Chow Down in Chi-Town - Page 2
American Libraries’ Annual Conference dining guide.
Posted Tue, 06/09/2009 - 13:46
Worth a Trek
The following neighborhood restaurants require a bit of a journey, but the food is so good that you won’t be disappointed. Each is a 20–30 minute cab ride from the Loop.
The Art of Pizza
In Chicago, the fastest way to start an argument is to discuss who has the best deep-dish pizza. But for me it’s no contest. Art of Pizza, a counter-service establishment in a nondescript strip mall, wins hands down. A buttery crust that melts in your mouth, generous toppings, and herb-laden sauce make it an essential pilgrimage if you’re serious about pizza. Order a large pan-style; you will want leftovers for lunch the next day.
$. L, D daily. 3033 N. Ashland Ave. (Ashland/Barry). 773-327-5600.
The Chicago Diner
This GLBT-friendly establishment in the Lakeview neighborhood is the go-to restaurant for vegetarians and vegans. The breadth of the menu would be impressive even if it was just an ordinary diner: The enchiladas, “meat” loaf, chili, and shepherd’s pie are all outstanding. And for dessert, don’t pass up the vegan German chocolate cake.
$$. Brunch, L, D daily. 3411 N. Halsted St. (Halsted/Roscoe). 773-935-6696. www.veggiediner.com.
The walls are turquoise circa 1971 and flocks of piñatas hang from the ceiling. That may not sound promising, but trust me. Las Piñatas serves scrumptious homestyle Mexican food as well as some of the best darn margaritas in Chicago. I personally vouch for the steak taco salad, enchiladas Norteñas, and chimichangas. The chips and salsa are heavenly.
$$. L, D daily. 1552 N. Wells St. (Wells/North). 312-664-8277. www.laspinatas.com.
If you’re willing to open your wallet a little wider, I never hesitate to recommend these three establishments. You and your companions will be impressed.
Featuring beautiful dark-wood paneling and restored pressed-tin ceilings, this upscale gastropub is directly across the street from Millennium Park and offers some of the best neo-traditional food in Chicago. A small, but eclectic, menu includes everything from braised rabbit salad to roasted saddle of elk, but even dishes like the fish and chips and Amish chicken are superb. Among the side dishes, do not pass up the brie and bacon brussels sprouts. Make sure to put in your reservation at least a day in advance; you’ll avoid a long wait and get a better seat too.
$$$. L, D daily; Brunch Sat.–Sun. 24 S. Michigan Ave. (Michigan/Monroe). 312-372-4243. www.thegagechicago.com.
Stylishly decked out with tikis, hand-carved wooden columns, and other tropical adornments, Trader Vic’s is an unforgettable South Seas experience. The dining room serves up Polynesian-inspired fare like wasabi-encrusted filet mignon and a selection of housemade curries. Choose from one of 75+ tropical cocktails (the original Mai Tai and Tiki Puka Puka are two of my favorites) and pair it with a pupu platter or one of the generously-portioned sushi offerings.
$$$$. D daily. 1030 N. State St. (State/Oak). 312-642-6500. www.tradervicschicago.com.
The Violet Hour
Imagine stepping into a speakeasy (there is no sign out front) that’s actually a curated, living archive of the cocktail. That’s Violet Hour, one of the best places to get a drink in the United States. A revolving menu features both classic and creative libations using freshly-squeezed juices and a dozen kinds of ice. The liquid alchemy is complemented by a selection of decadent nibbles. The deviled eggs and peanut butter and bacon sandwiches are worth every last calorie. Like an exclusive reading room, hushed and intimate, seating is limited. Give the host your cell number upon arrival and you’ll receive a call when there’s a table ready.
$$$$. D daily. 1520 N. Damen Ave. (Damen/Pierce). 773-252-1500. www.theviolethour.com.
Rob Christopher writes about film and culture for the popular blog Chicagoist, has contributed restaurant reviews to the Chicago Reader, and his book 100 Spinning Plates was published in 2003. He is an administrative assistant for ALA Publishing.
Highlights on Roads Less Taken
by Peggy Sullivan
Among Chicago’s many museums and art collections are some unique smaller venues beyond the Museum Campus that may appeal to visitors who think they’ve seen it all. Selected idiosyncratically, these suggested sites are, for the most part, near downtown hotels, McCormick Place, and other locations where ALA conference-goers will be anyway. The Museum of Science and Industry, while among the “biggies,” is included because of a special exhibit that will be there during the conference.
Clarke House Museum
“Chicago’s oldest house”—built in 1836 but moved twice—features historic period rooms and heirloom gardens. It is open to the public only through tours offered by the nearby Glessner House Museum (1800 S. Prairie Ave.) at noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $10, or $15 for tours of both houses, and Wednesday is free. 1827 S. Indiana Ave., 312-326-1480 for tours. www.clarkehousemuseum.org.
This working bike shop features several dozen bicycles, dating back over the past 60 years or so, displayed on the ceiling. Free admission; open daily. 2468½ N. Clark St., 773-281-0444.
Loyola University Museum of Art
July exhibits: “Rodin: in His Own Words,” featuring 36 bronzes, books, and letters; and “Paris-Chicago: The Photography of Jean-Christophe Ballot” in a gallery just steps away from Chicago’s landmark Water Tower. Admission is $6, Tuesday free; closed Monday. 820 North Michigan Ave., 312-915-7600. www.luc.edu/luma.
McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum
The southwest tower of the Michigan Avenue Bridge across the Chicago River houses this three-year-old museum. Visitors can view the 89-year-old gears built to raise and lower the bridge plus chronologically arranged reproductions of documents and photos that tell the story of the city and its river. Admission is $3; closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 376 N. Michigan Ave., 312-977-0227. www.bridgehousemuseum.org.
Museum of Science and Industry
“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” has its world premiere run while Annual is in town. More than 200 costumes and props from the films will be on display in settings inspired by the film sites. Open daily; general admission is $13 and the Harry Potter exhibit is an additional $13. 57th St. and S. Lake Shore Dr., 773-684-1414. www.msichicago.org.
“Make Big Plans: Daniel Burnham’s Vision of an American Metropolis” will be on exhibit at the Newberry and at many libraries in and around Chicago as part of the centennial celebration of Burnham’s Plan of Chicago. Free admission; closed Sunday. 60 W. Walton St., 312-943-9090. www.newberry.org.
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
In July, one of the five galleries will feature “The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt.” New technologies in CT scanning have revealed more details about this encased mummy. $7 suggested donation; closed Monday. 1155 E. 58th St., 773-702-9514. www.oi.uchicago.edu.
Regenstein Library, University of Chicago
Special Collections is featuring a knockout exhibit, “On Equal Terms: Educating Women at the University of Chicago,” based on materials in the University’s archives. Accompanied by a handsome catalog, this exhibit is sure to elicit nostalgia for one’s own college days and appreciation for the development of education for women at Chicago from its beginnings. Free admission; closed Sunday, and this exhibit closes July 14. 1100 E. 57th St. 773-702-8705. www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/spcl/.
Riverwalk Gateway Murals
Ellen Lanyon’s 336-foot-long creation in painted tiles is the city’s largest piece of public art, telling the history of the city and the river from 1673 to 2000. Free admission. South Bank of the Chicago River at Lake Shore Drive and Wacker Drive.
“A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund” memorializes Rosenwald’s support of African-American artists with more than 60 paintings and visual presentations of two dancers. Open Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday; admission is $7 but free Wednesday morning and Thursday after 2 p.m. 610 S. Michigan Ave., 312-322-1700. www.spertus.edu.