One of my biggest pet peeves is that when some people travel, they elect to go to chain restaurants. Why? It absolutely blows my mind that people feel compelled enough to go out into the world and travel and see new things but then go to the same boring establishments that they have in their little town they call home. Food is a major part of culture and it is different all over the country and the world. For the purpose of this series, I will focus on the United States. Though I have extensive knowledge of other countries, as I lived in Europe for seven years (yes, YEARS, that is not a mistake) and have studied abroad for multiple months in South America. So, take all of the information I am going to say, take none, or take some. This article is strictly opinion based. I implore you to sit back, read, and think about how you will treat yourself the next time you travel.
I feel that for Chicago, there is some backstory that is needed. First, I am not from Chicago. I love the city but I am not a resident of The Windy City. Second, the last time I was in Chicago was in September of 2019. My boyfriend and I decided to take a semi-spontaneous trip out there when I was living out in Oregon and he was in Pennsylvania, where we both currently reside. While we were there, we spent God knows how much money on food. But while it was way more than we could both afford at the time, we made a point to stick to places that were unique to the area.
**Disclaimer: normally there would be more restaurants to talk about. But we were only there for 36 hours. There were a lot of issues with our respective flights and delays and so our weekend trip quickly turned into a 36 hour trip before we needed to get back to O’Hare.
- Meli Cafe
This absolute gem of a place is located in GreekTown, Chicago (address at the end). We went here for breakfast and oh my, there are no words. Their juices are to die for! Freshly squeezed, pulp and all (if you’re into that kind of thing). Their dishes were large and hearty and really filled you.
My boyfriend had the pulled pork and waffles, a unique combination that we had never heard of before, but did not skip out on ordering. It was an unusual combination but it was worth it in all the ways. The meat was tender and juicy and the waffles were about as perfect as a waffle can get. Unfortunately, based on their current menu, it appears that they no longer have it, which is a big sad face. But they are actively serving chicken and waffles and if that is anything like the pulled pork and waffles it will be worth it. I, on the other hand, treated myself to a fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice and the Classic eggs Benedict. Now, I know that grapefruit is a hit or miss with people and I totally get that. But sleeping on this drink should be a crime. The orange aspect of it balanced out the bitterness of the grapefruit, giving it a calm, yet chaotic, citrus flavor. Though a little pricey, as all the juice bar drinks are, it was very much worth it. Likewise, hollandaise sauce is a hit or miss with people. For me, I thoroughly enjoy it, as long as it is done right, and Meli Cafe did it right. The flavor remained rich throughout the duration of the course. The meal was paired nicely with their breakfast potatoes, which as far as potatoes go, were really good. So good my boyfriend didn’t mind stealing a few from my plate.
All in all, I rank this a 9.5/10. The meals were phenomenal and relatively inexpensive. My only hold up was that it was a little tight in the seating area and they did not offer an outdoor seating option at the time. But given the pandemic, that could easily have changed.
301 S. Halsted Street Chicago, IL 60661
- The Rosebud
When my boyfriend and I travel, along with going to local joints, we try to make a point to have one nice meal together. For that, we agreed on going to the Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago. Since we’re both Italian, we can never pass up an opportunity to get some authentic food.
We both know how to pack food in, so it is no surprise that we got two appetizers to share and I got an additional Caprese salad. To start, we had the stuffed mushrooms and the sausage and peppers. The mushrooms were good, if you like mushrooms. My only complaint was that I found them a tad oily. But my boyfriend inhaled them. And if you’re italian, you know sausage and peppers is something that is truly hard to get wrong. This dish was superb and tickled both our taste buds in all the right ways. My Caprese salad, similar to the sausage and peppers, is something that is hard to mess up. And if you haven’t guessed by the tone of this section, they did not mess it up. It was as good as you can get tomato and fresh mozzarella.
My mans then proceeded to get the lasagna and of course, I snagged a bite or two. This lasagna was right up there with something that your nonna would make. It was amazing. The noodles were al dente and the bolognese that filled in between was something that melted in your mouth. The mozzarella and ricotta were evenly spread and spaced and had the slightest crisp to it that made them all the more to die for.
I on the other hand treated myself to their ziti. Though I am a sucker for pasta alla vodka and make a mean variation of it myself, I enjoy switching it up. Ziti is one of those classics that you just can’t go wrong with. The Rosebud’s ziti was something out of my own nonna’s oven. Likewise with the lasagna, the noodles were perfectly al dente and the sauce was even and hearty. It filled the noodles and myself. Needless to say both of us quickly cleared our dishes.
Along with the many other things we make a point to do when we travel, we also like to try a variety of cannolis. To this day, The Rosebud cannoli has remained one of our favorites. The shell of it had that perfect break when you cut into it and that perfect crunch when you bite into it. The mascarpone was rich and creamy and everything in between. However, they went with a pistachio to coat the ends of the shell. This was not something that we particularly loved, but it most definitely was not horrible. This was just a preference on both our parts. But the shell and the mascarpone made up for it that it has remained one of our favorites.
The Rosebud was a phenomenal joint and like weirdos, we still talk about how great it was and how we need to make a point to go again when we are in Chicago next. I would rank this a 9.5/10 with a personal recommendation to make this a priority stop in Little Italy Chicago.
1500 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607
Traveling is a great way to broaden your horizons and learn new things through experiences. But one of the things that you can learn is the culture of food behind those places. Make a point to travel and try new foods and visit restaurants that are unique to the city you are in. Next time you are in Chicago, make a point and go check these places out - no one sponsored me, I just really loved both of these restaurants.
Until next time, happy exploring.