19 movies: Scene in Chicago

We’ve talked travel around the world and we’ve talked survivor types… now let’s take a virtual tour of Chicago via the movies.

Now, there’s a lot of movies set in Chicago that could be included in this list, but were not included, because of the following reasons:

1) set in Chicago, but didn’t really travel around Chicago or stayed in one neighborhood (like Home Alone, filmed mostly in the northern suburb of Winnetka), or stayed entirely inside, so views of Chicago are not a big part of the movie nor is the city really part of the storyline — in other words, the movie’s setting could’ve been Anytown, U.S.A.

2) set in Chicago, but actually filmed somewhere else — for example, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel (which both used only some stock footage to establish Chicago as their location), and ironically enough, the musical Chicago, were both filmed in Toronto; ­­­­

3) set in Chicago, but so transformed by certain elements as to be quite different. I, Robot was set in 2035 Chicago ­­­­­‒ and it looks like Chicago of the future ­­­­­‒ but it was actually filmed in Vancouver and transformed via CGI into Chicago.

If you view these movies in the order that they were filmed/released, you can see how the city changes over time. Links to trailers are provided in each summary.

19. Running Scared (1986)

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Most popular “cop films” are shot/set in either New York City or Los Angeles, and at the time, the hottest police show on TV was Miami Vice. Running Scared put Chicago on the map, both as a filming location, and as another great place to set police films.

Billy Crystal (in his breakout role) and Gregory Hines play a pair of long-time wisecracking partners who, after nearly getting killed on the job, decide they want to retire and move to Key West to open a bar. But before they can do so, they get dragged into one last case.

Filmed around the city, the L train practically plays a character on its own, and the Thompson Center in the Loop is a setting for a major scene.

18. Divergent (and its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant) (2014-2016)

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In science fiction films, one city is often used to stand in for another, or a city is so transformed by CGI as to be unrecognizable. Divergent and its sequels are a little different, as while Chicago is transformed into dystopian, post-apocalyptic Chicago of an undetermined future date, it is still very recognizable as the Chicago we know, and one could visit some of the landmarks in the film. (Don’t jump off the L, however.)

In this future, the residents are divided into five factions, and the Faceless, who have no status. At 16, regardless of which faction they grew up in, teenagers decide which faction they will spend the rest of their life with. Central character Beatrice, going for her aptitude test, finds out she is Divergent – meaning she cannot be controlled by the government – which makes her a danger. If you’re into dystopian storylines, you’ll enjoy these movies – or the original novels they’re based upon.

17. Transformers: Dark of the Moon: (2011)

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This is the third film in the six-picture live-action Transformers series, which started in 2007. Dark Side of the Moon is not fully set in Chicago, but one of its major battle scenes takes place in the heart of the city, where numerous buildings on the north side of the Loop and along the Chicago River are destroyed/toppled like dominos in a heart-pounding action sequence.

If you don’t like Chicago, well, then this might be the movie for you. If you love Chicago, but get kind of a vicarious thrill when something strange is done to the city in the movies, then this film is also for you. (Click to watch the trailer, and you can see some of that action — I had seen the first Transformers film but not the second, and it’s the only reason I went to see this one in the theaters.)

Best if you’ve seen the first two Transformers films so you know what this one is about. Best one overall in the series? Well, that’s a personal choice.

16. Nothing in Common (1986)

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Nothing in Common was Jackie Gleason’s last role — he was suffering from terminal cancer when it was filmed.  It was also perhaps Tom Hanks’ most pivotal role, marking his move from more comedic roles like Bosom Buddies, Splash, and Bachelor Party, to more dramatic films like Big and Forrest Gump.

Tom Hanks plays an advertising executive who is surprised when his parents split after 36 years of marriage. His father has just been let go from his job of 35 years, and it turns out that he is facing diabetes-related surgery. Hanks’ character must deal with his parents adjusting to life without one another, his father’s illness, and his own recent breakup, as well as simultaneously trying to produce a major campaign at work that could lead to his long-desired promotion to partner. It’s a film about family and the ties that bind (and occassionally gag).

15. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

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The main reason My Best Friend’s Wedding makes this list is that it jumps all over Chicago.

The problem is that it jumps allll over Chicago, sometimes in some really terrible ways, and anybody who lives in Chicago can point out a huge amount of continuity errors. (Would anybody flying into O’Hare but going to the North Shore drive all the way downtown and then head up Lake Shore Drive? No way.) Most infamously, in scenes shot on Lake Shore Drive, the lake can be seen changing from side to side, at times within the same scene. Additionally, there’s a scene on one of Chicago’s famous river tourism boats, and the order of which well-known landmarks appear behind them do not match any possible order they would happen in real life with the conversation going at the speed that it is.

Still, this is a movie that shows off a lot of what’s great about Chicago in the summer. And it’s a charming enough rom-com if you need one!

14. The Fugitive

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The Fugitive, like Soul Food and Back Draft (further up this list), are films about everyday people in everyday Chicago, although in this case, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is a Chicago vascular surgeon who arrives home one night to find his wife fatally stabbed by a one-armer intruder, who is still there. Kimble struggles with the killer, but the man gets away, and due to other circumstantial evidence, Kimble gets wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder.

While being transferred to a prison, some other prisoners attempt to escape — causing the bus they are in to fall down a ravine and collide with a train. Kimble manages to escape the scene of the accident and returns to Chicago, where he searches for the murderer. Note: the train scenes were actually filmed in North Carolina, but the city scenes were filmed in Chicago. There’s one particular scene that is filmed over a neighborhood, showing Chicago’s typical block layout, that is so very, very Chicago.

The Fugitive is an outstanding drama film, perhaps one of Ford’s very best.

13. While You Were Sleeping (1995)

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Sandra Bullock’s career has more recently been heavier on producing and more dramatic roles, but some of her best roles came in comedic or romantic films. In While You Were Sleeping, she plays Lucy, a lonely CTA fare token collector. She has a secret crush on a handsome commuter, Peter (Peter Gallagher) she sees nearly every day.

On Christmas, Peter gets mugged on the CTA platform and pushed onto the tracks. She rescues him from an oncoming train, but he is in a coma, and she accompanies him to the hospital. A nurse overhears Lucy talking to herself, and mistakes her for Peter’s fiancé, and from there, it becomes a Shakespearean-level comedy of errors, as Lucy wants to tell the truth, but circumstances in Peter’s family make her keep lying to protect them — at least, until Peter eventually wakes up.

This is Bullock at her charming, comedic best, paired with Bill Pullman and surrounded by a great cast and the beauty of Chicago and its neighborhoods.

12. The Untouchables (1987)

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Brian DePalmas’s The Untouchables is considered an American crime masterpiece, telling the story of Eliot Ness trying to bring crime kingpin Al Capone to justice during Prohibition.

Loaded with an all-star cast and masterful performances, The Untouchables shows how much of modern Chicago looks just like Chicago of nearly 100 years ago, filmed in the city in 1986. The film was nominated for and won a number of awards.

Eagle-eyed movie fans will recognize the stretch of LaSalle Street used later in The Dark Knight (not to mention other films set in Chicago). One of the best-remembered scenes is “the baby carriage scene” filmed in Union Station, where a runaway baby carriage gets caught in a shootout between Eliot Ness and Al Capone’s henchmen. (Spoiler: they do prevent the baby from being shot!)

11. Road to Perdition (2002)

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Another American crime drama – this one directed by Sam Mendes – and focuses on a mob enforcer and his son seeking vengeance against another mobster, who murdered his family. While centering around a storyline that focuses on the consequences of violence, the film also told a story of relationships between fathers and sons, with a few sub-stories skillfully woven together.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Road to Perdition received a lot of accolades for its cinematography. Tom Hanks leads an all-star cast of this award-winning film, which was shot on location in Chicago in places like the University Club of Chicago, the Pullman neighborhood, and the suburbs of Geneva and Evanston.

10. Wayne’s World (1992)

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Chicago-centric Wayne’s World was set in suburban Aurora, and many of the “neighborhood scenes” were for the most part filmed in Los Angeles, not Chicago.

I’m including it on this list for one very specific reason: during the famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene, when Wayne and Garth travel to Milwaukee to see Alice Cooper, they drive from Aurora via Chicago to Milwaukee, and the route they take — if you recognize the various locations seen on the drive — could at best be called convoluted. (In fact, anybody anxious to make good time between Aurora and Milwaukee would go nowhere near downtown Chicago.) (side note: did Freddie Mercury get to see a preview of the Bohemian Rhapsody scene before he died, I wonder?)

While you can still see and visit a number of the locations seen in the montage, sadly, the coolest one of them all – the cars piled on a spike – is no longer there.

9. Rookie of the Year (1993)

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Rookie of the Year focuses on the most Chicago of Chicago institutions: the Chicago Cubs.

Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a skill-less Little Leaguer who — like many Chicago kids — dreams of playing for the Cubs. He breaks his arm, and when the doctor removes the cast, it’s found that Henry’s tendons have healed a “little too tight” — and suddenly, he can pitch at Major League speeds.

Henry and his friends attend a Cubs game, where they get a home run ball in the bleacher seats. Encouraged by those around him to “throw it back”, since it was hit by the visiting team, not the Cubs, Henry does — and delivers a hard-driving pitch to the catcher, 435 feet away. The Cubs’ general manager, desperate to find a way to drive attendance at the games, finds Henry and signs him up for the team.

It’s a cute and fun baseball movie, ending with Henry displaying a World Series championship ring. (The Cubs would have to wait until 2016 to win the league title, however.)

8. The Dark Knight (2008)

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Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was filmed throughout Chicago, but perhaps the most memorable and iconic of the three films is 2008’s The Dark Knight.

Widely regarded as one of the best superhero films of all time, it stars Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Heath Ledger, who would win a posthumous Academy Award for his role as the Joker.

While CGI is used to turn Chicago fully into Gotham, it is still easy to recognize a variety of landmarks throughout the film, and Nolan gives a loving touch to the city throughout the trilogy: from the opening scene, filmed at the Old Post Office (here turned into a bank); to panning views across the skyline; from the truck being blown up and over like an acrobat on LaSalle; to Batman’s speed chase through Lower Wacker — you’ll find it hard to drive around the Loop in Chicago and not be reminded of scenes in this movie at nearly every turn.

7. Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

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Adventures in Babysitting was a teen comedy released in the golden years of teen movies — that is, the decade dominated by John Hughes iconic teen films! And, like most of Hughes’ films, this one is set in Chicago.

Elizabeth Shue plays Chris Parker, whose boyfriend cancels their anniversary date — and then she ends up babysitting the Thor-worshipping 8-year-old Sara Anderson instead. (This is before all the Marvel movies came out, and yes, the Thor thing is an important plot point later.) She had invited her friend, Brenda, over, but receives a panicked call from her, finding out she had run away and ended up at a downtown bus station in Chicago. She plans to pick her up alone, but is convinced by the kids she is looking after to take them with her — and from there they proceed to have a variety of misadventures.

While this film shows a lot of Chicago at night — and some parts of Chicago that most people wouldn’t be familiar with, like the lower Lower Wacker Drive, the climatic scene is set atop the unmistakable Crain Communications Building‘s (previously known as the Smurfit-Stone Building) diamond-shaped glass roof. The building had only opened three years before the movie came out, but is now perpetually linked with images from the film.

6. Kissing a Fool (1998)

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Jason Lee plays Jay, a neurotic novelist, who is trying to get over his breakup with his girlfriend, Natasha, by writing his first book about their relationship. He’s best friends with Max (David Schwimmer), an alpha-male type sports broadcaster. One day, Jay decides to set Max up his editor Samantha (Mili Avital), and is shocked when they announce they’re engaged two weeks later.

Max has always been a commitment-phobe, however, and he panics at the thought that this might be the last woman he ever sleeps with — so he tries to get Jay to seduce Samantha as a test of her loyalty to him. Jay refuses because he thinks Max is nuts to propose such a “test”, but also because he realizes that he may have made a huge mistake, as he realizes that he’s been attracted to Samantha all along.

This film shows off the best of Chicago in midsummer, as well as highlighting local neighborhoods, and even getting in an appearance by the Cubs. It’s also sweet and very funny. It also features a number of tunes by The Mighty Blue Kings, a Chicago jump blues band. (If you’re a fan of bands like the Squirrel Nut Zippers or Postmodern Jukebox, you’ll love MBK’s work. Check out their albums Meet Me In Uptown; Come One, Come All; and their breezy Christmas Album.)

5. About Last Night… (1986)

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About Last Night… is kind of the film where the “Brat Pack” (teen stars of the early/mid ’80s) grew up and had one of their first adult comedies. What happens when two people fall in love – how do their friendships change? It was made in 1986, so the main reasons it didn’t age well are clothes, big hair, and bad music. (Oh, and Jim Belushi’s character is a bit cro-magnon in his views…)

But, other than that, About Last Night… covers just about everything that local citizens love about Chicago: the bars, the summer recreational leagues, and yeah, even taking walks along the frozen winter in the middle of winter. It’s got the classic view of Streeterville as seen from North Avenue Beach, and it’s got the L and sports and all the different aspects about the big city, from high-powered jobs downtown to two Chicagoans getting their first apartment together.

4. Backdraft (1991)

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Backdraft at its core is the tale of two Chicago brothers, the older one, Stephen, a career fireman and the younger, Brian, just joining the force. Their father was a firefighter, too, and Brian witnessed him die on the job when he was a child. There’s also the fire fighters’ story line: a lot of recent fires look like the ones set by an imprisoned arsonist/pyromaniac, and there’s a lot of firemen dying on the job. When Brian can’t cut it as a fireman, he ends up helping to investigate the source of the fires.

Backdraft has gotten some criticism over its realism — the conditions that real firefighters are worse, there is so much smoke that visibility is worse — but that wouldn’t make good moviemaking. Ultimately, the movie is about the men and women who are first responders — how they put themselves in harm’s way, and the danger and the heartbreak they face, and how their families cope.

3. The Blues Brothers (1980)

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If you ask people for the name of a Chicago comedy, chances are pretty good that Blues Brothers will come up almost immediately. This classic stars Dan Akroyd and John Belushi as Jake and Elwood Blues, a role they originated on Saturday Night Live.

The Blues Brothers take up “a mission from God” to reform their old band and save the orphanage that they grew up in by paying off its outstanding $5,000 tax bill in eleven days. In addition to one of Carrie Fisher’s best-known roles outside of the Star Wars franchise, the movie is filled with appearances by well-known blues musicians like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker, among others. Those with a keen eye will spot small roles by Steven Spielberg, Joe Walsh, Chaka Khan, Frank Oz, Twiggy, and John Candy.

It’s filmed around Chicago and some of its most memorable scenes include a car chase through the now-demolished Dixie Square Mall (which had closed over a year before the scene was filmed), the big musical finale at the Palace Hotel Ballroom, and the grand finale throughout the downtown area.

2. High Fidelity (2000)

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Top Five Reasons to Love High Fidelity:

5. All-around awesome casting, and beautifully acted — as late film critic Roger Ebert said about the film, “Watching High Fidelity, I had the feeling I could walk out of the theater and meet the same people on the street — and want to, which is an even higher compliment.”

4. It’s a great film about how we love music, how it shapes our lives, and how it influences us. Not to mention a fabulous salute to the Chicago music scene.

3. John Cusack as Rob Gordon, the central character, breaks the fourth wall constantly to talk to the audience. And it really, really works for this film. Rob is the grown-up version of the angst-ridden, guy-next-door characters that made him famous (like Lloyd in Say Anything and Lane in Better of Dead). Cusack has a career nearly 40 years long, and this is probably his best role.

2. Jack Black in his breakout role as Barry, stealing just about every scene he’s in.

1. While High Fidelity is based on Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, it had some minor details changed, most notably being set in Chicago instead of London. And it works so well as a Chicago film, capturing the Chicago vibe, and showing off its neighborhoods, particularly Wicker Park. 

1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

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John Hughes defined coming-of-age teen comedy in the 1980s, and his influence continues to this day. His teen films included Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful. But he also wrote, directed, or produced a number of well-loved films such as Mr. Mom, Uncle Buck, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Home Alone.

Most of Hughes’ films were set in or near his beloved hometown of Chicago. His teen opus of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is his self-described “love letter” to Chicago, covering everything and anything related to the city: its parades, its landmarks, its sports teams, its architecture, its lakefront. Amazingly, he wrote the script in under a week.

The film centers around Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), a high school senior who decides he wants to have one more day of playing hooky before he graduates. He ropes his girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sara), and his best friend, the hypochondriac Cameron (Alan Ruck), into taking the day off with him. The school principal is determined to catch Ferris out for lying, as is his sister, Jeannie. In the course of the day, Ferris and his friends eat at a fancy French restaurant, check out the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), join in a parade, catch a Cubs game, and visit the Art Institute, among other things. The film is hilarious and joyful, a beautiful salute to Chicago and its spirit.

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)

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.