I have a dream and it’s to work for CNN as a food correspondent in Africa. I would love to travel like Anthony Bourdain and show the world what Africa has to offer when it comes to food. Not only that, being a food writer for the food companies is something of great interest to me. From my mouth to God’s ears.
During the first lap of the summer I planned a vacation, but it didn’t work out. I had wanted to do some restaurant reviews during that vacation, but I really feel within me that it was for the best that I didn’t make it. After that, my friend and I were having a conversation and we talked the whole vacation thingamajig. She asked if I wanted to go to Chicago for the Umu Igbo Unite(UIU) conference. See, we had talked about it last year, but we couldn’t make it. Well, we got prepared and went for the conference. See I wasn’t too keen on attending the conference, I just wanted to “Eat in Chicago!” 🙂 As in, no body goes to Chicgo and leaves without trying their hot dogs, pizza and tacos (well the tacos were an addition by me)
See, Chicago is a beautiful place, I had visited twice with my family and this was the third time. First we had to navigate through the crazily built airport and we made our way to our hotel. First of all, NEVER get a hotel room in a building being renovated. See, we knew the place was being renovated, but we never knew how disturbing it would be. Embassy Suites man! As in, even on the day of our departure, all I heard was drilling. I felt it was their way of telling us “it’s check out time! And I digress 🙂
My first evening in Chicago met me going to visit my friend Boomie. I met Boomie on Facebook and we hit it off from there. I told her I would be visiting Chicago and she estatically invited us over! Well, I invited myself and she agreed lol! I simply said to her “I’m visiting Chicago soon and I’m coming to eat ayamase; and I want some to go oh! I even told her that “fried rice must dey too o!” Anyway, my friend and I rode 1 hour to go see Boomie and eat ayamase! She not only cooked for us, she had ayamase for us to go. As in eh see lem!(food in vanacular). The girl can cook! chei! This is beyond instagram o. She also caters in the Chicago area. You should check her out on instagram @twopeascooks
The next day found us just exploring the little city and the neighborhood of our hotel. We were going for the UIU event in the evening, so we had plenty time to kill. I even got treated to Pf Changs for the first time. Yes in all the decades I have lived, I had never had Pf Changs, so here is to popping my cherry ehn!
8:30pm same day:
My friend and I had to get ready to go to the UIU gathering that evening. Honestly, I just wanted to sleep. We even woke up late and got there a little late. By the time we got there at 9, the place was filled with Igbo youths. I had goose bumps walking in, because I had never seen so many of us in one place at the same time. There’s something about being Igbo that just make me warm inside. We made our way to find seats and ended up at the back of the hall(where the pretty girls were seated hehehe)…There was a plate of something that looked like a warm, but stale salad sitting on the table in a salad plate. It looked too scary to touch really. When time came for dinner, we got served some rice, chicken and something that looked like fried bananas or plantains. Being Nigerian, I thought the contents of the plate was fried Nigerian stew and chicken with white rice, but being the foodie that I am, I had to ask the server what it was that we got served in our dinner plates and the lady replied “chicken, sauce and rice pilaf…” I scratched my head and said silently “ewo!”…and with one scoop of the rice into my mouth, I called it a day with the food. The rice was not cooked and it was a little soupy…I didn’t know if they were shooting for some kind of rice and stew risotto. I even had to knock my friend’s hands down from eating the stale salad and bananas. Although the cheese cake had been sitting on the table all evening, it was pretty much the only thing I ate, In fact we left the venue early and found ourselves at McDonalds. I didn’t even care for Flavour that was coming to perform. I’m a foodie and once a gathering has bad food, it’s usually over for me. I don’t know, but this was supposed to be a gathering of Igbo youths and I was expecting little plates of abacha, nkwobi or even Utara and Ofe Achi or even Egusi Igbo…Some South east based tapas would have made the evening memorable…but mba! Una no try for that side oh! Some people come to parties for the food! And if the food is awful, how do you improve? Hire Nma to direct food affairs next year…hehehe…seriously though…
The Next Day…
It was time to leave and go back to our station…But we were not leaving without experiencing Chicago! So, I asked around for the right place to go have the authentic Chicago hot dog and pizza. Two places were suggested to me and it was Portillo’s for hot dogs and Giordano’s for pizza…At Portillo’s the reception was warm and cheerful. I informed them of my quest to try the ultimate hot dog and I was offered the Polish with pickles, melted cheese, ketchup and tomatoes. My friend was offered the Italian beef in a bun; smothered in some savory tasting sauce. One good thing about Portillo’s is that all their hot dogs are made with beef; which is great for people who do not eat pork. To go with our food, we split a large sized chocolate milk shake. When I sat down to eat my food, something happened at that moment; I ate the pickles! I had never liked pickles until that day, the food was sooooooo good; and the milk shake filled my soul with happiness!Portillo’s has been open for over sixty years and I don’t know why they don’t have one in every city in the United States. O Chim! They do have one in Florida though. That’s like 9 hours from me…But let me tell you, I don’t mind going in the night bus to order some Portillo’s. That’s how good!
Ps: when getting the Italian beef, make sure to get the sauce on the side, so that your bread is not soaked and soggy with the sauce…Apart from that, great food and smiling faces 🙂
After stuffing my face at Portillo’s, we headed to Giordano’s. We got another very warm welcome! After speaking to the manager about my mission, he started by explaining the history of Giordano’s. But in everything he said, the one that stood out to me was the fact that they have Gluten-free pizza! yels! And they actually ship the frozen versions to customers around the country. Some body Praise the Lord! My ajebutter2 can now eat pizza with us. Although I do make him Gluten-free pizza, it was just exciting to hear that some place somewhere has something for my son’s needs… 🙂
We went ahead to order one large Chicago deep dish pizza. My half had bbq sauce, cheese, bacon and chicken; and my friend’s half had the regular pizza sauce, chicken and cheese. Our waitress was very kind, and funny. and helped with the pictures. Our pizza took about 45 minutes to cook; because of the type we ordered; and when it came, it looked so good and tasted so good. The pizza was stuffed, with so much cheese, sauce, and meat that we were too confused as per how to even dig in…We had to take the left over for the plane ride home…and my ajebutter1 demolished it. Were we pleased? Yes! Thank you Giordano’s…Now is just for you to build a location close to me.
I am so happy! This is the first of many food tours. Finding my niche in this “foodiesphere” has been amazing! I want to travel, I want to eat around the world, I want to write about it…Now I know why I stay crushing on Anthony Bourdain…He’s doing exactly what I want to do…
Over all, I had a blast. I had not taken any break since my two ajebutters and that’s like 10 years total! So it was a well deserved break! Do me a favor, visit Chicago and make sure you go to Portillo’s and Giordano’s and have a total blast!
I’m from Chicago. Excellent review. Keep up the fine work.
Thank you Jay