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August 21, 2008

Today is the last day of the best of my life

Chicago1.jpgOh, all right. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. A life without southern California. A life that contains (shudder) Chicago.

This has nothing to do with Tribune. Faithful readers know that my daughter left southern California last spring and is now planning to go to business school at Northwestern near Chicago. People tell me what a great city it is, and particularly what great restaurants it has.

I keep thinking how cold it will be.

Goodbye, trips to California on United, and to feeling special because of my premier status for flying so much (and free upgrades to Economy Plus). Hello, Southwest and standing in lines to fight for an aisle seat. 

But I'm looking ahead. Right now I'm staying out of sight until the car is packed, and then Gailor and I are heading to Newton Falls, Ohio, our stop for the night. I don't think we're going to have any culinary adventures to report, but you never know. ... 

I did learn my lesson from the spring road trip, though. I refused to consider driving straight through because I know -- how shall I put this delicately? -- we don't always get off as early as planned.

As my brother said in March when he called at 7 p.m. to see how far we'd gotten and I had to admit six blocks, "At least you're in the frigging car."

We do have a reservation for Friday night in Evanston at the tapas restaurant MD Canon recommended, but once again I'm not allowed to bring anything to wear to save space in the car. So if it seems too fancy once we check it out, we'll eat there another visit.

Not to worry. I'm taking my trusty laptop with me, and, yes, Owl Meat did send me a Funtastic Thursday for a bit later. 

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:04 AM | | Comments (66)


May God have mercy on your soul. At least try for Hancock by nightfall.

Bon Voyage, EL! Safe journey!

Hope you get to check out the tapas place anyway. Maybe you can buy an outfit once you are settled!

I'm not allowed to bring anything to wear to save space in the car.

Umm, weren't you going to require Gailor to pare down the stuff to be schlepped to Chicago? Guess the great 100-items-or-less experiment didn't work out, after all?

Isn't it Southwest, not Southwestern? And we have had better experiences flying with them than with a lot of the competition. Just get your boarding pass the day before and you're all set.

I have family in California and in Chicago. Personally, I'll take Chicago over LA any day, but that's just me. And all those layers in winter can disguise a multitude of culinary sins.

Thanks. I corrected it. I knew better, was just thinking about Northwestern. EL

Southwest (not Southwestern) has changed the lineup procedure. Now you get a number when you confirm, and you line up according to that.

No more camping at the gate 4 hours before a flight.

Actually, as long as you know how to use a computer(which I assume you do sinc eyou write a blog) it is no longer required to stand in line to avoid getting stuck in the aisle.

Just check in on line exactly 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to take off, and you will more than likely get 1-30, and they give you a number in line too, so you dont have to wait in line either, they give you your place in line.

Dahlink, second your emotion!
Chicago over L.A. any day even in mid Feb. when "the hawk" is walking the streets.
Ms Stein was talking about Oakland I think but it also applies to L.A.
"there is no there there"...

Right, Southwest(ern) runs rings around the other so-called airlines these days. I always take them if prices are at least close. Plus, as others have pointed out, the boarding process is now a snap.

And hey, I'm also going to Chicago this weekend! If you find yourself at the White Sox game Saturday, be sure to look for Mr and Mrs Zevonista!

In memory of your California time. And also for the lovely Bacon Girl.

(Here's hoping I finally got the linking right, in preview its underlined, but so is the model if I paste it in a second time.)

Doing Southwest's online check-in precisely 24 hours in advance won't get you a boarding pass number lower than A-21 or thereabouts. Southwest reserves the lowest numbers for its Business Select customers, who get boarding priority no matter when they check in. That doesn't mean that 20 people will actually board the plane ahead of you -- I had a recent Southwest flight for which there were no Business Select passengers, so, even though I had boarding pass A-23, I wound up being third to board the plane.

Just check in on line exactly 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to take off, and you will more than likely get 1-30...

Oh, yeah, this is a lot better. Now you waste parts of two days
getting your seat assignment...uh, your right to a seat, wait, your chance at a seat assignment.

A cattle call is a cattle call, whether it's done in person or in cyber space.

(Although, I will say that the funniest announcement I've ever heard made by a flight attendant was on Southwest: "OK, aren't picking out furniture here, just find an open seat and sit in it..."

My condolences, EL. Besides the long, bone-chilling winters and having to fly on the big ugly cattle cars, you also have to trade In-N-Out for White Castle.

United does fly to Chicago; to O'Hare. Maybe not as convenient as Midway, and probably not as cheap as Southwest, but you can still use your status on United.

Actually O'Hare is closer to Evanston. But the fare was twice as much. EL

Warren is just a 10 minute drive from Newton Falls. A stop at the Big City Chophouse ( for the shrimp scampi, or the Hot Dog Shoppe for dogs, fries, and shakes would be worth the side-trip. I go every time I'm back home.

Thanks! EL

Elizabeth, Chicago is fascinating! We spent 4 days there in June and it was so much fun. The architecture is great, there are streetside cafes like in Paris, and the downtown is very vibrant.

I found the people to be very attractive and well-dressed, and also very fit, probably from walking everywhere (like in New York). They're friendly in a Midwestern kind of way, which I find unnerving but a lot of people prefer.

Last time I went to Chicago on business, I stayed in the Conrad Hotel, where they gave me (at no extra charge), a suite with a corner balcony overlooking Trib Tower (I know you have mixed feelings about the mothership, but you have to admit the building is beautiful).

January through March is pretty bitter there, but that still leaves 9 other months to visit your daughter...

I think June is the operative word here. EL

EL: Why are you complaining about the cold in Chicago when it's August? Besides, the really frigid stuff is rare and invigorating.

I'm with Rob't/TBRS. Southwest is an airline for the great unwashed - not to mention some of the most clueless people I have ever had to fly with - and then there were the passengers. Next time you fly there, try Midwest Airlines. Civilized folk fly it. They're on-time record is incredible. And, if I'm not mistaken, they still bake chocolate chip cookies on board most flights.

EL - Please do me a favor when you hit the Windy City. Face due north at some point at wave, saying "Piano Rob misses Milwaukee!"

Bon voyage!

Because I like to visit my daughter. Although since we haven't left yet, that may not be a problem. EL

EL: you should try Rick Bayless place in the loop! Probably the best Mexican restuarant in the US.

At the risk of turning this into an airline topic...I wouldn't be booking too far in advance on Midwest if I were you.

I love Midwest -- free chocolate chip cookies baked on board! -- but they don't fly out of BWI as of September 8. So unless you want to drive to D.C., I'd recommend Southwest.

Hancock by sunset seems more and more doable. 8 o

Newton Falls isn't so bad. Certainly no culinary advances to be found, but if you're looking for something interesting, I couldbe of assistance!

Hancock by evening, but where would you stay there?

The tapas restaurant knows that it is next to a university campus, so all manner of casual dress can be seen. The nearby Whole Foods has a building-top parking deck which you may be able to use if the street parking is dicey.

Good luck on the trip! Hopefully you are well on your way by now.

If they only make it as far as Flintstone, that Rocky Gap resort place is pretty nice. Never stayed there myself, we camp in nearby Green Ridge State Forest.

love, Love, LOVE Chicago! As they say, it is "New York done right". I second the Hancock at sunset suggestions or even for a nightcap. There's just something about seeing that city lit up at night while sipping a martini 100 stories high that makes everything seem just right.

It's been a few years, so I don't know if they are still there, but I recommend checking out Green Zebra and hot Doug's.

Hancock by evening, but where would you stay there? Curled up in the car at the truck stop...

Notice time stamps: first post 5.04. 11.01: still in Baltimore.

There's always also the Taste of Chicago which is both tasty and fun.

MD Canon -- can you make any dining recommendations for EL and Gailor in the Breezewood area?

Rebecca - It's interesting that I was able to book a flight on Midwest from BWI to MKE for the 10th of October. The only thing that's changed is that it's no longer non-stop.

On the other hand, before Midwest had BWI service I flew out of National and I sure didn't drive. I took the MARC train and the DC Metro to the airport ... a wonderful journey.

Rob't - I'm well aware of Midwest's financial state (I have stock) and despite what may be going on in the industry I believe Midwest will be around for a while. Now, where did I put those rose-colored glasses?

Piano Rob - are we talking about the same Midwest? The one I'm referring to was taken private in an LBO by TPG Capital.

Piano Rob - That's odd. I've read all over the Internet that they were canceling service as of September 8. And my post-Christmas flight was canceled -- I had to re-book out of DC. Hmmm...

Rebecca - You were correct. One can book a flight on the Midwest website but that flight will be on Northworst - er, Northwest. My bad. And, yes, Rob't, I'm sure we're talking about the same Midwest.

So, the next time I fly home I will train it to DCA.

Midwest is leaving BWI as of September 8, so I suspect that Piano Rob's trip in October may actually be on Northwest flights under a codeshare agreement between those two airlines. (Nonstop service is still available on Midwest between DCA and MKE, although Northwest codeshares also pop up there.)

As a relatively frequent traveler from the mid-west to Baltimore and return, I have to comment.

Why would anyone from the Balto/DC area go through BREEZEWOOD if they are heading anywhere west of PA? Besides missing the hells of BREEZEWOOD and the truck infestated PA turnpike, getting off I70 at Hancock and following I68 to Morgantown and then north on I79 is a much more pleasant and scenic route.

In addition, the rest stops on I68 at the “cut in the hill” in MD and the WV welcome center make for very convenient pit stops. Also, some of the small towns on the WV section of I68, 3-4 hours west from Balto/DC, have small restaurants that still serve real food at very reasonable prices, e.g. Bruceton Mills.

I-68, aka the National Pike, is a great drive! I surely miss that kind of scenery. I've camped out there at Green Ridge quite a few times and enjoyed it. Looking forward to doing it again.

that "cut in the hill" is Sideling Hill and way cool. But its past Hancock and hopefully our Leader and Gailor are way past that.

EL - beware the crazy neon lights at O'Hare on the walkways between terminals. I nearly had a seizure once. I hate that airport when I'm in it. And even when I'm not in it, wherever I am flying in the U.S., the delay is caused by delays at O'Hare. (As such, the British Virgin Islands is the only place I will go now on my short vacations. O'Horror has no power over those flights.)

beware the crazy neon lights at O'Hare on the walkways between terminals.

Do they still have those? I haven't been in O'Hare in probably a couple of decades, but I always liked the bizarre light and music show in the walkway.

LEC -- Breezewood may be hell, but it's a shorter drive. According to Google Maps, the drive from the old Westview Mall in Catonsville (as close to the I-695 and I-70 junction as I could rationally find) to Evanston, IL is 711 miles long, or 11 hours 30 minutes, via Breezewood. Via Morgantown, the trip is 754 miles, or 12 hours 11 minutes. Yes, Sideling Hill is lovely, but I suspect that, at least for EL this time around, the object of the exercise is to deliver Gailor from Point A to Point B in the shortest possible driving time.

LEC, I'm from western West Virginia and travel home several times a year via that route. Would you please offer up some of those good restaurants? We're usually in a hurry when we make the trip, so experimenting has never appealed. Some solid recommendations would be wonderful!

I'm with the Breezewood haters. I much prefer 70 to 68 to 70 to 65 than I-76. The scenery is prettier; it's not a toll road; it goes through Columbus where I can stay overnight with friends if I'm not doing a straight-through. My record drive from Bmore to MKE, btw, is 13'50. Stop only for gas and potty.

But, now back to the food! You will find Chicago dining to be amazing. A place we went to on our last trip was Cuatro, a nuevo latino restaurant in South Chicago. This appetizer--Coctel Vuelve a La Vida, which had ahi tuna, baby octopus, squid and seared shrimp, Acapulco style cocktail sauce, pico de gallo, and avocado was amazing. It was like a spicy gazpacho with seafood.

We've found ethnic food, especially Thai and Indian to be much more reasonably priced and of course, much more available than in Baltimore.

Be sure to check out Wishbone in the West Loop, wonderful breakfast and southern food--it's open only for breakfast and lunch. I love the corn pancakes with red pepper sauce.

Chicago food is definitely something to look forward to.

Mary Roby

Piano Rob,
At that pace, I thought your last comment would be gas and tickets!

I recently had a job offer up in MKE, but turned it down, while its a great town (think B'more with nicer folks) I hear its bitter cold up there in the winter.

What's MKE?

What's MKE?

It's a strange abbreviation for Milwaukee. I'm guessing it's the airport code.

While normally it grates on me when people use semi-cryptic abbreviations instead of just typing what they meant, I'll cut more slack in the case of a hard-to-type word like Milwaukee. :-)

OMG -- the IATA airport code for Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport is MKE, just as DCA is the code for National (er, Reagan National), IAD is the code for Dulles (er, Washington Dulles), and BWI is the code for, um, BWI (er, BWI Marshall).

Does anyone remember what the airport code was for Friendship Airport? I'm sure it wasn't BWI.

Hal -- the memorization of IATA codes has become a necessary evil in these days of online ticketing, with the result that codes often become a slang shorthand for the corresponding cities. (Think LAX for Los Angeles, for example.)

It turns out that "MKE" was also the name of a free weekly tabloid printed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (their counterpart to that dreadful "b" tabloid put out by The Sun). Unfortunately, the "MKE" tabloid bit the dust last month (which certainly isn't a good omen for the likes of "b").

Hal -- according to Wikipedia, "BAL" was the original IATA code for Friendship. When the State of Maryland changed the airport's name in 1973, they discovered that another airport was already using the "BWI" code, and it was another nine years (1982) before they obtained the "BWI" code for the renamed BWI airport. (For what it's worth, the BAL mode is now used for Batman Airport in Batman, Turkey.)

It'll always be National to me, hmpstd.

Lissa -- ditto on your comment. DCA will always be National to me, too.

Figuring out the original source of airport codes can be fun, in a time-killing kind of way.

My favorite obscure airport code: MSY, the code for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. It stands for Moisant Stock Yards.

Don't mock b. They had a great front page article on flip flops a while back.

Batman Airport in Turkey? Holy Guacamole I have the strength to go on.

National is National. I love the absurdity of tacking Reagan's name onto such a crappy airport that already has two other people's name attached (Washington and Columbus).

I love the absurdity of tacking Reagan's name onto such a crappy airport

The absurdity goes farther than that, what with Reagan firing all the air traffic controllers and busting the union.

The airport code for Cincinnati Ohio is CVG which stands for Covington which is in Kentucky. That's because the Cincinnati International airport is in Kentucky. Covington is the largest city in Kenton County,Y which owns the airport. CVG is physically located in neighboring Boone County, KY.

I always wondered how New Orleans Airport got that code. Anyone know how Norfolk gots its code, ORF?

My local airport, laughingly named Panama City-Bay County International Airport (PFN), was once called Fannin Field. I'm guessing that has something to do with its code.

Rob't from TBRS -- I've always liked the O'Hare code of ORD, taken from ORcharD, since the site was originally an apple orchard.

OMG -- I wasn't aware that the "Columbus" name was ever attached to DCA -- what did that happen?

For real airport code nostalgia, check out this old ad (top row, center) for Pan Am Jet Clipper Cargo, promising service in 6-3/4 hours from "IDL to PAR". IDL is now JFK Airport in New York, built on the site of the Idlewild golf course -- as devotees of Car 54, Where Are You? may recall (even though its official name was New York International Airport at that time). PAR is now a generic code for all Paris airports, so, back then, it referred either to Le Bourget (LBG), the destination of Pan Am's first transatlantic 707 flight in 1958 (now closed to scheduled service), or to Orly (ORY), then the main international gateway (a role now taken by Charles de Gaulle/CDG).

OMG - omg! I can't believe you didn't know that MKE was short for Milwaukee. Of course it's airport code.

Hal, it's not that strange given DCA, and once you type Milwaukee you never forget it!

Rob in PCB FL: It's true about MKE and Bmore being a lot alike but with MKE having nicer folks. As for "bitter cold" - it can be frigid at times. I remember one December/January stretch when the highest temperature was -2 over 32 days. Now, that's a REAL winter.

The Journal Sentinel is a great paper. I get the Sunday edition. It's written for people with a 12th grade education - unlike the Sun, whose readership might be 8th grade at best. Many years ago the Sentinel was the morning paper, the Journal in the evening. Eventually the Journal conglomerate that controlled TV Channel 4 - WTMJ (W the Mke Journal) and at least 3 radio stations - bought out the Sentinel and now there is but one paper. In the morning.

In fact, Sandboxers, go to for the lastest news and a terrific web site!

They do a heist at Idlewild in Goodfellas. Crossord clue (boost again= rehijack)

DCA --> DC --> District of Columbia --> Columbia = Columbus. Am I wrong? Lot's different versions of his name.

We use the Latin version for some reason. I don't know Latin, but since it follows Greek in structure I suppose Columbia is Columbus as a different form, like how Brutus becomes Brute in "Et tu Brute".

I like to post nice html links but smoetimes I'm just too lazy to open up the file that has the code in it and copy it. Maybe you could post this code somewhere on the right for us:

$a href="ADDRESS"$TEXT$/a$

but change the $ to angle brackets. Someone better than me knows how to code that so that the real brackets will show up. That way you can just double click the word ADDRESS or TEXT and paste either into it. Eezy peezy.

PCB Rob - no civilian airport codes begin with "N" because that is reserved for use by the Navy. Norfolk's code comes from Norfolk.

Another good one, not too far from y'all: The airport at Kitty Hawk is FFA for First Flight Airport. (It might be First Flight Airfield...can't remember for sure. I think it's a small uncontrolled airport.)

Hmpstd, the Orchard from which Chicago's O'Hare airport was named, wasn't so much an orchard as a local town, Orchard Place, near which Douglas Aircraft built an aircraft factory factory during WW II. From Wikipedia (I hope without nasty edits) "Orchard Place was a small pre-existing community in the area, and the airport was known during the war as ORchard Place Airport/Douglas Field (hence the call sign ORD)."

Some codes come from previous (often military) airports, such as MCO for Orlando, which used to be McCoy Air Force Base until it closed in the mid 70's.

Hal, it's not that strange given DCA

I never, ever refer to Washington DC as DCA. Or to Baltimore as BWI. Or Milwaukee as MKE, for that matter. :-)

and once you type Milwaukee you never forget it!

I don't have any trouble typing Milwaukee, I just figured you guys that type MKE instead must have trouble with it.


♫There's a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights.
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights.
There's a Scout troop short a child.
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild...
Car 54, where are you?♫

LOL. Thanks for reminding me. Ooo-Ooo-Ooo.

By the way...hmpstd wrote: the memorization of IATA codes has become a necessary evil in these days of online ticketing

When searching for flights, you can use the code WAS and get all the flight information for BWI, DCA and IAD. In this case, WAS isn't an airport code, it is a location code for airports in/near Washington, D.C.

RiE -- I had heard about the apple orchard connection to ORD long before Wikipedia came into being. See, for example, this 1988 Time magazine article, and this 1994 article from the Air Line Pilots Association. (The very bottom of the ALPA article confirms the D as the last letter of orchard.) I did check the Wikipedia entry on O'Hare prior to making my post, and even clicked to the Wikipedia entry on Orchard Place, but neither happened to mention just how Orchard Place happened to get its name. (The Wikipedia authors probably believe that it was founded by Jebediah Orchard-Place.)

Wikipedia is good, but it's subject to inaccuracies, or, worse, tampering. (As to the latter, you may recall the Rita's Water Ice discussion of a few days ago.) I'm not going to chuck away a lifetime's accumulation of useless knowledge in favor of a Wikipedia entry that may have just been concocted by a bunch of snot-nosed nerds who couldn't get [a date] one Friday night.

Rob't from TBRS -- for people coming to the greater Washington area, the WAS code may be useful, but for those of us who live here, specific codes for the specific airport are a must. For example, my home is reasonably close to BWI Airport, but it's a long hike from Dulles. If somebody wants me to pick them up or drop them off at "the airport", they'd better not be talking about IAD unless they have a very good reason. (Recently, I had to deliver somebody to IAD for an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin, not available through BWI. The return drive to Baltimore was 2+ hours of evening rush hour hell, with most of that hell occurring on the Capital Beltway.)

Or, to put things in your TBRS perspective, what if the IATA created a "COL" code to cover all Colorado airports, including DEN/Denver, ASE/Aspen, COS/Colorado Springs, DRO/Durango, EGE/Eagle County (Vail), GJT/Grand Junction, and HDN/Hayden? I bet that would make for loads of fun in the middle of winter when friends from the East Coast call you up, tell you that they're flying into "COL", and ask you to pick them up at "the airport". Hey, to us out East, those flyover states between here and LAX must all have manageable driving distances, given how small they look on the map. ;-)

I'm not going to chuck away a lifetime's accumulation of useless knowledge in favor of a Wikipedia entry that may have just been concocted by a bunch of snot-nosed nerds who couldn't get [a date] one Friday night.

I agree, hmpstd. I'll say it again: Wikipedia, your source for facts and things that sound like they could be facts.

As to the COL code...point taken, although I wouldn't necesaary call BWI/DCA analogous to DEN/GJT. There's a difference of a couple hundred miles and two crossings of the Contintal Divide.

Piano Rob, I was in Wisconsin before Labor Day and said hello to Milwaukee for you. I also got to Fronterra Grill -- fabulous food! And delicious drinks too!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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