Welcome to Chicago for the 2017 NHL Draft

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So you’re coming to Chicago for the 2017 NHL Draft – welcome to the Windy City! Chicago is a city for sports fans, and be you a fan, sportswriter, or potential draftee, there’s plenty to see and do in Chicago beyond enjoying all that the NHL Draft has to offer around the United Center this weekend.


What to know about the United Center / NHL Draft

United Center: 1901 W. Madison

Draft times: Friday – Round 1, 6 p.m.; Saturday – Rounds 2-7, starting at 9 a.m.

Tickets: $10/day via Ticketmaster (Friday night sold out) – children under 36 inches in height do not need a ticket to attend the Draft.

How to get there: CTA bus line #20 – Madison; Blue line L (Illinois Medical District stop); Green line L (Ashland stop). Check out the CTA website for system maps and a travel time calculator. Parking for the event is $10/day; UC parking lots open at 2 p.m. on Friday, and 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Team stores: There’s a brand-new Madhouse Team Store at the UC that is open daily, or visit their store at 333 N. Michigan Ave. in the Loop/Mag Mile area.

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Fan Fest: The “Centennial Fan Arena” held in parking lot “C” (directly north of the UC on Madison Ave.) will give fans the opportunity to tour the Museum and video trucks, try out the Clear The Ice Zamboni VR Experience, get a picture with the Stanley Cup, and for youth hockey players to engage in clinics and games on a ball hockey pop-up rink. Other fan opportunities are available within the Atrium in the United Center. There will also be an Instant Prize Tower where you can scan your Fan Fest pass to see if you are an instant winner of NHL and Blackhawks swag. The Fan Fest will take place rain or shine.

  • Friday – 3 p.m. to 9 pm. (doors to UC open at 4 p.m.; Draft begins 6 p.m.)

Stanley Cup photo opportunity – 3 p.m. to 8 p.m

The band Neon Trees will play at 5 p.m.

  • Saturday – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (doors to UC open at 7 a.m.; Draft begins 9 a.m.)

Stanley Cup photo opportunity – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Blackhawks past/present players/staff who will be attending the Fan Fest are Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brian Campbell, Tony Esposito, Denis Savard, Eric Daze, Colin Fraser, Adam Burish, Chris Chelios, Pat Foley, John Wiedeman, Troy Murray and Jim Cornelison. (Subject to change.) Fans must activate their Fan Fest passes at draftfanfest.com in order to be eligible for limited photo and autograph opportunities.


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Beyond the United Center – Exploring Chicago

Of course, there are plenty of attractions to see around Chicago: starting with Cloud Gate – or as it’s more commonly called, ‘The Bean’ – and Millennium Park; the Art Institute; Navy Pier; etc. Get your stomach-dropping views of the Chicago skyline at Willis Tower’s Skydeck with its glass Ledges, or the Hancock’s 360Chicago.

Jump on a Divvy bike and explore the lakefront trail or The 606 (Chicago’s version of NYC’s High Line). Grab a CTA bus or the “L” trains to explore Chicago’s neighborhoods. Get your suntan on at one of Chicago’s many beaches. (North Avenue Beach is a local favorite for its movie-iconic views of Chicago’s skyline, and the rooftop bar at the beach house.)

Attempt to get a ticket for Hamilton (good luck), or catch some comedy at Second City or the IO. Peruse The Reader online or in print for the latest entertainment listings.


Where to Dine – Close to the United Center

West Randolph Street between N. Halstead and N. Ogden is known as “Restaurant Row” for the many, many restaurants that line the dozen or so blocks – not to mention that there’s a lot of great places just off Randolph. It’s within easy walking distance of the UC.

Kaiser Tiger – their slogan is “Sausage, Bacon, & Beer” – really, need I say more? Great beer garden (includes bocce ball, ping pong, and bags); open for lunch.
Green Street Smoked Meats – best BBQ in town.
Parlor Pizza Bar – wood oven pizzas and great patios (has a 2nd location in Wicker Park)
Grange Hall Burger Bar – fantastic farm-to-table burgers
Little Goat Diner, Duck Duck Goat, and The Girl & the Goat – this trio of Stephanie Izard restaurants are all fantastic. Little Goat is more casual; G&G upscale; DDG is Chinese.
Au Cheval – known on local ‘Best of…’ polls for their burgers
Momotaro – named one of the best ‘modern Japanese’ restaurants in the US
The Publican – casual lunch spot with fresh cut, quality meats
Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken – fancy and classic doughnut flavors (and obviously, chicken)
Bottom Lounge – solid American food and a performance venue
Wishbone – casual American dining

Off the general Randolph Street area, but still relatively close to the UC:

Twisted Spoke – they bill themselves as a “family friendly biker bar”. Great burgers/sandwiches, and if whiskey, bourbon, and scotch are your thing, it’s hard to beat their selection. Roof deck is wonderful in good weather!
La Scarola – cozy Italian fare
The Dawson – great patio, and modern American fare.

If you’re that anxious to try Shake Shack, there’s several around town, including a West Loop location.


Where to Dine – elsewhere in town 

As most people in town for the NHL Draft are probably staying somewhere in the general downtown area, I’m going to highlight a few places in the general downtown area or easily accessible via the L (line/stop noted).

Petterino’s – excellent, old school American classics in an atmosphere where you might expect to see The Godfather in the next booth over. (Loop)
RPM Italian – upscale modern Italian
El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria – Mexican with a sense of humor (River North)
Primehouse – best steaks in Chicago. (River North/Mag Mile)
The Kerryman –  Authentic Irish food, nice patio. (River North)
Chop Shop & 1st Ward – as the name implies, great meat. Thumbs up for brunch. (Wicker Park. Blue line to Damen)
Big Star – “Tacos, whiskey, and honky tonk”. Awesome tacos and super patio. (Also super busy on weekends.) (Wicker Park. Blue line to Damen.)
Lowcountry – Very casual seafood joint based on the idea of Southern fish boils. (Wrigleyville/Lakeview – Red/purple/brown line to Belmont, or Red line to Addison)


(Oh right, pizza)

A lot of first-time visitors to Chicago want to know “where’s the best pizza?” If you really want to try deep-dish, head to Lou Malnati’s (locations all over town) or Gino’s East.

For traditonal, thinner-crust pizza, I personally love Piece in Wicker Park (they’re also a brewpub and co-owned by Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen – Blue line L to Damen), Pizano’s in the Loop (get the buttercrust), or Gino’s East.


Beer pubs!

As the country has embraced a craft beer explosion, Chicago is no exception; there are many places to lift a pint of local craft beers. You’ll also find many of them sold in local grocers, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.

Finch Beer (Near West Side. Close to UC.)
Chaos Brew Club (West Town)
Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery (Noble Square/Ukrainian Village)
Haymarket Pub & Brewery (Randolph St/Restaurant Row)
Cruz Blanca (Randolph St/Restaurant Row) – Rick Bayless’s newest entry to his Chicago restaurants – brewery and taqueria
Vice District Brewing (South Loop/Near South Side)
Motor Row Brewing (Near South Side)
BaderBräu (Near South Side/Chinatown)
Alulu Brewpub (Pilsen)
Lagunitas Brewing (Pilsen)
Moxee BBQ & Cajun and Mad Mouse Brewery (University Village)
Hopewell Brewing (Logan Square)
Revolution Brewing (Logan Square)
Half Acre (North Center)
Begyle Brewing (North Center)
Dovetail Brewery (North Center)
Burnt City Brewing (Lincoln Park)
DryHop Brewers (Boystown)
Corridor Brewery & Provisions (Wrigleyville/Lakeview)
Band of Bohemia (Ravenswood)
Empirical Brewery (Andersonville)
Temperance Beer Co (Evanston)
Smylie Brothers Brewing (Evanston)

The Chicago Brew Bus also has weekend local brew pub crawls.


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What’s happening this weekend in Chicago 

Friday, June 23

Country LakeShake – 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Northerly Island, Museum Campus)
Chicago Ale Fest – 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Butler Field, Grant Park)
St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party – 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (West Loop)
White Sox vs. Athletics – 7:10 p.m.

Saturday, June 24

Chicago Whiskey Wine & Spirits Beach Festival – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Montrose Beach)
Chicago Food Truck Fest – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (South Loop)
White Sox vs. Athletics – 1:10 p.m.
Ravenswood On Tap (beer fest) – 1 p.m – 9 p.m. (Ravenswood)
Chicago Ale Fest – 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. (Butler Field, Grant Park)
St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party – 2 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (West Loop)
Country LakeShake – 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Northerly Island, Museum Campus)
Chicago Zombie March – 3 p.m. – 5:30 pm (Loop; starts at The Bean)
Navy Pier – Aon Summer Fireworks – 10:15 p.m. (Navy Pier; viewable from many points on lakefront. Good views from Grant Park and Museum Campus.)

Sunday, June 25

Chicago Food Truck Fest – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (South Loop)
Chicago 48th Annual Pride Parade – kicks off at noon! One of the oldest and largest pride parades in the US! (Boystown/Lakeview/Lincoln Park)
Ravenswood On Tap (beer fest) – 1 p.m – 6 p.m.
White Sox vs. Athletics – 1:10 p.m.
Country LakeShake – 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Northerly Island, Museum Campus)

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Eight great places for fantastic doughnuts in Chicago

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The Doughnut Vault

While not the original Chicago doughnut shop, the hole-in-the-wall Doughnut Vault, opened in 2011, is the place that really put these high-end sweet treats on the Chicago map. Using a combination of social media – especially Twitter – this shop on the River North corner of N. Franklin and W. Kinzie often has double-digit lines wrapping around the block. Their popularity led to a doughnut truck, and a second location on N. Canal near the Ogilvie Transportation Center. They have several flavors they offer daily – their amazing gingerbread stack, classic old-fashioned, and huge vanilla and chocolate, and a jelly-filled, for example – and then there is the doughnut of the day, with names like Birthday Cake, Roasted Almond Glazed, or Mexican Hot Chocolate. Doughnut Vault’s quirk helps lend to their popularity: they’re only open as long as they still have product on the shelves. On a busy morning, they might close as early as 11 AM; other days, they’re open until 3 PM.  To top things off, they sell $1 cups of coffee made from delicious local Metropolis Coffee.

Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee

Do-Rite has taken after The Doughnut Vault’s lead, and may close earlier than their posted hours if they run out of product. They have two downtown locations, 50 W. Randolph (Loop) and 233 E. Erie (Streeterville), but unlike the other doughnut shops on this list, they offer chicken sandwiches at their Streeterville location. Chicken and doughtnuts may not seem such an unusual combination when you remember the Southern comfort food of chicken and waffles. Do-Rite offers a handful of gluten-free varieties and a daily vegan choice in addition to their nine standard daily flavors.

donut_stansStan’s Donuts & Coffee

Stan’s Donuts actually originated in Westwood Village (Los Angeles) in 1963. Chicago baker Rich Labriola saw Stan Berman featured on a TV travel show, and ended up partnering with him to bring Stan’s to Chicago. Stan’s offers one of the largest daily varieities of doughnuts: seven standard flavors, plus a wide varieties of specialty flavors, bismarks, “dough boys”, long johns, danish, bars, bagels, “donut cakes”, and even ice cream sandwiches made from doughnuts and gelato.  Their display case is generally crammed full of colorful, wild doughnut creations. They now have locations at 1560 N. Damen (Wicker Park), 259 E. Erie (Streeterville), 26 E. Roosevelt (South Loop), 2800 N. Clark (East Lakeview), and soon to be opening at 3300 N. Broadway (Lakeview).

Glazed & Infused

If there was a contest for most outrageous doughnut in Chicago, the battle would no doubt come down between Stan’s and Glazed & Infused. They call their products the “flavorful re-invention of the iconic American doughnut – handcrafted and uniquely imagined”. Their maple bacon long john is a local favorite, but they offer everything from traditional old-fashioned to their heavily-loaded ‘sweet tooth’ and their indulgent blackberry cheesecake doughnuts. They now have five locations: 813 W. Fulton Market (West Loop), 201 E. Delaware Place (Streeterville), 222 N. LaSalle (Loop), 30 E. Hubbard (River North), and 939 W. Armitage (Lincoln Park).

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Firecakes Donuts

Firecakes is one of the more recent entries in the Chicago doughnut scene, but their delicious flavors are proving popular. They also follow the Doughnut Vault’s model of “open until sold out”, and like Stan’s, they offer a doughnut ice cream sandwich. While their doughnuts aren’t as huge as some of the other shops in town, their quality is high and the taste is excellent, sporting flavors like triple Valrhona chocolate and Hawaiian-style maple glazed pineapple & bacon. They have two locations: 68 W. Hubbard (River North) and 2453 N. Clark (Lincoln Park).

Dat Donut

Dat Donut‘s slogan is “Too good to dunk!” One of the oldest dedicated-to-doughnuts bakeries in Chicago, Dat Donut has been serving up their treats since 1994, and serves them 24/7 (except Sundays). Visit them at 8251 S. Cottage Grove (Chatham). They offer traditional flavors, as well as their famous “Big Dat”, cinnamon rolls, turnovers, fritters, donut balls, muffins, and some breakfast sandwiches served on croissants.

Beavers Coffee & Donuts

This charmingly-named doughnut shop is located in the French Market at 131 N. Clinton (next to Ogilvie Transportation Center, West Loop) and Beavers is seen around town with their food truck. They offer a unique option in the doughnut market, selling “mini donuts” in four quantities (mini/4, small/9, medium/15, and large/35), which you can then personalize via a choice of four sugar toppings and a variety of signature topping flavors like s’mores, turtle, “rock star”, and “funky monkey”. Not enough fun for you? Then try their donut milkshake, which can be make to any signature topping flavor you like.

DB3 (Evanston)

One of the newest doughnut shops in the Chicago area just opened on the north side in Evanston – DB3. Unfortunately, they’re only open on weekend mornings – perhaps as they get better known, they’ll extend their hours. Located next to their sister business, Ten Mile House restaurants (http://www.tmhevanston.com/), this shop offers some great flavors.  1704 Central Street (Purple line L or Metra UP-N line to Central)

 

Ten of my favorite Chicago places

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We all dream of visiting exciting exotic locales. My current top 10 “dream list” locations (in no particular order) are: Antarctica, Galapagos, Iceland, Azores, Alaska, Croatia, Santorini/Greek Isles; New Zealand (South Island), Bhutan. There’s countries I’ve been before that I saw very little of, and would like to spend a more leisurely time visiting, such as Australia, Japan, Nepal.

But for some of you out there, you’re dreaming of visiting the States, and Chicago is on your list for whatever reason. Maybe you fell in love with it through the movies like I did. Perhaps you like one of our sports teams, or you are a huge fan of improv comedy, you’re a serious foodie, or you love great museums.

Chicago has something for everyone, that’s for sure. So here’s ten of my favorite places around town – again, in no particular order! – and I’ll break it down into five favorite restaurants, and five favorite sites worth seeing/experiencing.

RESTAURANTS

This was a tough list, because every time I thought of a restaurant, I’d think of five more that I could easily include. So I narrowed it down to some of the places I’ve been the most frequently over the past couple years. They’re all decently priced and give you great food for your money.

  1. 90 Miles Cuban Café – Cuba has become a hot topic on American lips these days, but those in the know have been enjoying Cuban fare for many years. 90 Miles has a taste of the Caribbean in the heart of Chicago; they have three locations serving up fresh, tasty, amazing food. My favorite is their Bistec De Palomilla sandwich, but you can’t go wrong with a simple Cubano here, either. In addition to great food, they also host events like live jazz on Wednesdays, pig roast buffets on Thursday, and Flamenco nights! Their most public transportation-accessible location is their Logan Square location – 2540 West Armitage, a couple blocks’ walk from the Western stop on the Blue line L.
  2. Q BBQ – Like 90 Miles, Q BBQ also currently has three locations, although two more are in the works. Given Chicago’s history with its stockyards and the city’s intense love of meat, it’s no surprise that the barbeque business is booming all over the city, from low-key to upscale. Pick one, two, or three meats, pick your sides, and enjoy BBQ Nirvana. Big eater? Go for the Papa Q Platter. Enjoy Q’s regional sauces and influences. Q’s Lakeview location at 714 W. Diversey Pkwy. is a short stroll from the Diversey stop on the Brown and Purple L lines.
  3. Piece Brewery & Pizzeria – If you ever want to get two Chicagoans into a heated discussion, just bring up the subject of best pizza in town. If you want deep dish, I’ll send you to Lou Malnatti’s or the original Gino’s East. But if you want great pizza and some brewpub suds to wash it down, then head over to Wicker Park’s Piece, and get one of their New Haven-style (thin crust) pizzas. Go on game night and enjoy an enthusiastic crowd cheering on their hometown teams – Piece loves the local teams, and has designed cute Piece logos for each of them. And if that’s not cool enough for you, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen is a co-owner, and yes, he’s occasionally found there. 1927 W. North Ave., Blue line L to Damen.
  4. Doughnut Vault – Yes, Chicago got hit with the cupcake craze and the doughnut craze. You can get heart-stopping pastries all across the city, but few induce the fan dedication of the Doughnut Vault. Their original location at 400 N. Franklin St. is barely big enough to hold a handful of people, but in the morning, the waiting line wraps around the corner of the block. (Don’t worry, the line moves fast.) They open at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. on the weekends, and they stay open “’til sold out” – which could be 11 a.m. or it could be 3:30 p.m. They update their stock constantly via Twitter, and you can preview the week’s rotating daily special selection on their Tumblr. Personally, I love the delicious simplicity of their “Gingerbread stack” – a threesome of cinnamon-and-sugar dusted doughnuts that taste pretty much perfect. The original location proved so popular that they added a food truck, and they opened a second location at 111 N. Canal St. (across from the Ogilvie Transportation Center) which is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and has a wider daily variety of doughnuts. Brown or Purple line L to Merchandise Mart.
  5. The Little Goat Diner –  Chicago-born chef Stephanie Izard competed on Bravo’s Top Chef, and she not only won but was named fan favorite. Not long after that success, she opened her popular upscale Girl & The Goat in 2010. Its more casual sister restaurant, The Little Goat Diner (820 W. Randolph St.), opened in 2012, and has proven just as popular ever since. Go daring for breakfast and try This Little Piggy Went to China; and I love the Pork Belly Pancake under their “sammiches”. (Any of their sandwiches rule.) Their bakery opens at 6 a.m. and you can enjoy breakfast starting at 7 a.m.; they’re open until 10 p.m. most days; midnight on Friday and Saturday. Green or Pink line L to Morgan Station.

 

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SIGHTS / EXPERIENCES AROUND TOWN

You already know about the obvious tourist destinations. But what else do you do after you’ve been up in the Willis or Hancock Towers, checked out your reflection in Cloud Gate (a.k.a. “The Bean”), wandered around art museums all day, and hit the tourist scene at Navy Pier? You go check out other experiences like a local, of course.

  1. Lillstreet Art Center – Lillstreet has been making art with the community for 40 years. If you’re local or if you have plenty of time to enjoy the city, you might want to consider one of Lillstreet’s many mulit-week art classes in disciplines like ceramics, jewelcrafting, textiles, and more. Have a little less time? Lillstreet offers some one-off classes and new full day “creative retreats”. You can support local artists by checking out their galleries and gift shop; or make a difference by having a meal or picking up a pie at their on-site café, First Slice. 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave.; Brown line to Montrose. 
  2. United Center – The “UC’s” predecessor, the Chicago Stadium, was known as “the Madhouse on Madison”, a moniker that was originally carried over to the United Center. Chicago is a very serious sports city – and the UC is home to two well-decorated, much-beloved sports teams: the Chicago Bulls (NBA) and the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL). The Bulls were dominant in the 1990s for basketball during the Michael Jordan era; the Blackhawks have led the hockey world with three Stanley Cup titles in the past six seasons (2010, 2013, and 2015, above). With a seating capacity of nearly 21,000, the United Center is the second-largest arena in both the NBA and NHL; but standing room capacity regularly pushes their ticket sales to first. In addition to sports, the UC also hosts dozens of concerts, Disney on Ice, the circus, and other events throughout the year. CTA bus #19 UC Express or #20 Madison from the Loop to the United Center.
  3. The Chicago Lakefront / Lincoln Park – Chicagoans often joke that we get 4-5 months of summer and the rest is all winter, but that’s not entirely accurate. At any rate, the lakefront is never quiet; it’s the city’s backyard and its lungs – a gift to the citizens of Chicago by its master planner, Daniel H. Burnham, who insisted that “The Lakefront by right belongs to the people. Not a foot of its shores should be appropriated to the exclusion of the people.” Today, 25 of Chicago’s 29 miles of lakefront remain public parklands, studded with various athletic facilities (including a public golf course), 18.5 miles of trails, marinas, beaches, museums, picnic facilities, and more. In the summer, the city’s denizens fill the parks, and the lakefront path can be very busy between Belmont Harbor in the north down to the Museum Campus. On the east side of the Loop, you can enjoy Millennium Park, the new Maggie Daley Park (great for kids of all ages!), enjoy one of many music festivals held in Grant Park, or stroll by the harbor and Buckingham Fountain (pictured at top). At the Museum Campus, you can take enjoy the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium. Take in wildlife – or a concert – at Northerly Island; enjoy a Chicago Bears (NFL) football game or other major event at Soldier Field. Wander around the shops, restaurants, theater, rides, fireworks, and city views at Navy Pier. Visit the Lincoln Zoo; enjoy the Green City Market or the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Rent a Divvy bike and go for a ride – your choices for entertainment on the waterfront are endless!
  4. The Improv Scene – Chicago is called “the Second City”, but they’re second-to-none when it comes to being the birthplace of the improv comedy scene. The granddaddy of them all, Second City, has produced many of the country’s leading comedians for fifty years, and you can still take classes there – or take in many shows throughout the week. But it doesn’t stop there: check out the Improv, IO Chicago, or Zanies; take in the Chicago Improv Festival; or take the stage yourself at open mike nights at smaller comedy clubs like The Playground Theater. Pick up the free weekly The Chicago Reader to find out what’s happening around town.
  5. The Theater SceneBroadway in Chicago brings top musicals and shows to Chicago, as well as providing a fertile testing ground for new musicals. (Spamalot, among others, did test runs here before their Broadway debuts.) Experience world-class Shakespeare and other productions at the intimate Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. See well-known actors perform live in one of Steppenwolf’s powerful productions. Take in quality shows at smaller neighborhood theaters like the Raven and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Like the improv scene, check out The Chicago Reader for the most current listings.

And one last wild card among my recommendations: Metropolis Coffee. You’ll need caffeine to keep you vibrant for all this fun! If you can’t make it up to their coffeehouse at 1039 W. Granville Ave. (Red line L to Granville), you’ll find their coffee on tap at various locations throughout the city, and you can buy their amazing coffee by the pound at Whole Foods.