21 July 2014

Qdoba vs. Chipotle

My favorite foods are terrible. I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE cheeseburgers. I dig Tex-Mex, even quick service variety. Tacos are my jam (oh, Taco Mayo!), but I also like burrito places. While we were in Chicago Jane and I ate at a lot of quick service places out of sheer convenience and exhaustion, including Qdoba and Chipotle. It made me want to write a little comparison.

My history with Chipotle dates to the University of Maryland, when there was one walking distance from my grad school apartment. I'd never heard of it before and my roommate and I pronounced the word wrong for a while. AH. So it has good memories, but it loses out in the head-to-head comparison now.

Although this has nothing to do with why I like it less, at the Chicago Chipotle a random guy engaged me in conversation about my burrito. I was sitting there, with my toddler, wolfing this thing down and the guy, possibly homeless because he came in to just use the bathroom, talked to me about it twice -- on the way in and out. It was so weird.
From robertrazrblog on Flickr

I first went to Qdoba in Manhattan, and my favorite part was -- and still is -- the queso, which Chipotle doesn't offer. Also a plus for me now is that Qdoba has a kids' menu, which Chipotle does not. That means Jane can get a cheese quesadilla, beans or apple sauce, and a milk jug. Her options at Chipotle are severely limited. I guess I could try to feed her a taco? (In Chicago I just went next door and bought her a cheese sandwich -- wow nutrition on vacation).

My second favorite part of Qdoba is the beverage station, which is a new thing. They're also available at Noodles & Co. and Burger King -- the machines that give you lots of options for each drink. My pick is cherry vanilla diet Dr. Pepper.

Looking at their websites I see Chipotle offers alcohol, although I've never actually had a margarita there. (And that might be enough to sway my vote the other way, if I were dining without Jane that is. Mama loves her margaritas even more than queso!)

Back in BR I have access to both restaurants. Neither is particularly convenient, although the Qdoba is near Whole Foods and Chipotle is on the north side of campus where I never go. There used to be a second, ultra-convenient Qdoba near our old apartment, but it's closed and turned into some kind of bistro. Gag.

20 July 2014

Taste of Chicago: Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger

 The Taste of Chicago was going on while we were in town, and it was only a few blocks away from our hotel. So Jane and I walked over one evening for supper. It was exiting -- and exhausting -- because of the huge crowds. There was an enormous line to get in, so I kept walking down Grant Park to another, significantly less crowded entrance.

Jane had fallen asleep in the stroller on the walk over, and she slept the entire time we were there. Oh well.

I bought some tickets and bought myself a Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger. I had never seen the SNL bit that refers to, but I did look it up when we got home. Way old and semi-funny. The burger itself was OK. It had been sitting in a cooler or something to keep it warm.

I bought Jane a piece of cheese pizza that she ate when she woke up on the walk back. There was fun-looking kids area, but I weighed the cost of waking her up, standing in line for the bouncy slide and then wrestling with her to go back in the stroller for the walk to the hotel. (She stayed in the stroller!)

I loved this city view behind Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Apparently there are light shows after dark and every 20 minutes there is a water show when the fountains do different things. I didn't notice and only learned that a few days later on our skyline boat tour on Lake Michigan. Something for our next trip to Chicago!

19 July 2014

In Chicago: Lincoln Park Zoo

This was the first animal we saw in Lincoln Park Zoo, and this was the first picture I took that day. After this the bear was in the water and we weren't able to see him as well. Apparently there was a way to go down and view him under the water. We could see him playing from up above but then we moved on.

This was my favorite Chicago thing that we did. It's free, took up a good number of hours. If it weren't for toddler naps, general exhaustion, heat and sun exposure we could have stayed much longer.

18 July 2014

In Chicago: Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium was a good time, although expensive. Jane is under 3 so was free, which made the sticker price a little less shocking. We went early to beat the crowds, and for the first hour or so we didn't have hordes of people around us. After we watched our 10:30 dolphin show though it started crowding up, and when we left by 1 pm it was impossible to see the exhibits because of all the humanity.

Jane loved everything, especially the iPads they had at most of the tanks to give more information about the fish and sea creatures inside. She also loved the 4-D movie -- 15 minutes of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. It was scarier than I expected! But I do love Ray Romano's voice though.

My favorite were the jellies. Even though they're invasive and horrible they are beautiful to look at in a tank under those pretty pretty lights!

17 July 2014

In Chicago: Navy Pier

We went to Navy Pier twice. It's a tourist trap and a half, crowded and obnoxious. I loved the Children's Museum that's there, although it would be better in a different location and without so many people/groups of children. Jane had a good time. We also took a boat ride out into Lake Michigan to see the Chicago skyline that was fun. This is a picture of the Ferris Wheel that is there. It costs $7 (each) to ride it, so we didn't do it. Jane did ride the carousel with her dad for $6. Ca-CHING!

I also saw The Little Hat Shop, which was a kiosk selling crocheted hats just like the ones I make. Totally weird, and they were selling for $25-30. I imagined pricing mine at $15-20 (and still will when they go to a craft fair in the fall). I looked them up online and it's a little chain and even though the hats are handmade it's done sort of like manufacturing in that different crocheters make different parts of the hats. Is there art in that? I'm not sure. But I was actually pretty happy to see it and know about it.

Here are some of my reviews from the Chicago trip on TripAdvisor.

16 July 2014

In Chicago: Sunburn City

Crimeny Christmas I got a weird sunburn on my back, mainly on my shoulder blades, the last day of our trip. How can I get complete coverage with sunblock on my own with a wild toddler? And without any aloe handy my pain never resolved. Lugging my huge backpack and rolling all the luggage on our trip back was incredibly painful. Yech. It still hurts a few days later. WHINE WHINE WHINE.

I was mostly able to keep Jane sunburn-free, although she did get a little pink on her arms and legs some days (I'm expecting more freckles -- signs of sun damage I know!). We did a lot of outside stuff, but we kept inside activities in the mix and I always slathered her with sunscreen. I think her skin took the hit when we would just go outside to walk to a restaurant or store. I wasn't as vigilant then.

When we went to the beach in the morning sun I had her wear a little boy swimsuit (much longer leg coverage) and a long-sleeve rash guard. She looked like a little boy but it definitely helped keep her skin covered. She also is pretty good about wearing her little green sun hat, which is adorable -- just like her!

My precious girl has the most beautiful skin and I want to keep it protected!

15 July 2014

In Chicago: Fancy Hotel with So-So Service

We stayed at a posh hotel in Chicago but it was actually a less comfortable stay than when we're at a mid-range business style hotel. I think that says something about us but also about the hotel itself, which caters to high-end clients and is a bit dismissive of anyone in steerage. (There's a separate hotel-within-a-hotel for the high-rollers.) Also this hotel didn't have coffee makers, fridges, etc. and those things make staying in a hotel with a toddler much easier.

Our room was fine -- nice fixtures and attractive enough with plenty of space for a king-sized bed and pack-and-play. But around the edges as a little worn. The door to the bathroom had splinters of paint coming off it. The tub drained slow. The mirrors had fingerprints that never were removed -- and they were way too high for any of us to have made unless Shawn or I stood on the desk, which we didn't. Eventually I stopped wishing for access to Windex and paper towels! The ironing board was attached to the inside of the closet door and made a big racket every time you opened it. Just little things like that -- lack of attention to detail.

Wine glasses in the hallway for 24+ hours
The worst offense though was the hallway. Other guests would put trash and room service items outside their door and they would stay there for a long time -- like up to a day. So aesthetically unpleasing sure, but painfully annoying to walk past multiple times per day with a curious toddler.

High-end hotels charge for Internet of course, but thankfully we got our wifi free with the conference. Unfortunately it was pretty crappy wifi. It died completely for a few hours and then I had repeated trouble with the connection to my computer right when I needed to do a bit of work for the church. Typical. Troubleshooting via phone routed me to an off-site person.

The hotel was huge, and so being down in the lobby or street level we were overwhelmed with the noise every time. It seemed louder in there than it was even out on the street. The hotel is located very close to the El train, and you can hear it in the room. But eventually it just became part of the background. I liked it because it gave us a real city vibe.

There are a lot of doormen milling about, but they weren't very helpful to me. I think we had the door opened for us only once and usually I had to do the pull-the-stroller-in-backward-while-I-hold-the-door-open-with-my-butt move on the non-handicap entrances.