs to caviar. You can't go wrong here. The Hancock is on Michigan Ave., which puts you in a prime location to do some touristy shopping on the Magnificant Mile, if you so choose.

    Speaking of shopping, in addition to the locations suggested, Damen Ave. just north of North Ave. (Bucktown) has some great boutiques, including a store called BellyDance, which has really cute maternity clothes. Not sure about the prices, though. Once you are in the Bucktown area, you can also go to Filter at Damen and North Ave. for a cup of tea and a chance to rest your feet.

    You should definitely take some time to wander around Millenium Park if the weather is nice. It is really pretty and close to the beach. You will also be near the Art Museum, as well as a short cab ride away from the museum campus, where you will find the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum (Natural History). You can buy one pass that gives you admission to all of the museums for a day, which is a pretty good deal if you are up for all of the walking.

    If you want to do some of your own searching, is a great place to find bars, restaurants, events and other fun things.

    Welcome to Chicago!

  27. Ed Debevick's for breakfast. The food is great and the waiters are paid to be sassy and expect you to dish it back. A noisy, clinky restaurant, well suited to the city.

  28. Welcome to our city! I HIGHLY recommend hitting Hot Chocolate in Bucktown for dessert on your birthday. The molten chocolate souffle and salty caramel ice cream is one of the luscious treats I have ever had. Everest is a restaurant that is shockingly romantic – and the food is superb.

  29. Do you recall the Saturday Night Live sketch in which a short order cook would yell out to incoming patrons:

    "Cheezborger! Cheezborger!
    No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!"?

    All of the above have one thing in common: the World Famous Billy Goat Tavern, a Chicago legend since 1934.

  30. Taylor's, right in the Ferry building makes the best darn burger in town in a billion varieties. Also at the Ferry building is a great vietnamese restaurant called the Slanted door.

    Too bad I'll be away traveling for work when you visit. Have fun and blog about your final choices! :)

  31. Hi Stephanie,

    I came across your blog sometime ago while surfing the internet for some easy instructions on how to do rag curls. Well, I never found clear instructions, but I did find your blog, which I find to be most entertaining! You seem like such a sincere and absolutely hilarious person — two very wonderful qualities to have.

    I'm in San Francisco, and would love the chance to get together with you and others to chit-chat, shop and eat. As you know, San Francisco is a wonderful place for just about anything.

    I plan to attend your book signing in October, and look forward to meeting you then. Have a safe trip out!

  32. The Burghoff. Old school German joint — similar to what Luchow's on 14th Street was many years ago. (Does anyone remember Luchow's?).

    The Burghoff is a veritable Chicago institution. Ask anyone there — they all know where it is.

  33. I have a ton of recommendations — having lived here for ten years now (after growing up in texas, and college in kansas.) It depends on what kind of a foodie mood you're in. If you want a quick, little bite before the reading, I would suggest Southport Grocery or Jules Mienl — great sandwiches, lunch time fare and both have fabulous brunch/breakfast menus. Southport Grocery has the best cupcakes in the city (I say that with a bit of trepidation knowing you're a New Yorker.) Jules Mienl is a coffee shop with personality, but not a dive. A couple suggestions close to the Border's would be Erwin's (American food, but they have a nice bar area, but no 'fancy' cocktails.) Duke of Perth which is just down the street, a Scottish Bar with loads of charm. Good burgers and fish-n-chips and…I kid you not…fried mac and cheese that is utterly divine. One of my favorite places to eat is a small place called Terragusto (on Addison) which is traditional Italian (like ITALY, not the Amreicanized version) with pasta made fresh every day, where they use local and organic ingredients. If you're looking for something with more…personality for drinks, I'd suggest Kit Kat Club. A drag club in Boys Town that has one of the largest martini/drink menus around. A great place, that I always take out of towners for pizza is Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. Not true 'Chicago-style' pizza, but it is incredible. I could prattle on and on…. If you want addresses, or any other suggestions, just let me know! I hope to see/meet you while you're here, and I hope you love Chicago — it truly is a fantastic city!

  34. I would have loved to meet you in SF, but unfortunately I am suffering hockey-puck mouth, that attractive dentition that plagues most of the NHL, and it won't be fixed in time (thanks, insurance company). I was hoping to get your book signed for my friend in rural Indiana, but then I thought, Have some consideration; spare Stephanie your Jack O' Lantern smile! As for your shopping, there is a brand-new Bloomingdale's on Market St., in the SF Center complex (this is huge for our city). With eating, I have always enjoyed Absinthe in Hayes Valley. This is a lovely Euro-bistro in a gentrified boutique-shopping area. The is a shop selling gorgeous blown glass vases nearby. Good luck, Stephanie, and perhaps I'll get to your Moose tour. Otherwise, I'd love it if you posted pictures of your Chicago/SF visits.

  35. Stephanie… First of all, I love, love, love reading your writing. You always make me laugh. I just bought your book and am totally excited to check it out. Second of all… Portland isn't too far from San Francisco… just a quick trip! Oregon may be a smaller market than S.F. and Chicago, but trust me, Portlanders LOVE their books. Do you have any plans to make it a little further north? It would be the greatest if you came here to do a reading. There's lots of good, unique food here too:)

    FROM STEPHANIE: Oh, believe me, I wish I could. I'd also love to go to DC and Atlanta. But it's in my publisher's hands. I have, however, been having success and fun doing PHONE BOOK CLUB discussions…

  36. My friend and I are looking forward to your reading in SF. Not sure if you've been in the newish Ferry Building, where the Book Passage is. There are a number of food type shops and several restaurants/bars in the building. We'd love to meet up with you for a drink or bite to eat if you like. I can make some restaurant recommendations too, but it depends on where you've eaten already in SF and what you want when you're here. My favorite restaurant in the city (Kokkari) isn't that far away.

  37. my favorite restaurant in the whole entire world is in chicago—green zebra. look it up online, i think the website is
    mostly vegetables, so creative, and SO delicious! fine dining but not super expensive and you can wear jeans.
    sweet mandy b's for cupcakes is a must.
    also, check out the bucktown area (damen street). there's a cute brunch/dessert place called hot chocolate or a super duper indulgent brunch at the bongo room.
    enjoy chicago!! it's a fabulous city–just hope the weather holds out for you.

  38. i'm a long-time lurker, but a big fan of your writing and really enjoyed your book-reading in NYC. chicago and SF are in for a treat – I could practically hear the characters later when I read the book!
    I'm curious what your other favorite places are in San Francisco. I'll be there alone all weekend – testing it out, really, to see if it's worth a move from nyc – so I'd love tips on places to explore.

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