Checking out Chicago-"The Windy City" has innumerable
attractions for travelers, whether you're there for business or
on a family vacation. Listed below are some of the places I visited
Seneca Hotel & Suites. 200 East Chestnut Street, phone:
(312) 467-0800. Part residence and part hotel, the Seneca offers
an unbeatable location (it's just over a block away from The Magnificent
Mile). Check around among the travel websites for deals here. The
staff is friendly and can give you lots of tips to make your stay
more enjoyable. There are three restaurants here; one, Cantare,
has a very good reputation as one of the better newcomers, but I
was unable to try it during my stay. One caveat: if you demand five-star
service and the ultimate in luxurious new furnishings, stay elsewhere.
But for reasonably-priced accomodations with the occasional, minor
slip-up in service, this makes a fine choice, particularly if you
want to be close to, but not on top of, Michigan Avenue.
John G. Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum.
All three rank high on the "must see" lists of many people, and
it's easy to understand why. The aquarium is great for kids, as
it has enough critters to hold their interest but is of a manageable
size; I lost my heart to their enchanting sea dragons and pipefish.
The Art Institute has some truly beautiful exhibits, ranging from
medieval arms and armor to a room full of spectacular paperweights.
And of course the Field Museum is famous for "Sue", their Tyrannosaurus
rex, but I also saw an exhibit on gemstones and one on Japanese
lacquer boxes while there. It's best to go early to any of these,
before they become crowded. Consult your nearest guidebook for their
locations, and please double-check hours of operation by calling
before you go.
Treasure Island. 75 West Elm Street, phone: (312) 440-1144.
I don't care what anyone tells you; this place just isn't that big
a deal. I think it was an upscale gourmet market years before any
other place in Chicago, but now it's simply a decent urban grocery
store. Perfectly fine if you're in the neighborhood, but not worth
a special trip.
Fox & Obel. River East Plaza, 401 East Illinois, phone:
(312) 410-7301. This place, on the other hand, is that big a deal.
Opened just last September, this store/café combination knows a
thing or two about food, and it shows in almost everything they
carry. Good-looking produce, a great cheese section (try the Saint
Agur bleu), olive oils and flavored vinegars by the dozen, good
prepared foods to take home, and more. I was disappointed in their
sweet baked goods, though the breads here are decent. Christopher
Norman and Cluizel chocolates, along with Bonnat bars (not seen
that often in the US) and Sonny's ice cream (you've got to try the
fresh banana). Nice and food-savvy staff, too. Expensive.
foodlife. Water Tower Place, Mezzanine level, 835 North
Michigan Avenue. An upscale mall food court that pretends to be
both healthier and holier (or at least more spiritual) than thou.
I could do without the preaching (I swear there's a sign hanging
from the ceiling that says "Call your mother" and another proclaiming
that wisdom is greater than knowledge) and the food is generally
overpriced. I love the carrot-apple blend at the fresh juice booth,
though, and among the stands there are some healthier options and
more choices than you'd normally find in a mall food court.
Restaurant Kevin. 9 West Hubbard Street, phone: (312) 595-0055.
I had read a few reviews of this restaurant before I decided to
eat here; most frequently repeated were the complaints that the
food was overpriced and the portions were tiny. But I liked the
sound of the food, which was supposed to be French with an Asian
spin. Kevin is a small restaurant, but it feels open and airy and
comfortable, and I liked the understated décor. While I consider
the portions here to be human-sized (most restaurants serve unreasonably
large portions), the prices are seriously inflated. There is too
much complexity in many of the dishes here, in combinations that
don't always work. The service slowed during dinner to the point
where we were being ignored by the end of our meal. And when are
restaurants going to learn that omitting salt and pepper shakers/mills
from their tables is merely pretentious? Recommended dishes: chocolate
trio; cornet-copia of fresh fruit with sweet camembert crème and
mk the restaurant. 868 North Franklin, phone: (312) 482-9179.
mk is a sleek, modern-looking establishment that is clearly a "see
and be seen" restaurant. I don't often like places of this nature,
but once you are seated it's surprisingly easy to put that all behind
you and concentrate on the food, most of which merits your undivided
attention. A good deal of emphasis is placed on presentation here,
but seldom at the expense of the food-and that's the way a restaurant
should work. Recommended dishes: morel mushrooms with house-made
fettuccine and English peas (a special the night we were there);
grilled artichokes with lemon, garlic, and olive oil; ravioli filled
with fresh goat cheese, teardrop tomatoes, and rosemary; cake and
shake; one banana, two banana. Skip the signature pommes frites
with truffle cream unless you get the frites unsalted. Courteous
service. Reservations are a must.
Bite Café. 1039 North Western Avenue, phone: (773) 395-2483.
A tiny (12-table), funky little local place that serves fare from
all over the globe, from beer-battered catfish to baba ghanouj to
biscotti. The most expensive dish I saw was a salmon special for
$11.50. Recommended dishes: jerk pork chops with mango relish, rice,
and beans. Be warned: there is no non-smoking section here.