October 18th, 2010

Chicago – Things to eat before and after running 26.2 miles.

Friday - 10/8/10


After 18 weeks of training, I finally arrived in Chicago, ready to run my first marathon. Steve and I got there on Friday, two days before race day. The hunger and the late hour dictated our dinner choices, so Archit (I was staying with him and his lovely wife, Mansi) suggested Dao, a Thai restaurant around the corner from their apartment.


What can I say about Dao? Well, there was no wait, the service was speedy, and the prices were reasonable. I ordered my standard pad thai and it was perfectly adequate. I think Steve felt the same way about his beef and broccoli dish. Archit had the tofu with yellow curry.






Brunch – The Bongo Room


At Archit’s suggestion, Steve and I went to the Bongo Room for breakfast. It appears to be well-loved for their over the top breakfast creations, such as red velvet pancakes, white chocolate pretzel pancakes and chocolate tower of French toast. Archit helpfully informed us that you can have half orders of the pancakes, even though the menu doesn’t say so. Steve had a half order of the cranberry pancakes. I was attempted by the Oreo hotcakes but ultimately went with the eggs Benedict with smoked duck breast. My dish was delicious; the duck was tender and flavorful and the eggs were perfectly poached. I also liked the accompanying home fries. The cranberry pancakes came coated in a creamy sweet sauce – like a thick whipped cream that had melted. The whole thing was entirely too sugary – I guess I didn’t have to worry about the cranberries being too tart.


There was a table of fellow marathoners adjacent to us and they did not know about the half orders. The mammoth portions of dessert pancakes, as well as the 8 inch height chocolate French toast tower were scary.  


By the way – no bongos anywhere in sight.




Dinner - Volare


Time to carbo load! Where better to eat the night before the marathon than at an old school Italian restaurant, complete with a pick your pasta and pair it with a sauce section of the menu?

Despite the early hour (5:30) the restaurant was packed with runners. We started with a half order of fried calamari. When the enormous serving came, we were certain they gave us a full order, but our waitress reassured us that, “nope, that’s the half order.”

The calamari was very tender and crispy. We also had the Arancini alla Bolognese – fried balls of rice, fontina and ground beef served in a tomato sauce. I liked them, but I didn’t love the inclusion of the beef.


I picked the homemade pappardelle and paired it with their Bolognese sauce. The pasta was tender and the sauce was rich and hearty. It was exactly what I wanted and needed for dinner.


I tried Chucky’s lobster bisque which did not have enough lobster flavor for me, but it was smooth and creamy. He got pappardelle with salmon in a creamy tomato sauce; I thought the salmon was way over cooked. I didn’t try Steve’s rigatoni with marinara sauce, but he liked it.


No dessert – who wants tiramisu churning in their stomach at mile 13? Not I.


The service was friendly, and the prices were reasonable. Volare was exactly what we needed for a pre-race pasta dinner.




Sunday – Race Day


We all managed to complete the race!


Steve - 4:42:14

Wendy – 5:10:06

Gloria – 5:30:32

Charles – 5:51:39


It was the most grueling and physically exhausting thing I’ve ever done in my life. There were many times in the race I wanted to just give up (particularly between miles 22-25). With the temperature in the high 80’s and the sun beating down on my head, I just wanted lie down on the pavement and pass out. But somehow, I continued on and “finish” may be my new favorite word in the English language.


So, how to celebrate this monumental achievement? Deep dish pizza, of course! Readers of the blog might remember that last time I was in Chicago, I went for pizza with two vegetarians. I certainly enjoyed the spinach deep dish, but let’s be honest, this is not the pizza Chicago is known for. So, Steve and I headed to Gino’s East and ordered their signature sausage (patty style) deep dish pizza. Our friend Matthew also joined us. We lost Chucky in the fray.


The pizza was excellent – from the corn meal crust, the 1/3” inch thick Italian sausage patty to the thick layer of mozzarella cheese. I don’t know if it is what Hal Hidgon (running guru) would prescribe as a post marathon meal, but it certainly hit the spot.


We went to Lawry’s Prime Rib the next night. I won’t bore you with the details, as I’ve written about it before and it is the same every time – awesomely delicious.


I wish that we had time to go to one of Rick Bayless’s restaurants (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, or Xoco) but his empire is closed on Mondays and I figured Mexican on the day before the race was a bad idea. I guess that just gives me another reason to return to this great city.

Sole Proprietor, Worcester

I’ve been hearing about Sole Proprietor from Steve for years, literally, years. So, this past Saturday I was finally able to experience this restaurant for myself. As the name indicates, seafood is the name of the game and menu has an overwhelming amount of options. Yet, as I scanned the menu, all the options seemed to have a flaw. The Tuna Steak Barcelona looked interesting but it was stuffed with feta cheese. Or there was the Dark Miso and Pineapple Glazed Salmon, but it was served “over jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables complemented by a Thai sweet soy sauce,” which did not sound appealing to me.


They also have an array of fish and shellfish you can have simply grilled, broiled or blackened. I finally opted for North Atlantic salmon, grilled. I told our waitress I wanted it rare, really rare, as rare as the cook was comfortable doing it. I’m happy to report that the salmon was not overcooked, so I quite enjoyed my fish. The pedestrian zucchini, carrot and yellow squash medley did nothing for me, but I liked the mashed potatoes.


Steve ordered the grilled swordfish with a mushroom and sweet green pea risotto. I thought his risotto was tasty, and fish was fine (clearly overcooked for me). He loved it. I was not impressed by the onion rings – the batter was too thick and a little mealy. He loved the onion rings, too.


We had the “real” key lime pie for dessert. I wanted to ask why real was in quotes, but refrained. The “pie” came in a short, round ramekin: the graham cracker crust was soggy and the filling was slightly bitter, like they got careless while zesting and took too much pith off.


The service was good, and the rolls in the bread basket were warm (always a plus). It’s a shame that it is in all the way in Worcester. It always surprises me that Boston has a lack of seafood restaurants like this; we could certainly use a good one.

Food: B+

Service: A-

Value: B+

Overall: B+