If there is any truth to the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’, we tested its limits in Chicago – our final day there was full of more amazing sights, flavors, etc… We jumpstarted the day with coffee at another Intellegentsia Cafe – this one on the ground floor of the Monadnock Building. To most you, this building’s name won’t ring a bell, but for those of you that suffered through third-year architectural history with me, you’ll know that this is the tallest load-bearing masonry building in America, with masonry walls as much as six feet thick at its base. Fascinating, no?

Post-lattes, we spent a little time wandering around the neighborhood – this was one of my favorite areas of Chicago, with so many beautiful old masonry buildings of different colors and patterns. I walked around in an urban daze, my eyes continually pulled upward to buildings that frame the canyon-like streets.

And I love the juxtaposition of old and new – I was thrilled when we came upon the Spertus Institute, a new building made famous by its faceted curtainwall. It’s exciting to be able to experience first-hand the architecture I’ve admired in magazines and design blogs, and I was totally enamored with this building – Shane had to go grab a seat at the nearby park while I walked back and forth at the base of the facade, wanting to understand every little angle and reflection.

The weather was good, but rain clouds hovered in the distance, so we decided to take advantage of what might be our final hour of sunshine and grab lunch at a sidewalk table at The Gage on Michigan Avenue. Our pork-intensive week had me craving vegetables, and this beautiful beet salad totally hit the spot.

Energized by our veggie-rich lunch (or was it the beer?), we headed over the Art Institute of Chicago for a serious art fix. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I’d been a little disappointed by the previous day’s museum, but figured the trip would be worth a shot – if nothing else, I wanted to check out the renovation of the Modern Art wing, designed by one of my favorite architects. Holy. Cow. I had no idea what we were in for – the contemporary collection far exceeded my expectations with several pieces by my favorite artists. Giacometti, Dubuffet, Rauschenberg, and the list goes on. And the space was beautiful – there’s a reason they call Renzo Piano a master of light.

After a couple of hours of wandering through the galleries, we started to experience art fatigue, and so we called it a day at the museum and headed out to Millennium Park. This park might be one of my favorite things about the city – the public art is amazing (seriously, how cool is the Bean?), and the variety of spaces provide something for everyone, whether you want to people-watch at the Crown Fountain, or sit on a quiet bench, or stretch out on the lawn. Plus, the tulips are in full bloom in Chicago, allowing for these amazing little patches of color along the park’s edges.

After taking one last spin through the park, we headed back toward our hotel, stopping briefly at the Aqua Tower to snap a few photos – more architectural eye candy…

We had late-night dinner reservations and several hours to kill until then, so after resting up back at the room for awhile, we decided to take a leisurely stroll in the direction of the restaurant, figuring we could probably find a bar or two that could fill our time until 10. Our wandering landed us at The Bull and Bear, where we ordered a couple of beers and caught some of the basketball game. From there, we walked south of the river, pausing often to enjoy the city at night, in all of its lit-up glory.

A short bus-ride landed us right across the street from the restaurant, but being that we still had an hour to kill, we headed into Haymarket Brewery to grab one more drink, and see if Chicago’s microbrews had anything on our Northwest favorites. We had a good time, but I will say that I remain partial to Manny’s… Finally, the moment we’d been waiting for arrived and we headed over to The Girl and the Goat to grab our table. Shane made these reservations nearly two months ago, as this place has been making quite a buzz and can be rather hard to get into. I’m sure its fame is largely due to the fact that it was started by Top Chef Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard, but after enjoying our meal, we can confirm that its popularity is legit. The chickpea fritters melt in your mouth; the goat and veal sugo is rich and meaty, but perfectly lightened with the addition of sweet, juicy gooseberries; and the roasted pig face topped with a sunny-side egg is…unusual (Shane loved this dish, but I think jury’s still out on this one). Throw in a couple of oh-my-gosh rich desserts, and we left there with some pretty huge grins on our faces. However, I was only smiling until I realized just how sickeningly full I was – I suppose ‘too much of a good thing’ really does have some truth to it… Nonetheless, it was a meal we’ll always remember and a perfect way to end our decadent tour of Chicago.

Next up on our Midwestern vacation: 24 hours in Minneapolis!