"I 'm going down to the desk," Tom gasped.
"Dan's not there between midnight and 7 am," I reminded him, "we're on our own!"
But since there was nothing else to do and it was too hot to stay in the room Tom went downstairs anyway while I wrestled the windows open to let in some snowy 2 - degree air.
I was standing in the pink-lit hallway outside our room when Tom returned. "There's nobody at the desk," he said.
We went back into our room to see if the cold air had at all neutralized the killer heat - it hadn't, not much. But then the hot air blast suddenly clicked off and after a few minutes, with the open window, the room cooled off and we crawled back into our bunks.
The next morning we told the hospitaliero - not Dan, but another friendly young guy - about our hot, hot room. He rolled his eyes with an "Oh, not again!" expression. He told us he'd take care of it, which we sincerely hoped he would, since we had to spend one more night in that room.
On the brunch agenda this Sunday morning was a bus trip with Claire and Miguel to the West End Bakery, an eatery known for its its dessert repertory, to which had recently been added a new confection that I'd never heard of: the cronut. A hybrid of croissant and doughnut, Miguel informed us it was the current darling of the dessertitarian crowd. Since it was understood that we'd be topping off the meal with some of these cronuts (or some equally decadent sugar entities) I decided to change my usual breakfast/brunch strategy and order a spinach salad in order to save room for the really important stuff. The others ordered eggs in some form or other, but when our food arrived and I saw the potatoes that accompanied their benedicts and scramblers, I had to call the server back to bring me some of those potatoes! They were small red new potatoes roasted in herbs and topped with a generous drizzle of a buttery sauce. Were they good? Oh yeah! (Later Tom told me he was glad I enjoyed my potatoes so much, since the portion I'd ordered had cost a whopping six dollars!). After we all dutifully cleaned our plates came the moment we all anticipated: the arrival of the desserts! Miguel had a beautiful-looking apple-cranberry cobler and Claire had...well, now, I can't seem to remember what Claire had...I guess I was too lost in my pumpkin-cream cheese cronut coated with cinnamon sugar and topped with slivered almonds, though I did take a moment to study Tom's s'more cronut filled with chocolate creme and topped with chocolate icing along with graham cracker crumbles and bits of marshmallow. Looks-wise, these cronuts in no way ressembled a croissant, they were closer in form to a doughnut, though a long rectangular , square-edged donught. The casing was of a different consistancy than a yeast doughnut, firmer, slighly flakier, though it didn't exactly seem like croissant material, either. Oh well, whatever it was, it was good.
After brunch we hopped back on the bus and headed to Target to buy a tree for Claire and Miguel's apartment. We spent the afternoon helping them decorate their tree then consuming as many episodes of "Breaking Bad" as we could stuff in before it was time to leave again for dinner. We wanted to go to Paisano's, a pizzeria with some of the best pizza on the planet, but it meant we'd have to take the bus and the thought of stepping back outside, where the cold had become the kind of cold that seeps under your coat, hat, and gloves and into your boots, so daunted us that we waivered and nearly opted to have the pizza delivered. But then when Tom reimnded us how much better pizza hot from the oven is than pizza cold from the delivery ride, we rallied our courage and headed out for the bus stop.
Paisano's deep-dish pizza is like no other: its crust is, I'd say, more shortening-based than
yeast-based. That is to say, instead of being soft and doughy it's more like a thick firm pie crust. But trust me, it's good! As I am a cheese pizza purist I ordered my own plain cheese pizza while Miguel and Claire shared a half pineapple-spinach and half pineapple-spinach-ham pizza. (Whatever floats your boat, right?) Tom opted for the spaghetti marinara, though the topping was more crushed tomatoes than sauce. He said it was good. Claire and Miguel said their pizza was good. My pizza was good. So it was all good.
After dinner we all got back on the bus and said our good-byes before Tom and I got off at our stop and Claire and Miguel got off at theirs. The rest of our night was, thankfully, uneventful, as our front desk guy did in fact take care of our psycho heating vent problem from the night before. The next morning after we packed up we went back to the front desk to ask about a breakfast place close to the hostel. Our hospitaliero (again not Dan - sadly, we hadn't seen him for a couple of days now. He was nice. ) pointed us towards a little place around the corner on Milwaukee Avenue called The Bongo Room. Funny name for a little breakfast diner, but the place was kind of funny (in a good way!) in the decor department, too: There were victorian-looking wall sconces, Greek pillars, a brick wall, a green wall, a blue wall - something to suit your style, whatever your style might be! And we thoroughly enjoyed our final meal of eggs (sunny-side fup or me, omlette for Tom), toast and potatoes.
Then our trip to Chicago was over, we hopped back into our Focus and drove home to Columbus. In conclusion: would we stay at a hostel again? Hecks, yes! Would we stay at the IHSP Chicago again, with it's fun-house hallsways, random bathrooms and psycho heating vents? Double hecks yes!