Pelayo IV: Hotdogs, Deep Dish, Chipotle and Jordan

CREATING a bucket list of travel or places to go before expiring from this mortal world may help an individual motivate to dream big or have a sense of purpose to enjoy one’s existence. Chicago was definitely listed as one of my top 10 because of Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time. I’ve always wanted to see his statue at the United Center. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to make one of my dreams a reality this year. And so, my wife and I packed our luggage in preparation for a long flight to O’Hare International Airport. The trip was not easy given the fact that we travelled to NAIA passing all the traffic congestion, carrying a toddler and trolleys while accompanying a pregnant spouse.

O’Hare is one of the busiest airport in the world, and while our plane was about to descend for landing, I’ve seen various aircrafts fly below us in different directions, which made me worry at some point because I’ve never seen such aerial traffic before. At the airport, we were welcomed by my friend, Ryan Mansilungan, a native of Sindalan, who took a leave from work just to accommodate us. He used to live in downtown Chicago but decided to transfer to the northwestern suburb called Schaumburg. I tried to search if Schaumburg is the location by which the band New Radicals was referring to when they wrote “Someday We’ll Know’ which also featured Mandy Moore, but unfortunately, the village is not exactly 90 miles outside Chicago.

And so, the Mansilungan family welcomed us warmly in their lovely home. Although it was summer season, I did not mind the heat because it was not humid. They immediately took us for a ride for a huge brunch while our body clock was expecting a dinner. Our tummies were never lonely in Chicago for they got filled all the time.

One of the must-dos in Chicago is to try their hot dogs. Chicagoans call them red hot. It’s an all-beef goodness on a seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, a long green pickle spear, chopped white onions, tomato slices, a lot of picked relish and pickled peppers, and a bit of salt. Note that it does not include ketchup and a lot of vendors in this place will not offer ketchup as a condiment, and the aficionados share this strong opinion that ketchup is unacceptable on Chicago-style hotdogs. I tried my first Red Hot at Portillo’s which was founded in 1963. Everybody should try it. It’s one of the best hot dogs that I’ve ever tasted.

Chicago is also famous for its unique deep dish pizzas. Ryan and his wife Ima, took us to Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria which is known for serving one of the best Chicago-style pizzas. I got easily satisfied by just a single slice of this high edge pie filled with cheese and chunky tomato sauce. These are baked on a rounded steel pan that is similar when making a cake.

One of the food wonders that I got to really enjoy in my short stay in Chicago was when I tried chipotle for the first time. I mean, how come there is not even a franchise yet in Angeles City? This particular burrito bowl is my new favorite. You get to choose from a variety of fillings like meat or organic tofu, carnitas, sofritas, rice, beans and fajita veggies, and top it off with your choice of salsas, sour cream or guacamole. People of Pampanga, please learn to make one.

There is so much to do and a lot to see in this unique and beautiful Windy City. It has been an empirical place for architectural innovation. Millennium Park is a must-visit for its famous reflective bean-shaped sculpture called the Cloud Gate and the interactive Crown Fountain. The Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) surpassed the World Trade Center towers when it was completed its 108-storey construction in 1973. It used to be the tallest building in the world, a title it held for more than 20 years. At the skydeck, there are three glass bottom skyboxes located at the west façade of the tower at the 103rd floor where a person can view looking straight down from the glass balcony.

But my most memorable part of my visit in Chi-Town was when I was able to see and touch “The Spirit” statue of the G.O.A.T. at the United Center. The bronze on granite sculpture is more magnificent than the city’s “Magnificent Mile.”

My wife took a photo of me while doing a “jump shot” pose mimicking the Jump Man logo of MJ23. At that time, I forgot I had bad knees. As a fan, the Spirit is a sports destination to gather and take pictures. In the late 90s, a popular sports magazine listed the statue as one of the ten greatest sports photo opportunities.
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