40 Fit N' Stylish
Melissa and Chris at The Palmer House Hilton

My Birthday Weekend in Chicago

January 29, 2018 Comments Off on My Birthday Weekend in Chicago

My Guy Planned a Surprise for My 40th Birthday

A few weeks ago, Chris told me I needed a fancy dress and a dress jacket to wear on my birthday. Whenever I dug for details, he’d say, “We’re going to our favorite Chipotle.” It’s in Elk River.  Then, a few days ago, he let me know that we would be leaving town for a couple of days. Just before 6a.m. on Friday my guy let me know that we would be flying somewhere. Once we arrived at the Rochester Airport, I knew our destination: Chicago.

Chris and Me waiting for our flight.

Ever since I knew a surprise was happening for my birthday, my brain had fixed itself on wanting to see Hamilton in Chicago. I tried not to say anything about wanting to go there, because I know my face gets a certain excited glow when I talk about Hamilton. In my mind, going to Hamilton was unlikely. It’s thrilling enough to be with a man who wants to plan delightful surprises for me.

Once I knew we were going to Chicago, I couldn’t stop thinking (or saying) Hamilton. Chris denied it. Then, in the cab on the way to our hotel, he let me know that he’d selected it based on its proximity to what we were in the city to do. When my eyes landed on the Hamilton marquee, I knew.

Hamilton Marquee

We stayed at The Palmer House Hilton. It was built during the Victorian age as a wedding gift from Palmer to his bride. The decor is charming, romantic, and decadent. The Empire Room in the hotel is where many a celebrity has performed over the years.

The Empire Room

Outside The Empire Room

Our 1st Night in Chicago:

Ericka checked us in and asked if we were staying for a special reason. We mentioned that we were there for my birthday. She gave us a coupon for a free appetizer at Lockwood. We had the wings. They were delicious.

Drinks at Lockwood Bar

Basil Pineapple Tequila Drinks and my honey making the peace sign.

When we were talking with our server about drinks. She mentioned one no longer on their menu. It’s made with their signature blend of tequila, muddled pineapple, and basil. I’m guessing it has a touch of simple syrup too. If you go and if you like tequila like I do, I recommend asking your server if there’s any way they could make them for you. They were delicious.



Branded Brioche Bun

They brand the top of their brioche buns.

For dinner we ate at Potter’s Chicago Burger Bar, named after Potter Palmer, the same man who created the hotel. They serve up burgers inspired by and named after area neighborhoods. Chris had the Pilsen, a burger topped with diablo sauce, pepper jack cheese, and guacamole. I had the West Loop topped with mushrooms, swiss cheese, garlic butter, and truffle aioli. Again, delicious.




We returned to our room. In it was a card from Ericka and The Palmer House, a birthday cake, and a bottle of champagne.

Palmer Hotel Card from Ericka

Saturday in Chicago, Part One:

Chris at The Art Institute of Chicago

Chris planned on us going to the Art Institute of Chicago. I love looking at art, especially famous paintings that I remember learning about in elementary school. I’m not sure why. There’s just a certain joy to it. After visiting MoMA in NYC earlier this year, I knew a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to touring a major art museum.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. It’s confusing and conflicting to have tears of pain and awe happening at the same time. Both sprung in my eyes at once in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night at MoMA.
  2. As it is with reading poetry, the brain needs a break after looking at so many gorgeous works. It’s amazing and one thinks it’d be easy to consume, yet the mind needs time. At least mine does (and so does Chris’s), so I give it a break. We gave our art tour an intermission and relaxed in the Caffe Moderno on the Art Institute’s second level. I had a double Americano and an Oatmeal White Chocolate Cranberry cookie. Yum! I was debating between the oatmeal cookie and a chocolate chip graham cookie, so I asked the barista. He said the oatmeal one with a warm smile. I often ask servers their opinions. I love it when a warm smile crosses their face as they make a recommendation, because then I know that chances are good that I’ll enjoy their recommendation.
  3. Be yourself, silliness welcome. Okay, I don’t know how the art world feels about people being silly within museums, but Chris has a quirky way of seeing things, pointing them out and making me laugh. When he saw the angle of the arm and the faces in the statue above, he thought they looked they were taking a selfie, so…he joined them.

A few of my favorites at the Art Institute of Chicago:

American Gothic

American Gothic by Grant Wood

The Poet’s Garden by Vincent Van Gogh

Cow's Skull with Calico Roses by Georgia O'Keeffe

Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses by Georgia O’Keeffe

Saturday in Chicago Part Two:

When we had our appetizer and drinks on Friday night we perused the Lockwood Restaurant‘s menu and decided to dine there for my birthday. One big reason for our choice was its proximity to the CIBC Theatre. Chris knows that I love to be at theater performances early. When we went to the UP Comedy Club at Second City our first time in Chicago, we were among the first in the audience. I get anxious about time often. More so when it comes to time and theater. Maybe it’s because I was a teenage theater brat and the adults who directed me and that I performed with were always stressing the importance of timeliness.

Chris at Lockwood Restaurant Melissa at Lockwood

We could not have chosen a more scrumptious place with better service. Chris had the 10 ounce striploin. I had the filet. Both were served with pommes frites. We both ordered our steaks medium and both steaks came out a perfect medium. I have no idea what seasonings they used on the steaks, only that they were delicious (there’s that word again – I think it’s the 4th time I’ve used it in this post. It can’t be helped).

Chris and Melissa at Hamilton

Ah Hamilton. We saw it and then spent the rest of our evening talking about it. I will tell you that we were seated rather far back in the balcony and that we could see everything perfectly, including the expressions on actors’ faces. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the CIBC theater. I will also tell you that there were cheers after almost every song. There’s just so much love so many in the audience have for the show. I’ve been to a number of touring Broadway shows. I do not remember any with that level of  audience response. Oh and I will share that King George’s performance is even more funny than you’d expect from the recording. Words aren’t adequate for sharing anything else about the show.

Sunday Morning in Chicago

On Sunday Morning, we walked from our hotel to Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. I wanted the pancakes. I ordered the  veggie omelette, because it is time for winter celebrations to be done with and for healthier choices to be made. When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by three smiling hostesses. Our server was polite and efficient and the food was great.

My fiancee played paparazzi with his iPhone on our walk back to the hotel.

A few hours later we were back on the ground in Rochester, Minnesota. A smooth flight after a delightful weekend away. I’d like to write that we were welcomed by the warm embrace of home, but we live in Minnesota and life is only so magical.

Rochester Airport