Friday, March 18, 2011

My Kind of Town: Sweet Home Chicago

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and all I can think about is summer in Chicago. There is no place I'd rather be than in the 312/773 area code from May-September.

All this daydreaming about summer in the city has me thinking about friends coming to visit. It seems like the minute the weather warms up, the houseguests start arriving. Matt and I are left with the task of showing people the city, and over the past 5 years we've accumulated many go-to places to entertain our out-of-town guests. So if you're from the city and you need some suggestions for visitors or you're headed to the Windy City to visit, here's a breakdown of our favorite spots (and why we love 'em).


NOVELTY FOOD
Kuma's Corner - I remember a time when this place wasn't crazy busy and we'd only wait 20 minutes for a table. Sadly, you'll probably wait more than 2 hours now for a table. Are the burgers worth it? 4 out of 5 times I'd say yes.
Downside: Not easily accessible by train. Upside: Right off of I-94.
Hot Dougs - Expect to wait 45 minutes to an hour outside to get in and have a gourmet sausage. Is it worth the wait? Yes. Always.
Note: Same neighborhood as Kuma's! Downside: Closed Sundays and whenever they feel like it. ALWAYS call ahead.
Franks N Dawgs - It's no Hot Dougs, but it's close to the North/Clybourn Red Line and shopping district and the hours are much better. Oh, and they have a hot dog with mac & cheese on it, so there's that.


DOWNTOWN 
Signature Room - See the city from the 95th floor of the Hancock Building for free. Spend $12 on a cocktail while you're up there. Ladies... make sure to use the restroom while you're up there.
Grand Lux Cafe- Good, affordable food & close proximity to most of the things downtown has to offer. And if you're lucky, you'll get a great seat looking out over the shoppers on the street.
Cultural Center - They have one of THESE!
The Bean - It sounds lame when you describe it to people, but Cloud Gate really is a sight to be seen. Take a walk around Millenium Park while you're at it.
Navy Pier Bike Rental - Chicago has miles and miles of bike/walking paths. See the lake, the skyline, Navy Pier and so much more. Stop at North Ave. Beach and have a drink at Castaways. Laugh at the girls that think it's South Beach.


IN TOWN FOR A CUBS GAME?
El Jardin - Dangerous margaritas. Outdoor patio where you can watch the drunks stumble past. If you're lucky, one might fall on the sidewalk in front of you. People watching at it's best.
Vines On Clark - Okay, maybe not the best spot to hit up before a game, but the rooftop patio is one of my favorite places in the world. From there you can see the Wrigley marquee while avoiding the crazy drunkeness in the street. Oh yeah, and I got married on the rooftop there in 2009, so maybe I'm a bit partial to the place. If you go... make sure to try the Buffalo Chicken Nachos.
Wrigleyville North - Blocks north of Wrigley on Sheffield. They have a live house band on Saturday nights. Really it's just a bunch of 60-year-old Vets playing Merle Haggard covers. It's exactly what you'd never expect in Wrigleyville, and the people watching rivals El Jardin.
Blarney Stone - Ridiculous dive bar. Cash only. Gourmet fare served: pizza puffs, corn dogs, etc. Cheap pitchers on non-game days. If you're lucky, a crazy guy will sit in a corner and draw a caricature of you and your then-boyfriend (now husband), hand you the drawing, then go out to the street and yell Bible verses at passers-by. Again, people watching, my favorite sport.
Strange Cargo  - Stumble in and pick up a shirt devoted to Chicago's greatest 'staches!

HONORABLE MENTION
Carol's - Comparable to Wrigleyville North in terms of dive bar, but in Uptown. Features a decent band playing country covers so drunk white girls can act like they know how to dance. Overpriced beer, but open late. Makes you feel like you're back in a small town the second you walk in.
Cozy Noodle - A true hidden gem in a neighborhood filled with bars. Aside from having awesome food, this place takes the cake for best. bathroom. ever. Oh, and it's BYOB. Try the garlic chicken noodle. You'll thank me.
Brew and View -  One of my top 10 favorite things Chicago has to offer. Sit in the Vic and watch Ferris Beuller or a first-run flick while sipping a cocktail? Don't mind if I do. $5 gets you 3 movies on a Saturday night. Sometimes the crowd is loud and the movie quality is poor. You're drinking a beer and watching a movie, so quit yer bitchin'.

SOMETHING YOU DON'T SEE OFTEN
Uncle Fun - Random, random, random. Items I've purchase there in the past 2 years: New Kids On The Block (circa 1988) Coffee Mug, Ice Cream Cone Neck Tie, & SNL Church Lady figurine --- all for under $5 each.
Paper Boy - If you're at Uncle Fun, run across Belmont to their sister-store that features hilarious stationery and greeting cards.
Schuba's - And if you're already there at Southport/Belmont, pop into Schuba's for a beer and to take some pics at the photo booth!

SEE THE CITY QUICKLY
Movie Tour - Not only is this tour awesome, but you don't have to care about movies to love it. See the city from Uptown to Pilsen in 2 hours on a small bus with huge windows and a bathroom. It's BYOB and snacks are encouraged.
SeaDog Architectural Tour - Sit on a boat, catch some rays and float past some of the most amazing buildings ever built. Finish it up with a speedboat ride on the greatest Great Lake and you've got yourself one awesome tour.

ENTERTAINMENT
Second City - Want to see where people like Tina Fey, Chris Farley and every other funny person you love on TV got their start? Go here. This is in my Top 3 of Chicago faves. Get tickets in advance. They sell out weeks before.
iO - Another starting point for funny people. More intimate setting. Close to Cozy Noodle... make a night out of it!
Bye Bye Liver - Haven't gone here yet, but it's been on the list of things to see for awhile. How can it not be fun?

JUST WHEN YOUR FRIENDS ARE ABOUT TO LEAVE TOWN, YOU HAVE TO TAKE THEM OUT FOR THE BEST BRUNCH THEY'VE EVER HAD
Wishbone - Ridiculously good brunch food and a Thai coffee (Mississipi Mud) that will make you swear off every other country's coffee. So what if it's made with sweetened condensed milk? Everyone knows brunch calories don't count.
Bongo Room - Pretzel pancakes with cream cheesey filling. No joke.
Orange "With A Peel" - Silver dollar pancake flights and orange-infused coffee. 'Nuff said.
Redmond's - 2 words: Coach's Special. 3 more words: Bloody Mary Bar. The crowd sucks and the service usually does, too. If you can get past that, treat yourself to the Coach's Special, but have it made with waffle fries and not tots. You'll be happy you did.

3 comments:

  1. THIS IS THE BEST LIST EVER!

    Bye, Bye Liver is AMAZEBALLS. Be prepared to get schnockered!

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  2. I love the places on this list! And I actually have been to Bye Bye Liver. We went last year with my brother when he visited and it's smaller than you would imagine but pretty fun!

    Love the Etsy shop too, very fun prints! And thanks for sending me the link to the Mod Podge print ;) Let me know if you're ever interested in promoting your shop w/ me!

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  3. Katie P - I love your blog! And thank you, I'll keep you in mind for future promotions!!!

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