On Chicago Tonight, Tribune columnists Eric Zorn and Mary Schmich offered up the places they send friends and family when visiting Chicago. While Schmich seemed to try and break a sweat with her list, Zorn was Mr. Lame-O with suggestions like the MCA and Millenium Park. (EZ-Wouldn’t you want to show guests stuff they ordinarily couldn’t find on their own?)
Now to be fair, this is a city with about 3 million people and if the WTTW producers called anyone of us, they’re likely to get about 3 million different lists.
Since they didn’t call me, I’ve decided to share a few places I’d take an out-of-towner. My attitude is if you really want to see a city, you have to grow a pair and get your hands dirty. And of course, it helps if you’re a drinker because it takes the edge off. (Also, make sure you ask this all important question before doing things like hopping in a cab with strange men for a drinking tour of London’s West End. Or running off with a Hugh Grant lookalike--at least with beer goggles--in Boston.)
(By no means is this an all inclusive list)
Breakfast: Palace Grill on Madison across from the 911 center. Greasy, good, Flintstone sized omelettes, and the owner wears crazy pants all the time, and might look at you like he wants to put you on the menu.
Lunch: Jared and Subway and go scratch. Go to Conti di Savoia on Taylor Street. Kick ass Italian sub and deli counter worker’s attitude is totally free. Tell Art and his pals sitting outside I said hello.
Dinner: Three Happiness in China Town, Nuevo Leone in Pilsen, or anywhere on Taylor Street. If you walk around China Town, tell the eel at the grocery on Wentworth (and a couple blocks south of Cermak) I said hello. If you’re going to drink your dinner, Dugan’s on Halsted has great popcorn.
Dugan’s in Greektown: If those walls could talk, I’d like them to call me and fill me in on what happened from 1999 until about mid-2002. Seriously. Some good things come out of that place though. We have a solemn promise from Area 2 homicide detectives that if we kill anyone, we’d so get off (but the body has to be found in Area 2).
Basically anywhere: Who am I kidding? I personally go for dive bars with low pretense, low prices, and well this town is full of places like this, so drink up tourist! I’m totally curious about this place I see every day off of the Metra line. It’s on Kinzie just a few blocks west of Kedzie called the Walter Fobb Social Club. Maybe I’ll hijack a tour bus and take some folks there this weekend.
Any el train or bus: I’ve always felt that public transportation is one hell of a social experiment. Here we are, from all walks of life, packed like cattle onto train cars or buses. We’re hungry, tired, pissed off (Or maybe that’s just me?) and somehow most of us manage not to kill each other. Remarkable. And lucky for folks I don’t take the CTA in Area 2.
The corner of 18th and Blue Island: There’s always some thing new playing. This week, there’s the crazy homeless guy sitting on a bench with a shopping cart filled with trash and wearing one shoe. He feeds pigeons Doritos and seeing him reminds me that I might be the crazy one because at least this guy isn’t commuting 35 years each way to his bird feeder/crazy homeless guy job. Maybe he's hiring.
The front stoops of three flats in neighborhoods where people actually sit outside and talk to their neighbors: (I’ve never lived in hoods like Lincoln Park and Lakeview, and maybe this stuff happens there, though I doubt it.) Living in Little Italy and now in Pilsen, I’m used to warm weather bringing everyone out into the streets. I used to drink my neighbor’s old style in Little Italy and get invited up to sample homemade Italian ice. In Pilsen where the media would have you believe you’re dodging bullets everywhere you go, I’m dodging soccer balls, street vendors, and those annoying ice cream trucks. Oh, yeah, and the occasional gun toting and knife-wielding maniac.