America 2016: Day Fourteen (8 June)

As the snow flies
On a cold and grey Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto

 

– Elvis Presley
Wednesday 8 June
This was the day I’d been dreading for a while now: our last full day in Chicago. I know so many awesome people here – and I seem to meet more each visit – that it gets harder and harder to leave.
The good thing is that we had a massive day lined up. No breakfast this morning ahead of an early lunch at Steamboat BBQ in Wheaton with Allan. Before that, though, we headed around to Brian and Debbie’s to see Mike and Bri who were hanging out there whilst their house was being shown to prospective buyers. Things with Bri were a little rocky in the beginning, but she seemed to like me a whole lot more when I gave her a piece of my Tim-Tam. She’s always on the move, and in a few years will be unstoppable.
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Lunch was amazing. Not that I ever doubted Allan’s recommendation, but having spent a lot of time in the south last year, where BBQ is dominant, I wasn’t sure that a hole-in-the-wall joint in suburban Illinois would stack up. I should’ve known different. Steamboat opened right on 11:00am and there were dozens of people getting out of their cars to go in and order food.
Oh man, the smell of barbeque when you walk in the door is intoxicating. I wish I could bottle that smell because it was amazing. One mammoth – is there any other size helping in America? – pulled pork dinner with sweetcorn and coleslaw later, and I was stuffed. Just as well we had an early lunch and were having a later dinner.
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Good southern BBQ in the Midwest — what?
Packed my bag and we headed downtown in the afternoon with the Longhini’s. First, a drink at a rooftop bar with great views of the Chicago skyline and the Chicago River, then dinner at Rock-It, a restaurant perhaps most famous for being the epicentre of three Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship parties since 2010, and also home to what I think is the best chilli in the country. Or, at least, the best chilli that I’ve tasted during my travels here. The penne chicken with kale wasn’t too bad, either, and desert – apple crumble in a small jar – was also amazing. Highly recommended! We got to meet Brent, one of Will’s oldest friends, at dinner. He’s a good guy, and lots of fun.
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Nice Ferris Bueller reference here. The Sausage King of Chicago!
Look, forget it’s June here and allegedly summertime, because the weather was pretty chilly and by the time we got on the Wendella fireworks cruise at 8:30pm, it felt more like fall or winter in the Windy City than summer. Apparently the weather goes up and down at this time of the year. We’ve had a little of everything this week, but really no complaints.
Just as well I packed my hoodie, because the wind out on Lake Michigan was a little uncomfortable. But the trip was totally worth it because the fireworks, fired from a barge just off Navy Pier, were incredibly spectacular and we had probably the best view of them from our boat. Oh, and the epic vista of the Chicago skyline first at sunset and then at night was amazing, too.
Such a fun way to finish our time here, especially closing out with my oldest Chicagoan friend on a night I won’t forget for a long time to come.
Off to Los Angeles tomorrow.

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