The Chicago Riverwalk, The Billy Goat Tavern and The Worst Drink in America

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CHICAGO DAY THREE:

Thanks for keeping up with these travel entries and I hope you are enjoying our long weekend adventure. On day three, we had about 10 hours of adventuring before taking the last flight back to Columbus. Here is the scoop:

Day Three began with a surprisingly good hotel breakfast. We had vouchers for the deluxe hotel breakfast because my wife is pretty and men in their seventies ( i.e. the front desk clerk) are always flattering with her with free amenities. I don’t have any photos, but if you stay in the Hilton Garden on the Magnificent Mile, the Weber Grill restaurant is clean, has great service and a very goof cup of coffee.

After breakfast, we decided to check out the Chicago Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is exactly what it sounds like – a walk along the Chicago river that includes restaurants, ice cream shops and art. We walked the Riverwalk in both directions and decided to purchase tickets for the Architectural Boat Tour. If you decide to go, use this company and you won’t be disappointed (more on the tour in a few paragraphs).

We had an hour to kill before boarding our boat, so we decided to soak in some scenery and get a drink. We procured a table at an establishment that will remain anonymous and I went to the bar to order.

Megan played it smart and ordered a traditional vodka fruit juice drink.

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She is smart. Me? I am a walking monkey who makes bad decisions – like ordering a frosty Hennessy Daiquiri.

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Hennessy. Orange Juice. Bitters. What could go wrong? Well, everything.

Let me start by saying the service was excellent. Two bartenders were working their tails off serving a never-ending line of customers. However, this drink…this damn drink. In a lifetime of making bad decisions, this may go into my Hall of Shame. The drink was strong, tart and concocted by Satan himself. I am not telling you to avoid any particular restaurant on the Riverwalk, but I am asking you to use better judgement than me.

As we finished our drinks, Megan and I noticed this wristband on the table next to us.

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Megan asked the woman who wore the bracelet if she was at Bruno Mars show the previous evening. Our new friend confirmed our suspicions and introduced us to her boyfriend, who happened to be the drummer for opening act Camilla Cabello.

They were very nice and we made small talk for a few moments. I lied to the drummer and told him that we really enjoyed his act – which I am sure would have been true if we would have been there in time to see it.

So, if you are keeping track at home, for Megan’s birthday I took her to a Bruno Mars show and introduced her to the Tour Manager’s wife and the drummer for the opening act. Don’t call me a hero, I am just a man trying to make his wife happy.

After finishing our conversation we boarded Chicago’s First Lady and set out for a 90 minute tour. Our guide was a retired architecture professor and his knowledgeable base was incredible. The tour went by quickly, the boat sailed smoothly and we were both richer for the experience.

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As you can tell, we saw some incredible buildings. You certainly get a lot of value for the time and money. This is a highly recommended tourist activity.

After our boat ride, we decided to keep the tourist theme going and chose to eat at the Billy Goat Tavern.

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For those who are not familiar, The Billy Goat is popular because of an old Saturday Night skit starring John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. For an old school SNL nerd like myself, this was nothing short of a pilgrimage.

The Billy Goat was everything I had hope it would be: dank, dark and full of locals watching a Cubs game.

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I was a little overwhelmed at first and even though I was familiar with the menu, I still almost ordered fries.

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After ordering our food, we picked up our burgers and chips and went to the condiment bar, which consisted of ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles AND relish (I added all five to my burger). The patties were fresh and expertly grilled to a juicy medium and came on a large sourdough bun. Maybe it was the environment or my sentimentality, but I thought the burger was delicious and legitimately in my personal all time Top Ten. My only regret is that we did not order Old Styles to accompany our delicious food.

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After lunch was finished, we stuck around and watched the Cubs defeat the Blue Jays in the bottom of the 9th. The locals were thrilled with the results, it was an amazing experience and the Billy Goat will be on the itinerary for every return Chicago trip.

We decided to end our weekend at Three Dots and a Dash. Located in the back alley of the River North neighborhood, Three Dots is a Tiki Bar with a speakeasy vibe. After finding the entrance, I would not have been surprised if we would have needed a password to enter.

Given the shroud of secrecy surrounding the existence and location of Three Dots, I would have expected the bar staff to be pretentious and aloof, which could not have been further from the truth. The bartenders were friendly,  knowledgeable and passionate about their craft.

The bar was ornate and well cared for and the drinks came with artistic accouterments.

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I chose the ‘Polynesian Spell’ because according to the menu, it was inspired by Kahiki – a famous Tiki Bar from Columbus.

Megan chose ‘Trader Vic’s Mai Tai’.

Both drinks were fruity, smooth and packed a punch. This would certainly be a great location for a date and to become familiar with Tiki Restaurants. If you find yourself in Chicago, definitely give Three Dots a shot.

After 3 days of walking the city, seeing the sights and trying new restaurants, it was time to fly back to Columbus and get ready for the school year. As always, I will be planning our next trip and looking forward to our return.

ADDITIONS & SUBSTITUTIONS:

  • Chicago has amazing architecture. Columbus is a new city, going through a growth spurt and all of the new commercial development is stale and bland in comparison. Is retro Gothic an architectural style? If so, that is the style my fair city should embrace as it keeps barreling through the 21st century.
  • I don’t usually care for Tiki Bars, but am glad I made an exception for Three Dots. It was legitimate without trying to hard.
  • Does anyone have a deep dish recommendation for Chicago? I know Giordano’s is very popular, but now that Columbus has an outpost I wouldn’t want to go there and waste a meal.

 

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