Last updated on April 12th, 2017
This past weekend Anita and I traveled to Chicago by train. I was attending a professional conference, and she came along for the ride.
The train is our favorite way to get to the City of Broad Shoulders. It picks us up at a small town in mid-Michigan — a major hub in the old days but now just a place that the train stops at twice a day, going west in the morning and east at night.
A few hours after we get on board, the train deposits us at Union Station, a short cab-ride from the Loop.
The last time I rode the train, I wasn’t eating low-carb, and I strolled back to the club car for a pop and snack. (Or staggered back if the train was rocking a lot, which it tends to do.) This time, I brought along my own food and drink — some raw almonds and a bottle of water. It saved both money and carbs.
We were in Chicago in time for lunch, sharing a steak salad at the Bennigan’s on Michigan Avenue at Adams. Then Anita crossed Michigan to spend a few hours at the art museum while I did the conference thing. The conference was a big one — the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English — and was split between two hotels — the Chicago Hilton and the Palmer House. The two hotels are about a 10-15 minute walk apart, depending on who is doing the walking. We weren’t staying at either place, but our hotel was close to the Palmer House. So after making one wind-blown trip down to the Chicago Hilton on Friday afternoon, I found sessions at the Palmer House for Saturday and Sunday. Still, I got a fair bit of walking in. The weather was dry, but overcast. The temps were in the 50s on the first two days, but colder on Sunday. The wind was strong and constant.
On Friday night, we ate at The Berghoff, on Adams about half way between our hotel and the Palmer House. It’s a well-known German restaurant which had closed for a while but recently re-opened. The Berghoff had a Christmas tree up in the main dining room. Indeed, all the hotels, pubs and restaurants seemed to be decorated for the holidays. No doubt it’s good for business. I tried to eat low-carb, ordering the white fish, but I had a glass of pale ale and a couple small slices of rye bread with butter. Anita had the lamb, which was essentially a big salad, a glass of dark beer. I also ate some of the pommes frites that came with my dinner. These were not French fries, but shredded potato chips. Obviously with the ale, bread and potatoes, this was a carby meal for me. But overall, it was a reasonably low-carb day.
On Saturday morning, we ate at a place around the corner from the Palmer House. We both had scrambled eggs with diced sausage and ham, tomato slices on the side, no toast (though the nice waitress was willing to bring us any kind of bread, bagel or muffin imaginable), and, of course, coffee. For lunch, I scarfed a bowl of turkey chili. It was moderately spicy, and fairly light on beans. I snacked on peanuts. For dinner, we planned to eat at an Italian place for which Anita had a coupon. It was in the financial district, a couple long blocks south of our hotel — blocks appropriately filled with large banks. Every other building in Chicago seemed to be a bank or a drug store. When we got to the restaurant, it was closed. We weren’t sure if it had gone out of business, or if it just didn’t open on weekends. Given its location, it may only be a weekday place.
So we hoofed it up to the Italian Village on Monroe, all three levels of which were open and doing good business. We got a table in the lower (basement) level just ahead of the evening rush. I ordered the Italian Seafood Salad with marinated octopus, calamari and shrimp, and once again gave in slightly to the temptation of the bread basket. I ate two small pieces of Italian bread with olive oil and grated Parmesan. I drank water, so I saved some carbs and calories there. Anita had a chopped steak smothered in Mozzarella. We gave some thought to dessert, but with Thanksgiving on the near-horizon, decided to pass.
Sunday it was eggs again for breakfast, this time in the restaurant attached to our hotel. I ate some of the potatoes that came with my dish. Anita had fruit instead.
For lunch, we ate at Miller’s Pub on Wabash off Adams, which was packed with Bear’s fans and lit up with Christmas lights. We waited about 20 minutes to be seated. That was OK. It was warm inside after a cold walk from the hotel. I ordered the Cobb Salad with their homemade bleu cheese dressing, and Anita ordered a grilled chicken salad. I drank coffee, and Anita had iced-tea. Most of the folks around us were eating large burgers or pizza, and drinking beer. They were going to be sitting out in Soldier Field for a few hours, so they needed to be fortified.
That was our last meal in the Windy City. On the train, we both ate some nuts and drank water. Arriving home around 10:30 p.m., I had a snack of pork rinds.
All in all, I had more carbs than usual on this weekend, but still ate low-carb by most people’s standards. I can’t say that the starches I ate caused me to feel any hungrier than usual. I think I kept the amounts low enough to avoid that. As lost weekends go, it wasn’t very lost.
Since getting home, I’ve returned to my grain-free, potato-free, beer-free mode of eating.
Chicago and its carbs are far away.