I’m excited to introduce my ongoing travel series (with authors much more well-traveled than me coming up, I promise!) with the first post on my hometown of Chicago. I’m really proud of this city, and I love showing it off. And eating and drinking are two of my absolute favorite things to do here! I thought this was a great way to start the series off, because so many people equate Chicago with pizza and hot dogs. But trust me, if that’s what you go for when you visit Chicago, you’re missing out on a lot!
My number one tip when it comes to eating here is to get away from the Gold Coast/Mag Mile area. Sure, there are some good places there but it’s made of of many chains and sub-par restaurants. You can get a much more interesting experience if you venture elsewhere (and don’t buy for a second that Taste of Chicago is really… well, a taste of Chicago.)
Small, unsuspecting places can be amazing. Take 90 Miles, a cute little Cuban cafe. There are a few locations, but my favorite is the Logan Square one.
90 Miles has a year-round, all-weather patio, and an open-air one for summer. It’s BYOB, but they also have sangria and mojito makings. And the food… so worth it. The wait staff is made up of laid-back, friendly people who go above and beyond. Try the empanadas, seriously. Now.
And if that’s not enough drink, nearby Wicker Park is home to my favorite bar in the city, Violet Hour. It’s not exactly a secret, even if the front is unmarked in good-old speakeasy fashion (there may be a dim hallway and heavy curtains involved, too.) And yeah, you can probably expect a wait on weekends. But the atmosphere and the drinks are well worth it. I have yet to order something I disliked here, and it’s an experience that is well worth it. Probably too intimate for a first date, but just right for a romantic evening.
I’ll admit, the third place on my list in somewhere I have yet to go. But Alinea (in Lincoln Park) has a reputation that precedes it, and proves that Chicago truly does have fine dining. I’ve read so many accounts of customized vegan experiences here that Alinea is on my must list for sure.
Other places that I consider great choices – Karyn’s on Green in the West Loop, which is all vegan and has an amazing brunch. Avec, a wonderful wine bar and restaurant, Longman and Eagle in Logan Square which doubles as a small hotel, Big Star which is fun for a night of margaritas and tacos, Tepatulco – a Mexican restaurant in Lincoln Park with a heavenly patio out back, and the Roof at the Wit, which is more worth it for the view than the drinks themselves.
Ross and I go out as often as possible, but we still feel like we’re discovering our city. There is so much to see and do here, and if you’re visiting for a short time I highly recommend you leave the traditionally “touristy” places and try out the local cuisine in nearby neighborhoods. The places I’ve mentioned are all easily accessible by our train lines (blue line for 90 Miles, Violet Hour, Big Star, Karyn’s, and Longman and Eagle, and red, purple, or brown for almost anywhere else I mentioned) or a cab.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite coffee, Intelligentsia, which was founded here in Chicago and has definitively ruined Starbucks and the like for me. Stop in to my personal favorite location, the original on Broadway in Lakeview.
My Chicago posts will be interspersed with other posts from guest writers, as well as my posts about our upcoming trip to New York – speaking of which, session still available! Let me know if you know anyone who’s interested. Right now I plan to write more about where to stay and what to do here, but let me know if there’s anything you’re interested in hearing about!