This season of Top Chef, I really got involved. It was the first full season I watched with anticipation, rooted for several people and made sure to catch the finale while I was in Cleveland. (My mom was just as involved with her opinions as I was and we both rooted for the same person in the end.)
My short visit to Chicago immediately followed the finale and throughout the city, there were interviews with Stephanie on what seemed to be every television I saw. The city was humming with Top Chef news everywhere I looked.
With just three hours until boarding the plane back to California, I made a mental note to visit Lou Mitchell’s — the same restaurant where the contestants for Top Chef were competing as the breakfast short order cook to win immunity.
Lou Mitchell’s is not a cozy, quiet restaurant where one has quiet conversation. Not at all. Much like how it was portrayed on Top Chef, it was bustling with the morning rush with people trying to fit in a breakfast before work. Waiting for an available table did not take long and any frustration was eased by staffers who passed out donut holes to people waiting in line. In addition, tables were quickly cleared when the counter help gave warning that police were writing parking tickets for expired meters. I’ve never seen people so quickly gulp down their breakfasts, reacting to the warning issued over the intercom. This place was hardcore Chicago.
The donut holes were only the start. Once seated, Lou Mitchell’s offered an orange slice and prune to everyone holding a menu, whether they wanted it or not. Moments later, as I was still perusing the menu, mini boxes of Milk Duds were scattered on our table (keep in mind it was still the breakfast hour).
I don’t remember much about breakfast. Maybe it was the late night or the sadness that my vacation would soon be officially over. I do recall thinking that I should have split Paul’s meal because last night’s Spanish tapas were still heavy in my stomach. But my omelette was good, albeit nothing extraordinary I couldn’t have at any respectable breakfast joint. Maybe a Top Chef should have been the short order cook this particular morning because I wasn’t wowed, just exhausted.
But the meal ended just as it had started, with more food to keep the customer sated: soft serve to end the meal and my trip to Chicago.