After the success of my trip to Toronto, I knew I wanted to take another trip. In my mind the most logical conclusion for my next adventure was a trip to Chicago to see Hamilton.
Because I dealt with a health scare that has greatly increased my anxiety, this trip was postponed once. In the middle of September I pushed myself to go. I wasn’t as excited about visiting Chicago as I was Toronto, nor did I feel as at ease with my plans, in particular the hotel.
Really, though, these feelings mostly have to be chalked up to my lack of physical and in particular mental readiness for the trip this time. I made myself go because sitting at home was not a viable option. I did have fun, and I am glad I went, but it was a mental battle a lot of the time. There were even moments when I wanted to get back in the car and go home immediately.
Not all trips are going to be as good, as easy, as comfortable, as perfect (despite the insane traffic) as Toronto. Just like I have good days and bad days at home, I am going to have them when I travel. The point is I went, I had a lot of fun, and I am glad I went. In some ways this trip may have been even more important than Toronto, as I proved to myself that I could push through despite less than ideal conditions and come out on the other side thrilled I forged ahead. This was especially true after I recovered some lost sleep.
But let’s start at the beginning. We got a slightly earlier start on the road than to Toronto, did not have to cross and international border, and met way less traffic in Chicago than Toronto, even though things did get a little tight as we neared the city due to an accident and road closure.
Still, we arrived at the Peninsula with less agitation and panic than in Toronto. I chose the Peninsula after calling three of the four five-diamond hotels in Chicago. Though I never felt quite as comfortable as I did with the Ritz in Toronto, I feel I made the best choice. The hotel is very pretty with an elegant dining room near the main lobby and jewelry displays lining the hallway to the elevators. It is also in a good location that allowed us to walk to most of the places on the itinerary.
We settled in, changed clothes and took a walk down the Magnificent Mile. We popped in Cartier, but didn’t have time to explore more or do any shopping. We also popped in Eataly, a cool concept, though perhaps not quite our thing. I wish I would have had time for a frozen cocktail, but we had to continue our walk down the packed city sidewalks to RPM Steak.
Though it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to eat at RPM if I ever made it to Chicago, after investigating tons of the best restaurants in the city, I knew without a doubt I had to eat dinner there. And I am so glad we did.
From start to finish, it was a practically perfect restaurant experience and one of the best parts of the trip. Our waiter Anthony was knowledgeable and chatty. Chattiness isn’t always an ideal characteristic in a waiter, but conversing with him was more than welcome given we had spent four and a half hours in the car together and weren’t too far away from more.
The food was incredible. Spectacular. Craveable. I wish I lived down the street from RPM Steak. If I ever go back to Chicago, I will head back to RPM because I’ll be dreaming about their food until we meet again.
The meal began with crab salad amuse bouche and giant, steaming cheddar popovers that were crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Then it was onto the main event. Dad had The Duke, a ribeye filet. It was suggested by the waiter and Dad was thrilled with the choice. Mom had a wagyu filet from Snake River Farms, a special, and said it was the best steak she’s ever had. A small note that was appreciated: when Anthony mentioned the specials he also mentioned the price. Though price wasn’t going to prevent us from ordering something, it is nice to know without having to ask.
One of the reasons I chose RPM was their selection of Wagyu and Kobe steaks. I asked Anthony which I should order and he did not hesitate in recommending the Hokkaido Snow Beef. RPM is one of six restaurants in the world that serves it, and it did not disappoint. Like Mom, it was the best steak I have ever had.
The same can be said about the French fries, heirloom tomato salad with the pesto of my dreams, and macaroni and cheese with mushrooms and bacon. I also just had to try the Millionaire’s Potato. Years ago, the twice baked potato at Shula’s was one of my favorite restaurant dishes. They have been closed here in Michigan for quite some time and I haven’t been able to satisfy my twice baked potato craving since.
Until RPM. Though the skin was slightly too crunchy and tough, the silky smooth filling topped with melted fontina and fresh shaved truffles was pretty much the side of my dreams. So was the crème brulee for dessert. Though all the dessert options sounded insanely good (and there were many without chocolate), we chose something light. Also, Granny’s favorite dessert was crème brulee and I wanted to honor her on our trip.
This was no ordinary crème brulee. The custard itself was infused with pistachios and topped with not only the traditional caramelized sugar crust, but also finely chopped pistachio brittle. The fabbri cherries and vanilla bean whipped cream on top put it over the top in the best way. The mountain of strawberry cotton candy was the cherry on top of a meal I doubt will ever be topped.
They also got us in and out in time to walk across the river to see the sunset, snap a few pictures, take it all in, and continue the walk to the CIBC Theatre to see Hamilton. As a fan of Lin Manuel Miranda, I have been dying to see Hamilton for quite some time. I snagged some not horribly priced tickets in the ninth row.
I was both blown away and totally overwhelmed by the power and music of the first act. Those are songs I know and love; since I was already emotional, they hit me hard and increased the emotional impact of the first half for me. The second half was much slower and sadder. Clocking in at nearly three hours, I was a little restless by the end.
I really liked Hamilton and would encourage anyone with a chance to see it to do so. How such a complex story and important part of American history is told so beautifully and succinctly is amazing. The cast was absolutely incredible. The bare bones set that never changes worked perfectly, and many of the little touches like the actors moving in slow motion and remaining on stage even when they weren’t part of the scene make the show work. It feels more like a concert than a traditional musical. And though I am not sure I would see it again, I am really happy I saw it and used it as an anchor for the trip as well as the main reason to go.
When we exited the Theatre a little after 11, the night was young, particularly in exciting Chicago, and we weren’t ready to waste time sleeping. I’ll pick up there on Friday with part two!