npflorin at gmail.com
Wed May 28 13:34:34 EDT 2008
Some repeats, quibbles, and new suggestions:
- You should go to a White Sox game instead of a Cubs game, because
Carlos Quentin is a sign that God still cares about his creation.
- Fly into Midway. Avoid O'Hare if at all possible. If you do go
through O'Hare, expect delays and call ahead, etc.
- I'll reiterate the value of the architecture tour. See the city
from the river -- do the boat tour through the Architecture Foundation
(http://www.architecture.org/). You'll need to reserve a spot well in
advance, maybe weeks in advance. It's worth it. Bring a hat.
- The Art Institute is a great museum for Western high art, 1350 to
the present. It's really really busy on summer weekends and it's being
expanded/renovated right now. Get there early and stay away from the
(anyway largely closed) Impressionist galleries and the crowds aren't
- The Shedd is even busier, but with screaming children. It's an
- The Field Museum has the best dinosaurs between DC and Utah and lots
of dead and stuffed things.
- The other big art choice is the Museum of Contemporary Art
(http://www.mcachicago.org/). It's very worthwhile, and smaller than
the Art Institute, so you won't wear yourself out. You can go there
and then snack on fast food steamed buns at Wow Bao
(http://www.wowbao.com/) on the first floor of the Water Tower, then
go to the bar on top of the Hancock Tower (3rd tallest building in the
US) and have an outrageously expensive bourbon.
- I'd recommend against the Lincoln Park Zoo. The animals aren't kept
in the best conditions and, while they aren't dying in large numbers
like they were a few years ago, they look depressing. The comparison
of the comedically perky penguins at the Shedd and the tuxedoed
zombies at the LPZ is quite startling. Even the meerkats are listless.
Go to the NC Zoo instead, and be proud of the Old North State.
- The National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen is my favorite
off-the-beaten-path thing in town. You need to go expecting to see
something different from what you've seen before and not the Awesomest
Art Ever. It's free and not too big. Most of the space is given to
changing shows. Pilsen, the Latino neighborhood it's in, is where you
get Mexican food. Nuevo Leon is the standard recommendation. You
absolutely must eat meat to go there, no exceptions.
- If you're here for just a weekend then I would generally recommend
against the far out neighborhoods (Devon St, Hyde Park/Museum of
Science and Industry, etc) because the city is extremely massive and
these places are usually far away and not on subway lines. There are a
lot of places the trains just don't go. The transit system is fine,
but weaker than the better ones on the coasts -- NYC, Boston, DC, SF.
- Chicago is an incredible theater city, though the season is
September to May. If you have any interest in this sort of thing then
check out the listings in the Chicago Reader
(http://www.chicagoreader.com/). Their reviewers are generally
trustowrthy. If you skip the big shows you can often see quite good
work done by complete unknowns for under $20.
- It's also a great city for classical music, opera, and ballet, but
again the season is September to May. It is sometimes possible to see
good contemporary and avant garde stuff (and various international
musics) for free in the Cultural Center downtown on Sunday afternoons.
- The combined state and local sales taxes are quite high, a shade under 10%.
- Quimby's (http://www.quimbys.com/) in Wicker Park, for all of your
zine, comic, and hand-drawn porn needs. Quimby's is a must-visit for a
lot of people who come through. Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village west
of it are good neighborhoods for milling around and buying pants.
- Prairie Avenue Books (http://www.pabook.com/) downtown on Wabash is
an architecture bookstore and a nice space. Really unique and great
for browsing. It closes early.
- The Seminary Co-op (http://www.semcoop.com/) in Hyde Park is the
nation's great academic bookstore, with something like 200K academic
titles on the shelves, and is expecially great in philosophy and
religion and solid in poetry and linguistics and really everywhere
outside of the hard and natural sciences (in which it is quite
mediocre). I always see Garry Wills there. It's a long way from
- The Abraham Lincoln Bookstore and Europa Foreign Books are
worthwhile if you have specific interests.
I'm poor, a vegetarian, and a South Sider so my eatery choices might
not be helpful, but:
- the Chicago Diner (http://www.veggiediner.com/) in Boystown is the
standard visiting vegetarian dining choice. It's quite quite good, in
a fake-meat sort of way. Save room for dessert.
- Green Zebra (http://www.greenzebrachicago.com/) is the standard
fancypants vegetarian choice.
- My favorite restaurant in the city is the omnivorous Russian Tea
Time (http://www.russianteatime.com/), on Adams near Michigan, across
from the Art Institute. It's a bit pricey, you have to be interested
in Russian/Uzbek food, and it's probably best experienced in January.
But it's quite good, and you will be eating with dowagers. Their
home-steeped vodkas aren't as good as the imports.
- I like Joy Yee's Noodle Shop in Chinatown (http://www.joyyee.com).
It's institutional, crammed, greasy-junky, and in a strip mall. It's
also delicious. The taro freeze is liquid crack.
- I also really like Soul Vegetarian, but it's way way down on the
South Side, on 79th Street, and requires a car and probably isn't
worth the effort.
- A pretty good quick meal downtown is sushi and/or an avocado
smoothie from the Asian place at the corner of Van Buren (I think) and
Michigan, then eat in one of the gardens next to the Art Insistute. Or
the aforementioned Wow Bao, this one at State and Lake.
- This part of the Midwest is great for beer. There are a handful of
outstanding breweries in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin
that mainly make basic, traditional styles (notable and easily found
are stuff from the Goose Island, Lakefront, Capital, Two Brothers, New
Holland, and Three Floyds breweries). You can get some of these in
most places. If you can't then it's probably not worth staying. If you
find one of Two Brothers cask conditioned ales on tap somewhere then
you should prbably spring for it (though some bartenders are ignorant
about pouring and preserving it, and so I've once had rotted
eggs-flavor beer). The best beer selection I know of within reach of
downtown is at the Map Room (http://www.maproom.com/). Middling
ambiance, but, mmm, multpile Belgian sour ales available. The Map Room
is within walking distance of Irazu, which was mentioned elsewhere.
- Lot's of restaurants in Chicago are BYOB, and many don't even have a
corkage fee. I can't stress enough how great this is. It won't hurt to
call ahead and see.
It's a fine city to visit. Enjoy it.
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