Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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I didn't get to Chicago or San Francisco during the last few months, but I did the next best thing: connecting friends who love great food with some of my favorite restaurants, then hearing about their experiences after they returned.
My friends Brad and Rose never had been to the Bay Area, and there are so many great options there that it's hard to distill them (also the case with Chicago). There's wonderful Vietnamese (Slanted Door), stupendously fresh and inexpensive seafood (Swan's Oyster Depot), countless Chinese treasures and some of the nation's best Italian eateries (A16, Quince).
I mentioned those but strongly touted three places: the dim sum mecca Ton Kiang, the classy brasserie Boulevard and our personal favorite, Zuni Cafe (which merely boasts ridiculous oysters, about the best burger around, definitely the best roast chicken I've ever had and myriad fancier options).
With late notice, Brad and Rose had to scramble to get into Boulevard and Zuni, and weren't able to make it to Ton Kiang. But they positively gushed about their experiences, and my mouth was watering during their soliloquies. (In fact, it would be hard to even write this if I were not headed to Zuni myself on Saturday .)
Earlier this fall, my longtime buddy Kyle emailed me for Chicago tips. Knowing his palate, and how similar it is to mine, I suggested three places: perhaps America's best Mexican restaurant, Frontera Grill, and the neighbor/partners Avec and Blackbird.
Kyle and his lady friend were wowed and dazzled by Rick Bayless' fantabulous cooking at Frontera, but they spent much of their trip basically parked at the other two places, especially the more informal Avec. Kyle's one of the most articulate people I know, and hearing hiom recount his experiences at all three places was almost as much fun as actually being there.
Megabus.com, the express bus service made famous by its bargain-basement fares, doubled the number of trips between the Twin Cities and Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago today. The company now offers eight daily trips between Minneapolis and Chicago, four trips between Minneapolis and Madison and four trips between Minneapolis and Milwaukee.
Megabus.com one-way ticket prices begin at $1; that fare requires traveling midweek and booking online and well in advance of travel. The company's ticket prices fluctuate according to demand, so booking earlier, when fewer seats have been sold, garners the best deals. Typical one-way fares range from $10 to $30. There is a $3 service fee for tickets purchased by phone; most travelers book online at Megabus.com. The buses offer reclining seats and lavatories.
All trips depart Minneapolis from the megabus.com bus stop located in the parking lot on the east side of Chicago Ave. between South 3rd St. and S. Washington Ave, near the Downtown East / Metrodome Light Rail Metro Transit Station. Buses arrive in Chicago on a street adjacent to Union Station.
Through April 30, the Kimpton’s Palomar Chicago is offering a 15 percent off the best available rate Thursday through Sunday for residents of the Midwest, Minnesotans included. Regular weekend rates start at $199. The Palomar is a boutique hotel with a rooftop indoor swimming pool, candy in the lobby and a revolving art gallery with paintings from local artists. Book at www.hotelpalomar-chicago.com or call 877-731-0505 and mention rate code MDWEST.
Heading to the Windy City? Stay two nights and get 20 percent off at Swissotel Chicago, near the Navy Pier, the Chicago River and Miracle Mile. Book here or call 1-888-727-9477. The deal is good through September 10; a first-night deposit is required at the time of booking and is non-refundable.
Q. I have a 12-hour layover in Chicago before an overseas trip and want to see the sights downtown between flights. Is there any place I can stow my large suitcase so that I don’t have to drag it with me into the city?
A Citing security concerns, O’Hare International Airport doesn’t provide any luggage storage at the airport, and its spokesperson, Karen Pride, said that she’s not aware of any options for travelers in your situation. Are you able to check your luggage through to your next destination? Travelers on various message boards have asked the same question and some responses suggested asking a hotel bell hop if they can stow the luggage while you sight-see. Escape Artists checked with the O’Hare Hilton, the only hotel in the airport, and they told us that you must be a guest to store your luggage. You might also consider whether it makes sense to rent a hotel room either near the airport or downtown where you can freshen up before the next leg of your journey; some hotels are offering unbeatable deals – especially if you’re willing to take the cheapest room they have. It just might be worth a relaxing day in the Windy City.
Any suggestion from road warriors out there who've had layover in Chicago or beyond?
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