"In a town where everything is great, they're most famous for something that sucks," the chef says in the Season 2 opener of "The Layover" (8 p.m. CT Nov. 19, Travel Channel; 3 stars out of 4).
Bourdain cruised around the city's neighborhoods in a rented Cadillac, a "big-ass, gas-guzzling, made-in-America car" which is needed, he says, in a city that does everything big. During 43 hours in the city, Bourdain visited off-the-beaten-path places and well-known spots, and let locals do much of the talking. (Minor complaint: I wish they were identified onscreen.)
His colorful commentary, which fits in with the no-BS Chicago aesthetic he mentions in the show, makes "The Layover" more than just a snoozy travelogue. He calls the decor at Simon's "mid-period Viking" and says walking into the Andersonville bar feels like getting "a big, boozy hug from Pippi Longstocking." He praises the "non-douchey crowd" at Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, and notices "a lot of [bleeping] cooks" at Stephanie Izard's Girl and the Goat.
Other stops on his bar crawl included The Hideout, Billy Goat Tavern and Old Town Ale House, where he chatted up Bruce Cameron Elliott about his paintings on the walls, the opera on the jukebox and other topics not fit for a newspaper. At L&L Tavern in Wrigleyville, he sampled the locally-made Malort (big fail for not showing use his Malort face).
The host also ate at The Doughnut Vault, Johnnie's Beef, Jimmy's Red Hots, Publican Quality Meats and Publican, where he discussed Chicago political corruption with Tribune reporter Mark Caro, who mentioned the fries they eat may not be good for cholesterol counts. "I took my Lipitor today," cracks Bourdain, who doesn't seem too worried about the healthfulness of his food choices.
As for Chicago's cultural scene, Bourdain mentioned some popular tourist stops like the Art Institute, but he chose to visit a more esoteric option, the Museum of Surgical Science, where he asked to see the trephining kits. Trephining, we learn, is an old surgery in which a doctor drills a hole in your skull to relieve pressure on the brain. (It was sometimes used to stop headaches.)
Not surprisingly, Bourdain's tour of Chicago offers better ways to cure what ails you.
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