leave your inhibitions at the door
The bus I took to Chicago deposited me right smack downtown where I immediately realized that it was the day of the annual St. Patrick’s day parade. The whole area was packed with tens of thousands of people and, since I was right by the train station, almost all were suburbanites. Ugh.
Add to that it was about noon and the majority of them were already inebriated. Double-ugh.
As I mentioned before, the Irish in Chicago were generally nowhere near as friendly to me as the Italians. I needed to find refuge from all those green-clad lightweights. So it was perfectly fitting that I found myself at Eataly Chicago.
I don’t even know what to call this place – it’s monstrous with fifteen different restaurants, classes, deli, wine, groceries, and other food-related wares. The Sicilian calls it a tourist trap and I can certainly see that. But tourist traps are nowhere near as serious about their food. When I think of those places, I envision Rainforest Cafe and Cheesecake Factory – places that are completely formulaic and mostly bland.
Eataly is different with its incredible selection of many hard to find items. They are also committed to high quality ingredients and working with local resources and distributors. Eataly originated in Italy and there are 27 of them around the world – 10 in Italy, 13 in Japan, 1 in Dubai, and 1 in Turkey. The Chicago location opened in early December 2013, joining New York City as the only US outlets. In the US, they’ve partnered with celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich.
What I didn’t get a picture of was the restaurant food. The waiters at the various restaurants walked around too quickly and I got the stink eye from the people eating there. I made a mental note to come back for the prime rib sandwiches, the calamari, and the whole branzino. And the pizza. And the steakhouse. Maybe the brewpub. Definitely the wine bar. Heck, I guess I better just make a weekend of it.
Have you been to any of the Eataly’s?