Chicago Food Planet Food Tours
I’ve been waiting to write about this delightful experience until it got a little bit closer to spring so foodie fans would be able to eat their way through several Chicago neighborhoods while enjoying the weather and not freezing their butts off! Near the end of November, Chicago Food Planet Food Tours kindly invited me and a guest to enjoy a complimentary Chicago food tour of our choosing. We had the choice between a Near North Food Tour, Bucktown/Wicker Park tour, or Chinatown. In the end I chose Bucktown/Wicker Park as I don’t get over there very often and wanted the chance to explore a new neighborhood and eat at a lot of good places at the same time.
The tasting locations we got to try were:
Five out of the six places I had never even been to, and some of them I didn’t know even existed. I had been to Piece pizza before and am a huge fan. My aunt and uncle used to live in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood and it became a family tradition that each time my family came down from the burbs we would grab a few slices there along with my little cousins. I hadn’t been back there in years as the family has since moved out of the city, but as soon as I tasted that first slice I remembered why I fell in love with Piece in the first place. I know as a Chicagoan I shouldn’t confess that I am not a huge fan of deep dish pizza, but I’m not. I’ve always found the thick crust, massive amounts of cheese and chunky tomatoes to be a little too heavy for me. Piece’s Connecticut-style pizza is the perfect slice in my opinion. There isn’t too much sauce, and the pepperoni is to-die-for!
Here is another confession you probably will be aghast at, but until this food tour I had never truly experienced a Chicago-style hotdog. Some of you may never read this blog again after I confess that I do like ketchup on my hotdogs. George’s was the first time I tried a true Chicago-style hotdog which is…an all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun piled high with mustard, sweet pickle relish, onion, tomato, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. And the verdict was, I liked it! Sure I will probably still put ketchup on my hotdogs in the future, but I’m happy that I gave the old standby a try.
Our next stop was Hot Chocolate. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this place so I was super exited to give it a try. In general I’m not a big chocolate person, or a milk person, but strangely enough I LOVE hot chocolate. I know I’m kind of a weirdo. Anyway, I was thrilled when I learned we’d be trying their medium hot chocolate which is milk chocolate with a touch of dark chocolate and a hint of caramel, complete with house made marshmallow, I nearly died and went to heaven. Since it was November, and a little bit chilly outside I was happy to warm up from the inside out with this liquid gold.
We had a little bit of a food break next and our tour guide showed us some parts of Bucktown and Wicker Park I’d never come across before. We saw some absolutely gorgeous houses, learned some hipster history, and discussed some interesting architecture. One of my favorite things about this neighborhood is all the independent restaurants, boutiques, and small shops. Bucktown and Wicker Park are about the least chainy neighborhoods you will encounter in Chicago and really gives it that unique neighborhood feel.
Goddess & Grocer came next and we tried a delicious veggie salad from behind their counter. This little shop carries a ton of local Chicago food products and has a very tasty looking deli counter as well. I’ve also had the chance to eat at FEAST the adjoining restaurant at their other location in the Gold Coast. Other things you’ll be able to find at Goddess & Grocer include: made-to-order deli sandwiches, ready-made salads, a fresh salad bar, sliced deli meats and cheeses, artisanal cheeses, rotisserie chicken and a selection of groceries including handmade chocolates, cookies and desserts, pastas and sauces, mustards, dressings and condiments, crackers, snack items, wine and beer. It might be a good thing that I don’t live very close to any of their locations as my bank account would be quite a bit lighter and I might be quite a bit heavier!
Our next stop was the Sultan’s Market. This is one of their two locations and I couldn’t believe that there is another one just a few blocks from my apartment on Clark and Deming in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and I’d never tried it before. I’m a huge fan of Mediterranean food so was quite excited to try their falafel pita. After visiting Israel, I wasn’t sure if there was a way to top the falafel I had tried there, but Sultan’s Market came close. Most of their food comes in big portions and is very decently priced which makes it ever more appealing.
Our tour ended at iCream, an innovative ice cream shop that has been featured on the Food Network! I had heard only good things about this place but never had the chance to try it. iCream makes everything on the spot so that you get exactly what you want. First you choose ice cream, yogurt, hot pudding, or a shake. Then pick the flavor, fresh toppings, and even the color of your creation. Their rapid freezing, liquid nitrogen machine instantly freezes your customized treat into a uniquely smooth and creamy dessert. We tried a pumpkin cheesecake flavor with graham crackers that was to die for. I wanted to stick around after the tour just to eat more.
Overall the experience was filling and well worth the time. It definitely helps taking a break half way through to learn about the cultural aspects of the neighborhood you’re touring because you can get pretty full. You won’t have to wait very long to experience a tour of your own as Chicago Food Planet reopens its tours again the last weekend in March! The tours take place from the end of March through the end of November, so you’ll have plenty of time to eat your way through Chicago before it drops below zero again.
- Bucktown/Wicker Park: $45
- Near North: $45
- Chinatown: $60
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