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Road Games Travel Tips: Don’t be ‘Chi’, come to town!

Week 2: Seattle at Chicago, Sept. 17, 5:15 p.m. Pacific

SPONSORED – The enjoyability of this historical setting depends largely on the time of year.

Seattle played a playoff game at Soldier Field back in January 2011 in which the ground was quite literally frozen.

But there isn’t a better site in the country for a September game, especially one in prime time.

Chicago is absolutely fantastic, built around the rivers on the shores of a great lake, and there’s no shortage of opportunities. Two recommendations are the Navy Pier, where you get a lakeshore glimpse of just how big that body of water is, and the Architecture Cruise winds around the river to give you a unique look at the city’s most remarkable buildings.

The best thing about, Chicago, though? The food. Whether it’s the deep-dish pizza or the Italian beef sandwich or even the high-end dining options, the city is an eater’s dream. It’s also a chance to get more adventurous. Even if you don’t mean to.

At least that was the case for one of my fellow journalists when we went to a restaurant run by a friend of mine. Now, I don’t want to mention any names because Eric Williams is kind of a big deal now, covering the Chargers for the world’s biggest four-letter Web site. But back then, he was working at the Tacoma News Tribune while I was at The Seattle Times, and we gathered a group for dinner at the restaurant owned by Graham Elliot. He’s a big deal in food TV circles, a gastronomist as much as a chef who’s known for wearing glasses with white, chunky frames.

Merlin Verrier, who’s one of my oldest, closest friends, was the executive chef at that restaurant, and he treated us to a dinner at the same table where Jay-Z would later be served.

The meal was incredible. It was also adventurous with one of the appetizers being foie gras lollipops. Now that’s goose-liver pate, pate cut into circles, perched on a stick as if it were a sucker and then rolled in Pop Rocks. Odd? Absolutely. Delicious? You bet. What Eric was expecting? Not at all. He thought it was cheese, and when informed it was fattened goose liver, well, it changed how he felt about what he’d just eaten.

When a later dish included foie gras foam, we had to inform the server that he wasn’t all that interested in the liver. She scooped off the foam and placed it on my plate. It was delicious.

Elliot closed that bistro a few years back, but he does have a new restaurant in Chicago, Gideon Sweet, which opened late last year.

Arrival: O’Hare Airport is the second-busiest in the world, but actually fairly convenient to get to. It’s located 14 miles to the Northwest of Chicago, and you can use the Blue Line to get there 24 hours a day. Of course, if you want to rent a car, you can do that, too.

Stadium: What opened as Grant Park Municipal Stadium back in 1924 became Soldier Field a year later. It was constructed in three different phases, and is simply one of the most famous sporting venues in the country. There were said to be 123,000 in attendance when USC played Notre Dame in 1927. In 2003, a 20-month renovation of Soldier Field was completed, in which it appeared a new spaceship-like stadium was placed down – gently – on top of the old historical stadium. It is – quite simply – unlike any other stadium you’ll see in America.

Last time here: Dec. 2, 2012. A regular-season game that started Seattle’s five-game winning streak to make the playoffs. It’s also a game where Russell Wilson was so good he won it twice, leading Seattle on a touchdown drive to take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter, and then – after Chicago inexplicably tied the score – leading Seattle to a game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Dining: Gideon Sweet (841 W Randolph Street, Chicago, 312.888.2258); Velvet Taco (1110 N Drake Street, Chicago, 312.763.2654).