We live within a six hour drive of Chicago and have always driven there. In the past our winter trips have sometimes been fraught with slippery and snowy road conditions. This has been an unusually bad winter already, which helped us to decide to take the train on this junket. I've taken the train many times in Europe, but seldom here in my home city. I was surprised that the ticket price was reasonable, which made the travel cost comparable to driving; even cheaper when we factored in the cost of valet parking at the hotel. There were a few positive aspects to taking the train and more than a few negative. As I said, the comparable price was a plus, as was the ability to sit and read and move about while enroute. All the Amtrak personnel were extremely helpful and friendly. On the return trip we were surprised to be taken out of the line of waiting passengers and shuttled directly down the tracks to our door on a motorized cart. Our luggage was taken on and stored for us. On the negative side was waiting in a cold shelter in Birmingham for the train to arrive, crying children, sneezing passengers, unexpected delays, incessant stops and subsequently a much longer travel time. It took us the better part of the day to arrive and we were tired from the long trip. Next time we would definitely drive again to Chicago, unless weather conditions prevented it.
Our hotel, the Embassy Suites on Columbus Ave, was comfortable and well located. We had two queen sized beds and a living room complete with flat screen TV. The hotel offered a daily cooked to order free breakfast and an afternoon happy hour with free drinks and snacks, which we were able to enjoy the first night since we didn't have theater plans for Friday evening. We had late dinner reservations at Le Colonial on Rush Street. I'd been there three times before and enjoyed it each time. The cuisine is French/Vietnamese and the decor is colonial Southeast Asia from the 1920's. The food is fresh, light and flavorful. My favorite was the tuna tartar appetiser.
Our reservations that evening were at Brazzaz, a Brazilian steakhouse. I had deliberately planned to come here after the theater that day, because I knew we would want to really take our time and sample all the possibilites. The salad bar was one of the best I have seen. It included oysters on the half shell and the best ceviche I've ever had. The waitress brought us a basket of tiny hot cheese popovers that were addicting, especially to someone who has been off of carbs for a long while. Waiters dressed in gaucho outfits came around with spears of succulent proteins: lamb, beef, shrimp, filet wrapped in bacon, chicken. One of our favorites was the grilled pineapple, sliced fresh and hot. The sweetness of the pineapple was a perfect foil to the savory meat. We ate too much, of course, but Jan insisted we try the traditional after dinner drink, made from 43 ingredients, appropriately called Licor 43. It is served from a bottle frozen in a block of ice decorated with various fruits. We both agreed our husbands would love it here and purposed to come back some day soon.