by Elle Eichinger | July 10, 2012 | Lifestyle
Carrie Schneider, Burning House, March 31 - May 12, 2012. Installation view at moniquemeloche.
We’ve put together a mini staycation guide, outlining the best things to do, see, eat, and drink in some of our favorite Chicago neighborhoods—no overnight stay at a hotel or time-consuming travel required.
What to Do: Damen Avenue is an off-the-beaten-path Oak Street, ideal for a day of shopping. Although anchored by big-name stores like Marc by Marc Jacobs (1714 N. Damen Ave., 773-276-2998) and Cynthia Rowley (1653 N. Damen Ave., 773-276-9209), it also features unique local boutiques like p.45 (1643 N. Damen Ave., 773-862-4523), which showcases up-and-coming local designers alongside name-brand garb.
What to See: Downtown may have the Art Institute and MCA, but the contemporary art scene is thriving in Bucktown, where galleries and showcase spaces abound. moniquemeloche (2154 W. Division St., 773-252-0299) challenges passers-by to think about art without even entering the gallery. Its On The Wall exhibit is displayed outwardly in its 10-foot-by-25-foot Division Street window, but stepping in is recommended, too.
What to Eat: Coast Sushi Bar (2045 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-5775) is a renowned Japanese resto with a low-lit romantic vibe. The menu’s small "kitchen" section offers a few tasty non-sushi options, but the more extensive maki, nigiri, sushi, and sashimi lists are where to focus. Plus, it’s BYOB.
Where to Drink: Piece Brewery and Pizzeria’s (1927 W. North Ave., 773-772-4422) unique (and enormous) pizzas are a huge draw, but its award-winning beers—crafted in-house by master brewer Jonathan Cutler—are the main event. Some of the most popular options are the Golden Arm, a light, crisp, German-style Kolsch beer; and pale ales, such as the Full Frontal or the Dysfunctionale.
The Chicago French Market.
What to Do: The Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St., 312-575-0306) offers an intimate sense of community with European overtones. Local purveyors and artisan food vendors from around the city gather under the MetraMarket roof, peddling fresh ingredients, ready-to-go meal options, and more.
What to Eat: The entire area has recently become a hotbed for culinary real estate, leaving staycationers with no shortage of food to sample. Live spontaneously and try Moto (945 W. Fulton Market, 312-491-0058). With a changed-nightly tasting menu (it’s the only option), and innovative chef Homaro Cantu treating his kitchen like a futuristic science lab, there’s never any guessing what you’ll get.
Where to Drink: Whether you stop in for a scheduled event or just a glass of wine, The Tasting Room (1415 W. Randolph St., 312-942-1313) always lives up to its name. The never-ending wine list has hundreds of options—tasting flights are a great way to try a few different wines—and every employee is a veritable wealth of knowledge.
What to See: Remnants of pre-fire Chicago abound in the West Loop, and make for interesting historical stops during a sunny day’s walk. Old St. Patrick’s Church (700 W. Adams St., 312-648-1021) is the city’s oldest public building, pre-dating the fire by 15 years. Not far away, where the Chicago Fire Academy ironically now stands, is the site of Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, where her cow kicked over a lantern and infamously ignited the flames.
Optimo offers up exquisite customized caps.
What to See: Chicago is known for its architecture, but that doesn’t just apply to the sky-high towers downtown—this South Side neighborhood showcases a handful of homes by renowned residential architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. A walking tour of the area provides beautiful views. In particular, Wright’s William & Jessie Adams House (9326 S. Pleasant Ave.), built in 1900, is a designated Chicago landmark and a gorgeous display of the horizontal massing and other Wright characteristics.
What to Eat: The Original Rainbow Cone (9233 S. Western Ave., 773-238-7075) is a Beverly legend, especially in the summer. Founded in 1926 by Joseph Sapp, the ice cream shop is in its third generation of family ownership, but still most famous for its eponymous treat: a cone piled high with layers of chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, Palmer House (cherry and walnut), and orange sherbet.
Where to Drink: While its authentic French country cuisine is fabulous, Koda Bistro (10352 S. Western Ave., 773-445-5632) is our drink pick for its ever-expanding wine list and recommended wine flights. Whether you’re looking for something light and crisp to sip on during a hot summer day, or a full-bodied wine for an evening affair, Koda has something to suit you.
What to Do: Leave the sunglasses at home and buy a bespoke brimmed hat at the original Optimo Hats shop (10215 S. Western Ave., 773-238-2999). Each hat is handmade with perfect precision in the shop by owner Graham Thompson and his talented crew; the bestseller is the aptly named "Chicago."