Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

Robot Revolution at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry

Robot Revolution at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

My dad is an engineer, so my brother and I joke that we’re each 50% nerd. (Love you, Dad!) Maybe it’s genetic that I enjoy visiting museums, especially ones like Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

I always skip the regular exhibits, which are a bit dull unless you like old train sets and farm equipment. I recommend heading straight to what’s new. In the past, I’ve enjoyed their exhibits on Dr. Suess and Walt Disney, which combined childhood whimsy with revealing stories about the person behind the magic.

(Fun fact: Did you know that Theodor Geisel pronounced his pen name, Dr. Suess, as though it rhymed with voice? “Soice” or “Zoice.” Isn’t that fun to say? 🙂

Their newest exhibit is Robot Revolution, which is perfect for this engineer’s daughter. When you enter the exhibit, it feels like a robot playground. I played my way through the room, from the eye-tracking robot to the blackjack dealing robot. Here were my favorites:

Museum of Science and Industry Robot EMYS Happy

An EMotive headY System (EMYS) robot display a happy emotion

The EMotive headY System (EMYS) robot displays human emotions by moving three disks and his eyeballs. The EMYS robot can express six emotions: Happy, Afraid, Disgusted, Angry, Sad and Surprised. (His eyeballs pop out for Surprised!) The emotions are simplified but still convey the meaning in a cute and non-threatening way. By expressing emotions, EMYS robots will better be able to integrate into our lives — like Rosie in the The Jetsons.

The PARO Therapeutic Robot looks like a baby seal

The PARO Therapeutic Robot looks like a baby seal

I also liked the PARO robotic seal, designed to comfort sick or aging people by responding when someone holds or pets it. It can distinguish individual voices and learns how to respond based on individual’s reactions. This type of robot also makes an appearance in episode 8 of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, titled “Old People.”

Robots aren't just for factories. They could be for blackjack tables too!

Robots aren’t just for factories. They could be for blackjack tables too!

The Robot Revolution is not included in the general admission ticket, so you have to pay $11 extra and have an assigned entry time. The downside is you have to wait a few minutes in the regular exhibit area. But the upside is that the robot space isn’t too crowded, so you can interact with each robot.

  • Place: Museum of Science and Industry
  • Address: 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago IL 60637
  • Price: $29 ($18 for basic museum entry + $11 for Robot Revolution)
  • Favorite Part: Robot Revolution, on display through Jan. 3, 2016
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 for special exhibits (2 out of 5 for basic museum entry)

You really really really wanna try EL Ideas

Chef Phillip Foss of EL Ideas, making ice cream

Chef Phillip Foss of EL Ideas, making ice cream

Our dinner started with bandana-wearing Chef Phillip Foss interrupting the song “Wannabe” to introduce himself and EL Ideas. Clearly, this Chicago restaurant was different. So in the spirit of our delicious and entertaining experience, here is my review:

Ode to EL Ideas… and the Spice Girls

Yo, I’ll tell you where to eat, where you really need to eat,
So tell me where to eat, where I really need to eat.

If you want pretentious, forget this post.
If you want delightful, better make it Chef Foss.
Now don’t go wasting your precious dough,
Get your act together, and you’ll have fun, just go.

If you wanna see chefs cooking, you gotta go with your friends.
A dozen courses last forever, they never end.
If you wanna eat grilled cheese and soup bites, give EL a whirl.
French fries with ice cream are inspired by his girl.

So here’s the story from A to Z:
You wanna try EL Ideas? You gotta listen carefully.
It starts with a dish you must lick (try not to get it on your face).
And OMG it’s BYOB.
Walk around in the kitchen and take pictures for free.
And as for dessert? Ha, you’ll see.
Damn my stomach’s full, but I’d eat it all again.
Damn my stomach’s full, but I’d eat it all again.

If you wanna try EL Ideas, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta,
You gotta eat, eat, eat, eat!

Be prepared to lick your first dish of Roe!

Be prepared to lick your first dish of Roe!

In all seriousness, EL Ideas was one of my favorite restaurant experiences in Chicago. Chef Phillip Foss is able to integrate everything from foie gras to m&m’s, from King Salmon to tomato soup in his menu. Most Michelin starred restaurants are formal and fancy, but EL Ideas offers the same quality of food without the dress code. It feels more like a dinner party, since everyone gets the same course at the same time.

  • Restaurant: EL Ideas
  • Address: 2419 W. 14th Street, Chicago, IL, 60608 (Even though it’s named EL Ideas, don’t take the El. It’s pretty far off the beaten path, so I’d recommend Uber.)
  • Price: $155/person + tax and service charge
  • Favorite Dishes: 1) French fries & ice cream with potato, leek and vanilla. 2) King Salmon with eggplant, sesame and nasturtium. 3) Foie gras with huckleberry, granola and yogurt.
  • Rating (Fancy Scale): 5 out of 5 stars

One-Mile Walking Tour of Outdoor Chicago Art

The Chicago Picasso

The Chicago Picasso

Chicago is famous for art, thanks to the Art Institute of Chicago. But you don’t need to pay an entrance fee — or even go indoors — to see impressive art. Here are five of my favorite pieces of outdoor Chicago art and sculptures, all along a one-mile walk to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Monument with Standing Beast

Monument with Standing Beast

1) Monument with Standing Beast (100 W. Randolph St.): Some say this sculpture by Jean Dubuffet looks like Snoopy in a blender. It’s supposed to incorporate a standing animal, a tree, a portal, an architectural form and a bowling pin. Just kidding about the bowling pin… but that’s the only thing I’ve found so far!

The Chicago Picasso

The Chicago Picasso

2) The Chicago Picasso (Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.): Dedicated almost 50 years ago, this is my favorite sculpture in Chicago. Picasso never talked about his inspiration for this piece, so we are left guessing. Is it a woman? A bird with wings? If you look carefully, you can even see the silhouette of a nose, lips and chin (on the left in the photo above).

Miro's Chicago

Miro’s Chicago

3) Miro’s Chicago (69 W. Washington St.): Directly across the street from the Picasso, wedged in between a government building and a church, is Joan Miro’s sculpture. With its arms raised skyward, the artwork feels mystical, especially because the secret space is quiet amid the bustling city.

"The Four Seasons"

“The Four Seasons”

4) “The Four Seasons” (10 S. Dearborn St.): I only recently discovered this gem by Marc Chagill, and I’m so glad I found it. The mural is on all sides of a rectangular box and has different scenes of people and birds, trees and buildings. If you look closely, you can see the artist’s name and 1972… even though the mural was dedicated in 1974.

Calder's Flamingo

Calder’s Flamingo

5) Calder’s Flamingo (50 W. Adams St.): With a pop of red, this sculpture definitely stands out in the gray cityscape. I like snapping pictures of this piece from different angles, because it feels like it’s constantly changing as you walk under, around and and up close.

Map it out:

chicago art map

Here is a map of my one-mile public art walk… from the James R. Thompson Center all the way to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Best Mexican Food in the West Loop

Cauliflower at Bar Takito

Cauliflower at Bar Takito

I tried Bar Takito for the first time last night, and it reminded me that we have some great — and not so great — Mexican food options in the West Loop.

First up, la comida deliciosa!

Bar Takito (201 N. Morgan St.): I love sharing small plates, and Bar Takito is perfect for that. My favorite dishes of the night were the ceviche and the cauliflower with peppers, arugula and olives.

Mas (800 W. Washington St.): Again, sharing plates is easy at Mas, and their taco combinations are fantastic. The doraditos de tinga was my favorite taco, but I’ve never been disappointed with my order.

Cemitas Puebla (817 W. Fulton Market): My favorite thing to order here is the chalupas. I also order the guacamole with chips, and I can never finish the whole thing.

Ceviche at Bar Takito

Ceviche at Bar Takito

Mexican restaurants to skip:

Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Food

Alaskan King Crab at Grace

Alaskan King Crab at Grace

There are only two Chicago restaurants with the impressive and enviable Michelin three stars: Alinea and Grace. I haven’t visited Alinea yet, but Grace is hands down my favorite fancy restaurant in Chicago.

Located at 652 W. Randolph St., Grace Restaurant is near all my favorite West Loop restaurants. The outside of the building is so inconspicuous that I walked past dozens of times before noticing the simple glass door engraved with “Grace.”

Food served on a log? Delicious.

Food served on a log? Delicious.

They offer two options for the nine-course tasting menu: Flora and Fauna. The menu has changed since I visited, but I tried the Fauna menu and loved these dishes:

  • Alaskan King Crab, kalamansi, cucumber, lemon mint: Not only is this visually impressive, the combination of flavors with the crab is to die for.
  • Sweatbreads, ten grains, caperberry, sage: This dish was so warm and comforting, I wanted to order a gallon to take home with me.
  • Miyazaki Beef, romaine, peanut, Vietnamese herbs: I loved the different textures in this dish, and the beef was so tender.

Willis vs. Hancock: Which skyscraper has better views?

View of the Chicago skyline (and Willis Tower) from John Hancock Center

View of the Chicago skyline (and Willis Tower) from John Hancock Center

Chicago has the best skyline in the US. (Yeah, I threw down the gauntlet, NYC.) To get the most sweeping views of the city, you need to go up high in the sky, and the two best places to do that are the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center. But if you have one afternoon… which one is better?

Building Height

The Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) is the tallest building in Chicago at 1,451-feet. To put that in perspective, my dad is 6’3″, so that’s 232 dads stacked on top of each other. The Hancock Center is only 1,127 feet tall or 180 dads.

When you visit the Willis Tower, you can head up to the 103rd floor, but the Hancock Center only allows the public on the 94th, 95th and 96th floors.

Winner: Willis Tower… by 52 dads and 7 floors

Cost of Admission

General admission to the Willis Tower Skydeck is $19.50, and the the Hancock Center 360 Chicago is $19. Both options involve lines and sharing the views with lots of tourists and families.

You’ll still have to wait in line for the Hancock Center’s 96th floor Signature Lounge, but once there, you can sit and enjoy the views with a delicious cocktail for $15. Or skip the line altogether and reserve a table for brunch at the Hancock Center’s 95th floor Signature Room. For $45, you have a buffet starter, entree and dessert table.

Winner: Hancock Center. On the rocks.

Sweeping (and Somewhat Terrifying) Views

Let’s be honest, both buildings have beautiful, sweeping views of the Chicago skyline in every direction. The Hancock 360 Chicago also has a new TILT experience for those who want to pretend they’re slowly falling forward.

The Willis Tower has the Skydeck, where you can stand on a glass box over the city. I stood on the glass box for… um, 3 seconds until I had quite enough, thank you. Who can forget last year’s nightmare-come-true when tourists thought the glass was cracking beneath their feet? (Thankfully, it was just the protective coating and they were never in danger.)

Winner: Hancock Center

Bottom line: Skip the screaming kids at the Willis Tower, and head directly to the Hancock Center for drinks and time to enjoy the beautiful Chicago views.

Parachute, Chicago’s hottest new restaurant

Pork Belly and Mung Bean Pancake

Pork Belly and Mung Bean Pancake

It’s been getting rave reviews, so it’s not much of a leap of faith to try the new Korean fusion restaurant: Parachute. The tricky part is getting the reservation.

My boyfriend booked for us two months in advance. We wanted to go on a Tuesday night, and the earliest they had available was 8:30pm. We arrived right on time, but we had to wait 20 minutes for a table. Normally, this would drive me crazy (why make a reservation then?), but a quick look around the restaurant shows they literally have 40 chairs in the entire place. So we waited, willing the other diners to eat quickly.

My three favorite items were:

1) Pork Belly and Mung Bean Pancake (pictured above). Savory pancake with a splash of pineapple sweetness, the layers of flavors are unexpected and delicious. I wish we had ordered two!

Baked potato bing bread, bacon, scallion and sour cream butter

Baked Potato Bing Bread

2) Start your meal with the Baked Potato Bing Bread. They had me at ‘bacon.’ This starter is the baked potato version of bread. If you make it to Parachute, you must order the bing bread with bacon and scallion — topped with sour cream butter.

Pavlova, corn pastry cream, coconut, blackberry, lime

Pavlova, corn pastry cream, coconut, blackberry, lime

3) For dessert, order the Pavlova. The meringue crust is crispy and melts in your mouth. The coconut cream and blackberry center is delightful with a hint of lime.

Make the jump — make a reservation — and trust Parachute to deliver your taste buds safely to the ground.

Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History

Well, it’s Day 4 of my 31 days of writing, and I’m already behind. But I had a good reason! My cousins were in town for our third annual “Cousins Weekend,” and we were busy exploring the city.

While they were here, I had one requirement: We must visit the Field Museum of Natural History. I’ve been there a dozen times, but I just can’t get enough. Here are my favorite parts of the museum:

Sue the T. rex

Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex

Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex

The first thing you have to do is stop to say, “Hello,” to Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex. She’s right inside the entrance in the Stanley Field Hall, so you can’t miss the largest and most complete T. rex ever found. Sue was found in South Dakota and is named for Sue Hendrickson, the paleontologist who discovered her. After an intense custody battle over her rightful owner, Sue was sold at auction for a sweet $7.6 million.

Sue's skull

Sue’s skull

Sue’s head is actually too heavy for the skeleton on the main level, so make sure you go upstairs to see her skull and impressive dental work.

Hall of Gems

While you’re upstairs, stop in the Grainger Hall of Gems to add a little sparkle to your life. (Diamonds and turquoise and gold… oh my!) First on display at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition, the rare jewels know how to make an impression. I’m continually fascinated by the rainbow of colors in the gemstones. You’ll find yellow diamonds, red sapphires, and opals that shimmer like the summer sun reflecting on Lake Michigan.

Inside Ancient Egypt

Inside Ancient Egypt

Inside Ancient Egypt

The Egyptian exhibit begins on the main floor with a mock tomb of Unis-ankh. Within the walls of the tomb, the museum feels weirdly quiet, and you’ll feel the urge to whisper to your companions as you explore the hieroglyphics. Mummies are just wrapped with mystery, but this exhibit does a good job unwrapping the culture.

Special Exhibits

The special exhibits are what continue to pull me back into the museum, so be sure to check them out when you visit. The Vikings exhibit ended this weekend, and I enjoyed learning about the Scandinavian people from A.D. 800 to 1000. The word ‘viking’ is actually just an Old Norse word for a commercial trip or raid. The people we know as Vikings were farmers and traders who would sometimes go out on ‘a viking.’

Where To Eat on Chicago’s Restaurant Row

Tanoshii Sushi Mike's

Tanoshii Sushi Mike’s

When I first moved to Randolph Street in Chicago, my monthly restaurant budget exploded. With Chicago’s Restaurant Row that close, the temptation was just too great. The angel on my shoulder encouraging fiscal responsibility is easily drowned out when the devil on the other shoulder mentions omakase.

Dining out is a big topic of conversation in Chicago, because we’re blessed with so many great chefs and restaurants. It reminds me of a quote from When Harry Met Sally, when they’re on the double date with friends and Marie says: “Restaurants are to people in the 80s what theater was to people in the 60s.”

Within just five blocks — from Morgan Street to the Kennedy Expressway (I-94) — there are dozens of delicious restaurants on Randolph Street. Here are my Top Ten:

  1. Girl & the Goat (809 W. Randolph St.): Stephanie Izard is one of Chicago’s favorite chefs, so eating at one of her places is required. On my first visit to Girl & the Goat, I was excited to try the goat (obviously), but I’d recommend skipping that and instead getting two orders of the wood oven roasted pig face.
  2. Little Goat (820 W. Randolph St.): If you can’t get a reservation at Girl & the Goat, hop across the street to Little Goat. They always seem to have a line too, but it’s my favorite brunch place in the West Loop for the Bull’s Eye French Toast and Fat Elvis Waffles.
  3. de cero (816 W. Randolph St.): de cero is great for small plates, since I can never make up my mind what to order. The variety of salsas are fun to try, and (hello tacos!) I always find a new taco to try.
  4. Tanoshii Sushi Mike’s (720 W. Randolph St.): Tanoshii Sushi Mike’s probably deserves its own post for the number of times I’ve visited. The fish and chips are my favorite thing on the menu, and we always order omakase (let the chef decide) for our rolls. Sushi Mike has never steered us wrong.
  5. Sushi Dokku (823 W. Randolph St.): If you’re in the mood for sashimi or nigiri instead of sushi rolls, stop at Sushi Dokku. I love the Chef Dressed Nigiri Bites and the Tako Yaki (octopus balls)
  6. Haymarket (737 W. Randolph St.): It may seem odd to have a neighborhood bar on this list, but Haymarket is worth it. They brew their own award-winning beer, and you can walk past the brewing and fermentation room. The food is always fresh and delicious too.
  7. Grange Hall (844 W. Randolph St.): This is where you go for the best burger in the West Loop.  The familiar but different flavor combinations and grass-fed beef make these burgers melt in your mouth. My favorite is BBQ Picnic burger with jalapeño jicama honey slaw, chipotle BBQ, pepper jack, fried avocado.
  8. Maude’s Liquor Bar (840 W. Randolph St.): I skip the French list and order everything on the Almost French list. Order a bunch of plates to share, so you can try everything on the list. I always order the French Onion Fondue and the Roast Farm Chicken.
  9. Jaipur (847 W. Randolph St.): If I’ve forgotten to make a reservation but want to eat out in the West Loop, I always end up at Jaipur. I don’t know how they have tables available, but the spicy Indian food is a delicious addition to the street.
  10. Belly Q (1400 W. Randolph St.): Korean fusion is really trendy now, and Belly Q is one of the best. I like pushing my parents out of their comfort zone when they visit, and I took them to Belly Q last time they visited. They weren’t even phased. The balance of flavors and fun take on Korean fusion make this one a favorite for anyone.

31 Days of Chicago Adventures

Chicago Skyline

“My kind of town, Chicago is.” Frank Sinatra

Welcome to Lost and Food! This is where I share my adventures of getting lost in the world… and, well, eating food. I love traveling and have a few trips coming up later this year, so stay tuned.

But October is all about Chicago, my hometown.

  1. Intro
  2. Restaurant Row
  3. The Field Museum
  4. Restaurant Review: Parachute
  5. Willis Tower vs the Hancock Center
  6. Restaurant Review: Grace
  7. Best Mexican Food in the West Loop
  8. Outdoor Artwork
  9. Restaurant Review: EL Ideas
  10. Museum of Science and Industry
  11. Best Korean Food
  12. Duck Duck Goat
  13. Best Donuts in Chicago
  14. And more!

Can’t wait to read the other bloggers participating in the 31 Days Writing Challenge!

Update: It looks like it’s going to take me longer than 31 days to share my 31 Chicago adventures, but I’ll get there. Thanks for sticking with me! (I’ve always considered myself more a tortoise than a hare 🙂