Belly warming stops in Chicago

(Warning: this article contains A LOT of bitching about cold weather, but balances with food spots to remedy that.)

My last trip to Chicago was so effing cold, I could barely huddle with strangers under the blue line heat lamps close enough. It was the kind of cold that makes you cry and freezes your snot at the same time, unbeknownst to you until you find shelter and patrons around you gasp. So, I did the most instinctively warming things I could: I ate spicy ramen and heaping plates of
Italian food.

As I sat in my car on south Damen, crying at the thought of leaving my vehicle, I googled “ramen”. It was the only imaginable solution. I remembered my visit to Furious Spoon Wicker Park this summer and the buttery toasted garlic pieces floating in my bowl, but tried to sway myself to a new adventure. I landed on Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya. I bellied up to the ramen bar and watch the chefs in awe as I waited for my Garlic Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen. If I could’ve fully submerged my head into the bowl, I would have. The steam warmed my face, the serious umami smorgasbord took away my cares, the spice warmed me from the inside. As I slurped every last drop, I noticed the belly-up bar filling up with other pink-cheeked, frosty patrons. I considered ordering one for the road but instead turned my attention to dinner reservations. That should hold me over.

For dinner that evening, still abusively cold, I tried for “cozier than ramen”. Is that possible? Well, yes, a brick of lasagna topped with bolognese ended up doing the trick.

We primed our bellies for dinner at The Charleston. I was blessed to live two blocks from this cozy corner bar. And as we approached, that favorite smell of mine from dark, woody bars wafted out of the doors. My heart shuddered. Finding ourselves smack dab in a uber feminist book club, providing us with wonderful eavesdropping material but quickly encroaching on our table, we stayed long enough to admire the turn tables and sling one back.

Then, we headed to one of my favorite, tucked away, cozy, belly-filling restaurants: Club Lucky. Checkered floors, red leather booths, and mint green accents, this Italian supper club decorates for the holidays exactly the way a 1940’s family did. I stuffed my face with bread and calamari as I selected the lasagna topped with bolognese for my main dish. As I tipped back a few of their famous martini’s, I took in the splendor of the sparkly white and red vintage holiday decorations. The lasagna was a brick of homemade deliciousness, and I continued to eat it way beyond a reasonable point. Against healthy judgement, we ended the meal with tiramisu. A decision I do not regret in the slightest.

These three places were perfect for a brutally cold day in Chitown. If you had to leave your house/car for any reason, here they are.


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