I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of writing about or visiting Chicago. Yes, I’ve been to New York (every year for the last 10 years for both work and pleasure), but Chicago has had my heart since the very first visit, and every subsequent visit makes it feel more like home.
I loved Chicago before this weekend, but the addition of the bike-share program Divvy (with hundreds of stations, and more planned) solidified it as my favourite city to visit, and stirred up even more pains of jealousy, because they so seamlessly added this program into the city landscape, in all kinds of neighbourhoods (note to Toronto: it’s not just in the downtown “tourist” areas), and put in the necessary bike lanes to make getting around on a Divvy the best way to navigate the city regardless if you are visiting or living in it.
The visit was a short one this time. We arrived on a Friday and returned on a Sunday, and, thanks to our brand new Nexus cards, the flying experience took less time than a drive to the cottage. Chicago is a town for those who love art, food, music and running. Yes, I said running. In all the cities I’ve visited, I’ve never seen so many runners, and this weekend we both got to take part in the Crosstown Classic 10K, a race that pits North siders against South siders (we each took a side, and I’m happy to report that my side, the North won). It was one of three different races happening on Chicago’s magnificent waterfront, and I think one of five different events happening around town. Amazing! Here we complain and argue about the inconvenience of putting on such things, and there all the good people (experienced or not) join in. It was one of my most memorable race experiences.
We didn’t get to the Art Institute of Chicago, or any of our usual jazz spots Blue Chicago or The Green Mill, but in Chicago it’s not difficult to fill your time with art and music. Our Divvy mode of transportation, which took us to a variety of neighbourhoods, led us to a number of street art installations (another thing I wish we had more of here in Toronto). Our one night of music was filled with the sounds of my favourite band Iron and Wine at one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve ever been to, the legendary Chicago Theatre. And this year, we finally made it to the The Randolph Street Market considered by “those who know” to be “a mecca of cool”, “the best hot spot for antiquing”, “the best Chicago venue for people watching”, and “the Barney’s of Vintage”. I was jealous, jealous, jealous not only of all the incredible vintage finds and original artisan work, but by the shear affordability of it all. We did manage to purchase an original large scale piece of art which will soon have a home over the fire place (as soon as we put it together 🙂
It was difficult to decide where we were going to eat, having only two real opportunities for some great food experiences; difficult because, in my opinion, there is so much interesting and innovative talent happening in the kitchens of Chicago, much better than I’ve experienced in, gasp!, New York, which I think may have to do with price points. Let me explain, I think it’s easy to do amazing for a lot of money; if I’m dropping $400 on dinner for two, it’s probably going to be great, but I think real talent lies in the ability to blow the mind of patrons for half that money. That being said, we returned to two of my favourites (who continue to occupy spots in my personal top 5 restaurants any where in the world), Perennial Virant and Longman & Eagle. I don’t know enough about food, nor am I any kind of food critic, but these two places have consistently demonstrated creative ways to impress the heck out of my taste buds (wine, cocktails and service are all equally top notch). We also managed to squeeze in a brunch visit after the race to the newest addition to Stephanie Izard’s goat empire, The Little Goat, which remains true to the food talent we witnessed at Girl and the Goat on our last visit.
So if you haven’t been to Chicago yet, please go and go any time of the year; there is so much to see, hear, eat, drink and experience about this great city.
If you have yet to visit the windy city, then it’s best to put that trip on your to-do list for this upcoming year. The more I visit this incredible place, the more it moves NYC from the “favourite city spot” in my heart. If you need some reasons to go, here they are: great people, deep dish pizza, beautiful architecture, stunning waterfronts, the best meals I’ve ever had (even compared to NYC), breathtaking art housed both in institutions as well as in unexpected locations, and of course: awesome concert venues which house, not only Chicago’s legendary Blues’ music, but other memorable music performances.