Chicago Neighborhood Guide: Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park really does have it all. Plenty of unique boutique shops, restaurants galore, a thriving nightlife, miles of park along Lake Michigan, North Ave Beach, Lincoln Park Zoo, a Nature Museum and more. It’s why we offer a Free 2 hour Guided Tour of Lincoln Park.

The easy part is deciding to visit Lincoln Park. The hard part is deciding on how long to stay and what exactly you should do. Let’s assume you have 1 full day to spend in Lincoln Park, here is what you should do.

Breakfast or Brunch?

breakfastLP

Orange Contemporary Brunch

First things first you’re going to need to get come food in your belly because you have a big day planned. If you’re visiting on a weekday we suggest stopping Orange Contemporary Brunch (2413 N Clark St) which is open everyday of the week at 8am. Make sure to try their orange peel coffee and a pancake flight. If you’re visiting on the weekends and want to try a special menu for brunch stop by Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (2024 N Halsted St) which serves a Spanish-inspired sweet and savory brunch menu starting at 9am on Saturday and Sunday. Our favorite is the Breakfast Paella which serves 2-3 people.

Get your shop on.

Regardless of where you fill up to start the day you’re next stop is going to be the Chicago Landmark Armitage-Halsted District. This is the center of the main shopping corridor in Lincoln Park. If you find yourself on Clark Street for breakfast make sure to stop in Aaron’s Apothecary (2338 N Clark St) and check out their fantastic selection of high-end candles & skin care. Estheticians are waiting to help you with any questions and make sure you leave with the right product.

Once you’re at the intersection of Armitage & Halsted you’re just a short walk to many of our favorite shops. Just west on Armitage is a great little stationary and gift shop – All She Wrote (825 W Armitage Ave). Just north on Halsted is a very unique place specializing in one-of-a-kind fragrances. Aroma Workshop (2050 N. Halstead Street) offers their guests an opportunity to create their very own fragrance with workshops and classes. Check their schedule and make an appointment or walk-in and see how it works. Continuing up Halsted you will not only be walking along one of Chicago’s most beautiful retail streets but you will come across a wide variety of shops as well. Groshek Art Gallery (2136 N Halsted St), Read It & Eat (2142 N Halsted St), & Calvin Tran (2154 N Halsted St) all line the west side of the street.

But don’t just take our word for it, explore the area on foot and pop into all the wonderful shops that line the streets. Soon you will have worked up a hunger and if you’re still in the Armitage-Halsted District then you’re going to have lots of options.

Lunch in Lincoln Park

Butcher & The Burger

Butcher & The Burger

Let’s assume that you’re still in the vicinity, here are the best walkable options.

Cheaper/Fast Eats

Affordable Sit Down

  • Pasta Palazzo – Handmade pastas and tasty sangria – need we say more?
  • Athenian Room – Greek sit down with a patio and BYOB policy.

Mid-Range

  • Summer House Santa Monica – This LEYE takes you to California ..in Lincoln Park.
  • Chez Moi – Serving French classics in a casual atmosphere with outdoor seating.

Mid Afternoon in Lincoln Park

Are you full? We hope so. Time work off some of those calories you ate and probably drank. And luckily there is just the activity to do that. Free Chicago Walking Tours has a Lincoln Park tour at 2pm that will start near the intersection of Armitage & Halsted. This is the perfect way to really see Lincoln Park.

Your guide will share with you the history of Chicago & Lincoln Park while winding your way way east through one of the most beautiful residential neighborhoods in Chicago and concluding the tour with a stroll through the Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool and leaving you just steps from the Lincoln Park Conservatory & Lincoln Park Zoo – both free!

From there you will not want to miss grabbing a drink, and maybe an appetizer, at one of Chicago’s best rooftop bars – The J. Parker. Opening their doors at 5pm during the week and 11:30am on the weekends this place is a DO NOT MISS when the sky is clear. Enjoy amazing views of Lincoln Park and the Chicago skyline from the north – a perspective you do not get with rooftops in the Loop and River North.

After a couple of drinks it’s time to head back to your hotel and get ready for the night. There is still a lot of left to do.

Dinner

Pizza

  • Pequods – Our favorite deep dish pizza. If you haven’t had deep dish and you want to then go here. Please.
  • Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co – Unique potpie-style pizzas served upside down. Always a wait so you know it’s good.

Lincoln Park Specialties

  • Twin Anchors – The best ribs in Chicago. No reservations, expect to wait.
  • The Barrelhouse Flat – Arguable the best bar in Lincoln Park with a small dinner menu. Make sure you visit their upstairs.
  • Social Table – Learn how to cook and meet others at this communal dining spot in Lincoln Park.

Our Favorites for Special Occassion

  • Riccardo Trattoria – delicious regional Italian cuisine in an intimate setting.
  • Intro – the hottest chef’s rotate every 3 months making sure your dinners are never the same.
  • North Pond – Michelin-starred with romantic setting overlooking the Chicago skyline.

And finally, after your dinner it’s time for dancing. And there is no single place we’d rather get our groove on than the world famous blues club Kingston Mines (2548 N Halsted St). This place opens at 7pm every single day (and has for 40+ year) and goes until 4am. Cover to get in is $12 during the week and $15 on the weekend – but is well worth the price. The music is unbelievable. The musicians are the most talented blues musicians in the city. We absolutely love this place.

 

Best Chicago Speakeasies

Everyone likes to be in on a secret. It’s an exhilarating feeling – you’re special, knowing something your coworkers, family or friends don’t. It’s even more exciting knowing a city’s secrets, and trust us when we say Chicago has plenty. Our Free Chicago Walking Tours are loaded with them. When most people think of a night out in Chicago they think of well known areas like River North and Gold Coast–perfectly fine choices no doubt, but what they don’t know is that Chicago has some of the best hidden bars in the country. You can find speakeasies in the strangest locations throughout the city. It’s also a great way to explore new neighborhoods in Chicago. Keep reading to see which bars you cannot miss out on while in Chicago!

Violet Hour

1520 N. Damen, Chicago, IL (Wicker Park)

original_TVH_JohnHerndon__CassandraStadnicki

Source: The Violet Hour

Perhaps one of the most famous bars in the city, The Violet Hour may also be one of the classiest. Located in the bumping and trendy Wicker Park neighborhood, The Violet Hour will make you feel like one of Chicago’s elite. The Violet Hour has no door, sign or light. If you’re not careful you will walk right past the door which is typically painted over and a part of a larger mural that covers then entire front of the building. After ten minutes a bouncer will take you into a waiting room– a sign that you’re in. You must adhere to the strict dress code, never order anything that you’d drink at a frat party and refrain from using your phone.

What you need to know: No reservations. No use of cell phones inside. No baseball hats. No reservations, first come first serve. No ‘O’ bombs or jaeger bombs or any kind of bombs. No Budweiser.

What you need to try: Frites and aioli for a snack and wash it down with their version of a Manhattan – appropriately called Brooklyn.

 

Booze Box

823 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL (West Loop)

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Source:Sushi Dokku

Many people have heard of the restaurant Sushi Dokku in West Loop. It’s located in the arguably the hottest restaurant “district” in Chicago today. Sushi Dokku has neighbors with names such as Au Cheval, the Girl and the Goat and The Publican. Randolph Street is a gem amongst the restaurant and bar world of Chicago. But we digress. We’re talking about Booze Box here, the bar in the basement of Sushi Dokku that many that have dined there don’t know about. You have to walk 10 yards south to an alley behind Sushi Dokku where you will see a lonely bright red sign– the entrance to Booze Box. The atmosphere and what they are serving is just as unique as their entrance. Japanese street food, cold draft sake and a rotation of DJs spinning next to the guests at the bar all make a visit here worthwhile.

What you need to know: Booze Box is open only on the weekends – Thursday, Friday & Saturday – starting at 6pm.

What you need to try: Chill Gin Mojito

East Room

2354 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL (Logan Square)

eastroom

Source: Yelp

To be fair– East Room isn’t a speakeasy all the time. They open their doors to the main street when there is a special event or concert, but all other days you can only get in through the back door. The first time we went there it took us 20 minutes to find the place. Your phone will be telling you you’re standing right in front of it but you won’t see a soul near you. Everyone will be across the street at all the other bars lined up pretty in a row. But don’t give up! Just walk to the back alley until you see a strong looking man leaned up to the wall. He is your way into the second floor– a mix of cheap drinks, good music and wooden benches for good conversation.

What you need to know: Cash only! So, you know…bring cash or someone that has cash.

What you need to try: BYO-Vinyl. Yes, Bring Your Own Vinyl, as in records – East Chicago crowd-sources their music on Mondays.

 

3 Dots and a Dash

435 N Clark St, Chicago, IL (River North)

threedots

Source: Facebook

Consider this a new-age speakeasy. A new-age tiki-lounge-inspired speakeasy. This place is far from your traditional prohibition-era underground hush hush place. It’s still more well known than the other bars, but 3 Dots and a Dash is one of the funnest speakeasies in town. It boasts a Polynesian type theme complete with mini umbrellas in the drinks and almost any type of rum you could possibly dream of. You’ll often see large 21st birthday parties, bachelorette parties and groups of bar crawlers. This is a great speakeasy to have a drink at before hitting the clubs in the area.

What you need to know: It’s tricky to find. Walk up Clark St, then head east on Hubbard and go north up the alley. On your left (west) will be a small hanging sign that says “3 Dots and a Dash” – congratulations, you have arrived.

What you need to try: For those in a large group or with plenty of disposable income – or both, you definitely should order the “Treasure Chest” – a $400 cocktail that is served in a actual treasure chest on bamboo shoots carried in by a couple of waiters. Smoke (dry ice) billows out, the drink is lit up and the waiter pops a bottle of Dom Perignon and pours it into the concoction. Everyone at the table gets a giant straw and has at it.

Door No. 3

1572 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL (Wicker Park)

door3

Source: Facebook

Another speakeasy located in Wicker Park, Door No. 3 puts you in the mood with a secret entrance in the alley behind the Damen Blue Line stop. What makes Door No. 3 special is the live music. The DJs are skilled spinners that know how to keep people dancing and keep the party going. The interior isn’t shabby either with sexy leather furniture and blue lighting perfect for a chill, relaxed date night. It is also a go to destination to kick off a night of bar hopping in Wicker Park.

What you need to know: There is no food served here. They have a small vending machine   in the corner to satisfy your hunger. They aren’t known for any fancy cocktails either. Hipster beers like PBR and Tecate are available as well as your traditional mixed drinks.

 

Room 13

3222 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL (Lakeview/Wrigleyville)

room13

Source: Old Chicago Inn

No questions about this one – Room 13 is definitely a speakeasy. Or maybe it should be a “speak hard” because it’s not easy to get into. Get it? Ha.

Located a half a mile south of Wrigley field like many speakeasies Room 13 is a part of another business: The Old Chicago Inn Bed & Breakfast. This place has all the markings of a speakeasy. Garden unit, check. Classic American cocktails, check. Dress code, check. Oh, and you seriously need to work to get in.

There are 3 options and only 3 options to get into this place:

  1. Stay at the Inn and you will receive an invite
  2. Buy a membership (aka become a member)
  3. Be a guest of a member

Mic drop. That’s it. If you are not fitting into one of those buckets you will not get in.

What you need to know: This place is seriously awesome.

What you need to try: Their cocktail flight. Reserved exclusively for guests of the Inn simply add the “Speakeasy Flight” to your reservation and you will receive a flight of 4 cocktails while the bartender explains the history of each drink. Cost is $55 for two people.

The Office

955 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL (West Loop)

office

Source: Yelp

Ah yes, The Office. This will be sort of a good news – bad news situation. Let’s start with the bad news. This is another really tough one to get into. The good news? It’s underneath one of our favorite bars in the city which you can get into (if you have a reservation): The Aviary.

The Office is a 14-seat VIP speakeasy located beneath The Aviary. The bar features drinks and food that you will not find on The Aviary’s menu. If you’re a commoner just having drinks and food upstairs you might notice people going in and out of The Office and wonder – how do I get in? Well…you need to be invited. The staff at The Aviary invite guests to The Office. That’s it. Good luck!

What you need to know: If you have made it inside The Office and have to use the bathroom you’ll take a key from the bar, use the “commoners” restroom and get back inside The Office using the key.  And it’s not exactly cheap either. $20+ cocktails, $30+ appetizers, Make sure you bring your wallet!

What you need to try: The level of attention you receive from the staff and bartenders is incredible here. Instead of ordering off the menu tell the bartender your favorite spirit and let them come up with something that will impress. And if you’re in mood the mood for desert order their ice cream sundae. OMG.

If you have the time give all of these spots a try while visiting. And let us know in the comment section how the night went. We look forward to hearing from you!

Chicago Neighborhood Guide: Andersonville

Getting to Andersonville

Andersonville is one of Chicago’s great neighborhoods.  Located on Chicago’s far north side, it is easily accessible by public transportation.  Using the city’s “L” train, take the Red Line to the Berwyn stop or the Bryn Mawr stop.  From either stop, it’s just a 10-minute walk west to downtown Andersonville.   You can also catch the #22 city bus, disembarking at any of the stops along Clark Street, between Foster Avenue, which borders Andersonville on its south end, and Edgewater Avenue, which borders Andersonville to the north.

If the weather cooperates, you can get around by bicycle.  Consider taking advantage of Divvy, Chicago’s bike share system.  There’s a station conveniently located at the intersection of Clark St. and Bryn Mawr Ave.  But don’t worry—When the weather isn’t bike-friendly, cabs are always plentiful.

Andersonville History

Andersonville dates back to the 1850s, when it was settled by Swedish immigrants.  There are still plenty of signs of Andersonville’s Swedish heritage.  Andersonville celebrates its Swedish roots with Midsommarfest, an annual summer street festival.  The south end of Andersonville is anchored by The Swedish American Museum and features several businesses with Swedish roots, like Svea Restaurant and The Swedish Bakery.  The Swedish Bakery makes some of the best pastries in the city, including an assortment of Swedish pastries.  Be warned that The Swedish Bakery is closed on Sundays!

Andersonville is home to one of the largest LGBT populations in Chicago.  It boasts several gay bars, including @mosphere, The Call, and Mary’s Attic.

Andersonville in 1 Day

If you only have one day to spend in Andersonville, consider these suggestions, all of which are located along Clark Street, Andersonville’s main drag.

Start your day on the north end of Andersonville, with breakfast at m. henry (5707 N. Clark St.).  This breakfast, lunch, and brunch spot is insanely popular.  If you want to enjoy a classic weekend brunch, arrive very early or face a 90-minute wait.

After breakfast, enjoy Andersonville’s shopping scene, which is refreshingly void of any big chain stores.  Just north of m. henry, you’ll find Gethsemane Garden Center (5739 N. Clark St.). Even if you’re not into gardening, you’ll enjoy its Wild Pansy Gift Shop.

andersonvilleshopping

Moving southwards on Clark Street, you’ll find a dizzying array of independently-owned home furnishings and antique shops, like Roost (5634 N. Clark St.) and Room Service (5438 N. Clark St.).  You’ll also find fabulous gourmet food and wine shops, like City Olive (5644 N. Clark St.) and In Fine Spirits (5418 N. Clark St.).  Fans of Italian food will enjoy Piatto Pronto (5624 N. Clark St), a grocery and deli carrying Italian imports and the biggest, most delicious, and best-priced deli sandwiches in the city.

If you’re in the mood for a sit-down lunch, stop by Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St.) for U.S. coastal southern cuisine. Start with a Pickle Tasting (a sampling of homemade pickles and home-baked Sally Lunn bread) and an order of fried green tomatoes.  For your main course, enjoy Big Jones’ award-winning fried chicken or an order of shrimp and grits.  Lunch is available Monday-Friday only.  If you come on a weekend, enjoy a Big Jones brunch from 9.am. – 3 p.m.

After lunch, enjoy a mani/pedi at 2×10 Nails (5414 N. Clark St.).  If that’s not your thing, while away the afternoon browsing more of Andersonville’s locally-owned shops.  Vinyl lovers will appreciate Borderline Music (5351 N. Clark St.).  Book lovers will enjoy Women & Children First, an independently-owned bookshop (5233 N. Clark St.) specializing in feminist and children’s books.  This shop is a gem if you’re looking for a gift, but aren’t sure what to buy.  Their sales staff makes excellent suggestions and complimentary gift-wrapping is offered.

No trip to Andersonville would be complete without a trip to Andersonville Galleria (5247 N. Clark St.), a retail building that houses 90+ tenants.  Its tenants are local artists and entrepreneurs, selling everything from jewelry, gourmet treats, unique homemade gifts, and more!

Care for a cocktail before dinner? Stop by Marty’s Martini Bar (1511 W. Balmoral Ave., just one block west of Clark St.) for an expertly-made cocktail.  Warning: Marty’s is small and extremely popular, so arrive early!

Andersonville has an enticing array of restaurant options.  For an upscale dinner that isn’t at all stuffy, choose Anteprima (5316 N. Clark St.).  Anteprima services seasonal Italian cuisine, complemented by a full bar.  The dinner menu features standouts like Arneis Braised Rabbit and Grilled Lamb Leg.  Anteprima emphasizes fresh, seasonal ingredients, so the menu changes often.

Free Chicago Walking Tours Andersonville Food

For a more casual dinner option, choose Jerry’s Sandwiches (5419 N. Clark St.)  Jerry’s Sandwiches features 100+ sandwich options and offers even more craft beer choices, many of which are made right in Chicago.

After dinner, head over to Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark St.), which is the 2nd floor of Hamburger Mary’s Restaurant. Mary’s Attic is a bar featuring an ever-changing menu of entertainment options, like live bands and MaryOke (karaoke).  Straight people are welcome at this establishment/gay bar.  Or if you’re in the mood for comedy, check out The pH Comedy Theater (1515 W. Berwyn, one block west of Clark St.).  This comedy theater offers a wide variety of comedy shows…improv, standup, sketch, and musical.  Its shows come “For the Family,” “PG13,” or “Adults Only.”  Check out their website www.whatisph.com for a schedule.

Andersonville…a fabulous neighborhood with something for everyone!

Great Chicago Date Nights that are NOT Dinner and a Movie

We don’t have anything against dinner and a movie. It’s a tried and true date night. But when there is so much more that you could do in a place like Chicago why settle? Whether this is your first trip to Chicago and you’re scoping out the Tinder scene or you have been married for 30 years these date ideas will help you step out of the box and create an unforgettable day.

Second City Chicago

One of our favorites. If you like to laugh – and you think that your partner will too – then this is for you. There are all different kinds of shows at Second City. From improv to standup to productions You will want to check their calendar and book your tickets in advance, especially if you plan on taking in a show on the weekends as this place will sell out.

Bar:  Good news the venue is located in the heart of Old Town that has no shortage of options to grab a before or after show drink(s). We recommend checking out the Old Town  Pour House with one of Chicago’s largest beer selections only a 5 minute walk from the stage.

Adler Planetarium

planetarium

We love this because it will give both of you the chance to walk around (which encourages conversation) and the sights themselves will be the topics of those aforementioned conversations. Plus you will get a chance to lay out on your backs and watch the stars. All this for $12 with their general admission, not bad at all. (Tickets can be much more expensive once you start tacking on shows and what not)

Bar: The Adler Planetarium is located on Chicago’s Museum Campus with it’s neighbors the Shedd Aquarium and Chicago Field Museum. The point we’re trying to make is there aren’t many good bar options within walking distance. If you are a rockstar and plan your date accordingly you could attend Adler After Dark and have your cocktails there. For those of us not as skilled in the craft of extreme planning pop into the Palmer House and visit their Lobby Bar at one of Chicago’s most famous hotels.

Kayaking

It’s probably not the activity that comes to mind when someone says “Chicago” – but when it’s summertime here in the Windy City taking an architectural kayaking tour along the Chicago River will be tough to beat. There are a handful of different tour companies operating in Chicago with slightly different itineraries. You can even rent kayaks and give your date a special one-on-one tour. And if kayaking isn’t quite your thing you can always opt for stand up paddle boards.

Bar: This one is a little tricky since you might be entering or exiting the river at different points. We certainly don’t recommend you pound drinks before getting in a kayak -so please, save these for after. One of our favorite spots that will give you views of the river, skyline and Lake Michigan is the Terrace at Trump Tower. Just be ready, this isn’t the cheapest spot – cocktails will set you back $20+ per. YOLO.

Adult Arcade

If you haven’t heard of these beer-serving, 21-and-older-to-enter, throwback arcades that are popping up in cities across America well then you are welcome. A favorite of ours also happens to be in our of our favorite neighborhoods of all time. Emporium Arcade Bar in Wicker Park.  TMNT – check. NBA Jam – check. Live music – check, although – check their schedule because it’s not every night.  And even better news too – most of the music events are FREE.

Bar: Hmmm. How do we handle this one? Technically Emporium Arcade Bar IS A BAR. If you think that you might need a bit of liquid courage before taking your date on in Mortal Kombat then you’re in luck. Up and down Milwaukee Avenue, Division and North Avenue are dozens and dozens of bars. Good luck making it into the arcade and not just bar hopping in this part of town.

Lincoln Park Zoo and/or Conservatory

Lincoln_park_conservatory

We sort of have you covered both summer and winter with this one. If you come in the summer, great – take a stroll through the park, the zoo and the conservatory. We call that the Trifecta. Here in the colder months? That’s OK too – a stroll through the conservatory is even more impressive this time of the year. Especially if you catch their seasonal decor before it’s taken down the first week of January.  Regardless there will not be a shortage of things to look at and do. You will be impressed with how quickly you escape the hustle and bustle of the city here.

Bar: So many great options here. The Barrelhouse Flat gets high marks for their unique cocktails and romantic setting. You can’t get more cozy than Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Company (good luck getting a seat though). And for those interested in a really late night cocktail Ravens is open until 4am on most nights.

Now that you know what date nights we like, what was your best date in Chicago?