Windy City Cubbie Trip

I rerouted to a Chicago stopover for a Cubs game. Stop 2/30 in my see a game in all 30 MLB ballparks.

Windy City Cubbie Trip

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by stvchin on September 27, 2007

I love Chicago. (I've only been there in the summer, so I don't know if I'll love it after experiencing a winter there.) I love the fact that Chicago is a "real" city. Everybody seems to identify themselves as Chicagoans. (I come from Souther Calfornia, where people try NOT to identify themselves as being from LA, but whatever suburb they live in.) Chicago has a certain strong sense of pride in itself and it's storied history. That pride is evident from the looming skyscrapers and other historic buildings. That strong pride is also proudly displayed by frenzied sports fans, whether it be the baseball, football, or basketball.

I found the people in Chicago are generally friendly. Yes, there is a fast paced lifestyle that comes with living in a big city like Chicago. But people will still take time to greet you, help you with directions, and usually with a friendly, geniune smile.

I like baseball and I'm on a quest to watch a ball game in all of 30 Major League ballparks. One of the most popular storied baseball franchises is the Chicago Cubs. I specifically made this trip to Chicago to watch a Cubs game. Just like the rest of Chicago, there's a lot of history and character in the Cubs baseball team, as well as in Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play.

${QuickSuggestions} If you want to get around using public transportation, the only dispensers for CTA day passes are two machines at O'Hare. It's quite inexpensive, only $5 for an all-day pass. The CTA passes are valid for their trains and buses.

When in Chicago, take the time to experience the city. Don't dine at national chain restaurants, I went to some of the local storied institutions, such as Lou Malnatis, Gino's East, Lou Mitchells. A city with such a long and storied past as Chicago always has excellent food, and you don't have to look far to find it. Chicago is a culinary mecca.

Locals tell me that because Chicago is the gateway from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes, historically, a lot of goods make their way up to the Chicago area. As a result, there are a lot of good restaurants in the Chicago area. Morton's Steakhouse, Carson's For Ribs, Ditka's, Lou Malnatis, and the list goes on.${BestWay} Chicago is a very easy city of navigate and is quite public transportation friendly. (I come from Southern California, where all 9 people ride the commuter trains.) There is the CTA, which operates the trains and buses, and the Metra commuter trains in and out of the city. On my visits to Chicago, I was never in that much of a rush. I never hired a cab, I simply went around town with my CTA one day pass (from the dispensers at O'Hare.)

There are two main airports in Chicago, Midway (MDW) and O'Hare (ORD) O'Hare is the 2nd or 3rd businest airport in the United States and home base for United Airlines, as well as a major hub for American Airlines. The CTA trains go directly to both airports.

Four Points by Sheraton O'Hare

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by stvchin on October 10, 2007

The Four Points by Sheraton Chicago O'Hare Airport is a business traveler type hotel located about 2 miles from Chicago O'Hare Airport. While the rooms average around $150 a night, I used Starwood Points for a free stay.

The complimentary shuttle to and from the Four Points and O'Hare Airport runs every 20 minutes. The shuttle stops at Door 2 at the O'Hare transportation center. It's a quick 10 minute drive to the hotel, although there is pretty heavy road construction around the area.

The lobby is fairly large, with two seating areas on opposite sides. There was enough front desk staff to process all new arrivals from the shuttle. The staff were quite friendly and helpful. Because I am a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, I was allowed a late checkout time of 4 PM.

There are a few large banquet/meeting rooms just beyond the elevators. True to being a business hotel, all rooms were occupied with various events and seminars. At the opposite end of the hotel is the Mirage Restaurant, and the bar, the Oasis Lounge, which has a nice cozy fireplace.

There is a small business center available next to the front desk. A computer, printers, and a small meeting room is in the business center. I wish there was more than one computer, since I waited for quite some time for my turn at the computer to print my boarding pass.

My room 644 was all the way at the end of the hotel. The my view was okay, but not especially scenic, an industrial park directly in front of me, and O'Hare Airport off to the right. My room had one king sized bed and was quite comfy. I had a TV with internet (for a fee,) dresser, closet, big comfy recliner and ottoman, and a desk with ethernet hookup and desktop mounted power strip. A refrigerator was available, as well as a small coffeemaker with complimentary coffee and condiments. The bathroom was very clean, an amenities kit was provided with soap, shampoo, conditioner, and shower cap.

I slept quite well at night. However I did hear the airplanes take off from O'Hare at 6 AM. While I heard the noise, it wasn't that loud and didn't bother me. In the morning, a complimentary USA Today was at my door.

There is ongoing renovation at the Four Points. There are building materials piled in the vending areas. While the stockpiled materials do not get in the way, they simply look out of place. The carpet in heavily trafficked areas is stretched out, probably due to moving around the heavy construction materials. There were construction personnel working around the area, but I never heard any construction noise.

I would return to the Four Points by Sheraton at Chicago O'Hare Airport, but probably when the renovation is finished.
Four Points Sheraton
10249 West Irving Park Road
Schiller Park, Illinois, 60176
(800) 323-1239

Lou Malnati's Pizza

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stvchin on October 13, 2007

I had to visit the Chicago pizza legend, Lou Malnati's Pizza. For lunch, I visited the Chicago River North location on Wells near Hubbard.

I was given a friendly greeting and seated at the rear dining area. There's a sidewalk dining area in front of the restaurant, a bar area in the front, rear dining area, and upstairs private dining room. Various sports memorabilia from local sports figures adorn the walls of Lou Malnatis. I sat under a Steve Carlton White Sox jersey.

My server gave me a friendly greeting and took my drink order. I browsed the menu, which obviously included their famous Chicago style pizza. There were appetizers such as bruschetta, fried calamari, breaded mushrooms, and others, all sounding very good. There were also soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta, and a lunch menu. I chose the express menu lunch special. That includes a salad and 6 inch pizza and drink. I chose the pepperoni pizza.

My salad was actually quite large, considering it was part with a lunch special. The veggies were quite fresh and crisp. I ate some, but saved my stomach for the pizza. By now, a lively lunch crowd had filled the restaurant.

About 10 minutes after ordering, the pizza arrived! While small, the pizza still looked very yummy. Chicago style pizza doesn't have thick crust. Rather, the crust is actually somewhat thin, it's just pulled up over the rim of a deep dish, creating a deeper area to load it up with toppings. My pepperoni pizza was absolutely delicious, it was loaded up with plenty of cheese and pepperoni. The taste is actually a bit on the sweet side, just the way I like it. I made quick work of the pizza and found that it was just the right amount of food.

My check arrived and it was a total of no more than $8 before tip. The service was very good, and the food was excellent. I would like to go back to Lou Malnati's with a larger group when I have more time. That way, I could try out more things on the menu. Just looking around the restaurant at other people's food left me longing for more.

Lou Malnati's definately matches the hype for me. I will make it a point to go back when I'm in Chicago again.
Lou Malnati's Pizza River North
439 North Wells Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60610
(312) 828-9800

Mirage Restaurant

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by stvchin on April 28, 2008

The Mirage is the 24 hour bar/lounge in the Four Points at Sheraton. As I was still awake and hungry, I trotted down from my room to The Mirage. On a weekday midnight, the dining room was relatively empty save a 2 tables of diners. The hostess, who was busy tallying up receipts for the day, invited me to sit wherever I wanted. She mentioned the menu was the same in the bar as the restaurant. There is a dining section much like any restaurant, and a separate, bar section, named the Oasis Lounge. I didn’t feel like sitting in the bar at this moment, so I chose a nice comfy booth in the dining area. I was greeted warmly by my waitress and given menu. The Mirage has the standard coffee shop menu, with breakfast, sandwiches, dinner favorites like fish & chips and meatloaf, as well as a few steaks and seafood dishes. I opted for the club sandwich.

As I gazed around the dining room, I eavesdropped on some of the conversation happening around me and realized that both tables were airline flight attendants. After a few minutes of listening to their interesting stories of difficult passengers, one of them noticed I was dining alone and asked me to join them. I figured why not, and informed the waitress I was moving to their table.

As this is a travel website, I quickly learned a helpful tip I’ll share with you. Much like cops know where all the good greasy spoons are in their beat, flight attendants know where all the good places to eat and visit in the cities they fly. The flight attendants and I chatted about such things as which cities they liked to work and which cities they despised, great places to eat, interesting little travel tips.

When my club sandwich arrived, I offered some to my companions, but they had already eaten and were just unwinding over drinks. The club sandwich came with a pickle slice and piece of watermelon. The sandwich itself had the standard bacon, lettuce, mayo, ham, tomato, and turkey. The combination of toasted bread and white turkey meat was a bit dry, but a little ranch dressing made it just fine. The club sandwich really hit the spot. After polishing off my club sandwich, I was talked into enjoying a few drinks with my companions. After a few rum & Cokes and an hour’s worth of good stories, we all settled our tabs and headed for the sack.

My bill wasn’t bad at all, 2 drinks and a club sandwich and tip was $18. It was $8 for the sandwich alone. While there are more dining choices in Chicago itself, The Mirage is a good substitute if you have the time or energy to travel outside of the Four Points at Sheraton. Knowing this is a hotel frequented by flight crews, there are probably some good stories to be had there.
Mirage Restaurant
10255 Irving Park Rd
Schiller Park, Illinois, 60176-1453
(847) 671-4230

Chicago Cubs

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stvchin on October 20, 2007

This is stop #2 of my quest to see a game in all 30 MLB ballparks. I arrived via the CTA Brown Line (the El train) among the masses of Cub fans.

The Chicago Cubs are considered one of the storied baseball franchises, along with the Yankees and Red Sox. One thing I really have to say is that the Cubbie fans, even though it'll be at least 100 years since their last World Series Win in 1918, the fans are very loyal and enthusiastic. From young kids, to college students, to the seniors who have undoubtedly been Cub fans for generations, all headed towards the entry gates into Wrigley. You can definitely feel the excitement in the air.

In a city like Chicago where public transportation is readily available via bus and train, there really aren't any parking lots for Wrigley Field. There are a few private parking lots, but that's about it.

There are all sorts of activities right outside Wrigley Field before the game. Vendors selling Chicago Cubs attire and paraphernalia, people taking pictures, fans shouting for extra tickets, people frequenting the bars and restaurants surrounding Wrigley Field.

I already purchased my ticket earlier, and once inside the ballpark, things calmed down. I was able to find my seat quickly. Unfortunately it was behind a support column. I had Section 218, Row 8, Seat 1. Seat 1 is behind a foot wide steel support beam. I had forgotten that Wrigley is an older ballpark with support columns. No wonder my ticket was so cheap. Once the game started, I was able to move a few seats over to an empty seat and had an excellent view!

Being an older ballpark, Wrigley Field doesn't have digital billboards or banners, no jumbotron for replays and advertisements. There was a manually operated scoreboard, where workers peered behind the openings that the hit and run placards were hung. The only thing automated was the ball, strike, and out counter. In this day and age, while manual scoreboards appear hokey and outdated, this was definitely the charm of Wrigley Field.

The entire ballpark is an experience in itself. While some of the concession stands are run by large food service companies, there were a few independently run food stands, which adds to the charm and appeal. There are also the walking vendors, who peddle beer, hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream, soft drinks, and all sorts of other goods in the stands.

Across the outfield, the property owners of the apartment buildings across the street erected bleachers and some billboard advertising. I chuckled at that, but it's still part of the charm behind this beloved ol' ballpark.

The Cubs won against the Pittsburgh Pirates today. One of the fun things to do after the game is to goto the bars and restaurants across from Wrigley and celebrate with the rest of the fans. Whether you're a baseball fan or not, a Cubbie game at historical Wrigley Field is a must do in Chicago!
Wrigley Field
1060 West Addison Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60613
(773) 404-2827

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