Chicago: Deep-dish pizza (Luke)

While we’re on the subject of Chicago’s deep-dish pizza, I have to point out this fantastic Jon Stewart rant that was only aired a couple of weeks prior to our arrival in Chicago. The set up is that the new World Trade Centre building in New York is officially the tallest building in the United States, taking over from Chicago’s Willis Tower. While the Chicago media had to concede this, they couldn’t do it without bringing up something that, in their opinion, they have over New York – their deep-dish pizza.

That was too much for Stewart, a die-hard New York pizza fan. This is his response. Enjoy!

Two Nights in Chicago

We don’t like to rush our travels, so rather than catch the train from Waukesha to Chicago then go straight to the airport we thought we’d spend two nights in the city before flying to Vegas.

I didn’t really know much about Chicago before went went – Mafia, pizza and cold winters was about it. We booked ourselves a twin room in a hostel which didn’t get great reviews online but turned out to be fine. It was in the Greek District, about a 20 minute walk from downtown.

Downtown lights that had speakers next to them playing music.

Despite getting recommendations from people about what to do and where to go, we didn’t end up doing anything touristy. We walked around the shopping strips and bought a few gifts to take home and some clothes that were on sale. Our main goal was to try a proper deep dish Chicago pizza. In Australia our ‘deep pan’ pizzas are about half the depth of Chicago style ones.

CHEEEEEESE!

The Chicago pizzas have a crust maybe 3 inches high on the edge and the one we had started with a layer of meat and sauce, then about an inch of cheese, then more sauce then meat. It was really good – and despite looking quite different to ‘normal’ pizzas they taste pretty much the same – except you get so much more cheese. I loved it! They aren’t as enormous in circumference as NYC pizzas and because of their depth they retain heat a lot better. I definitely recommend trying them if you get the chance.

Apart from that, our impression of Chicago was that it was super cold, the shopping was great and there were lots of interesting things in the middle of town. We came across a German outdoor market selling lots of hand-made things and delicious food.

We also stopped for a drink at the House of Blues, an interesting folk-art style bar/club that was pretty much deserted mid afternoon but I really loved the decor.

The ladies’ toilets.

I didn’t take a whole lot of photos but it was an interesting city. If I got the chance I’d definitely go back and see the gallery, aquarium and museum.

The only down side was the begging – but that’s pretty typical of cities in the US. All the big cities we’ve been to have had numbers of homeless people that I find hard to comprehend in a developed country. Far beyond anything I’ve seen in Australia, Europe or the UK. In fact even in Asia and most of Africa I wasn’t asked for money as frequently. We’ve had discussions with people we’ve met here about the reasons for it and there seems to be a common conception that many people find begging easier and, in some places, more profitable, than actually getting a job. Whether or not that’s true I have no idea, all I know is that it’s shocking and quite confronting. I’m not sure how long I’d have to live with it to become blase about it.

USA: The Desert Eagle

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, the Desert Eagle is the train we caught from St Louis to Milwaukee.

I didn’t know quite what to expect from trains in the US. We’d been warned against buses and I’m rather partial to train travel so when Josh suggested catching the train I was keen. I looked at the website and the only thing the train promised was ‘Texas’ sized seats. I think we all know what that means.

We could also check baggage and have it transferred to the Hiawatha – the train that we’d change to in Chicago that continued the journey to Milwaukee. Convenient!

We boarded the train at about 8am and the first thing we noticed was that it was two storey… there’s probably a term for that on trains… double decker? So we sat up the top. The seats were indeed large, and we had a huge amount of legroom. The seats also reclined to an impressive degree and had footrests that popped out and meant that the seats were almost as comfortable as beds. Nice!

I wish I’d thought to take a photo of the seats fully extended.

The train also had a viewing car with windows that wrapped up over the ceiling, a dining car with booths and a kiosk for when the dining car wasn’t open. The selection at both wasn’t large but it was nice to have two options. I got a veggie burger from the kiosk as I hadn’t had breakfast… it was probably the worst meal I’ve had all year and I ended up just eating the bun and a Twix.

The observation car – and as a treat, Luke’s arm!

The train ran on time, and as we got into Chicago it started to snow – the first time Luke had seen falling snow. He was very excited. We had about 90 minutes before the Hiawatha so we ate some food and I tried a bun from Cinnabon, which our friend Megan had recommended. It was a delightfully warm, gooey mess.

The Hiawatha wasn’t as fancy as the Desert Eagle but it was also only a short trip. We arrived in Milwaukee very excited to see my friend Josh and maybe get a chance to play in the snow!

It’s hard to get a photo of snow from a moving train so here’s some of the scenic beauty you can expect around Chicago.

I should add that the whole trip was $50 for each of us – not a bad deal at all for about 8 hours travel in much more comfort that you’d get on a plane.