Sat. Dec. 30, 2017:
This is going to be a fiery post.
Fourth day and the last day in Chicago! I was glad that our flight was at 5:45 p.m. so that we would have a near full day of sightseeing still.
The intention was to wake up early and start getting ready by 8:30 a.m. and check out by 9:30 a.m. I even set my alarm too. We were a little late on target but that’s okay. We checked out at 9:45 ish with a bit of breakfast in our stomachs and left our luggage with the hotel and headed towards Willis Tower.
Willis Tower (233 S Wacker Dr) is currently the tallest building in Chicago (second tallest building in the U.S.) and a very popular attraction for tourists. It used to be called the Sears Tower (I actually wonder if I’ve been on top of it before when I went to Chicago in grade 8..). I’d have to check my old photos to see.
The first day when we passed by, the line-up was 2.5 hours and there was no way that I would have lined up for that. Today, we were one of the first crowds to arrive after 10 am and enter. There were still a lot of people with us but nothing compared to the line-up on that first day.
The security check was similar to an airport’s. All coats and bags were checked via an x-ray scanner.
It only took a couple of minutes for the elevator to reach the top, 103 floors. It was a nice clear day and the views were nice. It was taller than the 360 Chicago for sure. You could see farther.
What was most special about this tower was that there were square transparent boxes (called Skydeck Ledge) for you to take photos in. I remember seeing a friend’s gorgeous photo she shared on Facebook where she laid back flat against the box with her dyed auburn hair spayed across the glass floor with the sun streaming in and the city skyline behind her. It was a gorgeous photo. I admire artistic photos from others that when I get to that same place, I also want to replicate the feeling and beauty and creativity from the photo too but many times, the people I’m with and those whom I ask to take the photo for me have different photography perspectives, their camera lens isn’t up to par, or just creativity doesn’t strike or I don’t pose exactly what I had intended. Thus, I end up in my mind with a not-so-ideal photo even though I desperately wanted to also come out with a memorable photo.
Anyway, we lined up twice at two different boxes to take photos because once wasn’t enough. You don’t get a lot of time inside the box to take photos because there are so many people lining up behind you.
As it always is, I was frustrated in the moment that we didn’t seem to get any good shots but when I look back at them now, we did have some good photos out of it — everything looks better in hindsight and after the fact. But in the moment, I always feel like something could be better, the opportunity could be used better. A lot of times, I feel like when better photos are taken, my memory of the experience is better, more crisp, and like I had more fun.
(By the way, I think the Skydeck Ledge is a genius idea. We all love sharing photos these days and now whenever I see a photo of someone posing at the Skydeck Ledge, I know it’s from Chicago! It’s characteristically recognizable, fun, and it’s great for marketing.)
Anyway, by the time we finished our photos at the box, it was 11:30 a.m. Although I would have liked to linger around to take more photos and soak in the views more, we were in a bit of a time crunch because we had to go for lunch and then get our luggage and then head to the airport. However, it was then that I decided it was a better idea to actually go back to the hotel to retrieve our luggage and go to Lou Malnati’s for lunch with our luggage instead of separately returning to the hotel for the luggage. This would cut down on our travel time because Willis Tower was so close to our hotel anyway. It just made sense.
We walked back to the hotel and I was able to redeem a free ride from Lyft thanks to the promotion code provided by the Willis Tower. Yay! The Lyft driver, Jonathan, got us to Lou Malnati’s (805 S. State Street) in less than 10 minutes which was so convenient and helped us save time. (It was perfect because we got there without having to commute and especially not to commute with our luggage in the freezing snow too.) Our plan was to go to the airport by 3 p.m. after lunch (our flight boarding time was at 5:10).
We arrived at Lou Malnati’s and I was eager and excited to try the deep dish pizza here. After posting about the deep dish pizza from Giordano’s on Wednesday/the first day, at least three people commented on my post that they recommended Lou Malnati’s for their deep dish pizza including my travel companion. Thus, my expectations for the deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s were very high. I respected and trusted my friends’ opinions and definitely thought my own experience would be a good one too.
I ordered the Chicago style deep dish pizza personal size while Ken ordered the Cheese and Pepperono personal size from the daily lunch menu that came with salad or soup. The soup of the day was potato salad.
I also ordered the Spinach Salad (gotta get the greens in).
The server informed us that there was going to be a 25-minute wait for the deep dish pizzas which was completely fine to me and expected for a deep dish pizza.
The Potato Soup was so good! It arrived with some cheddar cheese, onions, oyster crackers, and bacon on the side. The potato soup tasted sooo good with the toppings on it.
The Spinach Salad had sliced pear, spinach, red onions, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. It was a good salad with plentiful ingredients.
Finally, our deep dish pizzas arrived! Omg one look at the personal sized pizza and I knew it was a mistake to order it. The personal sized pizza was barely a deep dish; it looked like a kid’s size pizza. I was disappointed already. This wasn’t what I was expecting. Why was the crust so low and flat? Where was the stringy steaming hot cheese? Why did it look like a normal pizza? >=(
Despite it looking crappy, I gave it the benefit of the doubt by eating a bit first. One slice with my knife down the middle of the pizza told me that it had a hard and crispy crust, something that I didn’t expect from a deep dish pizza. I expected a soft buttery dough like the one I had at Giordano’s. Instead, this crust was so thin and crispy that it was like a flipping thin crust pizza. Why was I here eating a thin crust pizza?! My disappointment and dislike was through the roof. (Perhaps at the time the intense emotions were caused by being hangry too, but I was madly disappointed and frustrated.) And where was the gooey cheese?? I was also frustrated because my expectations and high compliments from my friends recommending this place didn’t jive at all. I felt jipped. The pizza tasted so commercial to me.
I did noticed that the cheese here was chewier and less creamy than at Giorando’s. The tomato sauce was fresher and tasted more tart. The sausage in the topping was up to par.
I tried Ken’s Cheese and Pepperoni personal sized pizza and it was the same disappointment to me.
Anyway, I had bitched loudly and clearly enough that the idea of ordering the small size of the actual deep dish pizza had arisen. I was thinking maybe because we ordered the ‘personal size’ pizza, it was a smaller dinkier pizza, and perhaps trying the bigger portion for two would give me a better sense of why everyone raved about this pizza. The small size would feed 2 people which was actually the next best choice (it’s not like we could have chosen the other larger sizes because we definitely wouldn’t have finished those).
Thus, we ended up ordering The Lou (the vegetarian verison) of the deep dish pizza in the Small size (serves two). The server thought we wanted another one of the personal size portion but I emphatically said no. I wonder what she thought at the time.
When The “Lou” did arrive (in another 25 minutes because it did take time to make it and thankfully we had extra time before we had to depart), this one was served in a black pan and it was better-looking. However, in between waiting for this pizza and accepting the harsh reality that Lou Malnati’s probably does have a different recipe (I looked at the deep dish pizzas that were served ti the other tables and they all looked just as thin and flat as the personal sized one I got), I was more understanding of the pizza that I was about to try. Thus, when this one lacked the gooey melted cheese with a less-than-there crust, I had accepted the reality and let it go.
The vegetable deep dish pizza was juicier and soggier than the other ones. It was still like a loaded thin crust pizza and NOT a true deep dish pizza in my opinion.
I finished my slice plus the rest of the Chicago style on my plate. We packed the remaining half of the Lou to go.
We got to the Midway airport by 3 p.m. on our second free Lyft ride (yay for referrals and promo codes). I passed out in a comfortable food coma. :3
Our flight was unfortunately delayed from 5:45 to 6 and then 6:40 to 6:50 p.m.
The Midway airport can be considered big too for the locals. Luckily we had the pizza leftovers so we enjoyed that for dinner.
Grateful that we got to go to Chicago!
(And in particular, very grateful that I have a patient and understanding bae when I was unsatisfied with the first pizza and dealing with my frustrated state; grateful that we were financially fit to order a second pizza on the spot without a second thought; grateful for our trip overall!)