Chicagoan ’til Chicago Ends
For about five months out of the year, there is no place like Chicago. We try to make up for the bracing winter weather with over the top christmas decorations and red tag shopping sales,all the while telling tourists “Come back in June, its another city”.
Truer words have not been spoken, Chicago is actually a midwest urban oasis this time of year. Yesterday was the Chicago Marathon, and I couldn’t have wanted better weather. I was outside all day, even going as far as to share the humiliation with other Chicago runners as we went on an afternoon run that was decidedly less mileage than 26.2 miles. Despite the fact that I only ran a fraction of an actual marathon in the beautiful weather, it got me thinking: what is a non local marathon athlete to do in Chicago, post marathon and congratulatory free beer?
Whether you are a marathoner or not: I give you my official locals guide to the best parts of Chicago. This list is heavily influenced by a college budget and Carter Family Haunts.
Deep Dish Pizza- Lou Malnati’s is a local favorite. cornbread crust, perfect ratio of cheese grease and sausage, not touristy, and if you are really hooked- then you can mail frozen ones directly to your house.
Breakfast- The Original Pancake House. Prime for celebrity spotting, especially in the summer movie filming season. For prime Carter family spotting, head there for easter breakfast, we will be there with anyone else we can drag with us.
Hot Dogs: Wiener Circle- but don’t go until around 11:30 or 12 am at night, just trust me on this one. Poochi gets real sassy around that hour.
Burgers: Billy Goat Tavern- the curse of the chicago cubs originated with this family owned restaurant located below Wacker Drive in the loop. They have a pretty limited menu: cheeseburgers. But to their credit, they are pretty good cheeseburgers.
PJ Clarkes: sometimes Vince Vaughan hangs out next door at McFaddens, but we go because it is just a really great neighborhood joint with classic american eats.
Adobo Grill : go there before you go to a second city comedy show, and get the guacamole. My dad brought his foreign friends once (by foreign I mean Chinese) and they swore it was the best they had ever had. Maybe he should have brought his mexican friends, but the guac is pretty well respected in general
Clark St./Lincoln Park: Come here to check out the Armitage/Halsted boutiques, the Lincoln Park zoo and Lincoln Park. Below:
RJ Grunts: Depending on how you look at it, head shots from all RJ grunt’s past waitresses plastered across the wall can be a little weird. But RJs has great burgers, chips, and (for the ladies) a fantastic salad bar. There is something for everyone and it is right by Lincoln Park Zoo
Litos Empenadas: it basically sells really cheap fusion flavored empenadas. There is no place to sit, but these little pastry lunches are fantastic and worth the visit.
Deli Boutique: a couple of eastern european women run this sandwich joint. Their paninis are fantastic and basically enough for two meals. They also sell weird eastern european desserts and liquor.
The Double Tree Cafe: your token hipster artíst coffee shop. If you are looking for an experience beyond starbucks with a lot of hippie literature and vegan pastries, head to the double tree cafe for some joe and an opportunity to join green peace.
Bars: Lincoln Avenue- its where all the Depaul college kids hang out, so its rowdy and most likely underage. The other area to go in the summer time is Wrigleyville, Old Town (Wells. St) or Wicker Park (Milwaukee and North Ave). At night, the north side revers head to La Bamba- a grundgy mexican restaurant known for burritos as big as your head and a pretty mean orchata.
Gold Coast/Dowtown: check out astor street, the playboy mansion,old ladies with their small dogs, and the michigan avenue shopping. Check out the top of the Hancock building for a great view and a drink, Walk to a free concert and a picnic in millenium park, If its nice out definitely head to North Ave. Beach, and please, don’t go to Navy Pier. Its going to be hard to find non touristy areas around here but if you need to eat here are my recs:
Wow Bao: take out chinese steamed buns on the first floor of Water Tower Place. They are americanized, but if you are trying to hold onto China without exploring Chinatown, this is the place to go.
Italian Village: my dad knows the bartender. They have great italian food with a pretty cool, dark ambiance. Their meatballs in particular are fantastic.
Division Street/Viagra triangle is where the night scene is. Gibsons lieas at the center of it all with a reputation for great steak and celebrities, division street is a block of rowdy bars and over served twenty somethings, and at around one in the morning, they head to five faces: a fantastic hotdog stand.
In terms of shopping: I am a big fan of the thrift stores on milwaukee and north avenue, Akira on Clark street, and a few jewelry and shoe boutiques on Armitage. I am not a fan of Michigan Avenue unless it is thanksgiving. If you are going to be in Chicago for longer than a few hours and you aren’t running a marathon, get a ticket to a sporting event. Chicago might not have successful sports seasons, but we are die hard, rowdy fans. the cubs bleacher sections, bears games in the cold, and any seat at a hawks game is going to be an opportunity to see Chicago sports fan base in action.