USA Road Trip Day 5: Chicago > Cleveland

Buckingham Fountain

Trip Taken: 2010

Millennium Park

Every morning my brother wakes up rather early to do his workout. I joined him for a couple of workouts but no where near his level of intensity. This morning I didn’t go workout with him. Instead, I took the few hours I had in the morning to look around the downtown area of Chicago. The first thing I wanted to do was see the Buckingham Fountains.

I headed east towards the waters of Lake Michigan and reached it fairly soon. The Loop in Chicago isn’t that big and the park isn’t far away. Supposedly there was suppose to be a bean somewhere in the park. I didn’t see it but I did see the huge fountains almost immediately. It is surrounded by a huge plaza and great views of the Chicago skyline. The first thing I thought of was how much this reminded me of the beginning of the TV show ‘Married with Children’.

I walked down Van Buren Street and basically followed the L train around Chicago. I ended up at Union Station. It had the Beaux-Arts architecture I would expect from San Francisco, but it didn’t seem totally out of place here.

Portillo’s Hot Dog

Portillo Hot Dog

I met up with my brother after his workout and went to Portillo’s for a hot dog. Chicago is famous for two culinary contributions: hot dogs and deep dish pizza. We only had one meal to try one of the two. We chose the hot dog since we have tried Chicago-style deep dish pizza before in the SF Bay Area. The hot dog was pretty good and the environment was steeped in sports atmosphere. It felt like a concession stand except all the tables were specifically for Portillo’s. However, I will say that I do like the hot dog at Top Dog in Berkeley a little more. I like that extra snap that it has.

We walked back from the restaurant to our hotel down State Street. From what it looked like, it seemed we were walking down the Magnificent Mile as it was described on Wikitravel. Seeing the Chicago Theater was pretty cool, but the rest of the rest street was just ordinary. There were the regular shops you would find in any shopping district and some more high-end stores.

Toll Booths on the 90

Leaving Chicago, we ran into a toll booth just trying to leave the city. We arrived in Indiana fairly soon. However, there were even more toll roads in Indiana. Is this a midwest thing to have so many toll roads?
The only tollroads in California that I knew of were for bridges and some stupid roads in Orange County. Also, in Indiana were more fields of corn.

I slept for a lot of the car ride and missed some of the scenery, but I really don’t think I missed much, except for maybe more corn fields.

Downtown Cleveland

Entering Cleveland from the west

Entering the city limits of Cleveland, we started to see skyline of the downtown area. My first impression of Cleveland that it had a rather small downtown area. It was sad to see that the area was fairly empty and didn’t have a lot going on. There was a game going on the baseball stadium that hosted the Cleveland Indians but even then there were only a few people in the stadium.

The empty feeling reminded me of downtown LA except that there were a lot more brick buildings and a less skyscrapers. The spirit of the place felt like LA: there were a lot of people loitering on street corners and shady characters along the streets.

Sterle’s Slovenian Country House


My brother wanted to try some of Guy Fieri’s recommendations from the show ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives’. There were a couple of them in Cleveland, but ended up deciding on Sterle’s because it was the closest one to our hotel. The drive there took us along the waters of Lake Erie.

The restaurant looked liked a big, brown warehouse from the outside and a lodge from the inside. There were no windows, which was a little unsettling. There was a live band playing and old couples dancing on the dance floor. It was cute to see that old people still had fun together after all those years.

The food was just okay, in my opinion. I ordered the Wienerschnitzel and my brother ordered the House Chicken. The sauce for the house chicken was pretty good but the chicken itself was not the juiciest. The best Wienerschnitzel I have ever had was in Vienna so it is pretty hard to beat that. The Wienerschnitzel batter could have been crispier. But in the end, we had a hearty dinner and the owner talked with us after our dinner. She was so gracious and hospitable. She embodied the German spirit of Gemütlichkeit.

Parting Words

Driving from Chicago to Cleveland took about 7 hours and we went through, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. I wish I had more time to look around in Chicago. I would have loved to take an architectural tour of the city. Cleveland on the other hand, I could live without going there again.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.