Cross country comfort: United Premium Transcontinental service debuts
World-class cities inspire our premium transcontinental service
Today we announced an enhanced premium transcontinental service that includes deluxe amenities and a culinary experience inspired by the four cities served — Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York — including a new route between Boston and San Francisco. Offering many of the same amenities found on our international routes, premium transcontinental service debuted today. The United Business experience will include flat-bed seats, food and beverage offerings inspired by United PolarisSM onboard dining, and deluxe amenities. Customers seated in United Economy Plus® will also enjoy a coastal-city-inspired menu at no additional charge.
"We routinely see high demand for travel between our coasts and we want to provide the same level of quality typically reserved for international routes — this includes all flat-bed seating in business class as well as an industry-leading dining experience for customers in Economy Plus," said Mark Krolick, United's vice president of marketing. "Our updated premium transcontinental service not only connects travelers between four of the nation's largest markets, it connects customers to the best food, drinks and amenities from these world-class cities."
The Trotter Project chefs add local flair to premium transcontinental dining
Customers will enjoy new food and beverage offerings refreshed seasonally from local partners and dining menus by critically acclaimed Trotter Project chefs from the premium transcontinental markets, including:
- David LeFevre, Chef Partner, Manhattan Beach Post, California
- Mitchell Nordby, Sous Chef, Parallel 37 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, San Francisco
- Michael Armstrong, Executive Chef, Dream Downtown and Bodega Negra, New York
Customers in United Business on premium transcontinental routes can also enjoy a refreshing Moscow Mule featured cocktail with candied ginger and fresh lime and Sam Adams Summer Ale on select flights, in addition to our signature dessert cart featuring small dessert bites, fresh fruit and a selection of cheeses.
Starting this month,, Economy Plus customers traveling on premium transcontinental routes will enjoy a coastal-city-inspired menu along with alcoholic beverages — including the featured cocktail if they choose. Additionally, Economy Plus customers will receive a complimentary hot fresh entrée, dessert and fruit, a pre-arrival snack and their choice of alcoholic beverages. Sample menu selections include savory roasted chicken with a smoked barbecue sauce and butternut squash tortellini with sage cream sauce. Dessert options will include New York's favorite sweet treat, cheesecake, as well as a chocolate brownie and fresh seasonal fruit.
"Customers traveling in Economy Plus will receive the industry's best economy cabin dining experience," noted Krolick. "Flying between Boston or the New York area and the west coast can be akin to flying from the east coast to Europe, and we want to provide a satisfying and unparalleled meal in our Economy cabin. This enhancement to Economy Plus is our first step toward a premium Economy offering for our customers."
Enjoy all the comforts and luxuries at 35,000 feet
Customers traveling in United Business will enjoy 180-degree flat-bed seats along with improved amenities including a custom-designed duvet and pillow from New York's Saks Fifth Avenue and a newly designed Saks amenity kit. Customers will also receive hot towel service both before the main meal service and prior to arrival. Additionally, United Business customers will continue to enjoy United Club access to freshen up, relax and enjoy complimentary food and beverages prior to departure or upon arrival, as well as Premier Access® priority check-in and boarding.
Welcoming Boston as a premium transcontinental market
Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and it's now the newest city to receive flat-bed seating for flights between Boston and San Francisco. From renowned restaurants to historical sites, the city of Boston has much to explore. Take a stroll back in time on Boston's 2.5-mile Freedom Trail where you'll visit sites that tell visitors the story of the nation's founding. With this new schedule, customers will have the option of choosing an early morning departure from both San Francisco and Boston, an 8:30 p.m. departure from Boston and multiple overnight flights from San Francisco. The San Francisco-Boston route will operate in both directions and feature up to 28 flat-bed seats on each flight.
Charmed by Southern Africa
Each week we profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.
By San Franciso Customer Service Representative, Leonida Esquieres
Two years of preparation for this adventure brought my family and close friends to southern Africa. Since this is the farthest destination we've ever planned, we decided to cover at least three neighboring countries — South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana — to save on travel. We weren't sure what to expect from these places, but surprisingly, it turned out to be the most amazing adventure. Our long journey from the U.S. (33 hours) brought us first to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. To get there, you could fly to many of United's European destinations and then take Star Alliance partner airlines to get to Africa. (Later this year you'll be able to fly nonstop from Newark to Cape Town)
Our first stop was the city of Victoria Falls, home to the famous, spectacular and most beautiful waterfall also called Victoria Falls. It is referred to as "The Smoke that Thunders" and is one of Earth's greatest spectacles, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made up of a series of gorges and falls, the size and power of this massive body of water is awe-inspiring. As we planned to witness the "lunar rainbow," which only happens during a full moon, we scheduled to go at that time. The lunar rainbow can be seen for three nights of each lunar cycle during the full moon. The moon bow is created by the mist of the falls as light from the moon is refracted by water particles, creating a rainbow effect. Although it is something extraordinary, I must say that it was more fun to see the falls at day time while getting drenched from the thick mist.
The next day's highlight was the much-anticipated Zambezi River sunset cruise. What could be better than an open bar sunset cruise while soaking up the beauty of Africa? As we drifted along the river we admired the splashes of color that the setting sun painted in the sky as well as watched the wildlife in the serenity of this place. At the end of the cruise we tasted unique cuisines such as impala meat, buffalo meat and worms (yes, worms) at Boma restaurant.
A short and easy trip from Zimbabwe, Botswana makes for a great trip to this and a wonderful safari destination. It's an astonishing place and home to amazing wildlife. We did both a Thebe River boat safari and a mobile safari through Chobe National Park. The river safari was entertaining and is an authentic Botswanan experience. Chobe is famous for its large population of elephants and one of the best wildlife destinations in the world, which overwhelmed us as we tried to capture photos of all of the amazing animals in sight. The baby animals were so cute, glued close to their mothers or underneath them. What a sheer display of wildlife in their natural habitat. A herd of buffalos swimming across mini islands, sunbathing crocodiles, hippos in the bank, a herd of kudus under the trees, families of monkeys with babies hanging underneath mothers along our relaxing river cruise — we saw it all. The baby elephants were so adorable you'd want to take them home.
From Zimbabwe we flew on our Star Alliance partner South African Airways (SA) to Johannesburg, our point of entry into South Africa.
South Africa, the rainbow nation
I have put off South Africa for too long, to my regret now. Admittedly, I was worried by its reputation for crime and discouraged by the distance. But my experience proved otherwise — the people were very nice, it was peaceful everywhere we went and the scenery is so beautiful it makes the long distance worth it.
After a night's rest in Johannesburg, we headed to Cradle of Humankind, renowned as the birthplace of humanity. The Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind put the origins of humans into perspective and gave an intriguing look into our collective past. It is here that some of the most important fossils were found. The network of limestone caves and old mines at Sterkfontein today hold one of the most renowned paleontological sites in the world, made famous by a breakthrough in 1947 when an almost perfect adult skull nicknamed "Mrs. Ples" was found. The skull dates back 2 million years, providing valuable evidence for the origins of human evolution in Africa.
Our next stop was Kruger National Park for more wilderness sightings during a safari on a jeep. There, we witnessed a hyena family, leopards, lions, zebras, giraffes, kudus, buffalos, monkeys roaming on the streets stealing fruits or chasing us, and more elephants. What's more interesting is where we stayed for a couple of nights, called Hippo Hollow Country Estate, which offers cute chalet bungalows and a resident hippo roaming in the backyard. I swear it was near our chalet one night making loud noises.
On our third day we went to a place called God's Window on the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga, which is known as Paradise Country. God's Window is so called gets its name because of the panoramic view that it offers of the Lowveld, located more than 900 meters below with lush forest clad ravine. Despite the fog during our early morning visit, the incredible view was still marvelous and so enigmatic.
By the time we reached our main destination of Cape Town, we were hooked. South Africa's beauty is incomparable with any other countries we've seen. We filled our five days here (not enough) climbing Table Mountain with an incredible sweeping view of the city. Flanked by Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, Table Mountain makes up the northern end of the Cape Fold Mountain range. Legend has it that the tablecloth of clouds that pours over the mountain when the southeaster blows is the result of a smoking contest between the devil and a retired sea captain, Jan van Hunks. Blessed with crisp blue skies, we rode in a cable car and enjoyed the spectacular view from the peak.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town is situated on the Atlantic shore and offers a breathtaking view of Table Mountain and the ocean, making it a relaxing place to chill. We took a ferry to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. The legacy of apartheid is still very clearly visible and it was touching. Robben Island, the unique symbol of "the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice" with a rich 500-year-old multi-layered history, represents an important aspect of South Africa's history.
Bo-Kaap is one of the most photographed places in Cape Town so we weren't going to miss it. This place was formerly called the Malay Quarter when the colorful houses called "huurhuisjes" were built and rented to slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and other African countries. It was told that while leased these houses were white and when that law was lifted — and they were allowed to buy the houses — they painted them bright colors as an expression of their freedom. They are indeed very attractive and unique.
Ready for some African wine? Western Cape is your spot. The Cape Winelands is a region of the Western Cape Province and is home to world-class vineyards of South Africa. We had a wonderful wine tasting experience with views of the mountains surrounding the vineyards. We also stopped at Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet offering stunning views of the sea, flora and fauna. It was a dream come true to reach the most south-western point of the African Continent. Along our way on each stop were smaller charming Victorian villages, which were adorable and gave us a different perspective on South Africa that you wouldn't feel anywhere else in the world. A visit to Seal Island and Boulders Beach, where you can spot African penguins, were an added bonus.
Finding splendid beauty and wilderness in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana changed our perspective. Southern Africa offers dramatic mountain ranges, golden coast lines, wildlife, vibrant cities and centuries of history. It's amazing and worth traveling 30-plus hours to. I'm really looking forward to our Cape Town service starting in December.
Watch: CEO, Oscar Munoz, on United's Q2 performance
Watch the video below to hear more from Oscar.
Watch the video below to hear more from Oscar.
Weekend inspiration: Vail
When people think of Vail, they often think of snowy mountains packed with well-dressed skiers and snowboarders gleefully careening down the slopes. What many people don't know is that Vail is just as beautiful, with just as many activities in the summer.
Here's a perfect weekend in Vail, Colorado, on a sunny summer's day.
Vail is known for its upscale, impeccable hotel options. When we stayed for our last mural project, we were very lucky to have a suite at the Four Seasons Vail. The rooms are modern and spacious, the bathrooms feature deep, freestanding porcelain tubs with balconies overlooking the Rocky Mountains and there are coffee stations that will make even the pickiest coffee drinker happy. The lobby bar, Remedy, is a local favorite with stellar views of the hotel's stunning pool and green hiking paths. If you're looking for a smaller boutique hotel, check out the charming Austria Haus Hotel.
For dinner, we recommend going to Sweet Basil – largely regarded by locals as one of the best restaurants in town. Sweet Basil features fusion food with creative dishes such as saffron linguine and sakura pork tenderloin.
Vail is about 8,000 feet above sea level, so if the altitude hits you a few hours after your arrival, there are a number of things you can do to alleviate your symptoms. Stop by an oxygen bar for a quick O2hit or a hydration bar for an IV of saline and B12. Also, be sure to grab some electrolyte water, a portable oxygen cylinder, some ibuprofen and simple carb snacks (which are easier to digest at higher altitudes). We're native Coloradans, and even we were dragging our first night in Vail.
For your second day in Vail, call your hotel concierge about delivering fixings for a picnic for the following morning.
After you've packed your lunch, we recommend heading to eat at the charming Ludwig's Breakfast for a wonderful European-inspired brunch on an enclosed terrace overlooking Gore Creek.
If you're feeling pretty good with the higher elevation, we recommend an easy hike around town to get your (red) blood cells pumping. Stop by the Vail Nature Center and then walk along the winding path next to Gore Creek towards the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Built in the 80s, the Ford's lived in Vail and wanted to leave a lasting legacy. Hence, they created the highest botanical garden in the U.S. and had an amphitheater designed to match the snow-packed peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
Wander through the perfectly manicured gardens, check out the amphitheater schedule and finish up at Patrick Dougherty's mystical art installation "Stick Works." This installation of woven wood makes you feel like you've stumbled across the home of a woodland nymph or an ancient fairy colony.
For lunch, spread out your picnic in the open park space next to Dougherty's masterpiece and watch aspiring fly fisherman practice their casts.
Most Saturday afternoons in the summer are filled with events. Check out vail.com to see what your Saturday has to offer. When we were in town, we visited the Vail Arts Festival, full of talented Colorado artists. We also got to experience the Vail Beer Fest, and with hundreds of craft brews represented, this event has something for everyone. As you walk through the town, be sure to stop by our newest installation in Vail — "What Lifts You - Vail Swings." Created at the entrance of the Vail Transportation Center (near The Solaris Hotel), you can't miss the bright, oversized flowers and butterflies floating along the cement walls.
For dinner, we can't recommend the sweet, home-cooked meals at Alpenrose enough. Alyssa and her brother Joshua run this cozy restaurant and are some of the kindest folks you'll ever meet. Every single detail, from the restaurant design down to the mugs, has been carefully planned and is designed to make you feel at home. Alyssa explained to us that most of the recipes are her grandmother's and are inspired by the Black Forest region of Europe. The menu features Italian ravioli, "Munich-style" schnitzel and traditional German pretzels. Plan for a long meal because you will want to linger over their apple strudel and Gluwein for dessert.
The Four Season's restaurant Fire has an incredible breakfast buffet with some of the best service we've encountered. Their croissants are buttery and soft, and their waffles are made to order with a myriad of topping options.
If you're feeling a little full from breakfast, we recommend a pedi-cab to get you to your next destination. Ben Donnelly runs Vail Pedicab, and when he's not showing folks around Vail, he's teaching adaptive skiing to disabled youth in the winter. Let Ben know you'd like to take a gondola ride and he'll get you to the base of the Eagle Bahn lift. Keep your phone out during the trip to take shots of the stellar views of the Vail valley on the way up. At the top there's a slide, a ropes course and hiking galore if you'd like some exercise on the way down.
For a quick lunch, stop by the Remini Gelato & Cafe about a block away from Eagle Bahn Lift. The owners of this European inspired cafe so desperately wanted their Italian coffee maker that they bought it a seat on a plane back from Italy. This Italian beauty of a coffee maker does make incredible lattes and silky-smooth hot chocolate. Their yummy ham and swiss sandwiches also can't be beat.
After lunch, head over to the Colorado Snow Sports Museum. This newly renovated museum takes you through the history of skiing, snowboarding and even fashion on the slopes. The exhibit about the 10thMountain Division is a piece of history Coloradans are very proud of. Before WWII, Charles Dole, the president of the National Ski Patrol, convinced the US government we needed a division of the armed forces that was adept at skiing and surviving harsh winters and mountain conditions in case of an attack by German forces. The Army developed and trained the tough-as-nails 10thMountain Division of the US Armed Forces at Camp Hale in Colorado. The men of the 10thMountain Division went on to found almost every ski resort west of the Mississippi, co-found Nike and even went on to became politicians (including Bob Dole).
After an interesting history lesson, head over to the 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits bar for a proper whiskey. While you're at it, toast the brave men of the 10th Mountain Division for their heroism. For dinner, head over to Mountain Standard. The service is stellar and the generous comfort food is the perfect way to end a trip to this summer mountain getaway.
Recognizing our commitment to LGBTQ+ with Stonewall Ambassador Program induction
On June 28, we became the first public company to be inducted into Pride Live's Stonewall Ambassador program in recognition of our commitment to LGBTQ+ equality. From being the first U.S. airline to fully recognize domestic partnerships in 1999, to becoming the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options throughout all booking channels earlier this year, we continue to thrive in our efforts toward equality and inclusivity.
The honor took place in New York at Pride Live's Stonewall Day on World Pride, a celebration for the 50thanniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots that served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. We served as one of the presenting sponsors of the day that included a live outdoor concert produced by iHeartMedia NewYork.
"We recognize, embrace and celebrate the individualism that makes our customers and employees unique," said Jill Kaplan, President of New York/New Jersey. "We have long believed it's important to support the LGBTQ+ community by upholding inclusive policies and practices and are honored to be the first public company recognized as a Stonewall Ambassador from Pride Live along with an extraordinary group of trailblazers."
Kaplan represented United at the induction ceremony along with members of EQUAL, our business resource group for LGBTQ+ and ally colleagues. Fellow new inductees this year are Hillary Rodham Clinton; Donatella Versace, Chief Artistic Director of Versace; Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer of William Morris Endeavor; Conchita WURST, global LGBTQ+ activist and recording artist; Stuart Vevers Executive Creative Director of Coach and Samira Wiley, activist and actor. The new ambassadors join current members such as Chelsea Clinton; Laverene Cox, actress and advocate; Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and more.
"I cried on stage when Jill was speaking," said Newark Liberty International Airport Flight Attendant Kayleigh Scott. "To be standing up there with my colleagues and looking out to the crowd where thousands of people from all different backgrounds came together to celebrate love was an overwhelming feeling."
"I never thought 20 years ago I would ever be comfortable being out, let alone at work," said United Safety Management and Systems Programs Senior Manager and Stonewall Day attendee Keith Ellis. "To be at a company who is at the forefront of our community — of being a leader of change and acceptance not just through our words, but our actions is a humbling and an indescribable feeling. I'm honored and happy to be here today, among so many iconic people and changemakers."
"We are pleased to welcome United Airlines as a Stonewall Ambassador and grateful for their support of Stonewall Day, which brings multi-generational LGBTQ+ communities and allies together to actively advance the Stonewall legacy and fight for full LGBTQ+ equality," said Diana Rodriguez, Founder of Pride Live.
Prior to the concert, the group walked the red carpet among the stars that included Whoopi Goldberg, Donatella, Cyndi Lauper and more. On stage, Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance, giving an empowering speech that showed her continued appreciation and love for the LGBTQ community. To close out the festivities, it was Alicia Keys who stepped on stage as a special performer and belted out a few of her famous hits, ending with a special rendition of "New York" for Stonewall Day.
"The day was amazing," said Denver International Airport Flight Attendant Christopher Boelens. "To see United represented in such an important fashion on the 50thanniversary of Stonewall made me feel proud of where I work. The fact that all of us could be out there celebrating as friends and family was one of my favorite parts. We still have a ways to go, but I'm proud to be at a company that encourages and celebrates us for being ourselves."
Louisville’s new Southern Cuisine
Story by Ellen Carpenter | Photography by Scott Suchman | Hemispheres July 2019
To misquote Joni Mitchell: You don't know what you've got till you've gone. At least, that's how I feel about Kentucky.
Growing up there in the '80s and '90s, I scoffed at so-called “Kentucky food," like country ham and spoon bread. Sure, biscuits and gravy was good, and Derby-Pie (walnuts, people! Not pecans!) was tradition, but did it compare to the Ethiopian food I tried on vacation in Washington, D.C., when I was 10? Or the tiramisu I devoured in New York at 13?
I moved to New York at 22, sure I had hit the culinary jackpot. And I had. But a few years later, my mom moved from my hometown of Murray to “the big city"—Louisville—and told me that she had hit the culinary jackpot. Every time I went back to visit, she took me to a new restaurant and all but taunted “told you so" when I cleaned my plate. On my last couple of trips, what wowed me the most was how many of these restaurants were taking typical Kentucky ingredients or dishes and reinventing and elevating them in ways that no one dared when I was a kid. I realized I had to go back and investigate further (aka stuff my face).
And so here I find myself, in Louisville, a week before the Derby, pink dogwoods lining the wide streets, phlox overfilling window boxes. “You can't beat spring in Kentucky," says my mom, who, I should note, is a Londoner by way of Canada who has now lived in the Bluegrass State for 43 years. And I'm ready to eat.
First stop: Couvillion, a “Kentucky-Cajun" spot in Germantown that LEO Weekly, the local alt-weekly, named the city's best new restaurant of 2018. The chef, Paul Skulas, a friendly, bearded Midwesterner whose arms are blanketed with colorful tattoos, meets me before dinner service in the spacious barroom, which is decorated with old cast-iron skillets and local voodoo-inspired art. After five years in the Marine Corps, Skulas went to culinary school and cooked at a Creole fine-dining spot in Mississippi before moving to Louisville in 2012 and working at a handful of “meat and potatoes" restaurants. He opened Couvillion in April 2018, seeing a gap in the market for a Cajun spot—but, he notes, “not a cheesy, Bourbon Street concept." Instead he wanted to emulate how the Acadians would have cooked when they first arrived in Louisiana in the 1700s. “I thought about what consists of the Cajun vibe and those people taking in their surroundings and the way their mothers or families cooked, and putting a spin on those traditions," he says. “Being in Kentucky, it only makes sense for me to put spins on those same traditions the way they would if they were here."
Couvillion's eponymous catfish dish and smoked corn bread
For Skulas, that means adding country ham to the gumbo—“I put country ham in as many things as I can!"—and serving up pinto soup beans, an Appalachian standard, instead of red beans and rice. “That's the classic-heritage Kentucky thing," Skulas says. “Country ham and soup beans. You have to have that on a menu—that's Kentucky." He also swaps in catfish from Lake Barkley (right near my hometown) for his restaurant's eponymous couvillion, which itself is a play on the French dish court-bouillon and is generally made with redfish in New Orleans.
Of course, I have to try it all. I start with the smoked corn bread—the most popular dish on the menu, Skulas tells me—which is made with cold-smoked cornmeal from local organic grain supplier Louismill. The country ham lends the gumbo a smokiness that beautifully cuts through the roux, and the catfish holds its own in the rich and tomatoey couvillion. I also try the duck creole with ricotta dumplings, Skulas's Cajun take on chicken and dumplings, because, well, how could I not? I leave with a newfound respect for local Kentucky ingredients—and enough take-out boxes to feed my mom for a week.
“Being in Kentucky, it only makes sense for me to put spins on those traditions"
I somehow wake up hungry the next day, and I know exactly where to go: Boujie Biscuit, a new spot on Frankfort Avenue. Here, Brooklyn transplant Cyndi Joyner takes that heavenly Southern staple, the buttermilk biscuit, and piles it high with any combo of savory or sweet toppings you can imagine. "I decided to use the biscuit as a vehicle to introduce people to other foods from around the world," says Joyner, whose bracelets match the copper-colored font on her Boujie Biscuit T-shirt. She credits her creative palate to her melting-pot Brooklyn childhood, Southern grandparents, and time living in Prague and traveling around Europe. Her Euro Biscuit is topped with the Hungarian stew lecsó, and she's debating adding a chicken tikka masala biscuit and an African peanut stew biscuit to the ever-growing menu. "If you can throw it on something that people are already familiar with just to give it a little twist, then it doesn't look so foreign," she says, leading me over to a couch at the front of the laid-back space. "I kind of feel like I'm being sneaky in a way! Some people think they may not be adventurous, but the spices that I use are not necessarily found at Kroger."
A breakfast biscuit at Boujie Biscuit
“I use the biscuit as a vehicle to introduce people to other foods from around the world."
I can't help myself and go straight Southern, choosing The Gravy Train on Fire, which consists of “cluckin' hot" chicken chunks and sausage gravy heaped over a flaky biscuit about the size of my head. Joyner laughs when I prove incapable of finishing our interview because I can't stop eating. “This is the part where I walk away while you take a huge bite," she says, grinning. After helping a slew of hungry customers, including two women celebrating Administrative Professionals Day (“So the whole office is getting Boujie Biscuit!" shouts one woman as she does a little dance of joy), Joyner rejoins me on the couch. She tells me she chose to open up in Louisville after visiting and liking the city's “funky" vibe. “People aren't afraid to experiment," she says. “I think this place fits right in."
After a long walk along the waterfront to burn off the sausage gravy (it pains me that I was too full to finish that biscuit), I meet up with Anthony Lamas, a mainstay of the Louisville food scene. He opened his restaurant, Seviche, in the Highlands in 2005 and has been winning accolades for his creativity and flair ever since. Seviche's tagline—“Inspired by heritage. Influenced by locality."—couldn't be more accurate or, for Lamas, more natural. He was raised in California by a Puerto Rican dad and a Mexican mom and cooked at a resort in San Diego before making the move to Louisville in 1994. “I didn't know about Southern things, like country ham, sorghum, or grits. " he tells me, sitting on a leather couch in the restaurant's event space. “But I just started to adapt my flavor profiles to them. It was a natural marriage, because we do use a lot of the same ingredients, just in different ways. You know: corn bread, corn tortillas; grits, pozole. So I fell in love with what was here."
The Tuna Old Fashioned at Seviche
His menu pairs grits with roasted poblanos and manchego cheese; tuna ceviche is marinated in bourbon and Bluegrass Soy Sauce (from local company Bourbon Barrel Foods); and empanadas are filled with Kentucky bison. When Lamas tried pawpaws (a custardy, mango-like fruit) from a neighbor's tree for the first time, he realized they'd be great in flan. But whatever you do, don't call his food fusion. “I don't like that word," he says, grimacing and adjusting his white frame glasses. “I call it confusion. It's bad. People are always like, 'Are you Latin fusion?' No, no, no, no. I'm a Latino chef in Kentucky, and my restaurant's influenced by that. My food changed because Kentucky changed me, because it introduced me to so many things that I didn't know. For a chef, that's exciting, right?"
What I eat that night is beyond exciting. The Kentucky Hot Brown empanadas, filled with chunks of turkey and served with a jalapeño Mornay sauce and pico de gallo, make me rethink the quintessential Louisville dish, a broiled open-face sandwich created at the Brown Hotel in 1926. Even my cocktail, the Best Boy, is a cultural mash-up, pairing bourbon with Aztec chocolate bitters. (“If you don't like it," my waiter, Benjamin, tells me, “I'll finish it for you." Nice try, Ben.) The Tuna Old Fashioned ceviche comes in an old-fashioned glass, naturally, and explodes with flavor. My main is a special that night: a sous vide beef tenderloin topped with ramp butter and served over mashed red potatoes. A chipotle country ham demi-glace seals the deal. I somehow refrain from licking my plate. When I leave (OK, after also eating the flan with chili-spiced peanut brittle), I'm reminded of something Lamas told me earlier: “I always say what 'mi casa es su casa' is to Latinos, 'Southern hospitality' is to the South."
“My food changed because Kentucky changed me."
Kristina J. Addington
For lunch the next day, I try something even more foreign to Kentuckians: vegan food. Last October, not far from Seviche, Kristina J. Addington opened V-Grits with the aim of serving vegan versions of her favorite Kentucky classics. She grew up in nearby Shelby County, where her mom would make Hot Browns weekly. “All of our food had meat in it—even bacon in the green beans," she says, sitting at a two-top in the bright, airy space, rainbow earrings complementing her Rainbow Brite tattoo and orange-dyed hair. Thirteen years ago, she became vegan, and after five years working for PETA, she started wholesaling her homemade vegan baked goods to natural food stores in Louisville. She won an episode of Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen in 2014 and, with her earnings, started a food truck. Last year she partnered with False Idol Brewery to open a brick-and-mortar location.
The Vegan Hot Brown at V-Grits
I ask whether she was worried about finding an audience here, and she shakes her head. “Southern food was what I grew up on, and I knew that was the easiest way I was going to win people over," she says. “I think fresh, healthy food is very important, but people around here are used to stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, so that's why we specialize in that." More than half of her restaurant's customers aren't vegan, she says; they just like the food: five kinds of loaded mac 'n' cheese, chicken-fried mushroom wings, a breakfast skillet with grits, hash browns, and baked beans…
Knowing that Addington used to have a weekly Hot Brown habit, I have to try her vegan take. It's served in a cast-iron skillet with vegan cheese grits, a housemade biscuit, vegan turkey, “gouda" béchamel made with coconut milk, and “bacon" bits made with seasoned and roasted coconut shreds. It's decadent and utterly comforting. My glass of False Idol's kombucha provides the perfect zing.
“For me, growing up with the typical Southern family, food is what brings you together," Addington says. “Regardless of what you're eating, it's that feeling of security and comfort. You eat good mac 'n' cheese and you think of being at your grandmother's house when you're five and her making that. Comfort food gives you that sentimental memory of being with your family around the dinner table."
“Southern food is what I grew up on, and I knew that was the easiest way I was going to win people over"
On that note, I ask my mom to join me for my last meal out—at Old Louisville's 610 Magnolia, probably the local restaurant with the highest national profile. Chef Edward Lee was nominated for an Emmy in 2014 for his role in PBS's The Mind of a Chef, and this spring his second book, Buttermilk Graffiti, won the James Beard Foundation Award for writing.
In the book, Lee, a Korean-American who grew up in Brooklyn, challenges the idea of authentic Southern cooking. “I always ask myself, What South are you talking about?" he writes. “Pre-colonial South? Plantation South? Post-colonial? Post–Civil Rights movement? Paula Deen's South? The immigrant South? All are part of the complicated history of the South. None can claim a true authenticity."
Way beef tongue two ways with daikon pancake, sauerkraut kimchi, and gochujang at 610 Magnolia
That's something Lee learned when he moved to Louisville in 2002. He started cooking at 610 Magnolia (taking it over in 2003), at first making regional foods out of necessity, “because I couldn't get tamarind and I couldn't get lemongrass," he tells me. But then bits of his family's Korean cooking traditions started seeping into his dishes. “If you love Korean food but you happen to live in the South, sooner or later you're going to mix the two," he says. “It's inevitable. Because you're like, Oh, I wanna make this pork dish, but I don't have what I really want. Well, what's around me?" He had collard greens for the first time and realized they would be great for kimchi; he started doing a Southern-style dim sum special that ended up being the impetus for his second restaurant, MilkWood. Meanwhile, he notes, “more immigrants moved in, and now there's more of an international presence. So it works both ways: The immigrant food becomes more Kentuckyfied in a way, and the Kentucky food becomes more global in a way. With local food and global food, it's not a line in the sand. That's the place that's most exciting for me: where things crossover, overlap, and mix."
My four-course tasting menu does just that. There's miso-chicken-liver mousse with benne seed crackers; beef tongue with a daikon pancake and sauerkraut kimchi; delicately cooked halibut with buttermilk, navy beans, ramps, and bok choy. Dessert, the Bourbon Aficionado, ends up being the showstopper. Our waiter removes the slate tile covering the serving dish and bourbon-barrel smoke rolls out, immediately transporting me to a campfire at my childhood friend's property by Kentucky Lake. My mom has the exact same thought, and we laugh as we dig in, scooping up bites of banana cake, freeze-dried corn, butterscotch, brown-butter ice cream, and Pappy Van Winkle maple syrup—“everything you find in bourbon," our waiter notes. We each sip a cocktail made of Michter's rye and ruby port, savoring our last bites and our time together. “Go ahead and say it," I tell Mom, shaking my head. “Told you so!" she sing-songs, and then adds, “Does this mean you'll come visit more often?"
“With local food and global food, it's not a line in the sand"
Thinking back on everything I've eaten over the last three days—and knowing how much more there is to try—the answer is obviously yes. As Lee writes in Buttermilk Graffiti, “In order for any cuisine to evolve it has to be passed on to people who have not lived the authentic life from which it germinated." And, as I've learned, in order to appreciate the cuisine and ingredients you grew up with, maybe you have to go away for a while and come back with an open mind—and an empty stomach.
The Lee InitiativeEdward Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek were brainstorming a mentorship program for their two-year-old LEE (Let's Empower Employment) Initiative when the #MeToo moment hit the restaurant world, at the end of 2017. “We were like, This is terrible, but for every bad chef there are 100 good ones," says Ofcacek, the executive director of the Initiative and the wine director for 610 Magnolia. “We wanted to find a way for young women in the industry to go and work with great chefs."
Last year, they launched the Women Chefs Initiative, a six-month program that pairs five budding female chefs from Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Southern Indiana with female-led restaurant groups across the country. The program culminates with a dinner at the James Beard House in New York, where the women cook their own food alongside Lee. “That partnership is invaluable, because every young chef dreams of cooking at the Beard House," says Ofcacek, adding that it was emotional for the first class of women last summer: “At the end, they were all weeping." This year's mentors include Nina Compton, the chef-owner of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, and Mindy Segal, the pastry chef behind Chicago's Mindy's Hot Chocolate. Lee notes that last year's class is also invested in this year's mentees: “Now they're mentoring the five chefs that are in it this year," he says. “Can you imagine after five years? That's 25 chefs. That's an entire community. That can make change." leeinitiative.org
From Bangkok to Koh Kood: Two weeks in the Land of Smiles
A record number of tourists visited Thailand in 2018, more than 38 million lured by the promise of heavenly beaches and glorious cuisine, historic shrines and glittering temples. Even more are expected in 2019, making Thailand the most popular travel destination in Asia. If you've already visited the "Land of Smiles," you'll understand why. If you haven't, it might be time to plan your visit.
With so much to see, do and experience, it can be hard to know where to start. But to help, we've created a first-timer's guide to Thailand, covering the key places to visit over 14 glorious days.
Two days in Bangkok
Fly into Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which sits 18 miles east of the city.
What started out as a small trading center and port on the west banks of the Chao Phraya River 200 years ago is now one of the world's most densely populated cities, a land of towering skyscrapers and gleaming temples.
Venture onto the backpackers' beloved Khaosan Road to witness east and west collide. Look beyond to The Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn and the giant reclining Buddha of Wat Pho. Slurp noodles and coconut juice among the city's floating market stalls, get ringside seats for brutal but balletic Muay Thai, and take a tuk tuk (auto rickshaw) to the astonishing Chatuchak Weekend Market, where 8,000 market stalls sell everything imaginable and more.
And if time allows, take a tour to the infamous River Kwai Bridge in Kanchanaburi, about 80 miles to the west of Bangkok. The bridge and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery offer a poignant reminder of those who lost their lives during World War II.
Two days in Bangkok works well: fly in, shake off your jet lag and familiarize yourself with a new country. Then we suggest you escape the crowds and chaos by heading north of the city.
Two days around Phitsanulok
Take a slow-but-enjoyable train ride north to Phitsanulok, the sleepy but attractive provincial capital that sits 249 miles north of Bangkok and 186 miles south of Chiang Mai. While Phitsanulok is pleasant enough for a night, the main reason to stay here is to visit the nearby UNESCO World Heritage City of Sukhothai, an hour's drive west.
The first capital of Siam, Sukhothai was the cradle of Thai civilization and is considered to be the birthplace of Thai art, architecture and language. Today it's home to a vast array of historical sites and temple ruins that will fill your phone and Instagram feed. Eat at the homely Ban Mai, stay the night at Yodia Heritage Hotel, then fly the hour north to Chiang Mai the following morning.
If you prefer to stay in Bangkok and want a similar experience, take a day trip to Ayutthaya and the ruins of the old city in Ayutthaya Historical Park. Expect larger crowds as a result of its proximity to the capital. Upon your return to Bangkok, fly the hour north to Chiang Mai.
Three days in Chiang Mai
Around 435 miles north of Bangkok stands Thailand's second city – its name translating as 'new city'.
While Bangkok squeezes in nine million people, Chiang Mai is home to around 200,000 people, and life shuffles by at a more sedate pace here. Set in a verdant valley on the banks of the Ping River, the city was founded in 1296 as a walled city surrounded by a moat.
Today, with both city and moat remaining, past and present weave seamlessly together. The old city and temples at the city's heart retain the atmosphere of an ancient village while the new city boasts modern buildings rising up around it.
Historic temples, museums, handicraft shops and the night (and day) markets are essential stops while day-long cooking courses allow you to master several Thai specialties — and give you an excuse to slurp hot and sour soup for breakfast.
When in Chiang Mai, you really should take an adventure tour in the jungles north of the city. Elephant trekking, cycling, kayaking, white water rafting and zip-lining through the canopy of the jungle are just a few of the options, with 200-plus companies offering an adventure to suit every appetite.
After all that exertion, you may need a beach. Luckily, the paradise island of Phuket is an easy two-hour flight south.
Three days in Phuket
Thailand's largest and busiest island is joined to the mainland by a bridge that supplies a steady stream of tourists, and it's easy to see why. The "Pearl of the Andaman" is the Thai island of your imagination, with the powdery-white beaches and shimmering turquoise sea you've been dreaming of, but it's also so much more.
Phuket has it all — a six-star resort with your own private butler, designer boutiques, world-class celebrity-chef restaurants and nightlife to take you from dusk until dawn. In addition, you'll find major temples, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. Not to mention world-class diving and snorkeling at nearby Ko Similan. Phuket ticks every box and is almost everything you'd imagine it to be.
At the heart of it all is an island of staggeringly beautiful beaches. The busiest and most developed stretch are along Phuket's southwest coast at Patong, Karon and Kata, with lower key alternatives scattered further north at Layan, Surin and Bangtao, while the hidden secrets of Banana Rock and Nui Beach reward those who venture off the beaten track.
At this point you have a choice. Either stay as long on Phuket as your time allows before flying back to Bangkok, or fly five hours north-east to Trat, hop across to Koh Chang and turn the relaxation levels down even further.
Three days on Koh Chang
Koh Changis one of Thailand's most laid-back and relatively untouched islands. Its west coast has succumbed to development around its main beaches, but head south or along the east coast and you'll uncover a low-key experience, with small, mostly family-run hotels and guest houses, yoga and spa resorts, and traditional Thai fishing villages.
You could happily stay here forever. But if Koh Chang somehow feels too crowded, hop on a passenger-only boat to Koh Kood — a smaller, even quieter version of the island you're leaving behind. Koh Kood brings you the beaches, the mountain jungles, the low-key bungalows and the ultra-luxurious resorts, but with very few tourists to spoil your view. You won't quite have the island to yourself, it will just feel that way.
You won't want to leave, but you can't stay forever. So, to complete your vacation, we suggest you head back to where it all began.
One final night in Bangkok
If you are visiting Bangkok for the first time, returning for a night at the end of your vacation will allow you to appreciate the city without the jet lag or the sense of mild bewilderment. Enjoy one final night before flying out of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
When to visit:Aim for between November and early April, the driest period of the year and also the warmest, with temperatures in the upper 80s to mid 90s and up to nine hours of sunshine daily. Thailand's rainy months are between March and October. It's still beautifully warm, but you should expect sudden and often heavy rain showers. To avoid the crowds, visit between May and September, the quietest period of the year when temperatures and prices are a little lower.
United flies to Hong Kong, which can be a stepping stone to everything Thailand has to offer. From Hong Kong, you can fly with one of our Star Alliance member airlines. For more details and to start your adventure, visit united.comor use the United mobile app.
Three Perfect Days: Chicago
Story by Jacqueline Detwiler | Photography by Lucy Hewett | Hemispheres July 2019
A spiked riot of original architecture. A vintage boulevard where everyone speaks Spanish. The wellspring of the blues. The birthplace of house music. The way you think about Chicago depends entirely on which part of it you've been to. The city of 2.7 million on Lake Michigan manifests as a collection of neighborhoods, each one a mini ecosystem, with its complementary restaurants and public spaces, denizens and habitats. And then, in the next neighborhood, everything all over again, only this time there's a beach, and the taquerias have been replaced by German beer halls. Like the river that made it, the Windy City is different every time you set foot in it. The first time I visited Chicago, I was in awe of its surreal, hyperambitious restaurants. The second time, I was amazed by its towering, audacious buildings. The third time, a random guy invited me to his housewarming party. This is the story of the fourth time.
Diving into Lake Michigan
Appreciating architecture and cheering in the Cubs
I am pretty sure that if you're good in this life, when you get to the pearly gates, St. Peter hands you a kitten-soft robe from the Art Deco St. Jane hotel and says, “Here you go. This is what we all wear up here." I was set to leave my moody Victorian suite (complete with interior brass stairwell!) and start my day, but I hadn't counted on the heavenly perfection of this garment.
A room at the Art Deco St. Jane Hotel
OK, fine, I'll get coffee. The St. Jane is inside Chicago's Loop, so named for the circuit the elevated subway system (called the L) travels around it. It's about an eight-minute walk to Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture, which locals have nicknamed “The Bean." Across from that, the cheeky Crown Fountain spits water into a reflecting pool at the edge of Millennium Park. I buy a Limitless Salted Caramel Cold Brew from Michigan Avenue's Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea, which offers kombucha, cold brew, and even nitro matcha on tap, then walk across the sinuous BP pedestrian bridge to see Lake Michigan. Its endlessness always shocks me; today it fades into mist at its far edge.
The Chicago River, seen from the St. Jane
But Chicago is not all, or even mostly, the lake. The best way to get acquainted with the city is by river, on the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise. From the top deck of the Chicago's First Lady, downtown's high-rises loom like the cliffs of a Utah canyon. We cross under bridges with just a few feet of leeway, learning how the city came to architecturally dominate the United States. Nancy, the volunteer docent leading the tour, fills in the cracks (OK, chasms) in my architectural education: In high-rises, the term spandrel refers to the space between the window tops on one floor and the sills above; the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 crossed the river because the water was full of wooden boats; yes, Art Deco buildings do kind of look like armchairs. We learn the similarities between Bertrand Goldberg's 1963 Marina City, its lobes like the petals of a hippie's daisy pin, and his 1986 River City, a Brutalist, organic cliff dwelling. We see 150 North Riverside, the ballerina, cantilevered over the river in defiance of God and physics. If I remember even half of what Nancy says, I'll have dinner party factoids for years.
History reminds me of school, which reminds me it's lunchtime. Chicagoans can debate the merits of their favorite pizza for hours: Pequod's is puffy and caramelized; at Gino's East you can order your pie topped with a full-size sausage disc. Lou Malnati's, which operates some 56 locations in the area, is a bit touristy, but it's tasty (and ubiquitous) enough that I'm calling it in their favor. I order the Lou: spinach, garlic, basil, onion, three cheeses, mushrooms, and sliced Roma tomatoes. The classic deep-dish crust, which is yanked up the sides of the pan before going in the oven, is lighter and crispier than I remembered, the flavor deeper and more buttery. I'm a thin-crust girl at heart, but I could (unfortunately) eat a lot of these. I have to stop myself, though; I've got a game to catch.
At 105 years old, Wrigley Field is one of the last remaining prewar ballparks in the country. (The only one that's older is Boston's Fenway, at 107.) It's a true neighborhood park, with skybox-style bleacher seats topping some of the surrounding apartment buildings—but I'm headed to the cheap seats. On the way in, I pass a little boy and his sister playing an elaborate game of catch/dodgeball against one of the stadium's walls, a lemonade stand sitting forgotten behind them. I'm peckish, so I head to the Garrett Popcorn kiosk and buy the local fave, a mix of caramel and cheese, and head to my seat.
I don't quite get my Ferris Bueller moment—the only ball to make it into my section is caught by a guy a few rows over—but I do get to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch, following comedian Roy Wood Jr., who leads the chorus from the jumbotron. There are so many stats on the oldschool scoreboard it's almost impossible to find the score. Who's winning? Oh, the Cubs. Whew.
Comedians at iO Theater
The game ends (Cubs 6, Cardinals 5) with just enough time for me to cab down to iO Theater, on a leftover patch of land between Old Town and Ranch Triangle, to experience Chicago's storied improv scene. For this show, Whirled News Tonight, audience members are supposed to cut out their favorite articles from the day's newspapers and tack them to bulletin boards while the lights are up. I select a story about hard times falling on Canada's maple syrup industry, then sit back and order some wings and nachos, which seem in keeping with the day's theme. When the show begins, the troupe turns the article I chose into a family meeting: “We've got to get millennials interested in maple syrup," the father says in a ridiculous Canadian accent. They settle on putting the syrup in vape pens, and the audience is in tears anytime anyone says “Sooorry?"
Afterward, the comics mill around with friends and family, rehashing moments of exhilaration and terror. Surely one of these people will be the next Amy Poehler or Stephen Colbert (both iO alums). I'd stay to chat but I have one more stop before bed: The Aviary, the ultimate shrine to cocktail-making from obsessive chef-cum-scientist Grant Achatz. Inside a monochromatic sanctuary, Achatz's chosen bartenders toil on the other side of a floor-to-ceiling fence. The cocktails they produce with their tweezers and smoking guns and sous vide baths fizz and steam and melt. My favorite is the Jungle Bird: rum, pineapple and lime juices, and Campari layered over a pile of liquid-filled gelatinous balls that pop in your mouth. “That one'll get you," says the host as I wobble out. “All those little balls are full of rum!"
The Lou pizza at Lou Malnati's
A South Side history lesson and a Fulton Market food tour
I'm back in the robe, and while there are many museums here worth getting out of it for—the Field Museum, with its titanosaur; the Art Institute of Chicago, with American Gothic—none is as deeply necessary as the Stony Island Arts Bank. The museum is an extension of the physical art of local creator Theaster Gates, who is trained in both ceramics and urban planning. Gates, whose Rebuild Foundation invests in the cultural redevelopment of underserved neighborhoods, found out the city was planning to demolish a beautiful South Side bank from the 1920s and convinced the government to sell it to him for $1. He refurbished it, creating a cultural space and museum dedicated to the experiences of black people.
Hans Haacke's Gift Horse on the roof of The Art Institute of Chicago
Everything here is free and open to the public, including film screenings, live music, and DJ sets. An exhibition of Rob Pruitt's Barack Obama paintings—quotidian portraits of the 44th president painted in white on red and blue canvases—fills the downstairs. The research library of Johnson Publishing, which was once the largest African-American-owned publishing company in the country and the creator of Jet and Ebony magazines, spans two floors and contains a comprehensive history of black culture in the United States. Inside the library, you can watch an archivist digitizing the collection of records belonging to Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of Chicago house music. There's more, all of it powerful, but nothing screams the museum's mission more than its Neoclassical facade, sitting alone on this long, desolate street. Where are the lines of patrons? Where are the passersby? I want to tell everyone about this place.
I get my chance in a cab, telling the driver, who has a lot of DJ friends, about the Frankie Knuckles collection. He's so excited to visit that he has me spell the museum's name for him. “You gotta listen to house," he says, by way of a solution to just about everything. “The house music crowd doesn't talk about killing. They just talk about partying and dancing and positive things."
Cabra at The Hoxton
Speaking of partying and dancing and positive things, could my driver drop me off at The Hoxton, Chicago, in Fulton Market, so I can check in? The hip London-based mini-chain has a knack for anointing the just-hit-it-big neighborhood in every city it touches. Decked out in Mid-Century Modern furniture, with a window framing the tracks of the L, the lobby looks like a place where that absurd party from the Leonardo DiCaprio version of The Great Gatsby could break out at any moment.
Beloved Chicago chef Stephanie Izard has bestowed her latest restaurant, Cabra, a Peruvian cevicheria, on the Hoxton's rooftop. And, wouldn't you know it, here she is in the lobby, wearing her hair piled on top of her head the way she did while becoming the first woman to win Top Chef. Izard is insanely busy, overseeing four restaurants in Fulton Market, but as a de facto ambassador for the district, she has agreed to give me a tour. “When you're trying to pick where to open a restaurant, you pick a neighborhood and you determine what your restaurant is going to be from there, because the neighborhoods are so different," she says. “The day [my partner and I] came down to look at Fulton Market 10 years ago, none of this was here. It was kind of barren and empty and warehousey, and he was like, 'All right, use your imagination and give this space a chance.'" Now, Izard says, the nabe has come up so much that it's turned into “the restaurant epicenter of the city." She might be a little biased.“I take the elevator up to Cabra, a breezy oasis decorated with carved llamas and bottles of pisco."
Or maybe she isn't. At our first stop, JP Graziano Grocery, we order a juicy Italian sandwich called the Mr. G to split, and I realize I am (oops) starving. The sandwich is rich and salty, with sharp provolone, hot soppressata, prosciutto, salami, basil, artichokes, and lettuce, on soft bread with zingy Italian spices and condiments. Izard introduces me to Jim Graziano, the founder's great-grandson, who turned his family's 82-year-old meat and grocery business into a sandwich shop in 2007 in anticipation of Fulton Market's rise. “When I grew up, this neighborhood was all wholesale markets. At 2 p.m. you could shoot a cannon down Randolph Street and not hit anything," he says, as the theme from The Godfather plays over the restaurant's speakers. “I was just like, 'This building is so cool, and this corner is right in the middle of everything.' I saw an opportunity." Izard says she has about 25 plants at home, and her 3-year-old son, Ernie, is going through a flower phase, so our next stop is Asrai Garden, which smells of forest floor and palo santo. I ogle the jewelry and candles while Izard pulls together a bouquet of bright red ranunculus, baby pink wax flowers, and what looks like lavender candytuft. The cashier wraps it all in black paper. “I feel like I'm in a wedding!" Izard says, gamely marching down the aisle and out the door.
Chef Stephanie Izard
On our way back to the hotel, we stop where balloons mark the spring reopening of Baobing, Izard's Taiwanese street food takeout window, which is connected to her restaurant Duck Duck Goat. Izard wants to take a picture with the fans who waited in line, but first she orders me the Jian Bing Thing, an ice cream bar wrapped in a custard-coated crepe, with cilantro, hoisin caramel, and sweet and crunchy chili oil. It's the most unexpected flavor combination I've ever experienced (and I drank a cocktail made out of Campari, pineapple juice, and rum balls last night).
Izard has to get ready for her evening, but I have one more shop to visit—the men's clothing store Independence, which carries sophisticated floral shirts and vintage denim. After much convincing, it earned the right to import shirts from a Japanese brand called Kapital. My fiancé salivates over these things, and I'm always on the lookout for gifts.
For dinner, I take the elevator to the roof and Izard's Cabra, a breezy oasis decorated with leggy plants, carved llamas, bottles of pisco, and a rolling door leading to a pool. Looking at the menu, I immediately realize I don't know a lot about Peruvian food. What is choclo? Huancaina? Tiraditos? A friendly waiter comes to my rescue: Choclo is giant Peruvian corn. Huancaina is a sauce made of yellow peppers and cheese. Tiraditos are ceviches with sliced, rather than cubed, fish. I order a funky hamachi tiradito with parmesan leche de tigre (citrus marinade, basically), trout roe, and marcona almond slivers; and a hirame tiradito topped with pickled ramp and crab salad that I'd take home if they'd sell it to me (they won't). I also get huancaina dip with salmon ceviche, sweet-potato chips, duck-fat crackers, and a gin cocktail whimsically named Alpaca My Bags.
After a few more Alpacas at the bar, I swear I'm starting to hallucinate a full beach out by the pool. I end up talking to two women who work nearby; they were late to an evening exercise class and decided to say screw it and get dinner. They're on their way to see some live music at Bassment, a chichi underground venue in River North. Do I want to come?
I do, and in minutes I'm sitting on an old leather couch, watching a woman with a voice like a barrel of buttered rum belt out a cover of Stevie Wonder's “I Wish." “I wish those days could come back once more," she sings. And I wish I didn't have to go to bed.
Bursting Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square
Shopping in Logan Square and eating hummus in Lincoln Park
Studio Gang's artful wooden pavilion at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Last night was a late one, and a warm spring day in Chicago must not be taken for granted, so I grab some tea (Hoxton is based in the U.K., after all) from the room and head up to the pool for a pre-brunch dip.
It might seem impossible to find a place cooler than the Hoxton, but lo, it exists. It's a part of town called Logan Square, just a 22-minute ride northwest from Fulton Market on the L's blue line. The minute I disembark I see the signs: Tattoos? Check. Bearded dads in flannel carrying BabyBjörns? Check. A man in a floral button-down shirt on a skateboard carrying a case of Tecate? Triple check.
I'm meeting my college roommate, Michelle, who lives in Chicago these days, for brunch. Thanks in part to weddings, we see each other about once a year nowadays, but before 2016 it had been almost a decade. Unembarrassed, we long-hug in front of the height of hipster cool, Longman & Eagle, a contemporary take on ye olde public house. Inside, the wood-floored (and ceilinged!) dining room is decorated with jars of arrows, raw brick, and rusty factory lights. They've repurposed an old Statesman by Wurlitzer jukebox as a bussing station. Above us? Their own budget inn.
Any millennial worth her high-waisted sailor pants knows the thing to order in a place like this is the avocado toast. It's a good choice—spread with smoked salmon ricotta, sliced avocado, and caviar, it's more complex than the standard lemon-and-red-pepper-flake mash. Michelle, who is a maniac, orders Nutella-banana French toast and, reasoning that this place is also a beloved whiskey bar, a What's in a Name? cocktail, which is made from Dark Matter Coffee's Unicorn Blood espresso blend, Mr. Black cold brew coffee liqueur, George Dickel white, and cherry bitters. I get a mimosa. We tell lots and lots of old stories, absolutely none of which will be printed here.
The krembo dessert at Galit
After brunch, we wander over to Wolfbait & B-girls, a female-owned and-operated shop that sells wares from Chicago artists and artisans. The name comes from a 1950s guidebook: “Wolfbait" was a term for girls who moved to Chicago looking for success; “B-girls," for B-movie, B-side, or just bad girls, was what they sometimes became instead. We poke around the T-shirts with saucy slogans, coral rings, and candles. Michelle lifts up a studded leather bandanna and nods approvingly. I'm not sure I could pull that off, so I settle on a delicate necklace of the city's four-star flag and a candle in an old beer can. Now all I need is a $3,000-a-month loft to put this in.
Michelle recommends City Lit, a bookstore around the corner that has a cozy reading area in front of a fireplace in the back. Among the latest nonfiction sits An American Summer by Alex Kotlowitz, which chronicles one season's worth of life in areas of Chicago that are afflicted with gun violence. It's a tough topic, but we agree that these stories are the most important kind.
I buy the book, and we proceed to wander down North Kedzie Boulevard admiring the greystones—majestic Romanesque homes that look like New York City's brownstones, only they're (usually) made out of Indiana-quarried limestone. After about a mile, we reach The 606, an elevated biking and running trail grafted onto the old Bloomingdale train line. We stroll east, looking for chef Rick Bayless's 1,000-square-foot backyard garden, which Stephanie Izard told me was visible from the trail. We don't see it (turns out we should have kept going all the way into Bucktown), but we do see plenty of cyclists, rooftop hangouts, and grills. If there's one thing you can say about Chicagoans, it's that they appreciate a nice day.
“Galit is too new to have been seriously reviewed, but if it doesn't win any awards I'll say my hat."
At the Western L stop, we exit the park, making plans to meet later. I get on the train, heading back to Logan Square for happy hour at Lost Lake, which was named Best American Cocktail Bar last year by the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation. Marked by a stylized metal icon of a fish and a pink neon sign that says “Tiki," Lost Lake feels like your favorite bar from your gap year. There's a fish tank with a skull in it. Over the bar, pink lights shine out of loose-slatted fishing barrels. The cocktail names sound like stanzas from a poem, and I order From Pine to Palm/Like Ceremonies of a Pleasant Nature, both because I love fino sherry and because it has palo santo and pandan in it. Like all tiki drinks, it's sweet, silly, and comes with way too many garnishes, all of which I attempt to put in my hair.
Neighborhood Watch: PilsenThere's no Hoxton hotel in Pilsen yet, but it wouldn't be surprising if the company were scouting. The neighborhood, a longtime Latin community, has hit on the perfect blend of vintage shops, unfussy Mexican restaurants, museums, and hip bars to be intriguing to visitors, locals, and residents alike. Start at the National Museum of Mexican Art, where you can see a collection of 10,000 pieces of folk art, photographs, sculptures, and paintings for free. At Pilsen Vintage, grab some old Latin and house records thoughtfully curated by Charly Garcia of local DJ collective Sonorama, then stop into Taqueria Los Comales for a couple of ridiculously cheap tacos al pastor. Finish up with a draft cocktail and a nationally recognized band at Thalia Hall, which is run by the folks behind Longman & Eagle.
Afterward, I take a cab over to Lincoln Park, home of the very old (151 years) Lincoln Park Zoo and the very new Galit, the first restaurant that chef Zachary Engel has helmed since winning the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef as chef de cuisine at New Orleans's Shaya in 2017. The Middle Eastern spot is too new to have been seriously reviewed yet, but if it doesn't win any awards I'll eat my hat. I'd rather not, though, because the server just dropped off the airiest hummus I've ever had, topped with mushrooms, greens, and gribenes—crispy bits of chicken skin that are having a culinary moment. Next, fluffy, brick-oven-baked pita bread with little bowls of yogurt cheese, housemade pickles, tomato-and-pepper spread, and little tangy onions with coriander and crumbles of oiled feta. The falafel is actually moist, served over funky fermented mango labneh. A chicken thigh comes crispy-skinned under a caramelized coat of harissa.
Dessert is a classic Israeli children's treat called krembo—a sesame shortbread cookie topped with rose-infused marshmallow and a chocolate shell—plus adults-only anise-flavored arak, which comes with a tiny glass of ice and a tiny glass of water and makes my mouth go numb. I regret that I have but one stomach to fill, but I ask my waiter to pack up the leftovers so I can bring them to my friend.
Kayaking the Lincoln Park Lagoon
Michelle lives right down the street from Galit, and I walk over to her apartment so I can meet her cats. From her window, I can see The Wiener's Circle, a hot dog shop notorious for its sassy, expletive-spouting employees. Michelle tells me how her whole floor had a block party in the hall on that one winter day when it was 23 below and no one was allowed to go outside. “It's a good thing you've got these big ol' windows, then," I say, looking out at a beautiful evening. The sun is just beginning to set, painting the sky a dreamy mix of lavender and peach. There are people walking their dogs, following a pink path of fallen cherry blossoms. We see friends laughing as they wait for restaurant tables, and we hear saxophones wailing from the open doors of blues bars. The entire world in microcosm. Should we go back out? We must.
Where to Stay
St. JaneShaped like an Art Deco Champagne bottle, the St. Jane is housed in the historic Carbide & Carbon Building and contains two levels of opulent rooms: Contemporary Victorian respites with marble showers and tasseled closet pulls live in the Champagne bottle's shoulders, while suites that look like Gothic-Victorian artist parlors live in the neck, making up a hotel-within-a-hotel called the Tower at St. Jane. From $189, stjanehotel.com
The Hoxton, ChicagoWith free Wi-Fi, a fireplace, and that amazing window looking out on the L, the sprawling Hoxton lobby is always full of people—especially at happy hour. When you're ready to call it a night, take a shower with the hotel's signature Blank products (which your correspondent now uses at home) and check out the curated book collections in the rooms, each of which contains 10 books chosen by a local luminary. From $129, thehoxton.com
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