Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City

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kaszeta
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2012/05/22 13:48:53 (permalink)

Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City

A group of my friends has an annual tradition of picking a major metro area, then finding a nice 20+ mile walking route through the city that takes you through a large number of neighborhoods, and then basically walk it all in a day, stopping frequent to eat, drink, and otherwise enjoy the parts of a city you might not otherwise explore. We call it a "Death March".  In 2010 we did the length of Manhattan.  Last year we did San Francisco (from the Bridge to Twin Peaks). 
This year, we did Chicago:
 

 
Starting at 8am in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood (which mostly serves as an Hispanic neighborhood), we walked to Taylor Street, downtown to the loop, out on Chicago almost to Ukrainian Village, and then up Milwaukee to Jefferson Park, before heading back east to Andersonville.  Along the way we got to sample a rather substantial number of food joints.
 
We started simply, with a visit to Nuevo Leon Bakery on 18th Street, for a good sampling of Mexican pastries:

 
After that, we continued east on 18th until we got to Don Pedro's Carniceria:

where we loaded up on carnitas, taco fixins', brain tacos, and chicharones.  This was a serious feast for under $10 for 4 people, and was incredibly tasty (even though it was only 8:30 in the morning)
 
Carnitas:

 
Chicharones:

 
Watching them bring out more meat from the kitchen:

 
(I'll continue this in chunks)
 
post edited by kaszeta - 2012/05/22 13:55:29
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    buffetbuster
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 13:51:34 (permalink)
    What a great tradition.  And that carnitas photo is drool worthy!  Looking forward to the next chunk.
    #2
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 13:54:54 (permalink)
    After Don Pedro's, we backtracked a bit and walked north on Racine to Taylor street into what used to be (and still somewhat is) an Italian neighborhood, for one of the oldest Italian Beef stands, Al's #1 Italian Beef:

    Where I went for a small Italian Beef, with hots, "wet":

    One of the messiest food items I know, but I always love a good Italian beef sandwich, and Al's delivers one of the best I've had.
     
    Then, we crossed the street to Mario's Italian Lemonade.  We actually met the owner (Mario, the second generation Mario to own the joint) while waiting for Al's to open, and he was really friendly and talked about how much he likes the neighborhood and people that visit).  We ended up getting some Italian Ice before walking on through UIC to downtown:


    After 3 hours of walking and eating, we arrived downtown at The Bean:

     
    #3
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 13:59:28 (permalink)
    The third stop was a Death March Tradition: Beard Papa Cream Puffs.  More or less by coincidence, both Manhattan and San Francisco's routes had us stopping for cream puffs, and since Chicago has a location as well, it was obligatory that we stop.  For those that haven't indulged, Beard Papa makes some seriously good cream puffs, even if the mascot is a bit creepy:


    (as an aside, Beard Papa is located in the basement of the mostly-empty Block 37 shopping mall.  This is worth noting, since Block 37 has probably the finest publicly-available free restrooms for downtown)
    After getting cream-puffed, we headed north on State


    until we got to Chicago Ave, where we headed left.
    #4
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 14:01:28 (permalink)
    buffetbuster
    What a great tradition.  And that carnitas photo is drool worthy!  Looking forward to the next chunk.

    We love Death Marches.  Still trying to figure out where to do next year (short list includes Boston, Philly, and DC).  Have another group I'm associated with that does something similar every fall in the LA area as well.
    #5
    buffetbuster
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 14:07:41 (permalink)
    Cream puffs?  Oh, I know where I am going next time in Chicago!  Hey ChiTownDiner, how come you never take me anyplace good?
    #6
    BuddyRoadhouse
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 14:12:23 (permalink)
    Nice start kaszeta!  I see a lot of old "friends" so far.  You don't say on what day of the week your Death March took place, but I can tell you if it was a weekend, you were smart to hit Don Pedro early in the morning.  Anytime later than that and you would have had a long wait for food and a tough time getting a table.
     
    The typical visit to Al's involves one person standing in line at Al's and another person standing in line at Mario's.  Then you meet back at the trunk of your car in Al's parking lot and enjoy the two neighborhood defining treats together.  I've got to think that Al's soft drink sales take a nose dive from May 1st through roughly October 15th; the season when Mario's is open.  Everyone seems to live in relative peace and harmony in spite of that crossover competition.
     
    BTW, you'll notice the cups from Mario's never have the name of his store on them; they are always random cups, probably bought as a cheap overrun.  Mario once told us his reason for buying those cups goes beyond the economy aspect.  Not all of his customers respect the cleanliness of the surrounding area.  By purchasing the hodgepodge of cups, if the litterbugs throw them on the ground, they can't be traced back to his store.  Not sure how much of that is true and how much is urban legend style BS.  He could just buy plain white cups and who would know?
     
    Looking forward to the rest of the report!
     
    Buddy
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    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 14:46:21 (permalink)
    BuddyRoadhouse
    Nice start kaszeta!  I see a lot of old "friends" so far.  You don't say on what day of the week your Death March took place, but I can tell you if it was a weekend, you were smart to hit Don Pedro early in the morning.

    We did the Death March on 5/5.  The staff at Don Pedro mentioned that they were already unusually busy for a Saturday due to Cinco de Mayo.  They moved three full trays of meat and chicharones out the door in the 15 minutes we were there.  But none of the 8:30 am business was eat in except us.  This worked for us here.  At Al's, we had to wait for them to open.  But it also meant having to skip some good places since they weren't open yet.  Ahh, the tradeoffs... (if we had started later, we'd have the other problem on the tail end, since we didn't get to our dinner location until 7pm.  It takes some serious time to walk that far)
     

    Everyone seems to live in relative peace and harmony in spite of that crossover competition.

    Mario is an excessively friendly and outgoing guy.  He told us several other Italian Ice places to check out, and told us he believes in never badmouthing your competition, since he'd rather get along with everyone.
     
    #8
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 14:49:45 (permalink)
    Next stop was a fair bit west on Chicago Ave: Hoosier Mama Pie Company.

    It's a small and narrow store, but what they don't have in the display case, they've got in one of several racks in back:

    How was the pie?  It was phenomenal.  Here is my perfectly done coffee cream pie (which I've never actually seen before, but makes sense): perfect crust, creamy filling, and real smooth cream for the topping:

    My buddy Kevin's apple pie was so good he started hacking into it before I could get a photo:

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    CCinNJ
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 15:02:37 (permalink)
    That's an awesome tradition!

    Does anyone ever switch shoes...during the day?

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    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 15:13:04 (permalink)
    CCinNJ

    That's an awesome tradition!

    Does anyone ever switch shoes...during the day?

    Not this year, but about half of the people on the Manhattan Death March used the stop in Central Park for a shoe and/or sock swap.
     
    Not to steal the focus from Chicago, but here are the tracklogs from Manhattan and SF:
     


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    kevincad
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 15:29:23 (permalink)
    kaszeta

    CCinNJ

    That's an awesome tradition!

    Does anyone ever switch shoes...during the day?

    Not this year, but about half of the people on the Manhattan Death March used the stop in Central Park for a shoe and/or sock swap.

    Not to steal the focus from Chicago, but here are the tracklogs from Manhattan and SF:




     
    When you did S.F. I see that you were on the Embarcadero for quite a while. but it doesn't look like you were on it long enough to get to the Ferry Building. Lots of good stuff there! 
    #12
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 15:35:17 (permalink)
    kevincad
    When you did S.F. I see that you were on the Embarcadero for quite a while. but it doesn't look like you were on it long enough to get to the Ferry Building. Lots of good stuff there! 

    That's where we had lunch, actually, turning west afterward (there's a blobby bit on the GPS tracklog there, since we wandered around a bit).  I had a lot of stuff at the Ferry Building, including roast beef sushi, bacon from Prather Ranch, and a meat cone from Boccalone.  Oh, and a cupcake from Miette.  We weren't there during the farmers market, though.  (I've done that myself a few other times).
    #13
    CCinNJ
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 19:31:59 (permalink)
    If you do Manhattan again or an International March of Montreal...count me in as a friend.
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    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/22 22:16:42 (permalink)
    A repeat of Manhattan some Fall is a possibility, especially focusing on the Upper East Side instead of the Upper West Side.
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    FriedClamFanatic
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 00:12:36 (permalink)
    What a GREAT Idea!...and a great write-up and photos.  How does one get notified of future events and be allowed to join in?
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    Foodbme
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 05:06:00 (permalink)
    I'd have to bring a battery operated scooter and a set of jumper cables! 
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    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 08:46:32 (permalink)
    FriedClamFanatic
    What a GREAT Idea!...and a great write-up and photos.  How does one get notified of future events and be allowed to join in?

    The event is an offshoot of another online community I'm involved with (TivoCommunity.com), but I'm more than glad to post details here once we get the next march planned (indeed, we suffered from low numbers this year...)
    #18
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 08:57:14 (permalink)
    Shortly after we did the pie, we hit the approximate halfway mark on our route, and it was time to celebrate, so we stopped for a beer at the well-respected Map Room tavern:
     

     
    It's got a rather nice interior (and you can't see it in these shots, but most of the walls  and some of the ceilings are maps, and the tables are international currency):

     
    Here's the rest of the walking crowd:

     
    I'll mention here that we repeated a mistake from the Manhattan Death March.  While a halfway beer is refreshing and enjoyable, it also means that the next several miles of walking will also likely involve lots of searching for restrooms.... and Chicago has noticeably fewer public restroom facilities, especially on Milwaukee Ave.  This resulted in unplanned stops at Taco Bell and McDonalds for token purchases to use restrooms...
     
    After that, it was time for another Chicago treat, Chicago Dogs!   We got ours from Redhot Ranch on Western Ave:
     

     
    Each of us got a dog and fries.  The dog was, IMHO, only slightly better than the average Chicago dog, but the fries were well above average: hand cut, nicely crisped, and flavorful.  Probably the only fries served with a Chicago dog I've liked better were at Hot Doug's (not visited on this trip, since the schedule of a Death March doesn't lend itself to waiting in line)

    Death Marcher Kevin (who lives in Chicago) gave us a demo of the proper hunched-over posture for eating a Chicago Dog (he gave us a similar demo back at Al's):

    #19
    CCinNJ
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 08:58:57 (permalink)
    I just need 3 pairs of shoes and I can do it...no problem. I have to change shoes every 9 miles...or hit a wall. I am quick like a NASCAR tire change. Lol

    Ok...back to Chicago back to Chicago.
    post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/05/23 09:01:29
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    buffetbuster
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 09:13:06 (permalink)
    Did you happen to try any of the fried shrimp from Red Hot Ranch?  It is some of the finest I have ever had outside of South Carolina and Florida.
     
    Beautiful photos and I am really enjoying this report.
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    kland01s
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 09:29:28 (permalink)
    Heres the planning stage for this event:
     
    http://www.lthforum.com/b...c.php?f=18&t=33471
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    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 09:52:05 (permalink)
    buffetbuster

    Did you happen to try any of the fried shrimp from Red Hot Ranch?  It is some of the finest I have ever had outside of South Carolina and Florida.

     
    I was tempted, but I've got a mild seafood allergy that I didn't want to risk dealing with ~10 miles left of walking.  I'll note it for another visit
    #23
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 10:07:32 (permalink)
    kland01s
    http://www.lthforum.com/b...c.php?f=18&t=33471

     
    Indeed. I planned the Manhattan and San Francisco Death Marches (I'm very familiar with both of those cities due to frequent visits), but I handed off organization of this one to Kevin since he lives in Chicago (well, did, he's moving to Syracuse for Grad School).
    You can see our original route skipped downtown, and also went further north, but we made several last minute adjustments (we skipped Khan BBQ because the night before the March we did Sun Wah BBQ, which is somewhat similar, and several of us wanted to check out Great Lake Pizza.  More on those joints later...).  I'd like to do a variant route sometime that gets us up to Devon, but as it was, around mile 20 we were starting to some talks of revolution... ("Hey, that Route 62 bus goes right to our destination!").
     
    (I forgot about the LTHForum thread, if Kevin doesn't post stuff over there, I might repost most of this there as well).  There's a lot of decent discussion at TivoCommunity.com as well, but you need to have a (free) account to access that forum.
    #24
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 10:19:37 (permalink)
    After RedHot Ranch, we pretty much resumed walking NW on Milwaukee.   This led us by a rather huge number of food places, mostly of the interesting mix of of Polish and Mexican places side by side; there were a lot of taquerias right next to Polish butchers.  But we didn't stop much on this stretch, primarily since Polish butcher shops are generally in the business of selling raw product and not ready-to-consume stuff.  I've got about 20 places on this stretch that I want to check out on another trip, hopefully when I've got access to a kitchen (and a cooler to take stuff home).
    But we also saw a lot of cool non-food stuff.  Including fleabag hotels:

    Cool murals:

    Bizarre art installations:

    Polish insurance brokers next to Taquerias:

    Tri-lingual (English, Spanish, Polish) signage:

    Cool theaters:


    And possibly the US's most architecturally elaborate public high school:
    .
    We eventually made it to Jefferson Park before turning east on Foster (a bit short of the original planned Devon route).  My only regret is not knowing that there was a nice Polish Constitution Day celebration going on, if I had known that, I might have somehow adjusted the route to allow me to indulge in some Polish food.

    post edited by kaszeta - 2012/05/23 10:22:14
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    ann peeples
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 11:02:54 (permalink)
    How awesome is this trip report? I am blown away by the walk, and what you all chose to eat. Please, please come to Milwaukee sometime-the eats while walking are awesome! I would love to show you some fine places... 
    #26
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 11:12:20 (permalink)
    ann peeples
    How awesome is this trip report? I am blown away by the walk, and what you all chose to eat. Please, please come to Milwaukee sometime-the eats while walking are awesome! I would love to show you some fine places... 

    I'll be honest, Milwaukee has been so far off my radar (I've been there a total of.... once, and most of that was helping a friend work his restaurant's stand at the Brady Street Festival) that I'd love to do something like this there, but would serious need some help planning.
     
    I love these trips, since you get to see so many parts of cities that you normally wouldn't, especially as a tourist.  For example, the Manhattan Death March had two New Yorkers on it that had never been north of ~90th, and it's a whole different world up there. 
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    CCinNJ
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 11:37:33 (permalink)
    Do you average the same number of stops on every Death March?

    How much time (on average) do you like to spend at each eating stop?
    #28
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 11:37:45 (permalink)
    Turning East on Foster, we hit the part of the walk where "Death March" started to have real meaning.  Almost the entirely of the last 5 miles of the walk was due East, perfectly straight.  Several points you could even see a vanishing point:

    This part of the walk didn't have much food, but did take us through some interesting neighborhoods, like North Mayfair, which is basically a 1940s bungalow time capsule:

    We did, however, pass this place, which made me wonder about the name.  There's no "hill" anywhere nearby:

    And this impressive collection of Satellite dishes:

    But we eventually arrived on Clark, and headed up to our final destination: Great Lake Pizza

    Great lake is a small place.  Three tables, a small kitchen, and a single deck oven:

    The place was full, and rather backed up in the kitchen, but I was able to talk them into slipping in an order for us.  They let me know that Simon's Bar down the street a ways didn't mind outside food, so we eventually took the pizzas there.
    We ordered two of their standard pizza's.  Here is there #1 (Tomato Sauce, Dante Lamb Cheese, and Fresh Herbs):

    And here is their #4 (Bacon, Onion, Creme Fraiche , and Black Pepper):

    I'm saddened that the extremely low light level at Simon made for such poor photos, since these were amongst the best pizzas I've ever had (almost as good as Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix).
     
    After pizza and beers, we took the El back downtown (nobody was terribly excited about my crazy idea of just walking back on Clark....)
     
    (I'm not done, I might as well do two followup posts on the other places we ate that weekend outside of the walk, including the pre-March dinners at Frontera and Sun Wah, and the post-March dining at The Publican and The Gage).
     
    #29
    kaszeta
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    Re:Walking Chicago: 22.6 miles spent walking and eating my way through the Windy City 2012/05/23 11:42:28 (permalink)
    CCinNJ
    Do you average the same number of stops on every Death March?

    How much time (on average) do you like to spend at each eating stop?

    Not really enough Death Marches done yet to really say.  We ate at the same general number of places in Manhattan (from rough memory, Zabar's, H+H, Beard Papa Gray's Papaya, oysters, several pizzerias,  ice cream, kebab in Greenwich Village, and a post-March pizza celebration).  Fewer in San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf, Ferry Building, Beard Papa, tacos in the Mission, Bi-Rite Creamery, and a post-march burger joint in the Mission).  Hopefully more on future walks.
     
    We try to spend less than 15 minutes at stops, since (a) all the stops accumulate (according to my GPS, on most Death Marches we spend 1/3 of our time not walking) and can cause time pressure, especially when evening comes, and (b) After mile 10 or so, you stop wanting to get up after being seated for more than 15 minutes or so.
    #30
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