Our dad was born and raised in Chicago, and one of our favorite traditions when we visit our family is to go to Portillo’s for their famous Italian beef sandwiches. We have great memories of doing this often with our grandpa and grandma – scrambling for a table, getting everyone’s order, our grandpa saying he only wanted half (but he wanted a whole sandwich), and the joy we all had scarfing down these delicious, messy sandwiches. When we have a hankering for an Italian beef sandwich, and haven’t thought enough in advance to order them frozen from Portillo’s, we make this and feel all the same nostalgia and joy as though we are in Chicago.
These sandwiches are a great football day main dish, and the star of our 2021 Super Bowl Menu. You can prepare the peppers and beef ahead of time and assemble the sandwiches last minute to serve. The best part of this recipe is that you can add and update the condiments however you like. We like our sandwiches served with provolone, giardiniera and a little extra jus for dipping. We can’t wait to hear how you like yours!
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, red pepper and green pepper and sauté for 5 minutes until the vegetables are fragrant.
Add the beef broth, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and red chili flakes. Stir everything to combine and bring the broth to boil. Lower to simmer and simmer for 30 minutes so the vegetables are completely soft. **
Separate the beef into individual slices and add the beef to the broth. Let the beef absorb the broth and cook for 10 minutes.
Prepare the sandwiches. Toast the french bread rolls and melt half a slice of provolone cheese on each side of the bread. Add beef, peppers and onions to the sandwich. Top with giardiniera or any of your favorite condiments. Serve with the cooking broth for dipping the sandwiches.
** At this point, you can turn off the heat until you are ready to serve the sandwiches. You can refrigerate the broth and reheat when you are ready to serve.
Tate has a very special relationship with Chicago as it is where he was born and raised. Spending his first few formative years in the Windy City allowed him the opportunity to explore the best of Chicago. Chicago is a huge city with many historic sites, amazing museums and of course, delicious food.
Most of the foods that Chicago is known for (deep dish pizza, hotdogs) are not the foods that we would typically seek out during our travels. We have included a few recommendations for where to go if you are dying to try some of these local specialties. Don’t get us wrong, none of this is BAD food, it is just that Chicago’s food scene has become much more sophisticated and we think there are foods a bit more worthy of your time. To be honest, our B list for food could easily be an A list. Check out our recommendations but also do your research to make sure you are dining at the places that suite your appetite and budget!
Alinea, Girl and the Goat, Portillos, Schwa, Fat Rice, Ema, Lula Cafe, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, Sushi-San, Monteverde , Peaquods, Cindy’s Rooftop Bar, Eataly
Local Foods to Try
giardiniera, deep dish pizza, italian beef sandwiches, chicago hot dog, gastronomy, malort (only if you’re brave and have a strong stomach), garrets popcorn
Things to See
Millennium Park & The Bean, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Magnificent Mile
Neighborhoods to Visit
River North, Wrigley, West Loop, Lincoln Park
Architecture Boat Tour
Duck Duck Goat, The Publican, Smythe + The Loyalist, Gibsons, The Aviary, Roister
Things to See/Places to Visit
Willis Tower, Logan Square, Navy Pier
Neighborhoods to Visit
Logan Square, Wicker Park, Chinatown
Welcome to the Windy City! Get your walking shoes on because today you will be exploring the city by foot. Head out of your hotel and make your way to Eataly in River North to grab an espresso and a breakfast pastry. Spend your time walking around the store to explore the beautiful displays of fresh pasta, seafood, meats and cheeses. Exit Eataly and head a block east to Michigan Avenue, also know as the Magnificent Mile. Enjoy shopping or window shopping and if it is the winter, looking at the holiday displays.
Off of Michigan Avenue you can venture to the John Hancock building to get amazing views of the city at the 360 Chicago Observation Deck. There are also activities for those not afraid of heights such as the Tilt. When hunger strikes, head to Ramen San or Sushi San – both off of Michigan Avenue for lunch. Depending on if you want ramen or sushi, both of these spots by the Lettuce Entertain You Restaurant Group will bring you an ambiance of 90s hip hop and most importantly, amazing food.
Once you are filled up, head back to Michigan Avenue and walk south until you get to Millennium Park. Spend an hour or two exploring the park and be sure to visit the famous Chicago Bean. If you are an art fan, don’t miss the Art Institute of Chicago. However you spend your afternoon, don’t miss stopping by Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association for a cocktail, snack and amazing park and lake views.
If you are like us, you will be ready for a nap at this point. Relax for the rest of the evening because for dinner, you will be going to the coveted Fat Rice in Logan Square. It is hard to describe Macanese cuisine at Fat Rice as it is a blend of Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisines. The flavors are incredible, unique and will fill you up after a long day of walking through the city. Make sure to make a reservation in advance. The food is amazing. Just go. Trust us on this one.
Day 2 is going to take you through a few of Chicago’s neighborhoods that are outside of the main downtown area. Start you day with breakfast at Lula Cafe in Logan Square. Lula does take reservations which are highly recommended on the weekend. If you have to wait for your table, no problem! Walk around the Farmers Market if you are there on a Saturday or explore the many unique shops near the restaurant. When you are done with breakfast, take a long walk, south, down Milwaukee Avenue and you will soon be in the neighborhood of Wicker Park. On this walk, you will pass many coffee shops, breweries, and stores. Take your time and enjoy these two unique neighborhoods. Hungry for more? Try the famous burger from Small Cheval or a piece of pie from Bang Bang Pie Shop.
When you are through walking and exploring, hop on the Blue Line to the Monroe Station. Get above ground and you will be just blocks from the Willis Tower. Head on up for views of the city and the Skydeck where you can walk on top of a see-through glass floor. Don’t forget to look down! Head back to your hotel and get some rest before your big night out at Alinea. We wrote a whole post about this very special dining experience that you can read through here.
We know you are probably very full of food by this point in the trip. No plans for you this morning! Sleep in. When you are ready make your way towards the lake and walk up and down the lake shore path. Venture north and you will make it to Lincoln Park where you can go to the zoo (for free) or head south to Navy Pier. If you head north, we recommend venturing to Old Town for lunch. On Wells, you will find many, many restaurants and bars to enjoy.
The last stop for your day will be back to Michigan Avenue where it crosses with the river to board the Architecture Tour . This is a very unique tour, done by boat, and will teach you about the history and architecture of the city and is a great way to see the skyline from the water!
There is no better way to experience food than by sharing a meal with good friends. A little over three years ago, we met our new foodie friends Kaitlyn and Aaron. Over the years we have formed a friendship around discussing restaurants, cooking, and enjoying new foods together. Our foodie entourage took our first trip together this past weekend to Chicago to have dinner at the renowned restaurant, Alinea.
In order to have the full picture about Alinea, you have to know more about its head chef and creator, Grant Achatz. We highly recommend watching his episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix for a full history, but we will give you a quick background. Achatz is a rock star in the culinary world. He is known for taking molecular gastronomy and the dining experience to an entirely new level. His MO is to heighten all of your senses while dining through a combination of scent, taste, sound, surprise, and visual stimulation. Dishes at Alinea are rarely what they initially appear to be and the entire meal is an explosion of sensory experiences.
The Reservation Process
Alinea uses Tock to open monthly reservations to the public at 11:00 AM central time on the 15th of every month, two months in advance. This means our November reservation was available at exactly 11:00 CT on September 15th. Small tip: be sure to log into your Tock account in advance of the time reservations are released; this way if you get a table you won’t lose it during the login process. If you login at exactly the correct time, you should be able to get any table for any day that you are interested in.
There are a number of different seating options for Alinea. The Gallery is the main dining room of the restaurant, serving their full experience menu. It seats parties in groups of 2 or 4 people at either 5:00 pm or 9:00 pm. This seating costs about $400 per person which includes tax and gratuity, but does not include alcohol. The Salon at Alinea is an abbreviated experience of the restaurant. There are a number of seatings per night and that experience will cost you about $325 per person including tax and gratuity, not including alcohol. The final experience at Alinea is The Kitchen Table– the most exclusive of the experiences- at a private table in the kitchen. It seats six guests and costs about $530 per person including tax and gratuity, no alcohol. Because we were a party of six…. you guessed it…. this kitchen table was our dining destination!
The Experience (Spoilers Ahead!)
To give you some of the details without giving the entire dinner away, we will give you a full account of our first and last courses. After watching the Chef’s Table episode, we walked into the restaurant wide eyed and ready for everything. We were taken to our table in the kitchen, which was decorated like a fluffy ball of pink cotton candy. There were birds hanging above, flowers at the center, and a number of elements on the table that were clearly items to be eaten. The “show” began with the waitstaff pouring liquid into the vases that held the flowers. The result produced a smoke that smelled like pink lemonade. To accompany the smell, we had frozen pea soup (it looked like dip and dots) delivered to our plate . It was served with edible flowers and a cold broth that was hidden within the centerpiece of the tables. The birds hanging from the ceiling ended up being sesame stuffed cracker pastry doves that were cut down for the second bite. A gold dome on the table revealed the most delicate and perfectly cut melon with jasmine. The beautiful flower dish held two “puffs” flavored with tea and honey. Ladies and gentleman – that was JUST THE FIRST COURSE.
The rest of the courses throughout the meal were a similar adventure. We had a course in the kitchen, our room decoration completely changed while we weren’t looking, and a number of other surreal experiences throughout the night. Every single aspect of the dining experience is thought out while we ate our meal. The music, brightness and color of the lights, and scents being pumped into the room all changed with each of the foods we ate to heighten the experience of our dinner.
The dessert courses, and the conclusion of our dinner, were menu items that are mentioned in the Chef’s Table, so we don’t feel too bad about giving those away. Dessert starts with Alinea’s famous apple balloon. Each person at the table is served a balloon that is fully edible, string and all. The next and final performance is the dessert art that is featured in the episode. Two chefs come to either side of the table, remove plexiglass that was hanging from the ceiling, the music changes, and the lights go out. The chefs plate the dessert in a synchronized dance onto the glass; each element goes onto the glass one color at a time. The final product can only be described as beautiful, edible, graffiti.
This is one of the most unique and fun culinary experiences in the world. You will be hard pressed to find a more amazing, sensory dining journey. While we loved everything about our dinner, we would be hard pressed to go back again given that the menu would largely be the same and that the “show” would not have the same surprise that is did this first time. Should Alinea produce a new concept as they did a few years ago, you can expect a new review!