Italy in an Afternoon!

Rise and Shine!  We have got to go!!!  We have a 10:00 a.m. Lake and River Tour — No “Triple D’s” this morning!  Everyone, grab a pop tart and let’s blow this taco stand!  Good thing we’re close by!  We left our apartment at 9:00ish and walked directly north about a mile to the landing at the river for our tour.  I always recommend that we take the Architectural Lake and River Tour because seeing the Chicago skyline from the lake that looks like an ocean is pretty spectacular … even if you’ve see it before.  Each time I go along on one of the “repeat” tours, I learn something new so I’m not gonna stop!  You’re coming to Chicago??  We’re going on the tour!

Under the Michigan Avenue Bridge

Leaving for the tour from under the Michigan Avenue Bridge

We were lucky that the sun kept peeking in and out all morning or else we would have gotten a really good case of sunburn.  The water was smooth … perfect for a “ride on the river.”  The lake started out smooth too … but then the wind kicked up!  And the waves kicked up!  And we almost “kicked up!”  Not to worry, it was all ok!  Just a beautiful view and some great summer, fast-changing, weather!  With the wind blowing in your hair and the mist off the waves kissing your cheeks, what’s not to love?

After our “Three Hour Tour” (now say that again while singing the “Gilligan” theme song) ended, we were right on schedule for lunch!  And lucky for us, Mike had it all worked out again.  He has a friend, who has a friend, who’s married to his cousin, whose wife has a peg-leg … NO!!  Just kidding!!  But he really does have a friend, who has a cousin, who has a pub!  So, off we went to find the “Exchequer Pub” for lunch!  And I’m so glad we did!  This place is full of atmosphere, great food, and fabulous service.  It’s hidden right inside the “El” route in downtown and it is hoppin!  Eddie was able to meet us there on his lunch and he was happy that it was so close to his office.  This was a great find and one we’ll be sharing with you when you get here!

Mike's New Buddy and Owner of Exchequer

Mike’s New Buddy and Owner of Exchequer

We walked home so that we would be able to eat dinner because today is the day we introduce the family to … Chicago’s Italian Beef sandwiches.  After Eddie got home from work, we jumped on the bus down to Taylor Street, the heart of “Little Italy, Chicago.”  It’s a beautiful neighborhood with old-fashioned brick row houses, tree-lined streets, and everything and anything you need Italian!  The sandwiches are a little like the famous “hot dogs” in the sense that everyone who comes to Chicago absolutely has to have one of these sandwiches.  They remind me of “Philippe’s” a little bit because they are juicy, wonderful, messy, thinly-sliced beef sandwiches.  But they throw in another little added treat.  To each sandwich, you have a choice of “sweet” or “spicy” toppings.  We chose “Al’s Italian Beef” because most local Chicagoan’s think this is THE Italian beef, and the one we went to on Taylor Street is the original store that started in 1938.  So, besides the delicious sandwich, you get the whole history of the restaurant and the neighborhood that started the now famous franchise.  Apparently, we have “Al’s” in California, and as I researched their link above, I see that Mike & Coco had to come all the way to Chicago for their sandwich, when they could have gone down the street to … CHINO!  Hahah!!  Who woulda known?  Well, I would still recommend that you come to Chicago to try it … I hear it doesn’t taste as good in California!

the-top-10-italian-beef-sandwiches-in-chicago

One more great thing about Taylor Street is another “original” … “Mario’s Italian Ice.”  This is something of a cross between a gelato and a snowcone!  This mom and pop joint has been in the neighborhood for, well, longer than I’ve been alive!  Here’s what I found on one of the big foodie reviews:

“To call Mario’s Italian Lemonade an institution on Taylor Street would be an understatement. Owner Mario DiPaolo Jr. has been churning up lemonade at this ravenously popular stand since he was a kid, when his father opened up shop in 1954. Mario Sr. has since passed on, but the stretch of Taylor Street housing his namesake lemonade stand has been heralded as honorary Mario DiPaolo Drive. And his name lives on as customers frequently come from near and far to queue up for his original recipe frozen lemonade.” 

Apparently it’s only open between May and September and then closes up shop for the winter.  And during those months, especially on warm summer nights, the line goes down the block.  That’s how we found it — being nosy and wondering “what’s that line to” and then realizing that it must have been a big deal.  So, turns out it is.  Summer needs an Italian ice, to be sure!

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Cheers to Italian Ice!

Cheers to Italian Ice!

After another 20,000+ steps day walking through Little Italy and parts of the University of Illinois at Chicago, we finally made it home to plop into our comfy beds to rest up for another day of exploring!  Talk to you tomorrow!

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