Ahhh Chicago. How did it take me so long to discover this cool city?!
It wasn’t on my radar, but then suddenly – friends were returning with praise for this vibrant city over the past year or so. They claimed there was so much to do (in the summer) for activities or entertainment, the food scene was awesome and the city has a great vibe. Well, after meeting a new friend from Chicago – this city got added to my travel list! And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised!
lobby of the Public Hotel
While in Chicago, I stayed at Public Hotel just north of the Magnificent Mile in a comfortable neighbourhood. It was modern, friendly with free wi-fi (seriously an under-valued service). Their restaurant The Pump Room is by renowned Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten – which offers a prix-fixe menu on Sundays for $35usd.
The Pump Room Restaurant
And definitely check out all the celebrity visitors over the years in picture frames on the wall downstairs near the bathrooms. Jean-Georges also provides to-go style foods in the Library coffee bar just off the lobby, perfect little morning bites (like my 2 hard-boiled eggs atop fresh pea shoots) and green tea.
breakfast at The Library Coffee Bar
Or check out the bar at The Pump Room for a good selection of drinks.
The Pump Room Bar
This hotel was a nice walk to the magnificent mile, and then not far to get to the canals in downtown. Definitely take an Architectural cruise on the canal like the Chicago’s First Lady cruises, to learn some history on the city and it’s a great photo opportunity of all the skyscrapers.
Getting around: From the airport the train takes 40 minutes and is $5 to the downtown loop (and quite easy), then taxis (or Uber) are a plenty and well priced making it easy to get to your hotel and around the city. Or choose to walk, as the blocks on the map seem larger than they actually are. You’ll be surprised how quick you will get places!
And for a great view of the city, make sure you visit the John Hancock Tower, not the regular viewing deck, but instead go straight to the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor and enjoy a drink with a view.
Signature Lounge at Hancock Tower
Here are some good restaurant finds you should also check out while visiting:
Untitled Supper Club – very cool space which mixes private booths and tables with a nightclub, Whiskey Bar and Champagne Lounge. The menu had a good selection and portions were a good size with cool cocktails and a decent wine menu. We enjoyed the Gulf Shrimp on Parmesan Cheese Grits to start (sooo good, grits – how could it be so good!), Grilled Hanger Steak with sweet potato au gratin, Seared Scallops with roasted tomato on couscous and a side of their addictive Brussel Sprouts with a black garlic vinaigrette and pancetta (yum).
Another good find was The Purple Pig offering up mediterranean style tapas, also a really good wine menu and good vibe. We shared the Tuna, grilled pepper, purple potato and quail egg antipasti-like dish (scrumptious), and the Squid with pesto and squid ink (very savoury and rich). With this we enjoyed a 1/2 litre of Montepulciano as it was smooth and medium body without being too tannic or spicy for our food.
Square One Chicago – a chill lounge/bar with good food and half price bottles of wine on Tuesdays! A casual and comfy atmosphere to chill with friends or watch a game. We shared a BBQ Chicken pizza with a bottle of Niner Red from Paso Robles, California. A blend of 39% Cabernet Franc, 27% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah, 4% Carmenere, 4% Grenache. It was delicious – such a good discovery!
And don’t forget to do something truly Chicago. Maybe it’s a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, live Blues Music or perhaps just a Chicago hot dawg in a locals spot like Downtown Dogs!
Visit Chicago. And return. What a great city!