Mustang Challenge | Pan Pizza and the Cubs


It was never our intention for us to go to Chicago. According to our proposed itinerary drawn up at AM2016, we were supposed to go from Denver to Kansas City and then to Indianapolis. Chicago was never in the picture. This decision was initially questioned by Andrew at the onset of our voyage, but we quickly dismissed his suggestion to hit Chicago. Little did we know that just then, Andrew had planted a seed.

Saying farewell to our friendly ex-con motel neighbors, Alex and I hit the road late Thursday morning with Kansas City punched into the GPS. We’d have at least 8 hours of driving to figure out our lodging situation, and more importantly, where we’d be eating dinner that night. Apparently Kansas City is re-known for its barbeque – and this barbeque was definitely something we wanted in on.

A quick Google search turned into a long one, as there were just so many great sounding restaurants. We skimmed list after list of top 10 BBQ joints, unable to make a decision. Finally, a decision was reached simply based on restaurant operating hours. We calculated that we’d arrive in KC around 9PM, and thus were able to narrow down our search by seeing which joints would still be open at that hour.

At 9:30pm, we rolled the ‘Schtang into the parking lot of Gates BBQ, which ranked either 5th or 6th on one of those internet lists. Ready to have an iconic American barbeque feast, we eventually figured out how to order (all orders are done at the counter, regardless if eating-in or taking-out) and we both ordered a rib short end with a fry and a drink, totaling about $25 each. The size of the plate we each got was simply staggering.

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The picture does not do it justice. Probably had at least 2lbs of food on each tray.

Gates’ barbeque sauce is has a sweeter taste to it, which we both found delicious. Being the champs we are, we finished it all except for our Super-Troopers-style litre of soda that accompanied our combo plates. The amount of cola we were given was a volume such that only Farva himself could drain. Full to the brim, we left to find our hotel, the two of us agreeing that these ribs easily enter as one of our top 3 road trip dinners. 

It was at this point, roughly around 11pm and sitting in our hotel room, that the previously planted Chicago seed fully bloomed. We had our laptop out and were investigating Indianapolis when Alex brought up Chicago. It only took him a few minutes to convince me to scrap our initial plan of Indianapolis and instead replace it with Chicago. It was set. We’d be staying in Chicago for the next three days.

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Looking to the city from Navy Pier.

Eating, Chicago Style

Our first objective upon arriving was of course to source ourselves a meal. Absolutely starving, we heard, through the grapevine, that Chicago has it’s own style of pizza. Something about stuffed crust and deep dish. Unsure what to expect, we asked the staff of our hostel to recommend us a place to try such a delicacy. He gave us the directions to a place called Giordano’s, and off we went.

After a short delay due to direction troubles (I thought it was one way, Alex thought it was the other. Surprisingly, Alex was right…), we arrived at Giordano’s, which was absolutely packed. Lucky for us, there was a table for two available and we were able to sit down right away. Looking through the menu, we decided on what we wanted and passed our decision on to our waited. He kindly explained to us that it would take 45 minutes to bake our pie (see, talking like a local already). The both of us were a little shell shocked, because normally when ordering a pizza, if it takes more than 30 minutes, it’s free of charge. In Chicago, apparently you still have to pay full price, even if it takes 45 minutes.

True to his word, a grueling 45 minutes passed by and this massive dish was dropped off on our table.

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Sauce on top, cheese in the middle. Right…

The pizza that showed up was unlike any I had seen before. First off, the sauce was on the top. Bewildered, we nonetheless dug in. The wait was worth it, because this pizza was delicious. It only took us 10 minutes to complete our ravenous assault. The operation, while ultimately successful, was quite messy. There were no survivors.

Afterwards, Alex, the glutton that he is, insisted we look for an ice cream place for dessert. Myself, I actually like to treat my body with some respect (which is ironic, considering the gargantuan pizza we just ate), and opted not to follow suit. Thus we parted ways, him to get ice cream and myself to head back to the hostel and arrange our plans for the evening. For some, separating ways like this might seem like a serious risk – two foreigners wandering alone in what is supposed to be the murder capital of the country. At least that is what the newspapers say. We didn’t get that vibe, that’s for sure.

Lisa The Motivated

We reunited at the hostel about 20 minutes later where I broke the news of tonight’s plan. Lisa, a friend of mine and a Chicago local, would soon be finished work and was free to meet up and show us around. In the time Alex was off on his quest for some dairy goodness, I had also managed to make friends with another tenant and he, Mika, would be joining us too.

We had a bit of time to kill before Lisa was set to meet us, so we headed around the corner and found ourselves at some honkeytonk bar that looked decent. The bouncers there had a miserable time checking our ID’s, but eventually they made heads from tails and confirmed that indeed we were of legal age to enter the premise.

Lisa arrived shortly after and the night commenced. Lisa was a great host – but if there is one thing I would say about her is that I have never seen someone so intent, so driven, so motivated to show us around. She literally marched us all around the town, walking so quick us lazy legged boys were always scrambling to keep up. Despite the paces Lisa put us through, it was a great night out on the town. Lot’s of Cubs fans, for whatever reason…

Millennium Park

It was roughly around 1pm that we plunked down into the Mustang and roared off to investigate Millennium Park and Navy Pier. We had driven past on our way through the city the day prior, and were very excited to come back and walk through on foot.

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Finding somewhere to park the Mustang wasn’t the easiest of things, but eventually a spot we did find and off we went to check out the sites, starting with the Crown Fountain. The weather was great and the fountains were bustling with life, with many families playing in the water enjoying a nice afternoon in the sun.

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Perfect photobomb. Totally ruined Alex’s photo.

We found the bean, and like everyone else, whipped out our phones to grab a couple selfies. And of course, we flicked the bean too. Haha. So original, right?!

Finished with the bean, we moved on to the shoreline, with the intention to meander our way over to Navy Pier. We crossed into Grant Park and then over the freeway to the shoreline. As a boat lover, I was impressed with the number of boats moored both on the east and west side of the harbor.

 

Finally, we reached Navy Pier. It was here we spent a good chunk of the afternoon, languidly walking down the pier until we found a vacant bench where we parked ourselves to watch the afternoon activities. People were bustling up and down, many with a snack or cellphone in hand (likely playing Pokemon Go). It reminded us somewhat of Santa Monica Pier back in Los Angeles, but nicer. Tour boats came and went, taking tourists on whatever aquatic tour was happening that day. This was perhaps my favorite part of Chicago, just sitting back on the pier and watching all the activity pass by. We really enjoyed Chicago. I’d love to come back another time.

Follow The Series

Be sure to check back to the blog on Tuesdays and Fridays for updates. You can also follow Connor and Alex on their adventure by checking in on Twitter and Instagram @MustangMounties

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