Where to enjoy a wee bit of Scotland in Chicago

When you hear “Chicago”, the thought of Scotland probably doesn’t jump immediately to mind. Ireland, perhaps, and most definitely Poland.

But there’s a proud, long-standing Scottish community in Chicago, and there’s definitely ways to celebrate your heritage or love of all things Scottish in the Windy City.

Scottish immigrants have made the city their own over the years; they were particularly well-represented within the meatpacking industry that defined Chicago in the early part of the 20th century. Notable Scottish-Americans in Chicago include Robert Fergus, influential to the city’s printing industry; and Allan Pinkerton, who was the first police detective in Chicago. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, which was founded in Chicago in 1850, was the forerunner for organizations like the FBI and CIA.

Scottish names are scattered across the local map as well – towns with names like Inverness, Midlothian, Bannockburn, and West Dundee. In fact, at least 195 communities, neighbourhoods, districts and suburban estates in greater Chicago can trace their names to either places in Scotland, or are named for famous Scots. You can even pay homage to one of Scotland’s favorite sons, the national poet Robert Burns, at his statue in Garfield Park, on the west side of the city.

Every summer, the Illinois St. Andrew Society – also known as the Chicago Scots – hosts the Scottish Festival and Highland Games, as well as the St. Andrew’s Day Gala and Feast of the Haggis, the Kilted Classic Golf Tournament, and Burns Night0. The Chicago Scots are the oldest nonprofit in Illinois, founded in 1845. The ISAS welcomes anyone “who is Scottish by birth, heritage, or simply inclination”; membership is free, although there are also paid membership levels.

While there are various mostly-British restaurants in Chicago that may offer a few Scottish dishes, there are two restaurants that are very Scottish indeed.

The first is Balmoral Restaurant, which is not in Chicago proper, but rather, the far western suburbs, located at 40W099 Illinois Route 64, in Campton Hills. Although it’s only been open a few years, it repeatedly ranks high in local “Best of…” readers’ polls. While their menu is limited, you simply cannot go wrong dining here, with selections ranging from their Highlander’s Cock-a-Leekie Soup, to Scottish salmon, to desserts like the Raspberry Cream Cranachan. Open for dinner nightly; 2-10pm on Sundays.

The other is the cozy and charming Duke of Perth pub, located at 2913 N. Clark Street, just south of W. Oakdale Ave. (Lincoln Park/Lakeview). They’re open nightly in the evenings; they open at noon on Saturday/Sundays. Their speciality is their all-you-can-eat fish fry (with chips, of course), but you can also be adventurous with menu items like their haggis burger. This is also an outstanding place to have a wee dram or two of whisky – they have an excellent selection (not to mention some solid local regional craft brews). Don’t take my word alone for it – Whisky Magazine certified them as a “Great Whisky Bar of the World” in 2006. In the winter, settle in near their fireplace and warm yourself inside and out.

The Duke of Perth is not the only place you can get your whisky (or whiskey) on, however. A few other places to enjoy a dram:

  • Delilah’s, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., just south of Diversey (Lincoln Park/Lakeview). This much-beloved dive bar has more than 800 varieties of whiskey from around the world, as well as a few of their own.
  • Lady Gregory’s, 5260 N. Clark St. at W. Berwyn (Andersonville). This popular Irish pub has a solid menu, with over 300 whiskeys and a variety of draft and bottle beers; and it feels more like a literary supper club, unlike a lot of stereotypical Irish pubs. (On a side note, Andersonville was recently ranked # 2 on Lonely Planet’s “49 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World” list. This lively LGBTQ+ community on Chicago’s far north side is a great place to explore!)
  • Twisted Spoke, 501 N. Ogden Ave. at W. Grand Ave. (West Loop). Whether you call them a roadhouse or a biker’s bar, the Twisted Spoke has a bar loaded with some 600 whiskeys, as well as almost two dozen draft beers, many from the Midwest, plus a wide variety of bottled beers and ciders. Unfortunately, their menu has been trimmed down considerably during the pandemic, but you can’t go wrong with their burgers (a.k.a. “tallboys”).
  • Longman & Eagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave. (Logan Square). While also known for their delicious farm-to-table fare, L&E boasts more than 400 varieties – ranging from ones you can sample for just $3/shot, up to rare and well-aged classics.
  • There are two Chicago bars which are “partner bars” for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (out of 14 in the U.S.). Sadly, both of them are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. You can still shop at Fountainhead‘s (1966 W. Montrose, Lincoln Square/Ravenswood) Market. The other, Drumbar, located atop what is now the Gale Hotel (201 E. Delaware Place, Streeterville), is indefinitely closed.

And finally, if you really want to wear your Scottish-Chicago pride on your sleeve (or elsewhere), visit the Scotland Shop’s Illinois Tartan page. This attractive tartan, in the colors of the Chicago flag, was created for the Illinois St. Andrews Society, and adopted as the official tartan of the State of Illinois. The Scottish Shop also occasionally visits Chicago for pop-up events, such as the Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

The official Illinois tartan available through Scotlandshop.com

50 Things “Star Trek” Taught Me

In Las Vegas, you used to be able to enjoy Star Trek: The Experience (1997-2008) at the Las Vegas Hilton.

For Trek fans, it was a great experience. As you waited in line to experience the “ride”, you would pass through the “History of the Future Museum”, then you’d get “beamed up” to the Enterprise (in probably the coolest live-action special effect ever in Vegas), where you’d help beat the Borg, before you headed off to the Deep Space Nine Promenade to enjoy a meal at Quark’s, and pick up some Romulan Ale and tribbles for your friends at home. The staff were dressed in full makeup as Klingons, Ferengi, and other familiar Trek characters, making the illusion more complete. While it has been reported that ST:TE may return in some form to Vegas, it hasn’t quite happened yet.

But that’s okay. We have fifty years of Star Trek to celebrate – from the Original Series (“TOS”) to the current generation of films. Star Trek debuted on September 8, 1966, and has made an impact on our culture ever since. If you doubt that a fictional science fiction program can have that kind of impact, are you reading this on a smartphone or iPad/tablet? Used a language translator, wireless headsets, portable computer memory, GPS, voice-activated computers, medical diagnostic beds and devices? Heard of replicators (3-D printers)? Even hypersprays and phasers are no longer simply science-fiction.

So to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek, I’m taking a little side trip from writing about travel to write about …. 50 things that Star Trek has taught me over the years.


50 Things Star Trek Taught Me

(*In No Particular Order)

1. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background was, you can become something amazing.
2. We’re all working together for the same common goals.
3. Women belong in the Captain’s chair, and on the command deck.
4. A sense of humor goes a long way in helping making interpersonal relations better.
5. Overestimate how long a job will take you – and then when you perform ahead of schedule, you’ll look like a miracle worker.

6. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations = diversity is a great thing for all of us.
7. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few—or the one.
8. Don’t judge people by how they look.
9. There’s always different points of view to every story.
10. Embrace who you are; it’s what makes you special – and can make you celebrated.

11. Perfection isn’t all that great.
12. Good friends are invaluable; and friendship is a powerful thing.
13. Everything can be fascinating.
14. Bigotry is stupid. Really, really, really stupid.
15. The cooler-looking the alien, the more other people love them, even if they’re grumpy. (Hi there, Klingons.)

16. Being bold (or boldly going) while being smart and logical is generally a better idea than rashly going or abrupt decisions.
17. Don’t adopt animals or introduce them into your ecosystem if you don’t know what their downsides are. Especially cute little fluffy things like tribbles.
18. There are plenty of letters in the alphabet.
19. Violence isn’t the answer – there’s always alternatives.
20. Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

21. Human ingenuity can will out over cold logic – or Borg brainwashing.
22. If you dream it, there’s somebody out there who can actually invent it. Sometimes, that might be yourself.
23. Men and women are equal – and there’s plenty of times when women are actually smarter than men.
24. It’s possible to be honorable, just, virtuous, and honest, and get ahead in life without climbing over other people.
25. Despite how good dreams or holodecks may be, it’s always safer to fall in love with reality.

26. Never wear a red shirt if you’re going to do something dangerous.
27. Clear communication can be tough – and it’s easy to be misunderstood.
28. With great power comes great responsibility. (Spiderman doesn’t have a lock on this ideal.)
29. It’s ok to give people the final goal, and let them find their own means to reach it.
30. Have courage and faith in your own abilities.

31. Go explore someplace new every single day.
32. If you get lost, use it as a reason to learn something new.
33. Working together can help solve seemingly insurmountable odds.
34. Even when you have the technology that can do everything for you, it’s still a good thing to be employed and productive.
35. Even if money isn’t important, it’s still important to have a purpose in life.

36. If your Security Chief is warning against something, it’s probably a bad idea.
37. Just because something is against your own moral or religious compass doesn’t mean that other people should be denied that right or ability.
38. Take responsibility for your actions instead of blaming others.
39. Doing your job without complaining about it makes things better for everyone.
40. Resistance is futile. (Or is it?)

41. Leadership comes in many different forms and styles.
42. Live long, and prosper.
43. Creative pursuits, family, pets, and hobbies are an important balance to a busy and stressful work life.
44. When striving to be a better human, aim for the best qualities about humanity.
45. Home living spaces in the future are extremely tidy and Zen.

46. It’s important to weigh other opinions and facts, but sometimes, going with your gut is the right way to go.
47. Today is a good day to die. But it’s always better to live to fight another day.
48. Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.
49. Sometimes it’s the youngest person on the ship who saves the whole world.
50. Boldly go where you’ve never gone before.

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

– Mahatma Gandhi 

30 great reads that will inspire you to travel!


This past month on my Twitter feed, I’ve been naming various travel books I have enjoyed reading. I’ve compiled them below, along with a few other titles I haven’t tweeted about.



  • William Dalrymple –In XanaduDalrmyple and his travel companions trace Marco Polo’s route overland from Jerusalem to Xanadu
  • Pico Iyer – Video Night in Kathmandu – Examining American culture’s impact on mid-1980’s Asia – the book that put one the best modern travel writers on the map.
  • Matthew Polly – American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China – Young kung-fu obsessed American journeys to the legendary Shaolin Temple to study martial arts
  • Mark Salzman – Iron & Silk – Young American martial artist explores life as an English teacher in post-Cultural Revolution China, and is mentored by China’s foremost martial arts master.
  • Paul Theroux – Riding the Iron Rooster – Theroux, one of the greatest travel writers of our time, spends a year exploring China via its extensive train network in the 1980s.


  • Bill Bryson – In a Sunburned Country – In his funniest book to date, Bill Bryson explores the extremes and the fun about living in Australia.






  • Sir Terry Pratchett – The Color of Money – The Discworld is about to discover its first tourist, Twoflower, who hires the inept wizard, Rincewind, to be his guide around the city of Anhk-Morpork. The first book in his iconic Discworld series.