ELMS: I have to admit, Chicago isn’t half bad

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Like so many Marquette students, I’m originally from a suburb of Chicago. To be more specific, I grew up in Vernon Hills, a busy town of about 25,000 with typical suburban attractions like a movie theater, bowling alley, mall, public pool and just about every fast food restaurant you can think of.

But since moving to this wonderful city to attend Marquette, I’ve become a full-blown Milwaukeean. My diet incorporates absurd amounts of brats, cheese, bacon and beer, I’ve found a new appreciation for free things, and I’ve come to love the Brewers and the Packers alike. The only reason I go back to my hometown – aside from visiting my family – is to eat at Portillo’s. I really wish they would open one in Milwaukee.

All this did not come as a huge surprise, because I never really felt at home in Chicago proper. The city is huge and dirty, friendly strangers are few and far between, everything is expensive and I absolutely cannot stand the Cubs, let alone their fans.

You can imagine, then, that I was a little reluctant to leave Brew City when my parents planned a family weekend in Chicago. Their logic was that we live 45 minutes away from downtown but rarely make the commute, so why not make a mini-vacation out of it and cram in as much Chicago as possible in two and a half days? Fair enough.

So last weekend I roamed the busy, dirty streets, got honked at by taxis, paid much more than I’m used to for alcohol, and, to my surprise, loved every minute of it.

It could have been because I was hanging out with my family, or maybe it was because the weather was so nice, but I suddenly began to actually enjoy all the things the Windy City has to offer.

On Friday night, we went to the Briar Street Theatre to see a Blue Man Group performance. The experience is truly unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to my fair share of concerts and performing arts productions. Blue Man Group exceeded all of my expectations. Not only that, but I have to admit the experience would not have been the same in any other city.

After the performance, my family and I explored the Boystown neighborhood and settled on a fantastic hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called Caesars, home of the Killer Margarita, for dinner. The food was amazing, the drinks were strong and the people-watching was some of the best I’ve witnessed in a long time. I already want to go back.

Saturday was just as fun. During the afternoon, we walked the Magnificent Mile and ate delicious deep-dish pizza – the authentic kind you cannot find anywhere besides Chicago. It’s just not the same anywhere else.

In the evening, we ventured to Andy’s, a swanky jazz club on the north side of the Loop. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a meal with beautiful live music while still being able to chat with the people I’m with. Andy’s was the perfect place to top off the night.

Sunday morning we packed up to head home, taking a lovely detour through Lincoln Park to grab a quick brunch at a hipster café called Toast. The weekend went by in a flash, but instead of feeling relieved to get out of the city, I was sad to leave.

Maybe this is what happens when you see something with a fresh perspective. Like I said, all throughout high school I was never a fan of the busy streets and tall buildings located just a train ride away. Now, I’m glad I gave the city a second chance.

There is no doubt my heart still lies right here in Milwaukee, but last weekend showed me that Chicago is not such a bad place after all.

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