Welcome to Chi-Town!
City of epic bottomless brunches, gigantic silver beans and deep-dish pizza. Oh, and lets not forget the absolutely fu-reezing -15 degree weather!
I’ve listed as many personal tips and recommendations based on my experience in Chicago below. I only had two weekends to explore this bustling city but if you have any advice that you think I or my readers could use when visiting next, please leave in a comment below!
I haven't been back to America for a shocking ten years, so crossing the North Atlantic once again was pretty exciting-especially as I spent ten years growing up there as a kid! We stayed at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, which was superbly located by North Michigan Avenue (central shopping street) and a short stroll away from Millennium Park.
Our first stop was to Bistronomic on North Wabash Avenue, a tiny, lovely little restaurant, where is it acceptable to start drinking at 11am in the morning with some bottomless Mimosa's and Bloody Mary's.
I was particularly pleased with my Belgian waffles, Nueske bacon and scrambled eggs-completely drizzled over with some good old Canadian maple syrup, US style. The eggs benedict weren't all to bad either-two perfectly runny eggs piled onto an English muffin with bacon (of course), next to a generous helping of roasted potatoes, all topped with hollandaise. Our third favorite dish was the short stack caramalized banana pancakes with butterscotch syrup. So fluffy and light!
Overall, it's safe to say we left very full & very happy.
It’s official, if I lived in America I would get very, very fat. (And it would be totally worth it!)
In an effort to walk off some of our breakfast, we headed down town. We walked through Millennium Park towards the Navy Pier, stopping along the way to take in the stunning skyline.
Almost everyone I spoke to recommended a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, which holds the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside the Louvre in Paris. So we headed over to pay some of our favorites a visit and swoon over some seriously iconic brushstrokes.
For our second weekend we stayed in West Wabansia, which is comparable to London's Soho. Loads of street art, breakfast bars and cafes settled in between shops like Scotch & Soda, Nike, BCBG and Marc Jacobs. A pretty cool place to explore of you want to get out of central Chicago.
My friends living in Chicago gave rave reviews about the seafood at Shaw's Crab House, so of course we couldn't pass an opportunity to go and check it out!
The highlight of our meal was the creamy clam chowder- which 2 of us ordered it as a starter, and was very quickly followed by the rest of the table after they had a taste. The guys went all out with the Surf & Turf, ordering Maine lobster tails, filet mignon and garlic shrimp. My personal favorite was Shaw's seafood platter which had the lightest, most beautiful, exceptional maryland style crab cake-we just don't get that in the UK!
A trip to Chicago wouldn't be complete without a Basketball game to watch the Bulls play. Unfortunately we weren't sat next to JayZ and Beyonce and the rest of the high society crew who had front row seats..but we swapped numbers and made sure it would happen next time.
Unlike in Europe, a lot of the major cities in America are laid out in a grid structure. The views from the John Hancock tower are exceptional and it feels a bit like Sims city because everything is lined up so perfectly.
My advice is to get there early, just as the sun is setting. Also, instead of paying $40 for the Observatory Deck, go to the 94th floor café to enjoy the same sights and get yourself a drink or two!
Where to stay: I stayed at Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile which is perfect spending a weekend walking around Downtown and seeing all the main tourist attractions. The second weekend we were a total of around 30 people, so we stayed at the Urban Holiday Lofts, so that after a night out we could still get together and par-tay! It was a very clean and modern style hostel, were we were able to just have the floor to ourselves.
How to get there: I flew with British Airways from London to Chicago in just over 9 hours. It was a very easy and comfortable flight with all the latest movies and unlimited drinks. The other half of our group flew with American Airlines and had such a nightmare! They had to pay for their drinks and their screens weren't working. On the way back their flight even got cancelled and we were able to fly out on the same day.
How to get around: The city was easy and relatively cheap to get around using the underground or taxi’s. The Metro/CTA was $10 USD for an adult day pass, and easy enough to navigate between lines!
Where to eat:
Sunda is my favorite restaurant in Chicago. A chic modern space with New Asian fusion in the River North neighborhood. I didn't get the chance to take any pictures here since we were going out straight afterwards (main clubs are just around the corner, like Untitled Club) but it was a culinary experience I won't be forgetting soon. Make sure to try the Tom Kha soup if you are a fan of Thai coconut soup and the Brussel sprouts!
Shaw's Crab House a well known, bustling jazz restaurant with two restaurants- the main dining hall and the oyster bar. Probably best to book on Open Table before hand, as even with a reservation you have to wait for 10-20 minutes. As mentioned before I recommend the crab cakes and clam chowder!
Bistronimic was my absolute favorite brunch spot, only a few blocks away from North Michigan Avenue. The are prices extremely reasonable- $15 for bottomless drinks and roughly around $10 for the main dishes.
Avec was recommended several times for brunch when I arrived in Chicago. If you manage to get a table by the glass front of NOMI you'll have sweeping views of the Mag Mile. The cuisine is a mix of French, Spanish and Italian dishes and Mediterranean wines.
Au Cheval was a spot I've also heard a lot about but didn't manage to experience. If you are able to go, best to go during off-peak hours as it is extremely popular and you are not able to make reservations.
Where to drink coffee: My friend who has graduated from the world's top culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu gave me this list of coffee bars to try out: Intelligentsia Coffee, Wormhole Coffee, Bow Truss Coffee. For craft beers try the Revolution Brewery and the Half Acre Brewery.