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Staff Favorites: Chicago

Christina Talcott

The first time I visited Chicago was in the dead of winter. It was New Year's Eve and I wore a long velvet dress and satin ballet flats and had to walk veeerrrry sloooowwwwly to not fall on the icy sidewalks. My obliging date lifted me over snowbanks, and I was tickled/horrified to see cars parked on the street, packed in tight by day after day of snowplowing.

A few years later, I fell in love with Chicago as I strolled through Wrigleyville in a sundress and bathing suit, coming back from an afternoon at the beach on a sunny June day. In my mind, a walking town with a beach -- even if it's only warm enough a few months out of the year -- is nothing short of magical.

SIGHTS: A fun way to see the city's great architecture is on a guided tour. The ArchiCenter Shop & Tour Center has an Architecture River Cruise three times a day from late April through Nov. 18. Also temporary (through January) is the citywide Festival of Maps, in which museums, galleries and other spaces sponsor carto-related exhibits.

"The Second City": Second to none. (AP)

Most of the city's most famous museums are clustered around Grant Park, like the Field Museum, home of Sue the T. Rex., and the Art Institute of Chicago, whose collection is known for making people gasp: George Seurat's pointilist "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," Grant Wood's "American Gothic" and Gustave Caillebotte's "Paris Street; Rainy Day." Unfortunately, one of my favorite pieces in the museum's collection, Marc Chagall's "America Windows," is not on display, and don't forget that Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" is here in Washington in the Hopper show at the National Gallery.

The Museum of Contemporary Art has some interesting exhibitions, too.
Steppenwolf and Second City are known for great drama (the former) and comedy (the latter). And any night of the week, you're bound to find live music in a bar or coffeeshop nearby; pick up the Reader or check out the Tribune's MetroMix, Chicago's version of The Post's CityGuide. And I haven't even started on the vibrant indie literary, film or performing arts scenes....

RESTAURANTS: There is so much good food in Chicago, from hot dogs to haute cuisine. The ethnic neighborhoods around town offer some real treats: Feast on South Indian and other ethnic foods on Devon Avenue and try the cabbage rolls in Ukranian Village (just south of Wicker Park). Andersonville's Scandinavian roots show at the Ann Sather, where I fondly remember a brunch of Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce on top of the restaurant's gooey, legendary cinnamon rolls. Anyone with a late-night Mexican craving - perhaps after a long night of partying - should visit Taco & Burrito Palaces (#1 and #2) in Lincoln Park. As for that famous Chicago pizza, I actually preferred the thin crust to the deep dish when my pal Claire took me to the old-fashioned, smoke-filled neighborhood pizzeria Pizano's. Another time, I gobbled up everything my friends ordered from the sleek and sexy Pingpong. And if modern art makes you hungry, check out Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at the MCA.

SHOPPING: There are the vertical malls and the luxury stores of Magnificent Mile, but don't forget the museum gift shops, especially at the MCA and the ArchiCenter. And Hubba Hubba on Clark Street's the place for vintage clothes and accessories (thanks for the rec, Abby!).

HOTELS: When I go, I crash with friends, most recently in Lakeview East, just steps from peaceful Lincoln Park and a block from the bustle of the Halstead/Clark/Broadway crush of restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment. Last time I was there, I had friends staying at the Majestic Hotel. I've also killed time on the rocking chairs out front of the W Lakeshore, near the gorgeous Northwestern University's Chicago campus.

So that's enough from me. I want to hear what you love about Chicago and what you do there. Also, did we miss your favorite U.S. city this week? Tell us about it!

By Christina Talcott |  November 9, 2007; 6:46 AM ET  | Category:  Christina Talcott
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My home town and I love it. So much to eat, see and do. Some favorite eats, Las Mananitas in Boys Town, Piece (for pizza) in Wicker Park, and the best steaks are at Gene and Georgetti's on Wells. Music - go to Blues or Buddy Guy's or the more obscure Jazz Showcase (a treasure) and to shop, great little boutiques on Clark St and Belmont Ave. Take in a Cubs game and don't forget the White Sox. Two entirely different experiences. A favorite thing to do - a Friday afternoon Cubs game - Bernie's on Clark before the game to hang with the less trendy, real fans, and The Wild Hare on Clark right after the game for live Reggae. After you've had enough music and Red Stripe, walk a block south on Clark and have dinner at Heaven on Seaven for authentic Cajun cooking. Great day and not too expensive either. Have fun - winter is not that bad - there's still plenty to do..........

Posted by: Michael Lesniak | November 9, 2007 8:24 AM

Sushi X - hands down one of the best sushi places I have ever been to. They also deliver anywhere in downtown. It looks like a dive from the outside, but come later for dinner and you might have to wait because it is tiny. Also, BYOB is a plus. I eat here constantly when I am in Chicago.

Posted by: Jay | November 9, 2007 11:18 AM

I grew up in the DC area but now live in Chicago. This post gives a good run down of what to do and see here. The best advise is to get out of the Loop and head to the nearby neighborhoods, where the real Chicago exists. If you can find it and you like hotdogs and sausages, Hot Doug's is a must.

Posted by: RP | November 9, 2007 12:26 PM

Things that I loved about Chicago on my last trip:
-the Architecture river tour
-"Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me"
-Lincoln Park on a clear day
-riding an El train all the way to the end of the line (much better view than a subway)
-lottery tickets to Wicked (much easier to win than in New York)
-the Archicenter and Symphony stores
-brunch at Orange

Boy, I don't know about those winters, though.

I really enjoyed your week of favorite cities, especially since 4 of 5 of them are also mine! The only one I'd add would be Portland, Oregon - a beautiful, quirky place.

Posted by: Julia | November 9, 2007 3:37 PM

What? No one has mentioned a very important place to visit: Millenium Park! I was just there last weekend when the trees were beautiful and the weather was just fine for walking all over this wonderful park. I loved it! Definitely a "not-to-miss." Next time I go, I want to take in the architecture tour!

Posted by: Mae Henderson | November 14, 2007 1:30 PM

I hosted a group of overseas (Japan, Australia, England and Scandinavia) visitors - 29 senior women and 3 husbands - in Chicago this past June and they loved it. We stayed at the Chicago hostel and did several architectural tours plus all the freebies - Cultural Center, Federal Reserve and the Blues and Gospel Music Festivals. I'm a native and think it is the perfect place - easy to reach both coasts and activities for all.

Posted by: mary | November 16, 2007 3:49 PM

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