windy city highlights

There are many reasons why I love Chicago, not only is it my hometown, but while walking around the city I feel an overwhelming sense of pride. Maybe it’s because the Cubs just won the World Series, probably helped there were loads of holiday decorations–but what I really think it is– is the people. They’re a kinder, hardworking breed who I observed walk with their heads up, equally observing what the city has to offer.

Theres also:

  1. J-walking-can’t do this in LA and forgot how much I LOVE it
  2. Seasons-ok so the lack of sun isn’t ideal, but hello sweaters/scarves/coats/fireplaces
  3. Architecture– I could aimlessly walk around the city for hours and stumble upon new buildings and history
  4. The L– visibly connects the city together, granted waiting outside can get chilly, but it makes Chicago, Chicago

I mentioned here some Chicago food favorites, but here’s an update to the list! So whether you’re visiting Chicago or hosting guests, here are a few things not to miss:

girl and the goat

After being open for six years, I finally made it to one of Chicago’s most highly acclaimed restaurants. And HOLY SHIT did it live up to the hype. I went with my family and we finished every small plate dropped at the table, could have licked a few…plus a few cocktails and bottles of wine. No pictures were taken because I wanted to enjoy family time, but highlights were: green beans, broccoli, wood-fired shrimp, bucatini, goat loin and goat belly! The flavors were outstanding!

tip: go with a friend/ your cool aunt/uncle/cousin and sit at the bar, no reservation needed! aim to get there before 7 so you don’t have to wait for a seat. 

3 greens Market

If I lived in Chicago, this River North spot would be in heavy weekly rotation. It’s part coffee shop, part food market, part work space. I mean can we get one of these in LA? It’s the perfect spot to pop in for a quick lunch and impress out-of-towners–not only can you get Small Cheval burgers, but there’s a healthy salad bar, and hot food bar. Plus drinks to warm the soul, or take the edge off of holiday bustle.

tip: there’s free wifi and ample outlets, so if you need a place to recharge with or without family this place will take care of you.

Christkindlmarket

Open daily in the Daley Plaza, this outdoor Christmas Market is such a fun excursion. I even went while it was pouring down rain with my brother and we had a great time. The hot spiced wine helped I’m sure. There are plenty of food vendors, hello German specialties like brats, pretzels, cheese, strudel. And you’re allowed to walk around with alcohol while in the market. My kind of shopping. The other booths are various holiday craftsmen and decorations offering precious ornaments and nutcrackers. Open 11-8/9PM.

tip: aim to go during the week when it’s a lot less crowded. and as far as parking goes, use the app SPOT HERO to secure parking beforehand. click the link for $5 off your first time!

pickwick coffee roasters

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So maybe you need a little pick-me-up post Christkindlmarket or maybe you just want a quick cuppa to take into the park. Either way, stop into this cute and somewhat hidden alley way coffee house. If you’re not smiling afterwards I’d say you’re a Scrooge.

tip: grab a cup to keep you warm as you walk around the loop! 

skydeck Chicago at the *Sears towers*

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admiring the sunset
the ultimate #fromwhereistand
the ultimate #fromwhereistand

I can’t bring myself to call the Sears Tower its’ new name, The Willis Tower. How can you change the name of such an iconic building?!?!? Names aside, going up some 1,300ft and seeing Chicago is breathtaking. I happened to have a free afternoon and took the trip up 103 stories solo. I happily played tourist and gawked at Chicago from the tallest point.

tip: make sure you go on a clear day AND for the best view, aim to head up 30 minutes before sunset. seeing the city go from day to night is damn magical. also, lines are shorter for the “ledge” where they have a professional camera set up, but they will happily take a pic or 2 or 5 on your phone/camera as well.

mindy’s Hot Chocolate

there's life before this mac and cheese and after...never looking back
there’s life before this mac and cheese and after…never looking back

I know I’ve written about this restaurant before, but it will always be a stop when I’m home. The atmosphere is cozy without feeling cramped, and the food. Don’t even get me started. I am never ever disappointed. Their mac and cheese is last meal status along with all of sweet confections.

tip: if you want to work off the mac and cheese//your brunch, grab your hot chocolate to go and take a walk on the 606 trail which is just steps away.

What are your favorite spots in Chicago?? Always wanting to try new places!

 

chicago food picks

As some of you know, I am a Chicago native. Though LA is my current home, I will always have a strong connection to the Windy City (named for its politics not the actual wind, though it does have strong gusts from the lake)…I digress.

One reason in particular I happily praise my hometown; the food. It is hearty, full of flavor andd worth the calories. My recent trip was filled with plenty of eating, drinking and being merry with friends and family. Below is a list of some of my favorites!  Whether you’re headed for Lollapalooza or just for a quick trip, bring your appetite to one of my favorite Chicago spots.

P.S. You can save the Google Map I created at the bottom the post to your “Google Maps App” for easy access 😉

cheeseburger "house style" with bacon
cheeseburger “house style” with bacon (beer and chocolate milkshake were  necessary too!)

1.BEST DAMN BURGER: Au/Small Cheval

Au Cheval is the original location in the West Loop. It’s small, sexy and home of Chicago’s most notable burger. Small Cheval is the NKOTB in Wicker Park. I went recently and love the abundant outdoor seating- it’s picnic tables, very communal and you order at the counter. Both are worth a visit! TIP: go during off hours, they tend to be less crowded.

the order

  • chocolate shake (small only)
  • burger (add bacon and egg if you’re bold)
  • fries
  • fried chicken (au only)
  • BONUS: shot of fernet to wash it all down

2.SWEET FIX: Sweet Mandy B’s

Sweet Mandy B’s has been a bakery staple in my life since high school. It’s located in Lincoln Park, and was dangerously close to our family friends house-so we became very familiar with all their goodies.

the order

  • snickerdoodle cupcake
  • molasses cookie with cream cheese frosting

3.FRIED CHICKEN: Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Admittedly, I haven’t eaten here (I KNOW…A fried chicken place I haven’t tried??) I tried to go on a Monday, and they were closed. A tear was *almost* shed. Word on the street, and from my mom, this is some of the best fried chicken in the city. Plus you can order ahead and bring it home.

the order

  • fried chicken
  • fried chicken sandwich
  • biscuit with honey butter
  • pimento mac n’ cheese

4.LOX ON LOX: Snaggletooth

A newcomer to the city located in Lakeview, this is an instagrammers dream bagel/lox/schmear cafe. I tried to go on a Monday, and it was closed (what’s the deal Chicago?!) but it’s gotten a LOX of good buzz. Pun intended. And now that I now like lox (taste buds DO change!) I can’t wait to eat here next time I’m back.

the order

  • bagel platter with lox and the fixins
cheers to you Chicago
cheers to you Chicago

5.ROOFTOP DREAMS: Cindy’s Rooftop/Hotel Lincoln

Cindy’s lines are usually longer because, well, look at that view. Located on the top of the Chicago Athletic Hotel this is one of the hottest rooftops downtown. Beautiful views of Millenium Park and Lake Michigan plus damn good cocktails. Go here for a fun view of the Lollapalooza crowds. Hotel Lincoln’s rooftop is another great option- views of Lincoln Park instead of Millenium, and just quick hop to Second City and Old Town.

decor is minimal but on point!

6.LONG-STANDING FAVORITE: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

I have a long-standing tradition with two of my best friends that we will always have a meal at Hot Chocolate while we’re all in town. Mindy Segal is a James Beard award-winning pastry chef, and the rest of her menu does not disappoint. Open for brunch too! Check out the newish 606 trail (similar to New York’s Highline) to walk off this meal.

the order

  • mac and cheese (all time favorite)
  • pretzel bites
  • burger
  • medium hot chocolate
  • dessert (order at least 2)
oreo blizzard with malt
oreo blizzard with malt

7. NOT TO MISS CHAINS: Potbelly’s & Dairy Queen

My life would be complete if Potbelly’s was open in LA. It’s hard to eat Subway knowing that there’s a premiere sandwich shop calling my name. All the bread is toasted in an actual toaster (not that weird machine at Subway) plus they have amazing milkshakes. Dairy Queen is a summer staple; soft-serve and blizzards are  as American as a baseball game.

the order

  • tky with everything no oil + a chocolate malt (my go to order at Potbellys)
  • oreo malt blizzard
  • twist dipped in chocolate
ALL DAY
ALL DAY

8.ROSÉ ALL DAY: The Hampton Social

My college girlfriends took me here this past trip and I loved the summery vibes. Great choice before a night out in River North. And that rosé all day sign ain’t bad either!

the order

  • rosé
  • lobster pizza
  • oystas

9.PATIO STATUS: RM Champagne

Tucked in a little alley, RM Champagne is a lovely surprise in the West Loop. It has a New York vibe and the patio is prime during the summer. I went while it was still too cold to have it set up, so inside is always fun option too. Perfect for a date-night or night out with your friends.

the order

  • bubbly
  • oystas

10.GREEEEEEK: The Athenian Room

This Lincoln Park staple has been there since my parents were youngin’s running around the city. It’s nothing fancy, but a classic cheap meal.

the order

  • rotissere chicken
  • gyro
  • greek fries

11. GIMME DEM OYSTAS: GT Fish and Oyster

GT Fish and Oyster is a fun River North spot for all things seafood. I always love sitting up at the bar so I can watch the chefs in action.

the order

  • lobsta roll (hot with butter)
  • oystas
thin crust for the win
thin crust for the win

12. FAVORITE CHICAGO ‘ZA (not deep dish): Barnaby’s Pizza

I have a confession/secret/don’t kill me when I say this: Chicago style pizza isn’t my thing. Too much bread. Give me a thin crust pizza please. And Barnaby’s has THE BEST crust (it’s cornmeal). So crunchy and perfect.

the order

  • sausage, fresh tomato, green olives, onions (go-to!)

13. IF YOU MUST HAVE CHICAGO STYLE: Lou Malnati’s Pizza or Pequod’s

If you haven’t had deep-dish, it’s worth a try when you visit! I am partial to Lou Malnati’s or Pequod’s. Both are true staples.

the order

  • deep dish ‘za (duh)
alway say yes to burrata
alway say yes to burrata

14. INTERIOR DESIGN ‘GASM: 3 Arts Club Cafe @ Restoration Hardware

This newer destination to the Gold Coast is a stunner. What else do you expect for a restaurant located in a Restoration Hardware store? Put your name in (no resos) grab an adult beverage, walk around the many floors and try to keep your jaw up. Good spot for a ‘gram too.

the order

  • burrata, tomatoes and toast
  • grilled cheese
  • cheese burger
  • lox plate
  • chocolate chip cookies
view from about 3 Arts
view from about 3 Arts

15. TOP THREE I NEED TO TRY: Girl and the Goat, Duck Inn, Green Street Smoked Meats, Alinea

Chicago will always have new restaurants for me to try, but those four are top of my list for my next trip-reservations required for Girl and the Goat, Duck Inn and Alinea.

What are your Chicago staples?? Let me know!