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LouieB

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

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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

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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.

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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. :/

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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 :)

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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

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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.

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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

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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/

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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.

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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.

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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)

Iraz

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For hotels in Chicago...

 

If you are going to be up near Lincoln Park I recommend the Days Inn Lincoln Park. It's pretty secure, they have a good breakfast, an internet computer in the lobby, and you have to use your room key to get into the elevator :) The rooms are clean and pretty good size, and I think there was a fridge in our room which is always handy.

 

If you are going to stay downtown check out Hotels.com

Three Dollars and I got a room using that and we saved tons of money plus the hotel was 4 star and right on the river. We were able to walk all over, and the free trolley stopped right outside the hotel. Sorry, it was the Hyatt. Pretty nice place to stay. The funny thing was when we checked in the lady asked if we wanted to upgrade to a room with 'a view' for $20 more. And we were like..nooo we won't be here long enough anyway. But we got up to our room and had an AMAZING view. I took a ton of photos of it and I think Three Dollars did as well. Everything about the room was top notch and I was even able to check my bag for free the next day after we checked out so that I could walk around town before catching the train home :)

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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.

 

Oh good! I felt a little weird recommending a place I've never eaten at, so I'm glad you can back it up. I want to do a trip to SW Michigan (I love Michigan) along US41/12 all the way and stop at the Fisheries, the Dunes, etc. I was actually down in Chicago's "East Side" neighborhood recently (most Chicagoans will say there is no east side, but there is! It is the neighborhood name for the little piece of the city that juts east and borders IN). It is extremely depressed since there are long standing factories shutting down all the time, but you can also see the soul of the working-class people trying to survive. I agree that there are some incredible things to see down there.

 

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.

I think I saw a recent article (chicago tribune sunday magazine, maybe?) about all the storefront churches. There really are an infinite number of them!

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louieb, this is F A N T A S T I C ! i feel like hopping on the train this minute and losing myself in chicago.

it's great reading anyhow because you just have a way, and your outlook sparks out all over the place.

thanks a lot.

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Oh good! I felt a little weird recommending a place I've never eaten at, so I'm glad you can back it up. I want to do a trip to SW Michigan (I love Michigan) along US41/12 all the way and stop at the Fisheries, the Dunes, etc. I was actually down in Chicago's "East Side" neighborhood recently (most Chicagoans will say there is no east side, but there is! It is the neighborhood name for the little piece of the city that juts east and borders IN). It is extremely depressed since there are long standing factories shutting down all the time, but you can also see the soul of the working-class people trying to survive. I agree that there are some incredible things to see down there.

 

 

I think I saw a recent article (chicago tribune sunday magazine, maybe?) about all the storefront churches. There really are an infinite number of them!

Yea, the storefront church thing is not something very original I admit. There truly are an infinite number. Although I am sure there are other such institutions in other cities, somehow Chicago has really developed them into some sort of an oddball art form. Because of my job I have actually visited several and if they appear interesting from the outside, I bet the actual church services are really really interesting. I have to go spend a bunch of time in one called Bibleway down around 45th and Ashland sometime next week.

 

This is true some Chicagoans, only ones that are not really from Chicago, will tell you there is no southeast side, but clearly there is. People believe this because there is no east side on the northside so how could there be one on somewhere else. It certainly is depressed. The guy from the Fisheries kept saying to me "Tell your friends to come on down," and talked about how there used to be Jews down there that bought smoked salmon and such by the load. I just kept thinking three things, one it is a long way to go for smoked fish, two that there were some really nice houses down there that I bet are dirt cheap, and three that it is just a matter of time before the place looks like Wicker Park. (Incidentally the Vrdoliak Law Firm is down there as well...) This place is on the lake and it is just a matter of time before some developers figure out it is a pretty nice place, if cleaned up a bit, since it is right on the southshore railroad line (well sort of.) and the developers are going to run out of other places to tear down and put up new condos.

 

LouieB

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