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Destination Guide

 
 
Chicago is a marvelous mix of awe-inspiring architecture and stunning lake views, blues houses, celebrity (Michael Jordan) and infamy (Al Capone). Its home to the Sears Tower, architectural gems by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, and "da Bears." With this kind of diversity going for it, theres no surprise that the citys culinary offerings are world-class.

Theres something to suit everyones appetite, from the classic Chicago-style pizza at Ginos East or Pizzeria Uno to mouthwatering hotdogs to pound-heavy T-bones. Fine dining establishments (including the renowned Charlie Trotters) are top-of-the-line and plentiful. Many excellent ethnic eateries also flourish here, whether you're in the mood for Southern soul food, hands-only Ethiopian, Indian curries, or spicy Thai.

Get to know the many charming (and tasty) areas of Chicago:


Central/ Near North Side:

The Loop

This is the heart of downtown Chicago, with its elevated commuter tracks, State Street shopping and architectural landmarks. For a taste of classic German food in a classic Chicago setting, you can't go wrong with the Berghoff. The exquisite Everest is a perfect place for big (and big bucks) occasions. And Cajun/Creole-lovers can try the Original Heaven on Seven for the Chicago version of heaven.

While many night-crawlers will want to venture outside of the Loop to truly paint the town red, Kitty O'Sheas, a hotel bar in the The Chicago Hilton Plaza and Towers, provides a good setting for an after-dinner drink.

Magnificent Mile

After shopping for hours in Michigan Avenues chic shops, you're sure to feel those tastebuds kick in. If you're dressed in the designer duds you just bought, dine at the luxurious Spiaggia (its sister Caféis just as popular and a bit less expensive.) The seafood and chowder at the Cape Cod room really hit the spot after a day of window shopping, especially on a blustery Chicago winter day. For something thats a little lighter on your wallet, try the popular Foodlife in Water Tower Place, which offers tasty stations of wraps, salads, do-it-yourself grills, and health shakes. The Signature Room on the 95th Floor in the John Hancock Tower offers a meal with a view. While the Cheesecake Factory is 1,000 feet below the Signature Room, its desserts are still heavenly. For a great streak to go with your cheesecake, try Elis The Place For Steak just off the strip. Other popular specialty foods just off the Magnificent Mile include Pane Caldo for Italian fare and Big Bowl for Pan-Asian food.

But what the Magnificent Mile has in high-class shopping and fashionable restaurants, it lacks in nightlife. For a true bar-hopping experience, head to the nearby Rush Street bars in the Gold Coast. One Mag Mile bar to try is the Chicago classic, the Billy Goat Tavern. This subterranean institution features a full bar that will lift your spirits even if you're not in the mood for their signature 'chezzboorgers.'

River North/Gold Coast

The areas surrounding the Magnificent Mile are home to many inventive resturants. The River North area, a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue, features several trendy and popular restaurants. Mango offers fine European-influenced American dining. Coco Pazzo offers Tuscan delights, and Tsunami showcases sushi in a sleek setting. The area is also home to many of the citys 'theme restaurants? like The Original Rock 'n? Roll McDonalds, The The Hard Rock Café and Ed Debvics.


But the more affluent residents of the Gold Coast, a posh area north of Michigan Avenue, would probably frown at the hijinx at the theme restaurants. They prefer high class, and it is evidenced by their eateries. Steak lovers should visit Chicago Chop House or the celebrity-favorite, Gibsons. The Pump Room at the Omni Ambassador West Hotel offers a taste of glamour and Chicago tradition. For great Sunday brunches, The The Original Pancake House is a standout.

You'll also find a popular area for nightlife here. Head toward Clark and Division Streets and pop into < Piano Jillys>and Bistro provide a classy, swingin'm Sinatra-esque atmosphere. Young guns on the prowl can go to meat/meet market bars like Butch McGuires, Mothers or Bootleggers . For a more relaxed setting, head to 3rd Coast, a coffeeshop/bar that serves up a great Baileys and Coffee, sweet desert wines, and light pastries.

North Side:

Lincoln Park, Lakeview/Wrigleyville

This is a fun, vibrant community, famous for its boutiques and restaurants. There are so many great options, its impossible to list them all. For starters, you might try sushi at Sai Café, a taste of Spain at Emilios Tapas, French at Aubriot, or anything on the menu at Charlie Trotters. Another spot that hits the top ten is the plushToulouse Cognac Bar, offering a classic well-executed French menu, a wide selection of fine liqueurs, and romantic jazz in a velvety setting.

North of Diversey Avenue, you'll find yourself in the Lakeview neighborhood with its plentiful restaurants. Enjoy fork-free Ethiopian eats at Mama Destas Red Sea Restaurant or cozy sushi dining at Shiroi Hana. Fabulous French fare at comfortable prices comes courtesy of Bistrot Zinc. On Belmont Avenue, the Swedish Ann Sathers is a popular weekend brunch destination.

If you're in the mood to see live music after dinner, see whos playing at the Elbo Room, which features a mix of jazz, rock and spoken word concerts. Another area institution is The Metro, where several local bands like the Smashing Pumpkins started their careers before making it big. For a more laid back atmosphere, head to John Barleycorn Memorial Pub. This Chicago institution gets packed during the weekends, but is very relaxing during the week.

Many in the gay and lesbian community head to Sidetrack, Roscoes Tavern or Girl Bar on Halsted Street to start their night on the town.


SOUTH CHICAGO:

HYDE PARK

This community is known for its diversity, the University of Chicago campus as well as the popular Museum of Science and Industry. The culinary offerings are limited, but it still offers some gems. Mellow Yellow is a charming local spot with award-winning chili and rotisserie-chicken. And as one of Chicagos most popular Southern roadhouse-style joints, the Dixie Kitchen is a can't-miss with catfish, cornfritters, and country-fried steak.

After dinner, stop in for drinks at the House of Tiki Lounge. Its kitschy Hawaiian theme is something that has to be experienced and its zombies are deliciously deadly to the unwary.

CHINATOWN

It may not be one of the largest Chinatowns you'll visit, but its restaurants hold their own with many authentic offerings. One perennial favorite is Evergreen. For the adventurous, visit the Emperors Choice to sample weird and rare seafood delicacies. For weekend dim sum, Phoenix is your best bet. And if you want more than just Chinese, Penangs extensive menu boats an array of Southeast Asian treats.


WEST/ NORTHWEST

WICKER PARK/ BUCKTOWN

Café Absinthe serves up creative French bistro fare, as does the intimate Le Bouchon. Okno is a delightful hodgepodge of cuisine in a literally colorful setting. A popular newcomer to Chicago located just outside the Wicker Park area is Mirai, where sushi is served in a sleek metal-and-glass club setting. Also a few blocks outside of Wicker Parks ultra-hip confines is the Como Inn, a popular, elegant fixture for fine Italian fare. And Leos Lunchroom draws raves for its tasty and inexpensive sandwiches.

It won't take you long to figure out that Wicker Park is no slouch in the nightlife department. Holiday Club, The Note, and Mad Bar are just a few of the neighborhood favorites.

Jacqueline Easley