Chicago’s O’Hare International (KORD) is best known as the second busiest airport in the United States and one of United Airlines largest hubs. It’s not exactly recognized for being the friendliest GA airport around. So what’s a hungry aviator to do when flying around the metropolitan Chicago area?
The answer is to fly eight miles north of ORD to Chicago Executive Airport (KPWK). When arriving VFR from the south, fly the lake front corridor below 3,000 feet MSL in order to stay below O’Hare’s Class Bravo airspace outer ring. On the way, make sure to take the time to enjoy the only in Chicago views. Off of the left wing you’ll spot Navy Pier jutting out into Lake Michigan, the John Hancock Center and Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) framing the majestic Chicago skyline, the friendly confines of historic Wrigley Field, Northwestern University’s Ryan Field Football Stadium and the glistening white Bahai Temple.
Chicago Executive, formerly Palwaukee Municipal Airport, is the fourth busiest airport in Illinois and one of the top 10 busiest general aviation airports in the world. It consists of three active runways, covers more than 412 acres and is home to more than 325 aircraft. Palwaukee Airport originally got its name when pilots would follow either Palatine Road or Milwaukee Avenue until the roads intersected and then land — hence, “Palwaukee.” This thriving Class Delta airport of entry has a long, diverse history and a plethora of aviation services available on the field.
Chicago Executive is the perfect launching pad for a multi-faceted culinary excursion. Within five miles you’ll find almost two dozen hotels, nearly 100 eating establishments and range of day trips to keep anyone busy. Hugging PWK’s east side is Milwaukee Avenue, known as suburban Chicago’s restaurant row, and the gateway to the journeys that follow.
Start eight miles southwest of Chicago Executive at Arlington Park Racetrack. The ponies will be running this year from May 4 through Sept. 30. Arlington Park has many distinctions including being the site of the world’s first million-dollar purse. This north shore social destination is not only great for viewing some of the country’s premiere thoroughbreds but also the perfect place to just hang out. Besides world-class horse racing, Arlington hosts “Party in the Park on Friday” and “Summer Bash Saturday” featuring live music and “Family Day Sunday” providing kid friendly activities such as pony rides, a petting zoo and face painters.
After losing a few bucks, grab your clubs and hit the links. Five miles northeast of the racetrack are two worthwhile golf courses. The 18-hole championship golf course at Chevy Chase Country Club was originally designed and built in 1927 by renowned architect Thomas Bendelow and renovated in 2002 by Bob Lohmann. Alternatively, visit Rob Roy Golf Club. This 51-acre, 9-hole regulation par 36 course will challenge duffers and pros alike.
By now, you will be hungry. The Chicago area food scene has become a mecca for molecular gastronomists such as Grant Aches at Alinea Restaurant and Homaro Cantu at Moto Restaurant. It has a thriving locavore movement spearheaded by Bruce Sherman at North Pond and Paul Kahan at Blackbird. It even has its share of reality celebrity chefs like Stephanie Izard at Girl & The Goat and Sarah Grueneberg at Spiaggia. Even with all these options, the best suggestion is to keep it old school.
There are two Chicago culinary institutions that one must partake when flying into Chicago Executive. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria has been specializing in Chicago-style deep dish pizza for more than 40 years. What makes a Chicago-style pie special? This knife n’fork deep dish monstrosity actually is more delicate than it seems. It has a rather thin crust that encompasses the bottom and the sides. The “backwards” filling of mozzarella, vegetables, meat and a chunky, spicy tomato sauce is extremely flavorful but can be a gut buster.
What makes Lou Malnati’s special? Even with 33 locations, the family-owned labor of love doesn’t skimp on quality ingredients and stays true to Grandpa Malnati’s original recipe. The restaurant has a relatively large bar and grill style menu. Many items are fine on their own but don’t waste the calories. Do not stop or hesitate at the appetizer, salad or sandwich sections. Head right for the pizza.