Fall Vacation: Chicago Halloween Edition

Thursday, November 05, 2015

It has been a couple of months since I have last written a post, but rest assured I did not forget about the blog. I have had quite a whirlwind of things that were happening in my life, some good and some were bad, and I just wanted to take some time out to sort out my life and chase my real passions. I will expand on this a little bit more in another post, but today I wanted to do a quick recap of my most recent trip to Chicago.

The last three trips to Chicago consisted of winter, spring and spring/summer weather. This trip happened to be booked on the weekend of Halloween (a holiday that epitomizes the fall season) and it could not have been planned any better.

Firstly, I want to thank Cindy for taking me to the airport. It is definitely not easy waking up at 6AM just to play as a chauffeur, but I am thankful that a friend like her was so willing to take me. We stopped by Luv n Donuts to grab a bite before I patiently waited the hour long wait before boarding my plane.


The flight was on quite a small plane, but it looked fairly new with WIFI enabled ($7 for 30 minutes or $27 for the duration of your flight), an outlet for you to plug your electronics to, one USB port and a headphone jack to listen to movies and shows that you can purchase on the flight. Nice job, American Airlines!


After one consumed Dramamine and four hours had passed, I landed safely at O’Hare International Airport, where I awaited for my friend to come pick me up. The weather was absolutely incredible with a slight breeze providing for fifty degree temperatures.


While some would argue that living in California is amazing, I feel like I appreciate nature much more living in Chicago. I got to experience what it was like walking through snowy weather in the winter and feeling the humidity against my skin in the summer. This time around, I got to see the beauty that is autumn with leaves of every color falling to the ground. It was, for the most part, beautiful.


Before heading off to the hotel, my friend suggested that we get a bite to eat and so he introduced Noodles & Company to me. Apparently there are restaurant locations in California, but they are nowhere near me so this was a good opportunity to try out their food. I ordered the pad thai and it was pretty good. The noodles were flavorful and the vegetables were all there, but if you are looking to try authentic pad thai, I suggest going to a Thai restaurant instead. Needless to say, it was healthy and quite filling for a small meal.


That evening, my friend and I planned for a night out with two of his friends. We decided to meet at Jim’s Original Hot Dog (you can read my review of it here) for a quick bite before heading off to Lucky Strike in downtown. I ordered a polish hot dog with a side of fries, hot sport peppers, and a water bottle to extinguish the burning sensation the peppers left behind on my taste buds. Because we arrived at the location on a Thursday evening, most of the shops were closed including the bowling alley so we parted ways and called it an evening.


The following morning, my friend took me to Lalich Delicatessens, a local European deli in Niles, IL. I got really excited to check this place out because my local European deli sells mostly Turkish food so being able to try out snacks and food that my friend grew up eating was quite the treat. He sent me home with pašteta, Napolitanke, Smoki, choco banana, and Unicorn fruit filled assorted hard candies. Aside from the delicious snacks, he ordered a serving of burek for him and I to share that was filled with feta cheese. Everything, and I wish I was exaggerating, everything was delicious. One of these days, I am going to have to try my hand at recreating the burek I had from the deli.


After we had gotten our burek, we decided to stop by Super H Mart, a large Costco-like sized Korean grocery market to sit down and enjoy our feta cheese filled pastry. Luckily, like most H Marts, there was a food court area where we could sit down and enjoy our meal. A quick bite later and a full stroll through the market itself, we decided to fill our stomachs one last time by ordering a bulgolgi bowl before deciding on our next destination.

I had suggested that since the weather was quite clear that my friend and I should go to a zoo. Of the two zoos available within the vicinity, he recommended that we visit the Brookfield Zoo. Needless to say, this zoo was quite amazing. I have visited many zoos in the past, but this one in particular has an interesting layout. It was entirely spacious and quite easy to navigate with the amount of signs provided throughout the park. We got to see the majority of the major exhibits before the park started to close off for the day. If you are considering going to this zoo, I highly recommend it as 1.) the parking is ample 2.) the tickets were reasonable ($32 for two people) and 3.) there are plenty of photo opportunities for you to take of the animals you want to see.


After an eventful afternoon, my friend and I headed back to the hotel for a quick outfit change before grabbing a bite at Lou Malnati's Pizzeria. Unfortunately, despite having looking forward to a proper Chicagoan deep dish pizza, we misunderstood our waiter's description of the pizzas we had ordered and were disappointed with the results. Despite the mishap, we did enjoy the hot chicken wings that came out prior to the pizza and our stomachs were filled just enough for us to enjoy an entire night of bowling.


Bowling is definitely not one of my strongest suits, but Suburbanite Bowl has plenty to offer outside of just their bowling alley. With a bar open until closing time and arcade filled with a decent amount of games varying from air hockey to billiard tables, I still found a way to have a really great time. My friend and I arrived at the bowling alley a few minutes before his friends, so we decided to challenge each other to a basketball match. Let's just say I did extremely well, but that celebratory moment was short-lived when my friend destroyed me in bowling. After three rounds (roughly $14/person for unlimited bowling and $3 shoe rentals), all four of us called it a night and headed off to a nearby Mexican restaurant to grab a bite before parting ways for the evening.


The churros at Las Palmas were absolutely stellar. Because I had eaten quite a bit throughout the day, I had only enough room for dessert. Luckily, Las Palmas offers churros and boy were they good at making food look just as good as they tasted. The portion sizes for their meals (not photographed) were absolutely gigantic. You definitely get your money's worth ordering here and for all of you late night owls, this place is open until late into the evening. This place is a must-go if you are ever in the area. After finishing up our meals, my friend and I exchanged our goodbyes with his friends, Carla and Nick, and headed back to the hotel for some shut-eye.


Halloween finally arrived and both my friend and I knew that it was going to be an eventful day. Prior to meeting with both Nick and Carla again, we decided to have lunch at Jameson's Charhouse (see my previous review on their breakfast meal here). In the past, I have only had opportunities trying out their breakfast selections, but I was quite surprised by the large selection of entrees that the establishment had to offer for lunch. Despite the meal being large in portion and filling, the service was disappointing. Our server appeared only twice to check on us. He disregarded refilling our glasses of water and we waited quite a bit before he realized we needed our check. I am not sure if it was because it was a slow day or not, but had the food not been quite good, I would have not recommended the place to eat for lunch.



It was a rainy Halloween day and I was afraid that it would continue to rain into the evening. My friend kindly drove me to his sibling's workplace for me to deliver my surprise gift before we both somehow managed to crave some Jamba Juice (see my previous review of this establishment here). Luckily parking was available despite the overcast weather and our smoothies were delectable and smooth. We finally met up with Nick, Carla, and Carla's friend, Katie, and stopped by Portillo's Hot Dog (see my previous review of this restaurant here) for a quick bite (my friend and I shared a chocolate eclair cake) before the long forty-minute drive to the Dungeon of Doom Haunted House. Unfortunately, photography and videography was not permitted at the haunted house and ultimately it would have ruined the experience for both myself and for others who want to go in the future. To avoid the hour to two hour wait, my friend and I decided to purchase the tickets online ($30/person on Halloween). This was by far one of the better decisions because at the moment we had arrived at the location, we were greeted by a massive crowd of people waiting to buy their tickets. Fair warning to car lovers of all sorts, the condition of the parking lot alone is scarier than the haunted house. To describe it in the best possible way, the parking lot was gravel-filled and hole-driven. In other words, your car will either lose a tire or two or have a scraped bumper.

As much as I would love to write a review of the haunted house, I also do not want to spoil it. I will say, though, I did not scream through the duration of the hour to hour and a half walk-through of the haunted house. I think if you were to space yourself between the individuals in front of you and behind you, you will feel the suspense more. Naturally, because of how packed it was that evening, we had no choice but to follow the crowd and be alerted of what would appear at every corner through the sounds of screaming and terrorizing chainsaw noises.

The five of us still had an amazing time and we exchanged our goodbyes to head back to our own places for the evening. On the drive back, my friend showed me a few of the houses around the suburbs that went all out for the holiday occasion.


With nearly fifteen minutes before arriving at the hotel, my friend and I decided at the last minute to set a reservation at Bavette's Bar & Boeuf (see my previous review of this restaurant here) for a special late night dinner together. I cannot begin to express how much I love this restaurant both for their flavorful food and for their outstanding customer service. Despite having set our reservation at 11:30pm (do note that they close at 12:30am on Saturdays), we managed to get to the restaurant on time beating out the Halloween traffic in downtown Chicago where bar-goers were dressed to the nines for discounted drinks. Our waiter greeted us right away upon being seated and was quickly served bread and butter to start with. My friend and I ordered our favorite side of pommes frites (which later our waiter quickly slid us the steak spices to top our fries with). He ordered the fried chicken that came with mashed potatoes and I ordered the dry-aged meatball over pasta. There is, and I repeat, there is no better restaurant that I have been to other than Bavette's Bar & Boeuf. That evening made this year's Halloween, the best Halloween I have ever had.


The following morning, my friend and I wanted to grab a quick bite so we headed to Chipotle Mexican Grill for something not as heavy but still filling. As per usual, I ordered my veggie bowl as I had the sudden urge to eat vegetables given that my past few meals had been carb/protein heavy.


I wanted to see if there was something that I could get for myself at the Westfield Old Orchard (see my previous review of this mall here) so we decided to roam around the mall for a bit and noticed a few upgrades made in terms of stores. The two of us got thirsty and stopped by Auntie Anne's to grab pretzel nuggets and dip (caramel for myself and cheese for him) as well as lemonades on the go (see my previous review of the place here).

After a stroll around the mall, we headed back to the hotel with an unbelievable amount of time left into the evening. Many unsuccessful attempts later at finding what we could do on a Sunday evening (including looking up mini golf areas), I suggested that we watch a movie and my friend recommended that we go to the Muvico Rosemont 18. On the list of things I want to do before I die was to watch a movie in a recliner with a meal other than your typical movie concession stand snacks. For $50 for two people, we were able to choose our seats on the balcony where we would be seated on couch-like love seats and given two coupons for refillable small popcorn. Unfortunately, I had underestimated the portion size of the meals at the Bogart's Bar and Grill because the nachos were larger than the size of my torso and both our entrees were too filling for us to finish. The nachos were okay and my stir-fry could have been better. My friend told me his burger was pretty good and the popcorn was great. Aside from feeling quite bad for ordering too much food, the movie (The Martian) was an okay movie. It was definitely over-hyped for me and I felt like it could have had the potential to develop the story better, but needless to say I had an amazing first time experience in a fancy theater setting.


The following morning was my last day in Chicago. Like my previous stays, I booked my trip at the DoubleTree by Hilton (see my previous review of this hotel here). This time around, the house keeping was absolutely superb as the room was kept tidy despite the two of us having left the room at random hours of the day. The only downside that I have about this establishment is the tricky charges that came with my bill. WIFI has always been complimentary, however, this time around they have an option for you to use premium WIFI (which, by the way, is no different than the complimentary one so I have experienced accidentally). Unfortunately, all it takes is one wrong selection on your phone and you'll get charged $10/day for premium WIFI when all you wanted to do was connect to the complimentary one. I also needed to call the front desk to ask for an extension to my check out time since my flight was not until later in the evening. There was not a single number or button on the hotel room's phone, so I called the hotel instead. I was also charged for that call despite just trying to reach the front desk. Needless to say, I was charged an extra $30 for my stay for miscellaneous charges that should have not taken place to begin with.


For our final meal together, my friend wanted to take me to a place that serves authentic Macedonian food. Kiko's Market & Restaurant is located around the heart of Chicago and there is plenty of parking available around the time that we had arrived. I kid you not, I cannot eat salad the same way again after having a šopska salata (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, olives, and feta cheese). my friend also ordered ćevapčići, pljeskavica, and ponfrit sa feta sirom. Everything was absolutely delicious and I am completely saddened that there is not a restaurant in California that I know of that serves Macedonian food.


Our final destination before I boarded my plane in the evening was at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago, where I wanted to visit the AllSaints store (spoiler alert: I did not get anything). The mall itself is quite large and I was really surprised by the organization of the parking structure where indicator lights were installed to provide for an easier way to find parking. My friend and I enjoyed a bit of ice cream at the Haagen Dazs and walked around differing stores such as Bath & Body Works (shout out to the sales associate who helped me find the perfect body wash) to Zumiez where I got my first HUF snapback.


The evening was coming to a close and my trip to Chicago was ending. Until next time!

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