Photo by Stephanie Todaro
Today’s Chicago City Guide update comes from long-time Chicago resident Jessica Herman. Jessica is a co-founder of Dose, Chicago’s monthly food and fashion market, where she curates a selection of upcoming and established artisans to sell their wares. While she spends most of her days working as associate shopping and style editor at Time Out Chicago, she also does freelance writing and editing. Today Jessica takes us on an updated tour of Chi-town and shares some of the new and exciting things this city has to offer. Thanks for this wonderful update, Jessica! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
A friend visiting Chicago once commented that walking around the Loop felt like navigating the real-life version of a 1950s comic book drawing of a downtown. Stepping back, it’s true: the 108-story Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, the corn-cob-shaped Marina Towers, the minimalist Mies Van Der Rohes, the extraterrestrial-esque Frank Gehry pavilion, the luminous “Bean” that distorts the city’s skyline. Downtown Chicago is a sight to be seen.
But like any big city, getting to know Chicago comes from exploring its neighborhoods: the arty, gentrified Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods packed with independent clothing boutiques and dive bars (and more recently, an overabundance of flat-screen-infested sports bars); the upscale-restaurant-rich West Loop; and the high-end furniture show room district in River North.
Chicago shines in its love of vintage. Find yourself in Andersonville, and you’ll see what I mean: vintage and its ever-expanding pockets of design, where a handful of pioneers, such as Post 27’s Angela Finney-Hoffman (West Town) and Scout’s Larry Vodak (Andersonville), opened up brick-and-mortars and encouraged their future neighbors to do the same.
Beyond design, the city proudly supports artisans of all stripes, including chefs and restaurateurs. From the year-round Green City Market, where chefs and brewmasters do their best shopping, and the teeny Hoosier Mama’s pie shop in West Town to the world-renowned Alinea, Chicago’s dining scene is one of the most adventurous in the country.
In other words, the opportunities to take in culture — be it in an architectural salvage warehouse or a genre-bending cocktail bar or a high-end food and fashion market — are plentiful. So hop on the El or grab your bike and start exploring.
Check out this Google Map with all of the listings below!
Morlen Sinoway Atelier
Part jewelry shop, part home accessories and furniture store. Proprietor Morlen Sinoway curates an eclectic, arty mix of goods from around the world, as great for unusual gift hunting as it is for home makeovers.
Green Home Chicago
This place is just what you’d imagine: a showroom and interior design consulting center with an eco-friendly focus for residential and commercial settings.
Husband and wife Sharon and Ted Burdett married their industrial and graphic design backgrounds to co-produce a line of sleek, sustainable wood tables and stools, lamps and fabric accessories. Call to make an appointment.
Girl and the Goat
Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard runs this always-crammed restaurant. Come for the buzz and stay for the house-blended wine, craft beer on tap and crazy, innovative seasonal dishes that change constantly. Don’t let a night of no reservations discourage: there’s often room for walk-ins at the bar.
Maude’s Liquor Bar
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more romantic hideaway for drinks and dining than the dimly lit upstairs of this French-inspired bar/restaurant. Order a smash (smoky violet or chartreuse), shrimp cocktail or traditional cassoulet (ingredients change regularly), and finish the evening with a crème brûlée large enough to share with the lovers at your neighboring table.
This intimate wood box feels like sitting in a sauna, and after a few half carafes of wine (the list is impeccable), your insides will indeed warm right up. You can’t go wrong — that is, unless you bypass the bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates and focaccia with tallegio, ricotta and truffle oil.
Grant Achatz reinvents the cocktail bar. There’s no physical bar in sight. Instead, chefs meticulously pour newfangled, deconstructed versions of old classics into Crucial Details custom-designed glassware behind a veritable stainless steel cage. Bring your pennies (drinks cost as much as $30) and a playful attitude: Some drinks will have you shooting mini slingshots inside a glass to break a liquid-filled ball of ice; others infuse slowly with fruity flavors as you imbibe.
The menu changes every few months at Grant Achatz’s aptly named restaurant. Purchase tickets online in advance. Menus have included Childhood, Paris 1906 and El Bulli. Good luck getting in, and don’t even attempt to pull strings. “Like” the restaurant on Facebook, and you just might score day-of tickets.
Pork- and oyster-heavy dinners are a party here, but so are brunches, replete with hot buttered rum and duck confit hash. Step next door to pick up artisan meats, sandwiches and salads at the butcher shop for a meaty mid-afternoon snack.
Inspired by Nellcôte, Keith Richards’ home in the South of France where the Rolling Stones recorded their album Exile on Main Street, this sprawling space is spearheaded by the team of guys behind Old Town Social. Find affordably priced dishes (rabbit sausage, skate wing, pizzas) paired with a fine dining experience replete with lavish chandeliers and servers dressed in Rolling Stone-inspired chambray shirts, jeans and sexy dresses.
There’s no better place to people watch, share amazing mini tacos and sling back micheladas, strong margaritas, or Four Roses bourbon on the rocks while listening to Dwight Yoakam and Hank Williams records. On warm days, crowds pack every square foot inside and fill every yellow Tolix chair on the patio.
Even meat-lovers fess up that this matchbox-size vegetarian spot is one of the best spots in town for a satisfying clean meal. Mix and match small and large plates (polenta with mushroom sauce, pickled vegetables, bi bim bop), but always order a slider.
This speakeasy-style bar requires you to pocket your cellphone and pay full attention to the artfully crafted cocktails on hand. Arrive at prime time on a weekend night and plan on waiting at least 30 minutes to get through the curtained entrance.
Milk & Honey Cafe
Even on the coldest winter days, this breakfast/lunch spot feels sunny. The menu hardly changes, save for a few seasonal dishes and desserts, but you really can’t go wrong with the cult favorite, huevos rancheros, granola and fresh fruit or the veggie-friendly gouda and avocado sandwich.
Zines live on, largely on a big bookshelf at Quimby’s. One of the last-standing indie bookshops, Quimby’s thrives on author readings, an assortment of local small presses, a notable magazine rack and an eclectic book selection.
French, Italian and Scandinavian 20th-century designs are the focus at this Bucktown shop run by two SAIC alums. You can occasionally find a few new and locally designed accessories with a twist: vases made from flexible plastic and elegant glasses.
Mostly jewelry and small home accessories like shot glasses and alarm clocks occupy this shop’s real estate, but there is also a small Gus furniture selection.
Not only has this fabulous, jam-packed used bookstore stuck around, but it stays open until 11pm every weeknight (in other words, you know where to find your nerd boyfriend — not at the nearby cheesy bars). The shop also hosts a regular poetry and music series, so come for the books and stay for the company.
Cards and journals from small and bigger brand names share the shelves at this sweet paper goods shop that’s owned by two sisters and has been around for over a decade.
Lenny & Me
With two locations within a few blocks on Milwaukee Avenue, the shop is divided in two (one fantastic clothing and accessories shop), dedicating its larger original location to furniture and homegoods. Typewriters, kitschy serving pieces like cutesy juice pitchers from the ‘50s and tea sets are the mainstays, but a small section in the back also showcases locally made accessories.
Art Institute of Chicago alum Robin Richman is behind this exceedingly inspired women’s wear shop decked with French antique fixtures. Even if you can’t afford the Gary Graham garments or housebrand knitwear, accessories like wild Antipast socks and statement-making rings are reason enough to poke around and get inspired.
Elizabeth and James clothes, Luxury Jones eccentric buckled boots and the shop-in-shop bridal boutique (a handful of hard-to-find labels) are significant reasons to visit this highly curated shop. In addition, jewelry, leather belts and classic seasonal pieces (as well as bridal designs) by local Elise Bergman, who works the floor several days a week, are reasons to stay and shop.
Bright blue walls and checkerboard-tiled floors set the lighthearted tone of this husband-and-wife-run men’s and women’s boutique. Best bets: APC, Rachel Comey boots and Alyson Fox jewelry.
You know that record shop in High Fidelity? This is it. Heavy dose of hipsters, occasional music snobbery and a great vinyl selection.
The home collection is mostly sweet, with silver mezzuzot and decorative wishbones, and a little bit rustic (wood serving utensils) with plenty of tchotchkes in between.
In addition to offering some of the most creative bouquets in town, this tiny floral shop packs in classy (candles, ceramics) and quirky (the owner’s mom’s handmade aprons, Tamar Mogendorff fabric “taxidermy,” screenprinted pillows) accessories for the home.
Designers behind one of the strongest local fashion lines also run this great clothing and accessories shop. The clothing selection includes the eponymous line (quirky colorful prints) and accessories by Laura Lombardi, Attalie Dexter’s Shades of Grey and Meghan Lorenz’s Cities in Dust.
The tightly edited selection of men’s wear, the budget-friendly costume jewelry and notable accessories like the housebrand belts with pouches make this visit worth your while.
An Orange Moon
Cherry red Saarinen chairs for Knoll can be yours, as well as illuminated glass globes from the ‘30s. Find a plethora of mid-century modern but also remnants of Hollywood glam and the Victorian era.
Self-described as a modern-day general store, the blue and yellow tiled floor sells everything from soaps and candles to old-school gum, onesies and more.
The main reason to visit this quirky gift shop is to pick up irreverent cards for your older sibling, and you’ll just as likely find sweet, sophisticated cards for mom and wife. Hit up the Andersonville shop, Foursided, for custom frames, maps, globes, vintage blocks and more.
WEST TOWN/UKRAINIAN VILLAGE
You’re just as likely to find vintage wood bowling pins as you are lithograph posters of a bunny’s nervous system, a handmade Confederate flag or an explosion-proof phone. Suffice to say, strange things have been made in the history of the world, and this small gallery boutique has collected samplings of them all.
There’s a lot more to this shop than owner Tara Heibel’s green thumb, let alone her eye for unusual plants. The mini succulent, air plant and terrarium selection will make compact apartment-dwellers giddy, and functional yet decorative pieces for the home like bright patterned shower curtains, candleholders and vases are easy pick-me-ups for the home.
Open only on the weekends or by appointment, this mid-century furniture and accessories shop deals in the likes of Eames in Nelson.
The husband-and-wife team behind this modern textiles brand just opened a brick-and-mortar in the front of their studio space. Find their timeless table linens and bedding along with accessories by a handful of other designers from around the world.
Two old friends and now co-owners turned their vintage-hunting obsession into a business, with a shop that is chock-full of homewares and apparel. The ‘50s Pyrex dishes and cocktail sets catch me every time, but there are plenty of places in the shop to keep digging. Take note on the website of once-a-month 20% sales and parties.
It wouldn’t be off base to imagine you’d find something as quirky as a faux fireplace that doubles as a cocktail cabinet. Old radios, tie clips, mod dresses, great costume jewelry and a handful of statement accessories by local designers are reasons enough to pay owner Julie Ghatan a visit.
Two local furniture refurbishers teamed up to open this great little shop specializing in mid-century modern furniture and home accessories.
While heavy on the shabby-chic, pieces like ticking cloth pillows and decorative lamps with Edison bulbs are mainstays at this shop.
Between the gaping, high-ceilinged second floor and the architectural salvage goldmine downstairs crammed with movie theater seats, bar stools and vintage chandeliers, this warehouse space is a favorite for private events.
Bleeding Heart Bakery
Don’t knock a vegan dessert ’til you’ve tried one of these decadent cake balls. But there’s a heck of a lot more in this hyper-colorful punk-rock diner. Your kids’ eyes will spring out of their sockets after seeing the graffiti-esque painted walls. One look at the packed pastry case (at least a dozen flavors of doughnuts and cake balls), and they’ll be done for the day. A full menu of savory dishes is available, too.
Hoosier Mama Pie Co.
Grab a slice of sweet or savory pie or quiche. One look at the adorably outfitted 1950s-inspired space (chalkboards, checkered floors, pie tins), and you’ll want to throw on an apron and sling some pie dough.
Don’t be surprised to find architectural salvage pieces like Louis Sullivan Chicago Stock Exchange doors for sale for at least a quarter-million at this massive Ravenswood treasure chest. Everything from religious artifacts (marble statues) to scientific instruments has a home; the collection is split between an 80,000 square-foot showroom and a museum that’s a fraction of that size.
Broadway Antique Mall
About 75 dealers set up booths vending lots of mid-century modern furniture, art, objects and jewelry.
Michael Salvatore is attracting a cult following with his Stumptown coffee and Southport Grocery baked goods in the front of the shop and vintage-inspired bikes made in back. Bring your wheels in for a tune-up while you shop and caffeinate.
Praha (3849 N Lincoln Ave, 773-549-1227)
Reasonably priced antiques and new decorative home goods coexist. The large Czech supply — street signs, paintings and trays — comes from the owners’ frequent trips abroad.
Blogger/stationery designer Emily Martin added another slash to her name in 2010: shop owner. Find cheerful paper goods, or place a custom order.
Cleetus Friedman doesn’t mess around when it comes to high-quality local meat and produce. Order it to go or take a seat at the fine delicatessen, serving up everything from apple pie (chances are the apples were plucked from the farmers’ market that morning) to soups and knishes, plus a healthy selection of rare, local booze.
Green City Market
While we’re exceedingly lucky to have a farmers’ market that runs year-round (the market moves indoors to the Notebaert Nature Museum during the fall and winter months), from May through September, this gathering of midwestern farmers and foodies shines. Located in Lincoln Park, just above the lake, it’s the high-end market option in the city. It’s also one of the best brunch options on a Saturday morning, with a bounty of vendors selling eat-on-site delights from cider donuts and smoothies to cheesy burgers. Arrive early enough and you might run into chefs from the finest local restaurants shopping for that week’s menu.
Chandra Greer has an impeccable eye for design and the paper goods selection to prove it. Stationery fans will be happy to find cult favorites Rifle Paper Co., Snow & Graham and Elum as well as Chicago-based Suitor and Orange Beautiful among the mix of cards and journals.
Gunmetal velvet sofas a la Mad Men, vintage Suzanis, real horn bottle openers — this place has it all. The vintage-inspired furniture and accessories are fit for the classiest editorial spreads. The shop’s “flea market” section includes one-of-a-kind antique pieces like 18th-century display cabinets, Swiss Army blankets and late 19th-century lavish chaise lounges.
While Armitage has slowly changed from an independent boutique mecca to a strip (albeit a nice one) of chain stores, Art Effect has been a mainstay. It embodies that “a little of this, a little of that” approach with a spread ranging from easy hostess gifts like coasters, coffee table books and Michael Aram dishes to just-for-fun Lomography cameras and Alexis Bittar jewelry.
If there were one café I’d happily call home (quite literally, I’d stick a bed on the sun-filled second floor and call it a day), Sandra and Mathieu Holl’s French-inspired Floriole is it. The pastries taste like France — flaky almond croissants, custardy quiche and savory galettes — and nearly all the ingredients are locally sourced. Sweets as simple as the peanut butter & jelly cookies are reason enough to return, and everyone does. Arrive early because the place packs with regulars every day of the week.
A New Leaf
There’s a reason this floral shop has been in business for over 30 years and expanded to three locations. Find the most stunning selection of flowers and plants, plus one of the best private spaces in town, at this location.
Artists Frame Service
Open since the late ’70s, this one’s a mainstay in the Clybourn corridor. Custom frames in every variety — leather, steel, reclaimed wood, “bedazzled.” Take note of frequent sales and specials on the website.
Sweet Mandy B’s
This retro-style sweet shop is just what you want for your six-year-old’s birthday, your baby shower or a super-girly night out. In other words, it’s uber girly, but also uber sweet in every way.
The Barrelhouse Flat
You wouldn’t expect to find this type of bar (classic and wildly inventive cocktails) in this type of neighborhood (sporty and collegiate), but alas, it’s here and the area’s all the better for it. Sidle up to the bar for a glass of punch (yes, it’s available, and yes it’s spiked), then order fancy fries and take them upstairs to the cozier velvet couch seating where low lighting and lower ceilings set the mood. Besides, you can avoid the random guy taking over the piano downstairs then, too.
The White Attic
Your wish the command of this clean, crisp shop. Custom order lamps from the lamp bar (all new) featuring a variety of silhouettes and shades and pair them with the refinished vintage dresser or nightstand painted in bright white or cerulean blue.
Roost (5634 N Clark St, 773-506-0406)
There’s always spillover, such as wood-frame chairs and buckets filled with shovels, pouring onto the sidewalk outside of Roost. Hutches, tables and drawers brim with farmhouse-style vintage kitchen supplies, candelabras, glass plates and more.
Julie Fernstrom isn’t afraid to flaunt her love affair with tartans. The shop looks like an older, messier Ralph Lauren, with buffalo check and burlap coffee sack pillows, and enough plaid blankets to fill a studio apartment. You’ll find the Santa mugs your grandma collected, wooden crates you wish you’d nabbed from your uncle’s farm and the corn-shaped corn-on-the-cob dishes you used as a kid. Go to Fernstrom for custom re-upholstery, too. And a special secret for Design*Sponge readers: Above the shop, Fernstrom rents out a private event space decked like a 1960s gentleman’s club (all the items in the space are available for sale).
This neighborhood quite possibly wouldn’t be the home-design haven it is without Larry Vodak paving the way. Vintage industrial filing cabinets, farm wood tables and fire-engine red benches are the types of flea market and auction finds you’ll see spiffed up and in perfect condition at this uncluttered shop.
Arrin Williams culls housewares and accessories by some of the best craftsmen in town, as well as the greater Midwest, doing all sorts of things with wood, often reclaimed (rustic farm tables, framed mirrors, bird houses, delicate rings). Choice wall hangings include prints by the likes of Sonnenzimmer and rainbow-colored painted wood blocks.
New and old takes on mid-century modern translate into silver candle holders and crinkled paper–looking ceramic plates, vintage bent wood chairs, metal filing cabinets and Asian busts.
Edgewater Antique Mall
Hello, Bakelite! There’s a whole lot of jewelry, not to mention purses and other classy accessories and 20th-century furniture.
In Fine Spirits
You can’t go wrong between the cocktails and carefully curated wine selection, especially when paired with a stinky cheese and pate platter. Hit the backyard patio in warmer months. Grab a great bottle to go at the adjoining wine shop.
Three words: mussels and frites. They’re a must-have at this always-hopping joint. And it boasts one of the best beer menus in town, with plenty of rare and exclusive-to-the-city brews.
Great Lake (1477 W Balmoral Ave, 773-334-9270)
Arguably the best pizza place in town (and no, it’s not deep dish), this teeny tiny spot keeps it simple with a few choice pizza offerings (toppings like pancetta, crimini mushrooms and fresh cream). The menu lists its farmers (La Quercia for the pork), and it’s BYOB. Just prepare to wait at a nearby bar, as there aren’t more than a handful of tables in the house.
DOWNTOWN (Streeterville/Gold Coast/River North/the Loop)
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Store
The Museum of Contemporary Art’s gift shop is one of my gift-buying go-tos. There’s quite literally something for everyone: avant garde jewelry for your out-there aunt, quirky office supplies for your father-in-law and kitchen pieces for your dinner-party host. And the coffee table and art book selection is phenomenal. Of course, visit the museum while you’re there.
It’s not local, but it’s certainly a favorite, with its cheeky, artful ceramic salt and pepper shakers, geometric-patterned pillows and throws and more. Bonus: You can register here.
Elegant curves and bright colors that pop distinguish many of the upholstered furnishings by this line. Equally covetable are the sleek-lined tables and chairs. Get in on the occasional warehouse sale; these museum-worthy sculptural furnishings and accessories cost a pretty penny. The luxe company has been in business for more than 100 years.
Save yourself the cost of flying across the pond. The owners of this River North shop bring all the quirky flea market finds, glasswares and china sets you could imagine. Just make sure to clear space in your cabinets before a visit.
All you need to know is there’s a line around the block pretty much every morning for the doughnuts these guys churn out, and once they’re sold, the shop closes for the day. In other words, arrive early and hungry for classics (cider, chocolate) and newfangled fried goods (chestnut, bacon-laced, you name it). Follow their Twitter account for everything from opening times (it doesn’t keep regular hours) to new flavor announcements.
Judy Maxwell (1151 N State St, 312-787-9999)
The little-known fact about this Gold Coast shop (which sticks out like a sore thumb in the posh neighborhood, in the best possible way) is that it’s probably owned by Joan Cusack. Who else could put together a collection of oddities, such as a pinball machines, jaw-dropping paper-cut art, breakable plates (presumably from a set) and perfectly strange giftables like huge Pixie Stix and silver boxes packed with single pieces of Bazooka?
It’s mostly affordable, casual vintage clothing, but you’ll also find a small selection of housewares.
Between the AC Marais chairs inside and on the inviting outdoor patio, the always-choice cocktails (they keep it simple with just a few options), fresh from the oven pre-dinner biscuits and small but spot-on seasonal menu, you’ll want to move into Jason Hammel’s second restaurant.
The best reason to come to this gallery: Floyd David’s iPod-compatible boomboxes made from vintage suitcases, available starting around $250 a pop.
This massive building packed with showrooms (mostly home design but some fashion, too) actually claims its own zip code. Need I say more?
Longman & Eagle
A complimentary whiskey token for a free drink at the downstairs bar should tip you off to the type of place Longman & Eagle is. Not to mention the pelt at the inn’s entrance, the toilet paper rolls hanging from noose-like ropes in the bathroom and the clawfoot tub in the largest room in the house. Enjoy Apple TV and artwork by local greats Cody Hudson, Stephen Eichhorn and Sonnenzimmer on the walls. No two rooms are alike. Bonus: Only guests who stay at the inn can make reservations at the always-packed restaurant; you can also opt for room service with the same menu.
Imagine sleeping at a spa: The stripped-down digs at this Wicker Park B&B offer peace and quiet and a great location for shopping and eating beyond the Mag Mile. Rely on your reading material and the neighboring bars (of the sports and dive variety) for entertainment (rooms are TV-free), the garden out back for a peaceful retreat outdoors and the nearby Milk & Honey Café for one of the breakfasts in town (huevos rancheros highly recommended). Oh, and do yourself a favor and book a spa appointment downstairs.
Hotelier Ian Schrager recently revamped the iconic Ambassador East. Perch on a leather couch in the library with a book and beer (the coolest spot in the place), and stay for small bites in the dining room. If you’re a guest, you can even borrow a bike to get around town.
Once a month, about 45 mostly locally based artisans and entrepreneurs gather under one roof to showcase their latest ventures. Half food and half fashion, the Sunday market is curated by four female tastemakers (myself included) who find the best of both worlds from all over town and occasionally from across the country. Find everything from boomboxes made from vintage suitcases, reclaimed wood tables and natural skincare to rare teas, Alaskan salmon and ice cream sandwiches, as well as a combination of established, high-profile folks and fledgling artists.
Randolph Street Market
One weekend per month in the summer, this massive vintage and antiques market takes over Plumbers Hall and the surrounding parking lot in the West Loop. Over a hundred vendors set up booths purveying their finest costume jewelry, housewares, ephemera, clothing and more. Local indie clothing designers set up shop, too. Bring a major attention span; there’s lots to dig through.
Don’t be surprised to find a line wrapped around the block for this occasional pop-up market. Run by two young bloggers/design enthusiasts, the relatively new on the scene but thriving vintage market hosts a few dozen vendors under one roof (often the Congress Theater) to sell furniture, clothing and more. See a few local shop owners but a larger showing of Etsy shop proprietors. Additional perks come in the form of cheap beer and straight-razor shaves on site.
Must-See Tourist Attractions
Lincoln Park Zoo
Find everything from lions and sea lions to zebras and apes right outside the lake and nature museum at this free public zoo.
The greenery is gorgeous, and Anish Kapoor’s “Bean” and Frank Gehry’s band shell will knock your socks off.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and the Robie House
It’s well worth a trip outside the heart of the city to see the Prairie-style Robie House in Hyde Park as well as Wright’s personal home and studio in Oak Park; daily tours are available at both locations. Architecture nerds will geek out.
Hemingway House and Museum
Between Wright and Hemingway alone, Oak Park was an artistic hotbed about 100 years ago. Make a lap through the quaint rooms with a trusty docent to learn quirky tidbits about the writer’s background. Then hop a few steps down the street to the dedicated museum.
John C. Reilly