So you’re visiting Chicago?

People are always asking “what should we do when we visit Chicago?” Well, it’s hard to know exactly, everyone’s different. Here are some of my favorite things. This map includes local history spots, museums, landmarks and tourist attractions, things to do and see, activities, food, drinks, and of course yummy treats. The icons are all clickable and include URLs so you can visit the websites to plan out your trip based on exactly what you like and want to see.

The Berghoff, Chicago

Why have I lived in Chicago for two years and not been to The Berghoff till yesterday?


I knew it was old and cool, but the website is confusing. It was closed, then it was reopened, the concept seemed different. I dunno, I just didn’t. But we like to go out after work so I’m always looking for cool old places. I saw that The Berghoff was having a Flights and Bites event last night, and it was only $15 per person, so I got us some tickets. I don’t see another one scheduled anytime soon, but they do have lots of other events.

ANYHOW, we went and it was fab. The bar and the whole restaurant, in fact, IS old and cool.

berghoff bar, chicago

The Berghoff started during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Mr. Berghoff couldn’t afford a booth at the fair, so he sold his beer outside the gates. He opened the bar (saloon) in 1898 as a men-only place where he gave out corned beef sandwiches with the purchase of a stein of beer. Later the restaurant opened. But the bar stayed men only till 1969. 1969!!! This place is soooooo cool, that after prohibition, they got liquor license #1 from the city.

berghoff chicago liquor license #1

We got all this info along with  beer and food tastings. It was tasty and fun!

flights and bites, at the berghoff in chicago

One of the original murals in the dining room is a painting from The Worlds Fair.

berghoff worlds fair mural

After the tasting we went to the bar to eat and drink more. They have a seasonal “Stock” beer right now that was super good.

berghoff seasonal beer, stock

And some delicious potato croquettes.

potato croquettes from berghoff in chicago

The Berghoff is located at 17 W Adams St, Chicago, IL 60603. So if you’re just visiting, and especially if you live here, be sure to go!  They serve  lunch in a downstairs cafe from 11-2 Monday thru Friday, and a more substantial lunch and dinner in the bar and dining room from 11:00- 9:00 Monday thru Saturday. Closed Sundays.

Please take my money

Attended a beautiful farmers market last week in Chicago’s Daley Plaza and bought a bunch of great stuff that we grilled that night on our patio. The array of vegetables and other treats available at this market was impressive.

Only a few of the merchants accepted credit or debit cards, though, which means we couldn’t give our money to a lot of earnest farmers who had such excellent produce for sale. Lucky for us, there were some earnest farmers with equally excellent produce who also lived in the 21st century and were able to take our money for their goods. Commerce!

Yes, the merchants who didn’t accept plastic avoided a small transaction fee, but they also avoided an entire sale (and judging by the number of people using credit or debit cards at this market, they avoided a lot of sales).

For people who are more visual, here’s a chart illustrating the percentage of money we spent at merchants who accepted our cards compared with merchants who didn’t.

One hundred percent of the money we spent at the Daley Plaza farmers market went to merchants who accepted credit/debit cards. Merchants who accepted cash only (or checks!) earned zero of our dollars.

One hundred percent of the money we spent at the Daley Plaza farmers market went to merchants who accepted credit/debit cards. Merchants who accepted cash only (or checks!) earned zero of our dollars.

This topic has come up before, of course, with Kimball’s Peak Three Theater in downtown Colorado Springs. A few years ago, a theater rep snidely told us and the Colorado Springs Independent that “cash is king.” But it looks like cash has been dethroned, since Kimball’s now takes credit cards. Welcome to the future, Kimball’s!

Where can I watch The Blackhawks in Chicago?

Everybody loves the Blackhawks! You can go watch them live at the United Center if you can get tickets. Or watch them on TV with a bunch of other fans at one of these Official Blackhawks Bars.  Official Blackhawks Bars play the game on most or all of their TVs and there’s sound- other games on other TVs are muted. Also, they have the spinning red light and play the Chelsea Dagger  song when the Hawks score, which is fun. These are some of my faves: Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Old Town:

  • Butch McGuires. Bonus points if you go near Christmas for an out of control decoration situation.
  • The Lodge: Super low key, oldey timey and retro- one of the oldest bars in Chicago! Also, kinda lodgey.
  • The Snuggery: Ok, I’ve never been here but I like the name. Who doesn’t like to snuggle while watching sports and drinking beer?

Lincoln Park: 

  • Beer Bistro: Tons of different beers here and good food, too.
  • Crossroads Public House: This is where we celebrated the 2013 Stanley Cup Victory
  • Michael Diversey: Very lively, full to brimming with Bros and Trixies- but still, it’s our go to Blackhawks Bar, plus they have good food

River North:

If none of these appeal to you, you don’t HAVE to go to an official bar, pretty much any bar with a TV in Chicago will be playing Hawks games, or will put them on if you ask. Also! If you’re really a Blackhawks fan, be sure to go have a meal at The Palace Grill. Not only is it a neat old vintage diner, but it’s by The United Center and packed with Hawks stuff. Rumor has it that the players themselves stop in from time to time, too. Fun!

How I decide where to go for Chicago Restaurant Week (2014)

I love Chicago Restaurant Week! This year it’s actually two weeks and takes place from January 24th to February 6th. Last year we went to Kinzie Chophouse and Bistrot Zinc. Both were very enjoyable. We rarely go to steakhouses or French restaurants because they tend to be pricey, and we’re not rich. So Restaurant Week is a great time to hit them up. If you haven’t heard of Restaurant Week, it’s a week (two this year!) when all the fancy restaurants in town do special prix fixe menus for $22 for lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner.

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

I want to be adventurous, and I know I should be, but I don’t really like weird trendy food like kale and duck confit. But I also don’t like boring things like roast chicken. I appreciate a good beef dish and vegetarian dishes and Italian places, too. So this year maybe along with the steakhouse and French, we’ll go to a third, possibly more unusual spot. And, unless it’s something ridiculously fabulous, we stick to the $22 lunches and $33 dinners- another way I choose is to check out their regular menus and see if the places are a really good deal during Restaurant Week or if you can get basically the same thing any time.

So, based on all that, here are the contenders:

French: Bistro Voltaire, Mon Ami Gabi

Steakhouse: David Burke’s Primehouse, Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Italian: Riccardo Trattoria, Piccolo Sogno

Other: The Refinery, Two

Where else should I absolutely not miss? Where are you going to go?