Chicago Travel Guide || downtown & gold coast

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 12.10.47 PMHere is our take on our favorite haunts in the Downtown, Loop, River North & Gold Coast neighborhoods. It is just our 2 cents on what we think you should put on the EAT | SEE | STAY list. Have fun exploring our handsome city.

tumblr_m9jdmzJZhh1raz3uuo1_500 tumblr_m9800qmhBO1raz3uuo1_500We love these hilarious banners. Check them all out over here.

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  • Atwood Cafe – Located in a National Historic Landmark. Great place for dinner prior to a show. Mum’s love it.
  • Bandera – Above the citibank, great for lunch, get the chicken salad.
  • Bavettes – Chicago is known for its steak house – this one we can always agree on – newish to the scene – but divine – french bistro style [R&H review].
  • Billy Goat Tavern – Only visit the one under Michigan Ave. the original, & of-course get the cheezborger – great vintage space.
  • Bow Truss – A lovely coffee shop. Try the Canopy blend for breakfast chocolatey-cherry goodness.
  • Brindille – Refined parisian fare, and a stunning room.
  • Club Lago – Simple old-school italian-american food. The room is like a vintage museum – I like it for this alone. [R&H review]
  • Davanti Enoteca – There is one downtown, but you must go to the original on Taylor Street in little Italy. Great priced food & wine by the glass or bottle. We go for a later lunch when things slow between seatings. The ragu & polenta of the day is excellent. [R&H review]
  • Dillman’s – A new relit dressed up to look old-world & is very successful at doing soon. Think Jewish deli.
  • The Gage – Upscale comfort food. The venison tartare & the rabbit salad – Yum! There is something for everyone here.
  • Gene & Georgetti – est. 1941 this is a classic Chicago steakhouse.
  • Gilt Bar – A dark sexy room, great for a casual dinner of american modern / meets french bistro plates to shares. Good cocktails too. [R&H review]
  • GT Oyster & Fish – A loud live room, but great oysters & seafood.
  • Henri – French elegance. A romantic restaurant. [R&H review]
  • Intelligentsia – Great coffee. The one in the Monadnock building is incredibly daper, there is another location near the Cultural Center.
  • Lou Mitchells – A chicago institution. An old-school diner that has been around for more than 85 years.
  • Naha – California & the Mediterranean food get married & live in a beautifully designed home.
  • Nomi – I love their patio in the summer. But good food all year. If inside ask for a seat by the window. Typically I avoid hotel restaurants in the US, unless in Vegas, this one, although pricey is worth the $$.
  • Pastoral Artisan Cheese – A cheese / wine / sandwich shop. Grab some goodies & in the warmer months head to Millennium Park for a picnic.
  • Pierrot Gourmet – Lovely euro style cafe good for breakfast / lunch or afternoon tea. Delicious tartines.
  • The Pump Room – An old classic that was given a beautiful make-over & a delicious new menu [R&H review]
  • The Purple Pig– Good for Lunch or Dinner. Casual wine bar with incredible plates for sharing get the pig’s ear salad [R&H review]
  • Sable – Friendly service, slick room, great food to share & a fave place for a G&T – get the one with rosemary [R&H review]
  • Signature Lounge – Best view in town – the cocktails are so-so but go for one drink just for the view. And pick off hours to avoid the crowds.
  • Spiaggia – Fine dinning Italian food at it’s best.
  • Table 52 – Art Smith was Oprahs personal chef – and this is his southern comfort restaurant, tiny, but tasty.
  • Tanta – Peruvian food at it’s best coming from one of the world’s top chefs. The cebiche is delicious. Ask for a table away from the window.
  • Three Dots & a Dash – If tiki was Disneyland this would be the place. Great way to start the night with tiki drink to make you smile. It’s down an alley, and relatively easy to find look for the tiki torches.
  • Wow Bao – steamed asian buns filled with all sorts of deliciousness.
  • XOCO – Rick Bayless is a legend when it comes Mexican Food. This casual eastern is a good way to sample his offerings [R&H review]

Insiders tip: Make reservations for most of these places to avoid disappointment [use Opentable]. If there are just 2 of you, do a progressive dinner, have a drink & a dish or two at the bar and move on to the next place.

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  • Alexander Calder – Flamingo Sculpture – a flaming red beauty.
  • Architectural Boat Tour – A great way to see the city and the world’s original skyscrapers. It is restricted to weather, take a walking tour if you are brave enough to visit in the winter.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago – Our favorite is the Modern Wing, but do see the miniature rooms collection, and of course the text-book classic paintings, and admire the architecture too.
  • Chicago Cultural Center – Great free art exhibits. And beautiful Tiffany glass ceilings to explore. You can at least pop in to use the bathrooms if you need a bio-break.
  • Chicago Picasso – A mammoth public sculpture by Picasso.
  • The Driehaus Museum – WOW this is a magnificent home perfectly preserved in downtown chicago.
  • Four Season – Marc Chagall – A intricate and beautiful shimmering Chagall mosaic mural.
  • MCA [Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago]
  • Millennium Park – Check out the gardens, the sculptures, the fountains & see a concert whilst enjoying a picnic in the warmer months. It is not considered a world-class park for nothing.
  • Miro Chicago – A stunning Miro public sculpture.
  • Willis Tower [formerly SEARS Tower] – Head up to the skydeck and walk on the glass floor ledges & check out the view.

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  • ACME Hotel – Reasonable prices, central location to all the ‘hoods. Modern and has a fun casual atmosphere.
  • The James Hotel – Smaller Hotel with a modern interior design, located downtown making it easy to get anywhere.
  • Park Hyatt Hotel – You can’t beat the location on the mag mile, and the views are pretty amazing too. Their spa has the best treatments, and Nomi is a great in-house restaurant / lounge.
  • Public – A little off the beaten path giving you a rest from the maddening crowds. Simple rooms.
  • The Thompson – a beautiful hotel with style & great on-site bar & restaurant [coming soon Dec 2013] also downtown.

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  • Michigan Ave is a shoppers paradise. Macy’s Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, SAK’s & Neiman Marcus are all there. Bring your credit cards. Cha-Ching. And check out these stores as you travel between Oak Street & the Chicago River just for the interior design:
    • All-Saints – We love shopping in this store, it might not be your cup-of-tea but head in for interior design its fabulous.
    • Burberry – Just got a massive make-over the exterior alone is jaw-dropping.
    • Ralph Lauren – A multistory store, that is more like visiting posh relatives than a shop – decadent rich – old english manor feel.
  • Oak Street is where you will find high-end stores like Prada / Barney’s / Moncler / Hermes etc.
  • Head into the loop and you will find the original Marshall Fields – now Macy’s & Carson Pirie Scott – now Target. Both stores architecturally have a load to offer those that are into that kinda stuff. Marshall’s with its Tiffany Ceilings & Carson’s with it’s ornate Louis Sullivan details – magnificent.
  • Optimo Hat Shop – Located in the Monadnock building makes hats by hand preserving a dying art form. Stunner of a store.

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  • Happening on the Mag Mile
  • News on the Shops at Northbridge [where Nordstorm can be found]
  • News & listings for 900 N. Michigan [where Bloomies can be found]
  • Shop details & happenings for Water Tower shopping center [where Macy’s can be found]
  • The latest on the fancy schamcy little Oak Street area [Prada, Jimmy Choo, Barneys etc.]
  • Festivals & Events: There are loads of summer based activities in this area check lists for details

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ABOUT THESE GUIDES: We will be updating as things close/open, & our tastes change. You can see other Chicago Neighborhood Guides here.

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