Gino’s East in Downtown Chicago is a famous place. It has been in countless magazines, television shows, and many a travel story. For my 29th birthday we went to Chicago to celebrate. I had to stop by Gino’s, write my name on the wall, and have a piece of Gino’s famous pizza. Their deep dish Chicago style is what they are known for. They have a sausage patty pizza made with their famous sausage. That is what we had. It is really good. While there we saw Actor Peter Jacobson standing in line. He plays Dr. Taub on House. He was on Law and Order and a ton of other shows from Will & Grace to The Good Wife! What a shock to just see him standing there! He was nice enough to let me take his photo.
I wrote my name on the wall in hot pink lipstick because ink was not going to show up. The whole place is covered in names! It’s amusing. Here’s my name-
|Can you see the hot pink “Crystal?”
Location: 633 North Wells Street (at Ontario Street) Downtown Chicago, IL
Cost: Varies based on what you order. Their menu is on their website.
This little cafeteria style restaurant is simply amazing! It has been open and serving food since 1909! That kind of endurance speaks for itself. It was the driving force behind our visit. If it had been there for that long then they must be doing something right! It is now on my must visit list for Chicago trips. There is a long glass case full of sample plates and food. You pick out what looks good. They make you a plate that is hot and fresh from the kitchen. They do not have kids meals. Instead they offer half portions of all menu items. This is nice if your kids are not happy with the typical “kid fare.” Ivy is like this. She has been raised to try different things. She now has a varied palate and enjoys more “grown-up” food. Half portions are also nice for lunch or for light eaters. They are also nice to your budget!
I ordered a spinach and ricotta Pizzicottos. Michael got goat cheese ravioli. Ivy got a half order of chicken ravioli with tomato herb cream sauce. Bella got a half order of spaghetti and a meatball. Their meatballs are the size of a baseball! They have bottomless drinks but they do come with a $2 price tag. The low food prices more than make up for it!
Michael and I split his ravioli and my pizzicotto. They went wonderfully together! He joked that I managed to get him to eat a meal without meat and he was singing it’s praises. He is one of those people who thinks dinner is not dinner without meat. This was a huge moment for him. I am so easy-going and varied when it comes to food. I do not have “food rules.” Things like his “You cannot have dinner without meat” or my personal favorite “Pie is not breakfast food.” Yeah, I guess rules were meant to be broken or completely forgotten!
Ivy loved her food and the half portion was still large. Bella barely put a dent in her food. If I had it to do over I do not think I would have ordered her a meatball. The spaghetti was huge and very tasty. I suggest this place to anyone going to or living in the Chicago area. It was clean, family friendly, inexpensive, and delicious! It is the kind of place that you can let the kids take their time.
Location: 212 E Ohio St, Downtown Chicago, IL
Phone: (312) 482-9900
Website (Menu): http://www.pompeipizza.com/menu/streeterville-menu/pizza/
On a trip to Chicago we were trying to find a place to eat around Indianapolis. We were intrigued by a billboard promising burritos the size of your head. I could not eat a burrito the size of my head but the thought was interesting. I hoped I would see somebody order one. When we first came into the parking lot there was a building behind the restaurant with the name “Babes” on the side. I thought, “Now that’s an interesting name for a clothing store.” We went into the restaurant which had certainly seen better days but the smell was intoxicating and invited us in. After getting a whiff we were ordering food, even if we had to eat in the car.
Ivy and I ordered chicken tacos. They were more on our level in the size department. Ivy also got a plate full of cactus. Isabella got a cheese quesadilla. Michael was over the moon when he found out they had tongue tacos. They are hard to find in this area and he loved them growing up. We ordered a plate of rice to share. They have a condiment bar with hot sauces and spiced, pickled vegetables. They have fountain drinks but they also have traditional Mexican drinks at the front. My tacos were really good! I tried a bite of his because I had not eaten tongue before. It was not too bad but had an odd sweet taste. I wonder if that is just the way they cooked it. A man did indeed come in and order one of those burritos while we were eating. It was in fact as big as his head and a foot long. All I could think was “What a big freaking burrito! I hope he’s sharing with a couple people.”
It was great food at very reasonable prices! We ate our food and cleaned up our table. As we walked outside my husband started laughing. I asked what and he pointed to the building I had seen earlier. I said “Yeah, I know. It’s a weird name.” That just made him laugh harder. We got the kids in and situated. As we were buckling our own seat belts, he told Ivy to find a movie for Isabella and her to watch. There was no way out of the parking lot except to go behind the restaurant and past “Babes.” As we were driving out of the lot it finally hit me. We were driving through the lot of a strip club. That explained my husband’s laughing and the fact that he was trying to keep Ivy from looking out of the window. I guess this is a life lesson “When following billboards with children in the car into questionable neighborhoods you may stumble across strip clubs.” All I can say was that the food was well worth it and the laugh was just a bonus. Here’s to another crazy travel story!
Location: 3820 Lafayette Rd Indianapolis, IN 46254
Cost: $25 for a family of four
Traveling with a girl under twelve? You simply must visit the American Girl store. I got the pleasure of taking Ivy there. She used to read their magazines and be a bit of a fan. She had never been to the store though. They have a doll with the same name as her. She just wanted to see “Ivy” in the case and get a photo with her. They had a hula dancer at the back of the first floor. She did a show. Then she showed the kids some hula moves. We stayed to watch her for a few minutes but we were starving so we had to move on.
I had gotten a tip from an online friend that there was an amazing place to have breakfast in the same mall. I thought, “Breakfast…In the mall food court…weird!” But I figured it could not hurt to take a peek. It took us a minute to figure out the elevators. They are fast moving! The kids got a kick out of them. The place is on the Mezzanine level. Not all of the elevators will take you to this floor. We finally made it to the right one. As we walked into the food court we were struck by the line at one place. It was of course the place she had suggested. Their name is Foodlife but the sign above it simply read “Breakfast.” Ivy and I got into line. Michael and Isabella went to claim us a table.
Ordering here is confusing. The line is fast paced and cafeteria style. You grab a tray and move down the line. When they point to you it’s your turn. All I can say is decide in advance because you do not get long to order. Ivy is always very slow to choose. This was not for her. They were not going to wait. I ordered a little of everything and fast. At the last moment she yells, “Waffle.” The guy nodded and yells back, “4 Minutes.” I moved to the end and paid quickly. Only after I got back to the table did I realise that I only bought one drink! There are other restaurants and coffee shops on the floor. I was not going back through that line. So a word to the wise “Remember to order drinks!”
1 Stuffed Croissant – $2.79
1 Side of Applewood Bacon – $2.49
1 Side of Scrambled Eggs – $2.29
1 Side of Pork Sausage – $2.49
1 Side of Chicken Sausage – $2.49
We had two trays laden with food. Ivy went back up to the register to grab her waffle. I wish I would have taken a photo of that Belgian waffle! The food was all amazing! Their chicken sausage knocked my socks off! I could have ate a plate of nothing but it! The scrambled eggs were cooked to perfection. I cut the large stuffed croissant and waffle into four pieces. It was plenty of food for the four of us. Everyone left the table with a full belly and a smile.
Side Note: Do not forget to stop by the bathroom before leaving. It can be hard to locate a public restroom in downtown Chicago. The one on the mezzanine level was clean and not crowded. The kids and maybe even the adults will be amused by the double sided air dryers that you have to put your hands into.
Cost: American Girl – Free to visit & Breakfast – $20.29
Location: North Michigan Avenue near East Pearson Street
Phone Number: 312-335-3663
The Cheesecake Factory is the place for cheesecake, of course. But they have quite an extensive menu. We stopped in for a quick, easy lunch. In this downtown Chicago location it was easier to get a seat upstairs. It’s a limited menu of their top sellers but you can normally get your butt in a seat even when there is a long line downstairs. I hate waiting when I could be eating. The restaurant is well lite and beautifully decorated. The ceiling in the upstairs is something to see. I was very impressed with the bathroom. Instead of stalls, they have individual little bathrooms with a center waiting area with large mirrors. This is great when you have to have children with you in the bathroom. Those stalls can get very tight.
They automatically bring delicious bread and butter to the table. It’s complementary and great for the budget conscious. I suggest ordering a couple of appetizers or entrees to split for lunch. We do this quite often. It can be great for the budget and your waistline. The meals and appetizers in many restaurants are huge. We did two appetizers on our visit. The nachos were great! The avocado egg rolls were horrible! Avoid those! The cheesecake was wonderful! I got Hersey’s Cheesecake.
Location: 875 North Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60611
Cost For a Family of 4: Bread and butter-Free, Nachos $9.95, Pick another appetizer for around $10, Split 2 pieces of cheesecake for $7-$8 each (They are HUGE!), Drinks here are expensive ($3 for a soft drink!) so I suggest ice water. Total with tip is around $42 if you skip the drinks!