Sunday, September 12, 2010
We emerged from the L just as the last light of the evening was disappearing and headed for our hotel. Deb had really outdone herself and found us an amazing place to stay that was just a block from the John Hancock building. I think the normal rate was more than triple what we were paying, and as long as we didn't eat any $3 M&Ms we would be okay. In a concerted effort to continue our "traditional foods of the nation tour" I asked the concierge where we could get some classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza and a place to grab a drink after. He made two recommendations: Gino's East for the pie and the Signature Lounge for a drink. One was very good and one was very very bad.
Gino's was a classic tourist trap; their current existence built on something that used to be wonderful but had been turned into a caricature of it's former self. It was not the kind of place you imagined any Chicagoans actually frequenting. We were already ravenous when we got into a line outside the restaurant and were told the wait would be twenty minutes. Our pie was delivered to us an hour and a half later. But by then our stomachs has shrunken to the size of ping-pong balls and we struggled to finish a single slice. Now the pizza itself was fantastic, but the interminable wait and horrifically bad service made it's deliciousness hard to savor. The pie was built with a layered technique that reminded me of Geology 101: a spongy crust topped with a thick layer of cheese, a layer of sausage (in one big, thin, round pattie), then topped with tomato sauce replete with peppers and onion. It made for a delicious breakfast the next morning on the roof of our hotel, and a equally delicious lunch in a nearby park. I won't bore you with all the details of our bad service (this ain't Yelp), but Deb and I share more than two decades working in multiple facets of the restaurant business and we left no tip--zero, nada, nothing.
We left annoyed and dropped of the remainder of the pie into our room's mini-fridge, then we headed for the Hancock building. Now in-between our hotel and the Hancock was a small black brick building with no name posted outside. Looking inside was like looking into another world: well-dress, grey-haired patrons being waited on by a small army of tuxedoed servants. It was like something out of "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgousie" or "Trading Places." We entered the tall, black tower and the elevator shot us up to the 96th floor,our ears popping on the way. The view was more than breathtaking, it was dizzying, the Second City laid out before us. It made you afraid and exhilarated at once and I wanted to jump out the window and soar to the streets below like Batman. Sadly though, it reminded me of the view from The Greatest Bar in the World which stood atop one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York.
I had a local beer and Deb has a fruity cocktail. The prices were reasonable, the drinks were delicious, the view was spectacular. The night was saved.