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Going to Chicago....what to do, see, stay, etc.


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#1 LouieB

LouieB

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:21 PM

I was asked to start a thread after a small disagreement on yet another thread on what to do in Chicago. So this post will be pinned for all eternity and a place where folks can come get advice on specific interests and attractions. What I will do is give a general overview of the city; places to go, things to do, transportation, local customs, directions, neighborhoods, etc. Everyone else who either lives here or has been here visiting or coming for Wilco shows can chime in and that collective wisdom will benefit anyone who wants to come here for future shows or simply a destination.

First some basic historical information; Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world in the 19th century. It went from a small trading post along a swampy river on Lake Michigan in the early 1800s to a city that hosted the Columbian Exposition by the end of the 1800s. The best book to read about this is “City of the Century” which describes this process, the development of a canal to connect the lake to the Mississippi River, the rise of the railroads, manufacturing, the Chicago Fire, the various waves of immigrants that gave the city it’s character and distinctive neighborhoods, the politics and the development of a world class city. Chicago is also famous for its architecture, being the first city to develop skyscrapers and innovative building methods. As a result of the fire it was a city that was planned. Chicagoans are quite proud of their city, but consistently feel that we are somehow second class to New York, clearly the cultural center of the USA. Due to some unfortunate high profile gangsters, Chicago got a reputation as being both a center of criminal activity and due to some unfortunate political corruption it has the reputation of being somewhat corrupt to this day. Okay, maybe both have some basis in fact, but people who live here get sick of hearing about Al Capone, etc. and we clearly know about the political machine that has run the city for over a hundred years. Just wait a bit before you start talking about those things when you get here.

Getting around Chicago can be interesting, since the city is very large in square miles. We have a rapid transit system that currently is under going some tough times and some renovation, but you can get around easily enough. The trains are called “the el” for elevated (although some of it is underground or at ground level) and there are many buses that crisscross the city. The bus system is now on Google so you can find out where buses are at the moment. The CTA (the Chicago Transit System not what became the rock group Chicago) has good maps both on line and on paper, so if you are going to take it, get one and consult it regularly. The els are actually safe to take late at night as long as you are sticking to areas where tourists go on a regular basis, but if you are being adventuresome at night, do make sure you know where you are going.

The streets are mostly set up in a grid system, the consequence of some amount of planning. If you are going somewhere you need to know which direction you are going. All streets are set up to be accessed on a north, south, east and west grid. There are eight blocks to a mile and the center point is in the downtown area, called the Loop, at 0. Remember the lake is always east. . Most people who come to see Wilco end up on the north side of the city and therefore spend most of their time in the north/northwest quadrant of city. The main streets are usually at the 400, 800, 1200 points along the grid. You also need to know how far east and west along that grid you are going to. So always ask. That way you can’t get lost or at least get quickly unlost. The northside is made up of named streets, but the southside has numbered streets that correspond to the distance north and south. There are diagonal streets as well (Lincoln Avenue for example), but even those have addresses that indicate how far south and north they go or east and west. So any destination has an address that indicates either north/south or east west and a corresponding designation of the other direction as well. A good map will help you get around by car, bike (we have become very bike friendly of late), or on foot. Just remember that Chicago is a big place and plan accordingly.

Chicagoans refer to various parts of town by two designations; communities and neighborhoods. Chicago is broken down into official communities and then there are unofficial neighborhoods. The neighborhood names are often a real estate mechanism, a way to make a certain area hot. Sometimes there is disagreement as to what a neighborhood is called since some people will call it by the community designation and others simply pick a neighborhood name. This can be confusing and even misleading. Check out the community areas on official Chicago websites, whereas the neighborhoods are usually a matter of opinion. Wrigleyville, for example is a neighborhood that is part of Lakeview (the community name.) Neighborhood names are helpful if you are looking for a shopping district or a club.

Weather in Chicago is a crap shoot during every season. It gets hotter than hell here and the winters are brutally cold. It can go from one to the other within hours so don’t assume that since it is hotter than hell, it will be so a few hours later. Take a jacket or wear layers, so you can take stuff off or put it on. (Those who stand outside waiting for Wilco shows have many stories about weather, some pretty entertaining.) Outside fests like Lollapalooza or Pitchfork can easily feature blazing hot days and chilly windy nights, with drenching rains thrown in for laughs and giggles. Check the weather report, this isn’t San Deigo.

Now on to the good stuff; what to do here. Chicago, though supposedly a cultural backwater, has one of the finest music scenes in the country as well as a theater community that features over 150 theater companies. There are museums, restaurants, shopping areas galore, and neighborhoods that feature all of the above. Many people come to Chicago to see Wilco and miss stuff, so take a few extra days and stick around after the show. I have rarely met anyone anywhere who came to Chicago who had a bad time (well if you get your car towed it is kind of a bummer; but Steve Goodman got a great song out of it), but remember this is a big city and sometimes bad things do happen here so be aware of your surroundings. Okay end of lecture on that…..also the Wilco loft is on the northside. We get that question a lot here too. It isn’t much to see from the outside, but people ask to see it all the time. Don’t ask me where it is, I won’t tell.

There are two resources that give endless things to do each week. The first is the Chicago Reader. The Reader is a free paper and also has a website that gives music and other listings and a restaurant guide. Recently the Reader was sold and has gone a bit downhill in the journalism department, but still maintains the best way to find out what music, plays, festivals, art galleries and other stuff is going on and it is available in boxes and stores all over the city. Pick one up. The other resource is Time Out, but it costs money and is a magazine and for that reason I personally don’t like it. But it also has a website and is a reliable source for information on stuff to do. A less extensive free paper is New City, but compared to the Reader and Time Out, it is not as comprehensive. Of course the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times both have stuff to do on a daily basis, but mostly are good on Fridays. The Red Eye is a stupid, but free publication put out by the Trib that has as its demographic less then fully literate young people. For that reason it is entertaining in an entirely different way and if you are young and semi-literate this could be something you want to read (hell I read it,…) Another source for what is happening on any given day is The Onion (believe it or not.) In the back of each issue is a calendar that cherry picks what the enterainment editors must think are the good things to do and frankly they are often correct and their comments are always fun and pithy and sometimes droll, but this is not a joke, the seem to know their stuff. So get a laugh from the front and some good information from the back.

Okay, back to stuff to do. Let’s talk music first since that is why many people come here from this site. I certainly don’t need to talk too much about the fests that are nationally know, such as Lollapalooza. I have never been so ask someone else. Pitchfork is a smaller fest that many people come to. It is on the west side in Union Park. In the fall is the Hideout Block Party. This event has become rather large in recent years and can be a ton of fun. Taste of Chicago is my least favorite event, but there is a free rock show put on around 4th of July that features big name groups (Wilco played it one year.) On any weekend, a neighborhood will have a fest that includes music, food, and lots of hot members of whatever gender you are looking for. Also the City of Chicago puts on free fests that feature a particular kind of music. My favorite is Jazz Fest usually on the weekend around Labor Day, but Blues Fest is around Memorial Day and in-between are Gospel, Latin, Celtic, and other fests. There are two venues for these, the Petrillo band shell and Millennium Park’s Pritzger Pavilion. The Pritzger features better sound, but I am okay with the Petrillo. Some of these fests have stuff going on side stages during the day. A city fest that has gained a high profile is World Music Fest which takes place at various venues around the city (some free some not) during September. Groups are brought in from all over the world (when they can get visas) and you can see stuff you can’t see anywhere else. All this info is online as well.

Chicago has great clubs. Wilco and the members of Wilco have played in every single one, so everywhere you go there is Wilco history. My favorites of the smaller rock type clubs are Schubas, The Hideout, Fitzgeralds (not in Chicago, but in Berwyn and hosts a great 4th of July fest of American music), the Metro (slightly larger with a large stage), the Abbey (the bookings are not as good as they used to be), Park West (which doesn’t have regular shows), the Double Door, the Empty Bottle and the Beat Kitchen. There are several newer venues, which people can chime in here about, such as Reggies and the soon to be opened Bottom Lounge. I know I have forgotten a place or two (or more). The Old Town School of Folk Music often has great stuff and is a nice room, but not a club (it has theater seating). The Vic and the Rivera are more theaters (as is the Congress, one of the biggest dumps on the planet) and the site of many, many fine shows. Smaller bars and coffee houses feature music occasionally, which is why you need the Reader. The large legit theaters such as the Auditorium and the Chicago Theaters are beautiful and have great shows in a civilized venue. There are sometimes shows at the Lakeshore Theater or other theaters that have plays (Steppenwolf for example) or auditoriums connected to one of the colleges or universities. Even the zoos and botanical gardens have shows. There is no lack of music or places to see music. There are loft spaces that can also be fun. Two venues (besides the Hideout) that have jazz are the new Velvet Lounge and the newly reopened Jazz Showcase, both on the near southside and the Green Mill in Uptown. Arena shows often take place at the United Center or some of the other sports arenas. If you are bored in Chicago and a music fan you simply aren’t looking in the right places. There are times that there are three or four shows that people need to choose from and some of us have been known to make more than one show in a night and several in a weekend or week. All of the clubs are less crowded than they used to be (due to a crackdown by the city) and all are now smoke free (YEAH!!!). That is good for those inside, but sometimes shows do sell out. Many times you can simply go to a show and find an extra ticket or additional tickets are released right before a show. Don’t buy tickets from brokers if you can avoid it and don’t patronize assholes who sell on Craigs list for way above the face value, but again I guess it is your choice.

Touching on other stuff to do; I have mentioned the theater scene and if you like plays, you can choose from many small storefront type theaters. Few people here seem interested in this type of entertainment, but if you have even a passing interest in theater Chicago has maybe the best regional theater scene in the country. There is everything from Shakespeare to experimental theater. There are musicals and legitimate theater as well. Also a fun time that shouldn’t be missed if you have time is the poetry slam at the Green Mill on Sunday evenings. The Green Mill is a vintage bar anyway and it is the site of the original poetry slams. Music is often also included in the proceedings and it is very fun.

If you get sick of music, or simply don't want to invest the time and money in a play, Chicago has a couple repertory movie theaters that you may want to check out. The Gene Siskel Film Center at the School of the Art Institute is on State Street just across from the Chicago Theater. The programming here is very intelligent and cutting edge. They show movies you can’t see anywhere else in town in small comfortable theaters. While Chicago is not the film mecca that NYC or LA is, the folks at the Film Center do okay. Likewise the Music Box on Southport is a great place to see an art or foreign movie or catch either a midnight movie showing a cult film or a morning showing of a classic. The Music Box is a wonderful old theater, one of the last of its kind in a town that had many like it, with stars on the ceiling and a working organ, which is sometimes played before a show. The bookers at the Music Box know their stuff also and they tend to book the kind of movies that don’t get exposure at more commercial theaters (foreign/art fare), but not as obscure as what they program at the Siskel. I end up at the Music Box fairly frequently. It is surrounded by a number of good restaurants and the strip along Southport is fun hang out. Is the Brew and View at the Vic still going?? I have never been, but if they still have that, you can get your beer goggles on and see a flick at the same time. Not bad, but not sure it is still going on. There are plenty of multiplexes in Chicago if you want to catch a regular movie, but the neighborhood houses, some of which did repertory in the past, are pretty much gone.

Restaurants are a major feature of a Chicago visit. Chicago has a wide variety of both ethnic and American restaurants and you can gain a ton of weight here. Everyone has their favorites and I won’t try and speak for anyone (Hot Dougs will get mentioned), but if you are hungry there are lots of places to get something to eat without having to resort to chain restaurants (although some of the local or regional chains have pretty good food). Any neighborhood will have a wide variety of types of food and prices. Many of the music venues have decent food as well. Chicago is famous for hot dogs (Vienna Beef), Italian beef, 24 hour taco stands, and ethnic food. Deep dish pizza is typical Chicago food also. We have discussed vegetarian places (Chicago has never been much of a veggie town, but it is better than it used to be) and just about everyone has their favorite diner to get breakfast or lunch. Fine dining abounds as well and Chicago has some world famous chefs at some fairly unusual restaurants. If you like Asian, eastern European, Latin, South Indian, or other types of ethnic food, you can probably get it here.

If you come here and have not hit up some other VCer to let you couch surf, you then have to find a hotel. The majority of hotels are either downtown (The Loop) or in the areas adjacent to Michigan Avenue just north of downtown near the Miracle Mile. There are a variety of corporate hotels and smaller boutique type places. Many people have found good rates online. Since I live here I have not stayed at any hotels, so this is definitely something to ask the out of towners about. There are some bed and breakfasts in other neighborhoods, but Chicago isn’t really big on such things. There are a couple youth hostels, one in the south Loop that is supposed to be pretty good. The one closer to Uptown has received mixed reviews here. Certainly you could stay out near the airports; rates are probably better there, but both areas are inconveniently located to stuff to do. The Days Inn on Diversey is a popular less expensive hotel out of the downtown area, as is the City Suites just around from the Vic on Belmont. Although there are some single room occupancy type hotels and cheap motels in other parts of time, I would certainly approach them with caution.

There are some typical tourist sites that are worth your time as well. I will talk about museums further down. Millennium Park is worth your time and centrally located. I take out of towners there and walk around it when I am in the area as well. I am less fond of Navy Pier, but it is somewhere to go. The Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue north of downtown is worth a visit; lined with big name stores, an Apple Store, restaurants and such, it attracts tons of tourists. If you don’t like to inundated with commercial and high end stores, skip it, but I have to say it is pretty amazing, including Water Tower place, a large indoor mall. Many people like to take in a ballgame at Wrigley field and the area around the park is fun, packed with bars and restaurants and people under 30. Other neighborhoods that feature young people are Wicker Park and Lakeview (the strip along Belmont and Sheffield and the area along Southport). These are great areas to shop, stop for coffee, have drink, eat, and people watch. I am personally fond of Lincoln Square (Lincoln Avenue between Lawrence and Montrose) and hang out there a lot myself. The Grind is a small and very cool coffee house just down from Lauries and the Old Town School. Andersonville, the area around Foster and Clark has become sort of upscale in recent years, but still has one of the best coffee shops in town, the Kopi Café, as well as a wide variety of restaurants and shops. Andersonville used to be one of my favorite neighborhoods, but in recent years it has gone too far upscale for my taste although there are lots of excellent restaurants, cool shops (also Women and Children First Bookstore); it is the second most gay/lesbian friendly neighborhood in town; the other being “boys town” along Halstead and Roscoe area. Roscoe village is a funky fun area further west than “boys town". There is plenty of fun to be had in some of the various ethnic neighborhoods. These tend to be funkier and more “authentic” than the places one is usually sent. Pilsen and neighboring Little Village are the Mexican areas and if you know Spanish it seriously helps. The Puerto Rican areas of Humbolt Park and Division Street west of Western are interesting. If you want Indian food, come up my way to Devon Avenue in West Rogers Park (neighborhood name), also known as West Ridge (community name). Lawrence around Kedzie is a Korean and Middle Eastern area, Argyle Street in Uptown is the Vietnamese area and Chinatown on the near southside is bigger and more fun than it used to be. There are Polish areas (lots of them, Chicago is the largest Polish speaking city outside of Warsaw.) There are Italian (near west and nears southwest side) and Greek (near west) areas that are more tourists areas than actual ethnic enclaves anymore. Hyde Park around the University of Chicago is a fun neighborhood (see below also).

Chicago is truly a “black metropolis”. As a major settlement of the “great migration”, the south and west sides of Chicago are large African American neighborhoods. Few tourists go to these places, but lately I have been spending a lot of time in these places and I want people to know that that they are worth a visit. “Bronzeville” has gentrified in recent years and the areas along MLK Drive are extremely interesting, large boulevards with old mansions. Kenwood, just north of Hyde Park (and home of the next President of the USA) has many old houses. If you want to see what Chicago looked like before the face changed in the last 20 or so years, go south on Lake Shore Drive, past Hyde Park and into South Shore (follow US 41). Then keep going to the Southeast side which was the site of the steel mills, but which is now deserted. This is a great area to take pictures in and it borders on Indiana. Contact me if you want more information on this area, it is way way off the radar and frankly I had not spent much time there until recently. I honestly think everyone should see the parts of the city that are not part of the usual tourist areas. Chicago became famous as an industrial center and while there are far fewer factories now than there were in decades past, you can still see remnants of the old Chicago and the African American neighborhoods are the wellspring of so much music and culture that we all enjoy.

Let’s talk museums. There are a handful that are must sees. The Art Institute of Chicago is stunning, but frankly it is going through some renovation as this is being written and the modern wing is not yet open. When all of this is done, it will be more fun, but there is still plenty to see. The Field Museum is a large natural history museum. If you like this sort of stuff more than art, I recommend it. Close by on the museum campus on the near south east part of downtown is the Planetarium and the Aquarium. Again depends on if you like space or fish. I enjoy the Museum of Contemporary Art just off Michigan Avenue on Chicago Avenue. The Museum of Science and Industry is near Hyde Park well south. I am not so fond of this one, since it seems to be a large advertisement for corporations and is always crowded, but the submarine and some of the other exhibits are tourists’ favorites. The Oriental Institute in Hyde Park is a great place to view Middle Eastern and other artifacts. There are several ethnic museums around town that may be of interest such as the DuSable (African American) and Mexican Fine Arts Museum. There is a surgical museum for the non-squeamish. Again, there will be other folks who chime in on their favorite museum. Some of the architectural tours are big draws, particularly the one that is on the boat on the Chicago River. You may also want to take a trip out to Oak Park for the Frank Lloyd Wright tour. Speaking of which, Evanston, on the northern border of Chicago, has hotels, restaurants, shops, and is easily reachable by the el. I enjoy hanging out there anyway; there are more coffee houses per square foot in Evanston than anywhere else in Illinois. Also there are several record stores and book stores within walking distance of downtown Evanston and the Northwestern Campus is also nearby. Hyde Park on the southside is very much like a suburb, in that it is an enclave that includes the University of Chicago. It is fun to walk around this neighborhood as well, but it is not that easy to get to from downtown; not impossible but not a snap either. There are several other small art museums in Hyde Park and some of the best bookstores (both new and used) in town. Robie House in Hyde Park is a great example of Wright’s work and the gothic architecture at U of C is impressive as well. Don’t forget it is the neighborhood of the next President of the United States. Lest I forget, the Cultural Center, at the Corner of Randolph and Michigan is the old public library, and is a nice place to go and just sit. It has art exhibits, some permanent some temporary, music at noon and in the afternoons and evenings, a beautiful Tiffany dome, and small rooms to check out or just sit and relax. Also there are lectures and other fun stuff to do. This is a small attraction, but well worth the time when you have run out of other stuff to do. Did I mention it was free?

If you are simply tired of people and the bustle of urban life, Chicago has great parks (some of which do get crowded. Grant Park downtown has Buckingham Fountain, a total head trip during the evenings when the light show is on it. Lincoln Park runs the length of the northern part of town. It is a popular jogging and biking area, but it also is right along the lake. The park adjacent to Rogers Park on the far northside was my regular hangout when I was young and less intense than Lincoln and Grant Parks. There are also large parks in some of the neighborhoods, don’t neglect them if you need a break. Some have nice golf courses that are not that crowded and not that expensive. On the outer regions are what are called “forest preserves”. While not all that impressive as nature areas, they do provide some good bike trails. I suppose this is a good place to put in a plug for historic Route 66. It starts at the Art Institute, winds southwest through Chicago and the suburbs towards Joliet and then on to Springfield and St. Louis. I like doing the old “Mother Road” in Illinois myself, so if you have a few weeks to get to LA, this can be the trip of a lifetime.

Now onto record stores; while we don’t have an Amoeba Records, we have many smaller indie places to find interesting stuff. Again everyone can chime in on this subject. Stores open and close with some regularity, but Reckless Records has a few different locations and has a nice selection of indie and other types of music. My personal favorite is Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square. The Jazz Record Mart has a huge selection of jazz and blues. I will leave the rest of the recommendations up to my fellow Chicagoans, but I have visited nearly every store in Chicago and there are some good ones. I like Dead Wax also. Both Evanston and Hyde Park have interesting record stores. KStarkes down from the Empty Bottle is new and not bad.

I would hope that people can come ask about other types of shopping. There are good book stores and other types of specialty stores. Just ask and you will have a plethora of places to go. During the summer there are farmers markets all over town, some specializing in organic food. Art fairs used to be a regular part of the summer scene in Chicago, but while there seem to be fewer than there were in years past, there still are some. Just north of downtown in River North are the art galleries if you have the money.

In the 35 years I have live here (I am not a native Chicagoan, but have lived here my entire adult life), Chicago has changed dramatically, from a fairly provincial industrial town to a relatively sophisticated and diverse place. Sadly some of the old parts of town have been gentrified beyond recognition and new construction has sprung up in many parts of town, obscuring and obliterating the character of some neighborhoods. Perhaps the saddest of all, not only for music fans, but for the simple destruction of an important urban area, is the redevelopment of Maxwell Street. Not only are the old storefronts completely gone (thanks University of Illinois at Chicago), but the Sunday market that was home to generations of blues musicians and all sorts of interesting vendors has been moved. I have not been to the new Maxwell Street and will probably never go. I think I would rather die than go to the new market, since I recall the old one as being one of the most fun things to do on an early Sunday morning after a wild Saturday night. Oh yea, speaking of dying, Chicago has interesting cemeteries as well, packed with historic figures and interesting monuments. Anyway, Chicago is now touted as something of a “European” city, with the gentry living close to downtown or something. But as mentioned above, if you get off the beaten track, you will find old Chicago in many parts of town.

Chicago also has a magnificent musical history. While more famous musicians live (and have always lived) in New York, and LA and Nashville currently have large numbers of studios, and Austin is certainly a musical Mecca of sorts, Chicago has a musical history that outdoes all of those. Everyone knows about the Chicago blues. Sadly the blues scene here is no longer what it was; few figures of note are either alive or still playing. Chicago jazz can mean about half a dozen things depending on the decade you are talking about. Chicago also has significant history of R&B, gospel, soul, country, alternative country, punk, house, post-rock, and even a touch of rap. I have never spoken to a musician here who didn’t appreciate both the history of Chicago music and how interested and knowledgeable Chicago music fans are. I suppose WXRT gets some credit for the music scene here in the last three decades (grudgingly given by me), but it is a relatively decent commercial station. The college stations are all very fun including WNUR (Northwestern), WLUW (at Loyola, which is about to go through a major change), WZRD (used to be great at Northeastern IL) and whatever they have at the University of Chicago, which I can’t get up here on the far northside. WDCB at College of DuPage has excellent jazz programming during the day. Sadly our “public radio” station WBEZ decided to can most of its music programming and is now nearly all talk, even during hours when music would be good. (A pox on their house for bad programming decisions for the last 10 or more years.)

Okay so I am trailing off. Rather than polish this to a fine sheen, I will edit this as time goes by and put the links in as I have time. As we are quickly approaching Lollapalloza and many of you will be showing up for that. I have been known to schlep folks around myself. Certainly I have bought a few lunches and many a beer for folks from out of town. (It makes up for me being an asshole here on occasion I guess.) I have a pass to the Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art, which I occasionally loan to VCers. You can PM me directly, for advise but I do think there is something to be said for the collect wisdom of VCdom, particularly since others have experience here as visitors. So remember; pack a sweater or jacket, don’t wander off into dark alleys without knowing where you are going, and leave plenty of money in the local economy. And the first beer is on me, we have good local brews too….

LouieB


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#2 stooka

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:25 PM

LouieB :worship

#3 jenbobblehead

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:42 PM

PIN IT.

also: chicago needs one of these:

http://scentofgreenb...s.blogspot.com/

#4 Three dollars and 63 cents

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 07:56 PM

LouieB :worship


Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. I'm going to be back in Chicago in February for a conference, and I'll definitely put this to use when I'm planning my free time. I'll also be sure to look you up when I'm back in town :thumbup

I was at the Art Institute a few weeks ago, and let me reiterate what a mess it is. I was very disappointed. Not only is the modern wing closed, but they've rearranged practically everything else, and quite a few of the pieces I went to see were either in storage or placed at random (like the giant Georgia O'Keeffe painting that used to be have a whole wall to itself in one of the major stairwells is now over an elevator :realmad ). The new modern wing is supposed to open sometime next year, but until then, it's really not worth the price of admission.

#5 LouieB

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:03 PM

LouieB :worship

:lol :lol

I know you didn't read the whole thing......

Okay nothing like responding to my own thread. This is a story about my Chicago, the one I find every day of the week.

Those of you who know me, know my current job takes me to many of the neighborhoods where tourists rarely go. I am always on the look-out for record, book, resale stores or cheap restaurants or other attractions. It makes my Kafkaesque job a bit more enjoyable.

For some reason this week landed me in Chatham, a neighborhood about 8000 south along the Dan Ryan and east over toward the lake. I have never been in that hood much, but I had to visit three daycare centers there. The first was right on the Ryan, so I didn't see much of the neighborhood, but yesterday and today I was on Cottage Grove. Now Chatham is one of the newer African-American neighborhoods, new by decades, not a few years. In other words it is south of "Bronzeville" and south of other parts of the southside that are identified as the original black neighborhoods, but Chatham is a relatively established area of nice small homes, yet a pretty active business district. The last couple days I was around 86th Street.

Yesterday I saw a resale shop down the street and as I am wont to do, I went in to see if I could find old LPs or maybe some old soul or R&B 45s (I don't collect them, but others I know do.) Well they had lots of 45s, but I ended up buying a seven LP set from the Smithsonian of American popular songs of the 20th century for seven bucks. (It was brand new and what it was doing there I could only guess.) The guy told me he had some big band cassettes, but frankly I didn't have the time to look at them (okay this isn't he world's most thrilling story.). On my way out of the neighborhood I decided to check out some of the local BBQ shacks and found a few. I also found a donut place I had seen written up in the Reader called Dat Donut. I gotta tell you this place makes fantastic donuts, which you have to buy through a glassed in counter. I bought half a dozen and ate four before the end of the day. They also make plate sized donuts which are crazy big and good. Dat Donut is at 8251 South Cottage Grove if you someday want to find some of the world's best donuts.

Today I had to go back to the same area and got done early so I figured I would go get some BBQ and some more donuts, which I did. I got the donuts and then went up to 69th Street to Uncle John's Barbeque. All businesses on the Southside seem to have glassed in counters to discourage armed robbery. So I ordered some rib tips and hot links from this place and got my order which was absolutely enough for two or three people for $10. As I was going back to my car I looked down and saw an old broken 45 in the middle of the street right by my car. It was an original Bo Diddley Checker (that was a Chess imprint) 45, broken all to shit sadly. I threw it in the car anyway as a souvenir. It is "Hey Man" backed by"The Clock Strikes Twelve". So soon after Bo's demise, his single lies broken in the middle of 69th street. You gotta wonder how it got there and how long it had been bouncing around the street.

The Que was excellent as I sat by the lake and 63rd street before taking Lake Shore Drive home. with half the food I had eaten and the donuts I was bringing home to fatten the entire clan. (TG is now a vegetarian so she only ate the donuts, but Brother Ray dug the tips and hotlink.) So even after years here I can still find stuff to entertain myself. And I am finding cool shit to do off the beaten track in places I have not yet really expored.

LouieB

#6 WaronWar

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:05 PM

Man, I will read this all later (looks like a lot of great stuff since I skimmed it really quick).

#7 LouieB

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:07 PM

I was at the Art Institute a few weeks ago, and let me reiterate what a mess it is. I was very disappointed. Not only is the modern wing closed, but they've rearranged practically everything else, and quite a few of the pieces I went to see were either in storage or placed at random (like the giant Georgia O'Keeffe painting that used to be have a whole wall to itself in one of the major stairwells is now over an elevator :realmad ). The new modern wing is supposed to open sometime next year, but until then, it's really not worth the price of admission.

yea, I totally concur with this. You don't have to pony up the requested admission price (although they may be not so nice if you don't) and it is free on Tuesday {??..not sure), but the AI is a total mess and you should pass on it this summer. When the modern wing is done, it will be fabulous, but for now, too much is missing or misplaced.

LouieB

#8 OOO

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:29 PM

LouieB, even as a Chicago native I found this a fun read :dancing

The only thing I'll add is that I think if you like going up tall buildings, you should do the John Hancock Building instead of the Sears Tower, and just go up to the "Signature Room", which is free to go to. Its generally pretty crowded, but you can find seats with great views, and order a cocktail or appetizer. (or you can just go up to the top and look around while avoiding the staff) It's just a floor below the Hancock Observatory (which does cost money), so the views are still stunning. The Sears tower Observatory is also not free and I like the Hancock views better.

#9 alison the wilca

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:46 PM

gosh, i have to get out more!

If you are interested at all in old Chicago history that is still visible, this site, http://www.forgottenchicago.com/, is put together by a few young people that are obsessed with that kind of thing. There is a lot of great info explaining everything from Chicago's old address numbering system, old telephone numbers, to old CTA paths. I found it an interesting read, although I've never spotted any old stuff they talk about.

To go along with LB's recommendation to head far south into the old industrial area, I have heard wonderful things about Calumet Fisheries (not far off US41). You will get a fabulous shrimp lunch there, from what I have heard. Yelp.com (one of my favorite resources for finding much loved local food) has two 5 star reviews for it but the food snobs on LTHforum.com (possibly the best online resource for eating out in Chicago) also highly recommend it. I guess it was in the Blues Brother movie, too, if you are interested in Chicago's relation to any number films. I am wanting to visit one of these weekends (if only gas weren't so shockingly pricey).

Like I hinted, I don't get out much so i mostly do a lot of reading about the city. :/

#10 pillowy star

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 01:39 AM

Next time I come to Chicago, it will of course be with my husband, and it will be a first for him. Can we hire you again as a tourguide, Lou :lol? I still have the PM you sent me 4 years ago before my first trip, it's a treasure to hold forever :)

#11 Sunken mountain

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 06:18 AM

Wow, Louie!!! That´s a hard job! Thank you for doing it! :worship
People like you make VC a greatest place ,not only for Wilco fans

First time I come to Chicago,I will PM you,and, if you want,first beer is on me!

#12 LouieB

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 06:40 AM

The only thing I'll add is that I think if you like going up tall buildings, you should do the John Hancock Building instead of the Sears Tower,

I totally concur with this as well. Do the Cock instead....

gosh, i have to get out more!

If you are interested at all in old Chicago history that is still visible, this site, http://www.forgottenchicago.com/, is put together by a few young people that are obsessed with that kind of thing. There is a lot of great info explaining everything from Chicago's old address numbering system, old telephone numbers, to old CTA paths. I found it an interesting read, although I've never spotted any old stuff they talk about.

To go along with LB's recommendation to head far south into the old industrial area, I have heard wonderful things about Calumet Fisheries (not far off US41). You will get a fabulous shrimp lunch there, from what I have heard. Yelp.com (one of my favorite resources for finding much loved local food) has two 5 star reviews for it but the food snobs on LTHforum.com (possibly the best online resource for eating out in Chicago) also highly recommend it. I guess it was in the Blues Brother movie, too, if you are interested in Chicago's relation to any number films. I am wanting to visit one of these weekends (if only gas weren't so shockingly pricey).

Like I hinted, I don't get out much so i mostly do a lot of reading about the city. :/

Thanks for this website. I have recently gotten a digital camera and I am taking pics of some of the cool stuff I see.

Speaking of the Calument Fisheries, I just recently (in the last two weeks) had a shrimp lunch there. It is as good as advertised, but they have something even better (Shrimp are expensive and not native to the midwest) which is their smoked salmon. Calument was closed for a few months when some idiot crashed into the front of their place, but they are reopened. I ate the shrimp and then went back for salmon which I took home. Afterwards I had a chat with the owner who was actually smoking them out on the side in a large smoker. OMG it was great stuff, not cheap, but so good. This is one of the last place of its kind (there was another on North Ave which has been driven out by development-on the North Ave bridge) and there was one on another part of the north branch but I think that also was driven out by development as well. No development on the southeast side. Not yet anyway. Perhaps some day there will be a casino there, which would be about right. The parks on the lake on the southside are pretty amazing too, both Rainbow Beach and the Calument Harbor area.

Hey Allison, get on up and out sometime.....hell I will drive. Recently I have become obsessed with the southeast side. I didn't talk about that much in the main posting, but it is seriously the best place in Chicago to take pictures. I found a really funky old Schlitz bar down there; the same type as Schubas but way way way more beat. I was actually sort of intimidated to go in and since I don't drink that would not have been good (need to go with some drinker and folks who can handle themselves in a tough bar), but I did take pictures. I need to post these up somewhere. I am also taking pics of the storefront churches that abound in Chicago throughout the south and west sides. We may have more churches than anywhere on earth.

LouieB

#13 Happiechick

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 06:50 AM

Lou, excuse my potty mouth, but you are the shit! I owe you a pm.....and love the Evanston ideas!

#14 fatheadfred

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 06:59 AM

Thanx for all that. Will be returning in October for work crap. Didn't get to do much the last time I was there 'cept eat pizza, talk to street folk, and see Wilcos.

#15 LouieB

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 06:59 AM

Lou, excuse my potty mouth, but you are the shit! I owe you a pm.....and love the Evanston ideas!

Evanston is like my second home, the one I couldn't afford. Both my kids were born there and I still like hanging out there. The record stores are some of the best in the area, particularly the one on Dempster. If you like coffee you can have it in probably two dozen places, all good and the bookstores are particularly good, although I still morn the loss of Great Expectations. I am an NU grad of sorts (I went to grad school there) and the drive up along the large houses near the lake is still fun. Drive the entire length of Sheridan Rd up to Lake County someday if you have time. The Bahai Temple is fun too. Evanston has excellent restaurants as well, some like Dave's Italian Kitchen are good and cheap.

Evanston was dry when I got there in the early 70s, since it was home to Womens Christian Temperance Union. It still doesn't have much of a bar scene. For that you had to head to Rogers Park along Howard Street and further south near Loyola. Now you can get drinks however, but still NU students are not big party animals in that respect.

Yea, I can be a shithead too... :lol


LouieB

#16 deepseacatfish

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:07 AM

This thread rocks. Now I have something to read at work today :thumbup

#17 jenbobblehead

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:11 AM

I became obsessed with Chicago before I hooked up with you wilco people, when i read The Devil in the White City. The descriptions of the building of the world's fair intrigued me to no end. Now i look for lots of books on that era of chicago and have been to the city four times, doing architectural tours each time. I am also a fan of the sammiches here: http://www.ricobenesfamoussteaks.com/

#18 Preferred B

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:36 AM

Drive the entire length of Sheridan Rd up to Lake County someday if you have time.

Or take it all the way up to Kenosha! You can visit the Jelly Belly Factory. And my parents. :lol (The city really does have a cute lakefront downtown area nowadays, but you'd pass many others like it on the way.)

Lou, your advice in here is great. I especially love your hints about the little-known places. Growing up an hour or so away from the city, I've done a lot of the main touristy stuff, but am constantly looking for new hole-in-the-wall eateries, shops, and sites to explore when I have the time.

#19 PigSooie

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:43 AM

I became obsessed with Chicago before I hooked up with you wilco people, when i read The Devil in the White City. The descriptions of the building of the world's fair intrigued me to no end. Now i look for lots of books on that era of chicago and have been to the city four times, doing architectural tours each time. I am also a fan of the sammiches here: http://www.ricobenesfamoussteaks.com/



Woah. Those sandwiches sound great.

#20 PopTodd

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 08:55 AM

Woah. Those sandwiches sound great.


They are freaking amazing. Yes.
Although do NOT try to tackle a king-sized sandwich all by yourself. You will be sorry.

And they have great french fries there, too.

I can give you LOTS of great cheap eats places to go, as can all of us Chicago folk. We all have our favorites:
Cafe Colao (Humbolt Park)
Irazú (West Bucktown)
Villa Palermo (West Rogers Park) -- try the Chicken Vesuvio

And, no trip to Chicago would be complete without a trip to
The Weiner Circle (Lincoln Park)
Check it out




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