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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma | Distance – 1604km

We are on the road again. After crossing 4 states, driven 1604km over 3 days, we finally reached half way point of our Route 66 journey and arrived in Oklahoma. We have no intentions of staying long in Oklahoma and decided to push on and stick to our original itinerary and start heading west again.

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The giant Soda roadside sign outside the restaurant

POPS – Arcadia, Oklahoma

Only opened in 2007, POPS restaurant in Arcadia, Oklahoma has already becoming one of the must-stop roadside attractions on Route 66. The giant 66ft tall soda pop bottle road sign can be easily spotted from afar, it weights over 4 tons and it also glows in neon pink at night time. Under the futuristic architecture is a modern diner, a gas station, a convenient store but what brings all the tourists here is their soda selection – all 600 of them, plus more!

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Not sure is the biggest soda pop selection in the world, but it sure is the biggest on Route 66. The glass walls of the restaurant are adorned with shelves of colourful soda pop bottles, all for sale of course. But if you want it chilled, then head over to the far end of the restaurant where a whole wall is lined with fridges, all meticulously stocked up with soda, soda, and more soda.

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There are over 600 soda flavours to choose from, all arranged according to colours and flavours. Being indecisive is almost inevitable when comes to choose a soda to try, you may as well just close your eyes and randomly pick one from the fridge and hope for the best.

I love root beer and have chosen the Route Beer 66 which seems like an appropriate drink for our trip. and The Pom let his sweet tooth makes the decision and goes for Jeff’s Diet Chocolate Soda, which is not the most pleasant drink after all. Lesson learned. High on sugar buzz bright and early in the morning, why not? The sugar will definitely keep us going as we still have a long journey ahead of us.

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Arcadia Round Barn

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Not far down the road from POPS is the Arcadia Round Barn, another Route 66 landmark that worth a quick visit. This over 100 year old barn is one of its kind, it was built in 1898 as a barn for livestock and hay storage, it also has an upstairs flooring for community gathering and dances. Unfortunately after many decades of change hands and negligent, the barn slowly deteriorating and the roof eventually caved in and collapsed. In 1992, a local retired building contractor has restored the round barn back to its full glory. The deep red barn is still standing by the side of historic Route 66 for everyone to admire.

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Catoosa, Oklahoma | Distance – 1800km 

From Arcadia we head further east to a small town called Catoosa, a short distance from Tulsa city.  The Pom has arranged to meet his co-worker for lunch, and there is simply no better meeting point than the Blue Whale itself.

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Blue Wheel at Catoosa, Oklahoma

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The iconic Blue Whale was built in 1970s by Hugh Davis in his own private property as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife Zelta, who collected whale figurines. The whale itself was like a diving platform plus a slide on the side of the whale body, it soon became a popular spot for locals to come and Davis decided opened it to the public and welcome everyone to come for a swim and picnic. However, like many other landmarks along the old Route 66, the Blue Whale was soon abandoned and the park fell into disrepair after Mr Davis died in 1990 and followed by his wife in 2001. A decade after the good people of Catoosa restored the blue wheel and repainted to its original brilliant blue.

If you love quirk and kitsch, then you simply can’t beat this one.

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Galena, Kansas | Distance – 1955km

Little did you know that the historic Route 66 actually did run through the state of Kansas, but only through a small town called Galena. If you want to experience what it would be like driving on the original Route 66 through an old charming town during the Golden Era, then you simply can’t miss Galena.

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The original historic Route 66

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There are still some old original Route 66 markings on the road

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Here you will find a couple of the original Route 66 markings still remain on the road. With only a small population of around 3000, Galena is eerily quiet like a ghost town, especially when almost all the shops are shut here on a Sunday.

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Some of the original buildings are well preserved and converted into something new. This Kan-O-Tex Service Station was once the busiest gas station which originally served Route 66 motorists in 1934, but now it is a diner and souvenir shop, named 4 Women on the Route. And we are here, because we want to meet someone special…

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It’s Tow Mater from Cars!

It’s Tow Mater from Pixar’s animated Cars! 

When the Pixar crew was looking for inspirations around Route 66 for the animated film, they found this 1951 international boom truck parked right outside the gas station, and that’s how Tow Mater was born. The name “Mater” was trademarked by Disney, so they had to name this truck “Tater”.

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While we are at Galena, we also get to check out Steve’s Candy store. Everything is made in-house, from candies to beef jerky, especially their popular Mine Run Candy (aka honeycomb). But the coolest part is there is an old police car parked right outside which is owned by Steve himself.  Steve told us the car is still in working condition, and usually he will drive down the street during festive parade in Galena.

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We picked up a few candies for the road trip, you can tell The Pom was utterly satisfied with his purchase.

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Cuba, Missouri | Distance – 2300km

We crossed the state border one more and now we are in Missouri. The next stretch of our journey is long and uneventful,  it takes about another 3 hours to arrive at our next destination and by the time we arrived, it is already dark. But I am just glad we made it to this small town named Cuba and we will be spending a night here, and is also the night I look forward the most. You will soon find out why.

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Historic landmark Route 66 motel

Wagon Wheel Hotel – Cuba, Missouri

I’ve done fair bit of research on Route 66 prior to our road trip, there are the usual landmarks to check out and also looking for the good food in every town, but for us, we always on the lookout for something quirky, something unusual and a little bit off the beaten track. The Pom was pretty happy that he got to spend a night at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona; but to me, there is only one other place that can beat the wigwam motel. And that is the Wagon Wheel Motel, a 1930’s historic landmark Route 66 motel in Cuba. But I bet you are wondering what so special about this place?

Well, my friend, let me present to you….

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The coin operated ‘Magic Fingers’ vibrating bed!

That’s right, just like the ones you’ve seen in many movies and TV shows like Austin Powers, Kill Bill and Modern Family, just to name a few. The Magic Fingers vibrating bed was invented back in 1958 by John Houghtaling, a popular feature at many cheap motels along Route 66. Let face it, the vibrating bed has always been portrayed as a giant kinky toy than a relaxation device, it did feel a little awkward when I rang up Wagon Wheel Motel to ask about their bed,

“Hi, my name is Billy and I am calling from Australia. I’ve been told that you are the only motel on Route 66 that still has the vibrating bed, can I book that room?”

It is sad but true, they seem to always use the vibrating beds in movies, unfortunately in reality they are almost obsolete and only a few motels in American still have them; Wagon Wheel Motel on Route 66 is the only motel that still has the Magic Fingers that we know of.

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The Pom is being carried into the land of “tingling relaxation and ease”

We couldn’t help but giggling like school girls when we are actually lying on the bed ready for the “experience”. We drop a quarter into the coin box, suddenly there is a buzz from within the mattress like a giant purring cat, instead of shaking violently and rattling like in movies, the bed simply vibrates and hums in different speed for the next 15 minutes. When it stops, it makes you want to drop another quarter into the coin box for more of that weird ‘tingling’ sensation. Feel like a kid on one of those rides at shopping mall where you just want to ride it over and over again by putting more coins in. Can’t say it is the most overwhelming experience, but it was totally worth it for the novelty value.

It will be a quiet night for us after the long drive. We didn’t have to go far for dinner and settled at Missouri Hicks BBQ which is just down the road from the motel. This place is totally what a country smoked house you’d have imagined, a meaty heaven where everything is smoked to perfection. Remember we are in a small country town somewhere in Missouri, this is the very first time I was being stared at by the locals as soon as I walk into the restaurant, assuming there aren’t that many Asians in this part of town. It did make me feeling a little nervous and uncomfortable, but the meat was good and soon we are in food coma and waddle back to our hotel room and call it a night.

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Vibrate or not, we sure had a good night sleep on the vibrating bed. We managed to have a stroll along the main street of Cuba the next morning. Cuba is possibly one of the cleanest, tidy towns we came across along Route 66. Dubbed as the “Mural City”, large outdoor murals are painted along the Route 66 corridor.

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A mural to commemorate aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart who made an emergency landing in a field near Cuba on September 4, 1928. There is also another mural of Hollywood Star Bette Davis who stopped over at Southern Hotel in Cuba.

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A colourful gas station now a car repair garage is located right at the intersection marks the 4-way murals crossing.

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Before leaving Cuba, we make a detour to Fanning Route 66 Outpost, which is 4 miles way out to the west. It is a convenient store and also an archery store where you can practice your skills on their ranges. But that’s not it, this place is also the home for the World’s Largest Rocking Chair!

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World’s Largest Rocking Chair – Route 66 Rocker

This rocking chair that doesn’t seem to rock, measures 12.83 metre (42ft 1inch) tall and 6.17 metre (20ft 3inch) wide, and is still holding the Guinness World Records as the largest rocking chair in the world. I believe visitors were welcome to climb and have a seat on the chair, but obviously due to safety issues, we can climb no more.

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St Louis, Missouri | Distance – 2482km

We started our last leg of the journey bright and early as today will be our last day on Route 66. We have to make it to Chicago by night, simply because we have a very special dinner booked and paid for that we don’t want to miss! Plus, there are still many places and landmarks we want to see! 

Another 2 hours of driving, we finally hit the big city of St Louis, Missouri.

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Chain of Rocks Bridge

Before venturing into the big smoke, we make a detour on the outskirt to check out an important part of Route 66 history, the Chain of Rocks Bridge. This bridge was for a time the route used by Route 66 to cross over Mississippi River between St Louis, Missouri, to Chouteau island which is part of Madison, Illinois. The bridge is no longer in used by motor vehicles but only carries walking and biking trails over the river.

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What makes this bridge unique is its distinctive 22-degree bend occurring  at the middle of the crossing. The bridge is also features in the film Escape from New York.

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Cruising Route 66 in style, just like the old days.

Moving along, you simply can’t come to St Louis without visiting the most famous, iconic, breathtaking landmark of this city – the Gateway Arch!

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The Gateway Arch – St Louis, Missouri

Visible 30 miles (48km) away in every direction, the Gateway Arch soars 630 feet into the sky. This gargantuan man-made monument is built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. It is an impressive architecture designed by Eero Saarinen. Photographs don’t really do its grand size justice, one must actually standing right underneath to really appreciate it.

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For a small fee of USD$10, visitors are able to go all the way up to the top of the arch that offers an expansive view of downtown St Louis. The arch itself is hollow inside and actually not that big, it does feel a little cosy inside the tram that takes us all the way up to the highest point of the arch.

I do feel a little claustrophobic in the tiny space at the top, with around 50 visitors at one time all leaning over and looking out through the tiny windows.

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Very low ceiling and only 5 metre wide viewing platform on top

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On top of the world!

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the Busch stadium

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The courthouse

Looking down from the top, offers a perfect view of the Old Courthouse. The Courthouse is the site where an enslaved husband and wife, Dred and Harriet Scott, sued for their freedom, and Virginia Minor sued for a woman’s right to vote in 1872.

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Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

Sightseeing aside, we also made a quick stop at Ted Drewes for something a little more delectable – FROZEN CUSTARD! Ted Drewes is an institution of St Louis, a family business that has been running for decades with 4 stores opened across the city since 1929. By 1958, the south side stand at Chippewa location were all that remained and is still running hot until today.

Frozen custard first originated on Coney Island, NY as a carnival treat, it was the rage on the east coast. By definition, frozen custard must have at least 10% butterfat and 1.4% egg yolk. Frozen custard by far is lot silkier and creamier than traditional ice cream because it has only 20% overrun, in other words, it has less air incorporated into the custard. On the other hand, traditional ice cream has as much as 100% overrun, which is more economical to bulk it up in volume by incorporating more air, which causes ice crystals and will not be as smooth.

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It doesn’t seem to stop people queueing up for ice cream despite it is winter season. The menu is extensive from frozen custard which is similar to soft serve, to malts and shakes, but what got our attentions is the “concrete”. The lady behind the counter explains to us that the ice cream is frozen so hard even if you tip upside down, it won’t fall out, like concrete.

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Reese’s concrete

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The Pom’s cookie dough concrete

I can’t go pass the Reese’s concrete and The Pom opted for Cookie Dough flavour. As the girl hands over the concrete, she purposely tip it upside down to show us how solid the ice cream are. It is a little bit like Cold Rock ice cream, but it is definitely creamier than the one we had in Las Vegas.

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Selling Christmas trees is also a tradition here at Ted Drewes every Christmas

Ted is not only famous for his frozen custard, it is also a tradition for Ted to go Nova Scotia each fall, where he personally hand picks the best Canadian balsam Fir Christmas trees to bring home to St Louis. We are very lucky to be there during Christmas period to witness the tradition where locals are browsing and picking the best Christmas trees for their homes.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
6726 Chippewa St, St Louis, MO 63109, United States
Phone:+1 314-481-2652
 
Opening hours: Daily at 11am

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

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Springfield, Illinois | Distance – 2962km

How I wish we could have spend more time in St Louis and perhaps staying overnight, but we must push on and start heading north into Illinois, the 5th most populous state in US. Our first stop is Springfield, the third and current capital of the state, the second most populated city outside of Chicago metropolitan area. But more importantly, Springfield is also the home of the most famous past president of US, Abraham Lincoln.

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Abraham Lincoln’s home

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Lincoln Home – National Historic Site

Lincoln Home has been listed as a national historic site and is open to public. However, the only entry to the Lincoln Home is by a ranger guided tour and the good news is, there is no fee and all you need is to obtain a free tour ticket and book yourself for the next available tour.

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The whole house is more or less has been refurbished and reupholstered, but a few original furnitures remain in the house, including the desk where Abraham Lincoln quilled many of his speeches for civil rights. So much history to learn, so little time. Sadly we have to bid Springfield farewell and rush off to our final destination – Chicago!

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Chicago, Illinois | Distance – 2962km

After another 3 hours of non-stop driving, we finally reach the final destination of our epic Route 66 road trip in Chicago. It is already way past 7pm and I was so worried that we are going to miss our dinner, but thankfully I’ve made the booking for the 9pm seating and still able to make it.

We have booked ourselves into an apartment using AirBnB, which is conveniently located in the downtown area. There is no time to rest, we only have enough time for shower and a quick change of clean clothes then off we go for the most anticipated dinner this evening. Feeling a little nervous and excited all at the same time because we are heading to Chicago’s most acclaimed restaurant, Alinea.

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Alinea, Chicago

This restaurant is no stranger to any foodies around the world, Alinea has held a 3-Michelin Star status since 2011 and already enjoys a worldwide reputation. Due to its popularity, getting a table at this restaurant is almost as slim as winning the lottery and usually they are sold out months ahead. Not only that, when they started introducing  the ticket purchasing system through Facebook and Twitter, instead of traditional restaurant reservations, it sure caused quite a riot and the social media exploded because the restaurant has no way of preventing ticket scalping where some people will buy the tickets and reselling them at higher price since the tickets are fully transferable.

Initially, dining at Alinea was actually not in our itinerary. I woke up one morning and checked into my Facebook, somehow it just happened to be at the right moment when they have just released the tickets for the next two months bookings. I casually checked into their website to see whether there are any tickets still available on the days when we will be in Chicago. And next thing I know, I had my credit card out and USD$420 were gone, all I received was an email stating I just bought two tickets for the 9pm seating. Oops! 

I didn’t tell The Pom how much the meal cost, it might freak him out!

There is a dress code to dine at Alinea where men are required to wear jackets and elegant formal for women. According to their website, guests will receive a courtesy phone call a week prior to confirm the booking and also be informed to dress appropriately. Since we were already travelling in US a week prior to our dinner night, and also had my SIM card swapped out for my phone, as a result I was out of reach but eventually I did received a confirmation email two days prior while we were in Cuba, only then we found out about the dress code and it was too late. We both have never thought about packing a formal jacket into our suitcases for a leisure vacation. We tried our best to dress smart and hopefully we can get away with our winter coats.

Dare I say the sensory experience at Alinea starts as soon as we walk through the front door into a red glowing hallway that has been transformed into a pumpkin patch for Thanksgiving. There are tumblers of warm mulled apple cider floating inside a metal pail filled with hot water with its temperature controlled by using a sous vide machine. As the water circulates and creates a whirlpool in the pail, the tumblers are continuously clinking on each other, creating a hynoptising chime. As we are taking the last sip of the warm cider, a friendly staff emerges from behind the left wall panel and invites us into the restaurant whenever we are ready.

First thing that catches our attention as we entering the restaurant is the brightly lit kitchen itself in contrast to the moody dining room. 20 odd chefs are working in an utterly quiet, peaceful kitchen, meticulously creating edible art on the plates at their own stations.

This 64-seater restaurant spans over two floors, is as dim as a night club. As the maitre d leads us to our table, I feel extremely apologetic for not adhering to the dress code as everyone else in the restaurant are in suits. But our maitre d’ assures us is no big deal and makes us feel most welcomed by cracking few jokes after we told him we are here all the way from Australia.

Alinea only offers tasting menu, with no set rules on how many dishes you will receive, all depends on what they can create from the seasonal produce. For this particular evening, we are also offered a different menu specially designed by using white truffle imported from Italy, at an extra USD$90 per head. We politely decline the offer as we want to experience what the real Alinea is about for our first visit.

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There are no cutlery, no menu, no nothing on the table to leave us any clue what we are in for. We even try to refrain ourselves from taking a sneaky peek at the other tables what dishes are being served. Lucky we didn’t as we definitely not disappoint as the first course arrives at the table.

We are presented with a block of ice sits in a bowl filled with pebbles; a hole is drilled into the ice and is filled with West Indies spiced vermouth, along with an open-ended glass tube filled with Mediterranean flavoured butternut squash puree. We are instructed to put glass tube into the ice block and slurp everything out. It is a refreshing mix of sweet butternut squash with the sharp spicy flavours of ginger, chilli and tomato; a great umami concoction to open up the appetite.

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A waitstaff brings out the second course on a plank of driftwood covered in seaweed foraged from the beach. Here we get to experience what the nearby water has to offer. Four little morsels are presented to us, oyster leaf with mignonette, crab chilli passionfruit, lobster pepper gumbo crackers, and razor clam with shiso and soy. Each morsel has its own unique flavour combinations that transport you to different parts of the world.

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Third course is less theatrical, inside a glass dome is the highest quality of tuna otoro, buried in herbaceous green curry granita, rich coconut foam and a few compressed cucumber sticks. As simple as it may sound, the colour scheme of this dish does play trick with your mind.

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There is only one word I can describe this next course – wild. A homage to “corn“, the dish is plated on a piece of glass sits on top of a wood platform. Like a piece of Pollock’s artwork, there are trails of corn custard and sour cherry puree, with corn truffle and candied silk that tasted just like fairy floss!

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I never get tired of all the different presentations, this time we are being served with arctic char on a plank of maple wood which is slowly being charred from the flame below that sends out a subtle hint of maple fragrant. The fresh char is simply divine, oily and silky like salmon, paired with yams root, sage puree, arctic char roe and bourbon jelly.

And by now, we are only up to 5th course and there are lot more to come. Just in case if you are intended to experience it yourself one day, I will not spoil the surprises for you and will stop writing about my experience for the rest of the evening except the last course.

But the rest of the courses that we had are:

Course 6 – potato truffle soup, hot and cold potatoes, sage, parsley crisps, parmesan and butter
Course 7 – shiitake mushroom, chicharron, Berkshire pork candied, cap mushroom crisps, hazelnuts and huckerberry
Course 8 – white truffle explosion, Raviolo white truffle
Course 9 – lamb loin, saddleback and shank, jus served with 60 combinations of condiments
Course 10 – Woodcock, lingonberry, caramelised shallot and tempura
Course 11 – Ginger – galangal, turmeric, white and yellow ginger
Course 12 – coconut nougat, carrot sorbet. yogurt foam, banana caramel ice cream with camomile orange tea infused with citrus peel, rosemary and basil
Course 13 – green apple helium balloon (this was fun and totally brought out the inner child in all of us)

And finally, the piece de resistance, the final dessert course that everyone talked about. Our table is wiped clean, and the waitstaff rolls out a grey silicon mat with the exact same dimension as the table top. A young chef comes out from the kitchen with a tray filled with different components for our next course.

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He pours liquid nitrogen into a ball made out of dark chocolate and places it in the middle of our table; white mist slowly puffing out from the ball onto the table, something is brewing within.

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Like a natural born artist, he then begins to paint the table like a blank canvas.

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A few strokes of quince puree here, and a few strokes of balsamic reduction there; sometimes is a sprinkle of chocolate crumbs, next will be a trail of orange reduction drops. It takes a good 2 minutes to finish his piece of artwork on the table. While we are still in awe admiring the edible artwork on the table, then suddenly…

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“CRACK!”

The chef grabs the chocolate ball and smashes it right onto the table; the ball instantly shatters into million pieces revealing all the different components hidden within. Modern Contemporary Art or what? Inside there are brownie malt, cinnamon floss and toffee caramel. We are armed with dessert spoons and literally eating off the table!

We two Australians possibly had the most fun in the restaurant, as we could tell the Maitre d’ seems to enjoy our company and always come over for a chat more than the other tables. Needless to say it was definitely the pinnacle of all my past dining experiences, but it also comes with a high price. After the wine and the tip, the meal was over USD800 just for the two of us. It was once of a lifetime experience and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

Alinea
1723 North Halsted, Chicago Illinois 60614 
Opens Wed – Sun
Reservation is via ticket system, for seating session 5pm-6.30pm; 8pm-9.30pm

Alinea on Urbanspoon

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Our time in Chicago was off to a good start after a fantastic meal at Alinea. But haven’t your forgotten something? We made it! We have completed our Route 66 road trip, all 2962km in total. Although we had great time exploring the historic route, it is a nice change to swap the car for some walking around this gothic windy city.

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The corn cobs

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South Branch Chicago River

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Chicago is renowned for its tall buildings, this city is generally considered to be the birthplace of the skyscrapers. If you love architecture then this is the city you want to be. We spend the morning  wandering downtown, breathing the -3C chilly fresh air, it is truly an exhilarating experience.

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At the intersection of Jackson and Michigan street, we finally found the End Historic Route 66 sign to officially conclude our journey. Yay!  But it’s time for breakfast, and we sure don’t have to walk far, as Lou Mitchell’s on Jackson has been serving hungry Route 66 travellers since 1923.

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Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant & Bakery

Lou Mitchell’s has been known as the first stop along the legendary Route 66, this iconic greasy spoon diner is an important institution of Chicago. Upon entering the restaurant, you instantly feel like you are part of the family. It is tradition that ladies and children will receive Milk Duds when entering the restaurant as a welcome greeting.

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We didn’t get any Milk Duds, but instead we are offered a basket full with fried donut holes dusted with cinnamon sugar. These little puffy morsels are the offcuts from the donuts, a little sweet treat for everyone who walks in.

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On each table sits a jug of maple syrup, jars of grape jelly and orange marmalade, carafe of creamer and a sifter of cinnamon. Our waitstaff Mary is super friendly and all cheery in festive mood. Black coffee is poured freely whenever our cups are half empty.

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Meltaway pancake with extra bacon

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Mushroom omelette with french fries and extra bacon

You will never go hungry here at Lou’s because the portion size is huge! The Pom’s Meltaway Pancake comes with a stack of 5 fluffy pancakes and extra crispy bacon on the side. The free pouring of the house-made maple syrup from the big jar on the table is dangerous, but it will keep The Pom sweet and sugary high.

There is also sandwich and waffle on the menu, but it is the skillet breakfast what Lou’s is famous for. My mushroom omelette can feed a tiny nation, served with a side of french fries smothered in melted cheddar and dotted with sour cream. I couldn’t help but ordering a side of bacon as well, but soon enough I regret that I can’t finish my meal.

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When we ask for the bill, our friendly Mary insists that we should try their house made organic yogurt as well. She even suggests us to have it with the marmalade and it is indeed a marvellous combo. The bill comes later with a side of prune and a wedge of orange as palate cleanser, this is why I love Lou Mitchell’s because it is the small gesture that counts.

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“WE LOVE LOU MITCHELL’S!”

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant & Bakery
Address: 565 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60661, United States
Phone:+1 312-939-3111
 
Opening hours: 
Mon – Fri 5:30am – 3pm
Sat – Sun 7am – 3pm

Lou Mitchell's on Urbanspoon

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The Crown Fountain

We spend the rest of the afternoon around Millennium Park to walk off the excess amount of calories we just consumed. The Crown Fountain is an interactive work of public art but sadly it isn’t working during winter time, only operates between May and October.

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The most photographed artwork in Chicago has to be “The Bean”, technically it is called Cloud Gate. Like a giant drop of mercury, this public sculptured designed by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor is sure mesmerising.

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Everyone is taking photos of the bean.

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Everyone is taking photos of themselves on the bean.

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Everyone is taking photos of themselves with a silly hat on.

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The Art Institute of Chicago

Across the street from Millennium Park is The Art Institute of Chicago. There is an extensive art collection on display over 4 levels in two main buildings. You can easily spend a whole day here if you want to learn more about American art in depth.

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A bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, a smaller replica of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC

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Untitled by Mark Rothko; Madawaska by Marsden Hartley

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Greyed Rainbow by Jackson Pollock

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America Gothic by Grant Wood

The most photographed artwork here at Art Institute of Chicago has to be the America Gothic by Grant Wood.

 

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Lou Malnati’s

When I am thinking of Chicago, I am thinking deep dish pizza. We invited Eric, our AirBnB host along for dinner this evening and he is more than happy to take us to the restaurant where we can try one of original deep dish pizzas and we ended up here at Lou Malnati’s.

It is debatable who actually invented the deep dish pizza, it was believed that the Chicago-style deep dish pizza was first invented at Pizzeria Uno back in 1943. However, a 1956 article from the Chicago Daily News asserts that Uno’s original pizza chef Rudy Malnati developed the recipe. Rudy’s son, Lou Manalti has been working with his father since 1940s and eventually he opened his own first restaurant in 1971. Today, Lou Malnati’s owns and operates 35 stores in the greater Chicago area.

 

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Combination platter – USD8.95

The restaurant is busy, downstairs is more like a sports bar where patrons are hanging out at the bar, having pizza and beer while watching baseball on the TV. We are ushered upstairs which is a little quieter where proper dining tables are set up.

We kick off with some starter, we order the combination platter which vaguely described as “mozzarella sticks, cheddar cubes, breaded mushrooms and zucchini, served with ranch and marinara sauce”. But who knew they all came deep fried?

SCORE!

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BuffaLou Wings with a little kick – USD$8.45

The BuffaLou Wings here pack quite a heat punch; succulent meat with fatty soft skin is coated in hot sauce that leaves a tingling burn on the lips, we are happily dipping the wings into the gorgonzola dressing that helps to mellow the heat down a little bit.

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It is quite fun to watch how they serve the first slice of pizza at the table.

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The Malnati Chicago Classic – Large USD23.95

We are sensible and only order 1 large pizza to share among the three of us. The Malnati Chicago classic is made with lean sausage, topped with extra cheese and vine ripened tomato sauce on a rich Buttercrust. The deep dish pizza here is definitely not as deep as I’ve seen from the other restaurants in Chicago. The deep pan is, the crust is tall, but the filling is not any thicker than a normal pizza.

Perhaps Lou’s version that is not as deep is a good thing, else Jon Stewart will start calling it a “f*xking casserole”. But I ain’t complaining, the pizza is good, oozes with melty cheese and is simply delicious.

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Chocolate chip pizza – USD6.45

It was a wise move to just order one pizza as we able to fit in some dessert to cap the night off. The chocolate chip pizza is a riot, a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie is baked inside a deep dish pizza pan (duh!), served with vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream, lots of whipped cream.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
439 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312.828.9800
 
Opening hours:
Sun – Thur 11am – 11pm
Fri – Sat 11am – Midnight

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

jumping-high

I am so glad that we finally accomplished one of our holiday dreams of road tripping down the Historic Route 66. The road trip itself may seem long, but our memory of the Mother Road lasts longer. However, our trip in America ain’t finish yet. It is time to pack our bags and head to the next destination, at least this time we won’t be driving.

Next stop – THE BIG APPLE! NYC HERE WE COME!