Your Complete Fox Valley Internet Guide.
By: Richard C. Ross
Sometimes, there is nothing that can quite compare with the sheer joy of a little spontaneity. Such was the case just this past week when my wife, knowing that a significant birthday was pending in the next two days, asked whether or not I still wanted to go out for dinner to celebrate the occasion. With our own abode in a shambles due to some unexpected remodeling and an incredible run of nice weather upon us, I surprised her and upped the ante when I suggested we not only proceed with dinner, but also book a room at a nice hotel in the city. After a short stint at the computer keyboard, we were confirmed for Friday night after locking in a reasonable hotel rate.
Friday dawned chilly, but the sun was bright and the air was warming quickly. Metra was the way to really fly and we arrived at the Geneva train station with about twenty-five minutes to kill before the 10:42 am inbound ride. By the time the crossing gates started to descend, there were over two hundred eager passengers crowding the platform... almost every one of the first half-dozen or so stops was the same! We arrived in the city about 15 minutes late, but I didn't care; it was warm, the Windy City was living up to its name and throngs of happy and skimpily-attired citizens were headed to points unknown.
Spring was in the air but fashion was not; clothing choices swept the entire spectrum from exquisite to egregious. No one seemed to mind and I was likely one of the only people watchers as Yvonne and I checked out the Shops at North Bridge, the Conrad Chicago, Michigan Avenue and several other popular destinations in the River North area. All of them were hopping today. While the burgers that I saw coming out of the kitchen caused my salivary glands to start working, a cold beer for me and a Long Island Island for Yvonne, along with some onion rings at Weber Grill hit the spot and took the edge of our appetites... at least temporarily. With so many great restaurants in the immediate area (e.g., PF Chang's, Billy Goat Tavern, Pizzeria Uno, Due, Purple Pig, Shaw's Crab House -- to name but a few...) and shopping spots, too, we could have spent an entire day here. There is no shortage of great spots to try. But we had an early dinner reservation at Topolo (reservations usually need to be made months in advance), so we headed back to the hotel for some time in the spa before dressing for dinner.
It's funny. When I recall the very
first time I had a chance to eat Mexican food -- and Rick Bayless puts
a whole new twist and definition on the words "Mexican food"
-- I turned up my nose at it and had a burger instead. Now I embrace
even the thought of it; it has become one of my all-time favorites.
We walked the short distance to the restaurant on Clark Street and could
begin to smell the splendid aromas even before we turned the corner.
It was only 5:30 and at Frontera Grill (the "sister" restaurant
to Topolo, right next door) there already was a two-and-a-half hour
wait for dinner! I've yet to try Frontera, but the wait-time tells
me that it's every bit as good as Topolo.
The Maitre d' led us into the dining room and to a table for two topped with a starched white cloth and silverware, white cloth napkins, a candle and copper chargers beneath heavy glass plates. He handed us menus and explained a few things about them, smiled and left us to our thoughts about the fiesta to come. What happened from that point forward can only be described as heaven on earth.It was a perfect day... followed by a perfect dinner at Topolo, starting with the best margaritas ever made; hand-shaken and served tableside. Yvonne's choice was a Blue Agave 'rita and I went for the Topolo special. Icy-cold and served with a fresh slice of lime hugging the rim, these were just plain awsome. Then, Trio, Trio, Trio: (a sampling of Ceviche Fronterizo, Ceviche Yucateco and Ceviche de Atun "Chamoy"); Pescado Crudo "al Pastor": (Sashimi-grade Hawaiian day-boat catch with La Quercia prosciutto crust, lime pudding, three-chile salsa, grilled pineapple, red chile cracker); Pescado con Dos Chiles y Uchepos: (Smoky Walleye capped with roasty arbol chile-peanut salsa. Uchepo crumble, roasted tomato-guajillo sauce, Nichols Farm beets, wood-griled knob onions) and Morillas en Pipian de Pistache: (butter-braised wild morel and cultivated brown beach mushrooms with savory green pistachio pipian. Crispy tortas de arroz with goat cheese filling). A bit of heat edged all of the selections, but the flavors were delicate nonetheless and the plate presentations were perfect.
The next morning we awoke early and, checking the weather
channel, discovered that rain showers weren't too far away. Skipping
a few of the intended Saturday stops, we took a last look at the new
Trump tower and started a leisurely stroll down the almost-deserted
streets of early Saturday morning Chicago on the way back to the train
station, stopping only to snap a few more pictures; got a stiff neck
from oggling the incredibly beautiful architecture and skyscrapers!
The first drops of rain hit me in the face as we approached the Olgilvie
Transportation Center... The train home was almost deserted when
compared to the ride in, but the relative lack of loud conversation
was a welcome one. It's a short excursion to a nearby destination
that, whether planned in advance or taken as an impromptu hiatus, can
be a really fun respite; I'd do it again in a heartbeat!