NFT Chicago Streeterville / Mag Mile

Streeterville / Mag Mile

Essentials
As out-of-towners aiming to spend cash crash into each other, locals spend their time in lavish high-rises. Whether you're looking to rent a bike, take a Segway tour or see Lake Michigan via old-fashioned foot, the lakefront trail offers an escape from the epicenter of retail therapy.

Sundries/Entertainment
Already filled your quota of buying? Slow down your arteries and your spending with an affordable and food coma-friendly burger at Billy Goat Tavern. Then, wake up your inner Warhol with a tour of the Museum of Contemporary Art.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Exploring RiNo

By Max Grinnell
River North (RiNo): A venal marketing ploy? A vital neighborhood? With sundry art galleries and an enormous McDonalds, RiNo is many things to many people. But what will it be to you? Read on to find out.

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The Cheapskate's Guide to Chicago

By Dana Kaye
Dana Kaye sure said it straight when she declaimed: "You don’t have to be gay to enjoy all the drink specials on Halsted." But you do have to be on a budget. Chicago is no city for the thrifty, but Dana Kaye is not one for following the rules. Take heed as she stealthily discloses the secrets to getting by with no money.

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More than Murals: Public Art in the Loop

By Douglas DuBrin
Art? Who needs art!? So bourgeois... so unnecessary. Until you come to Chicago: The open prairie, the fertile meadow. This is a land that cries out into the night, screaming: Recreate my visage, my torrid emotions by the brush strokes and paint splatterings of subjective imaginings and poetical structuring! So Douglas DuBrin's gonna talk about that.

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Chicago 'L'

By Mark F. Armstrong
And you thought it was just a rapid transit system! Chicago's sometimes elevated tracking is as infamous as it is reliable. Find out why in this, Mark Armstrong's no-holds-barred expose on the popular Chicago transport alternative to driving and walking fast.

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Biking Chicagoland

By Katie Murray
Can Mayor Daley turn Chicago into a city of bikers? Only time/Katie Murray will tell.

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Air Conditioned Chicago

By David Rosenstock
It's a hot and pitiless world out there. Nothing beats a cool, architecturally inspiring walk in the corridor to get you back to your pre-liquified self. Join David Rosenstock as he takes you on a verbally acuitous journey through the bowels of  downtown's lobbies, markets and secret passageways--all air-conditioned, all life-changing.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Billy Goat Tavern
We at NFT were glad to have watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup not from the safety of our own homes, or from the utter drunken revelry of a Blackhawks bar, but instead from the hallowed halls of the Billy Goat Tavern. And yes, all the patrons did indeed go properly apeshit, and we then had the bonus of being right on Michigan Avenue afterwards for the impromptu car-honking celebration. But more importantly: this author downed two doubles in the space of about 15 minutes, because they were/are/will always be so FRIGGIN' GOOD. Who needs french fries? Just more room for another burger from one of the 8 places profiled on the great documentary Hamburger America (now also a book, a TV show, and a South American Cult). And with some dark beer to wash it down, life was good--and will be again, the next time I'm back at the Billy Goat.



Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Sayat Nova
Hidden in the Heart of the City Sayat Nova's location is an anomaly. The owners must have missed the memo that says that tasty, authentic, and affordable ethnic restaurants aren't allowed within 100 yards of the chain-restaurant-blighted Magnificent Mile. Thanks to them, you'll never have another reason to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. Sayat Nova, on Ohio and, unbelievably, steps from Michigan Avenue, delivers reliable, hearty fare at a reasonable price. It's the kind of local mainstay that you'd more likely find in Lincoln Square or Roscoe Village. The interior looks like a discarded set piece from Star Wars, but in a good way, with cozy booths and eccentric lighting. The food is Armenian, of the hummus/kebab variety, and is like eating someone else's mother's home cooking. Try the Kufta, Armenian meatballs in a light yogurt sauce. The kebabs won't lead you astray, either. After your meal, once you've rolled back under the bright lights of Michigan Avenue, you'll be sure to find a way to spend all the money you just saved on dinner.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Bandera
My husband recently had some work colleagues in town who were looking for a decent restaurant not that far from their hotel. We racked our brains trying to think of a place, and we struck entertaining-out-of-towners gold with Bandera. This second floor restaurant looks out onto Michigan Avenue and is a wonderful place to have a nice meal with friends and family or impress someone on a date. When you walk in, the first thing you see is a wall of rotisserie chickens revolving on their spits. That's your first clue you've entered meat heaven. True, they're known for their tender rotisserie lamb, chicken, and pork, but they also have fish dishes and southwestern specialties. Order a bottle of wine with your meal, sink into a well-earned food coma, and enjoy the view. Dinner's usually accompanied by a jazz trio, which adds to the ambience. Be sure to make reservations though--Bandera's one popular place.




Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Jamie Smith

Vosges Haut Chocolat
As a general rule, the more sparsely decorated a boutique, the more expensive its wares. The first time that I walked by Vosges I thought it was a Chanel counter. It is a rather chic chocolatier and 3 oz. of chocolate costs around $8. That may seem expensive, but unlike the bars you can buy for fifty cents, this stuff is made from a high percentage of high quality imported cocoa. This is luxury candy and is worth every penny. Not only is the quality excellent, the selection is varied: Vosges blends all kinds of exotic flavors like olives, wasabi, plantains, and chipotle peppers (though not all at once). Many things in this store would be great to bring to a party or give as a gift. In fact, if you're seeking a stocking stuffer for a chocolate lover, you couldn't do much better than a flying chocolate pig filled with applewood bacon. Vosges has it--your corner drugstore doesn't.




Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Volare
If you're downtown and want a decent meal without spending a fortune, Volare is the place for you. This is an Italian neighborhood restaurant, the kind that fills up with regulars from all the surrounding high rises on a nightly basis. When a place is packed with regulars, you know that's a sign it's on the right track. Volare serves down-home Italian favorites, including many chicken and veal dishes and a fair amount of seafood. But what's really great is the long menu of pasta and sauce options. Pick your favorite pasta type and pair it with one of their many sauces. You can create enough combinations to keep coming back for weeks without getting bored. Plus, if you can't give up on eating alfresco, Volare's patio is enclosed and heated, to give you a little bit of that outdoor ambience in the middle of fall.



Posted By:  Rebecca Katherine Hirsch
Photo:  Courtesy of Matthew Arata

TRU
I admit! Chicago: You haven't been my favorite city since the fire. I don't dig what you have to display for yourself. You should know that right off the bat. But about Tru: It don't need no sign; it's got miniature china plates, and a name only less lame than those places whose names are their addresses. Its look is slick, lifeless; artistic productions are numerous (an original Warhol, Versace cups) but where's the humanity? Where's the SOUL!? The food is infinitesimal (foie gras) and in dollops (multicolored caviar on chilled glass staircases). The cash is cold, hard and in many hundreds. The debonair waitstaff moves with spookily timed precision, and stares incisively. I like my restaurants like I like my empty parking lots: full of things (garbage cans) to hide behind and no one to watch you do it. Tru is far too all-seeing. And finally! Tru markets itself thusly: "Whimsy is serious business at Tru" to which I heartily retort "Hoity toity tapas crap in stark mental patient corridors is the farthest thing from whimsical; it is indeed... sadistic." Tru is just a restaurant, not a microcosm of the city; it's far too expensive and stupid for that. But I choose to pretend it is. It makes the hate so much easier. Tru... dat.



Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Sayat Nova
Here’s a secret for when your relatives from Nebraska come to visit and drag you to the Magnificent Mile: Sayat Nova is quietly tucked in the midst of the crowded deep-dish joints and flashy chain restaurants. You can pop in and have fantastic lentil soup, hummus, boregs, kabobs and more without having to rub elbows with the fanny-packing masses. The inside is lined with sunken booths, and sprinkled in drops of light shining through the decoratively-cut walls. Maybe it’s the perpetual construction project blocking the front door, or the dimly-lit interior that keep the crowds out. Whatever the reason, there’s never a wait, and you can stuff yourself on delicious appetizers alone for less than your aunt spent on the new bonnet for her American Girl Doll.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Grami
If you’re a child of the 1970s or early 80s, you might have a soft spot in your heart for wood paneling, brown suede, and “Three’s Company.” When you need to get that comfort fix, just head on over to The Reagle Beagle, where you can find your childhood favorites updated to fit your adult persona. It’s nostalgia without being kitschy. The wood look and feel of the era is there without reverting to using actual paneling. Browse the walls of classic sitcom star photos, and then sink into a cozy couch by the fireplace. Both television and music from the era play, so you can relive the better parts of your youth. Because you’re now an adult, you can toast your childhood with specialty drinks like the Brady Bunch Punch or the Tootie and Blair’s Cranberry and Pear. Food specialties include classic cheese and chocolate fondues that will make you want to bring the gang here on a regular basis.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Boston Blackie’s is one of those dimly lit restaurants that you’re not quite sure about until you settle into your seat and get some food…then you’re pleasantly surprised. The dim lighting here gives way to some really beautiful Art Deco décor, including gorgeous tables and light fixtures. Then there’s the food. The menu isn’t exactly the best representation of what you’ll get because it’s pretty simple in what it offers: some appetizers, a handful of sandwiches, a couple of salads, and chili. Sandwiches don’t even come with fries—you have to order those on the side. But before you think you’re getting ripped off, order the pork loin sandwich. First off, it’s a big sandwich, with probably twice the amount of pork you’d normally get. Then take a bite, and you’ll have one of the finest sandwiches you’ve ever tasted, and every bite gets better. You won’t even miss the fries—although those are pretty tasty too.



Posted By:  Annie Anderson
Photo:  none

Suppose you prefer Coke to Pepsi and chips to fries. There’re a lot restaurants in this town that could accommodate your dietary preferences and allow you a view of the lake, say, or some pretty-people watching. But you know what? You feel like indulging your culinary prerogative dangerously close to Lower Wacker Drive and the river and the ghosts of George Streeter and John Kinzie. And you feel like a really good cheeseburger. No—a double cheeseburger. So you stumble into this gritty bar on Lower Michigan. You descend even lower—down a flight of stairs into the dining area. You can’t believe this place exists, that there are people here drinking Old Style and sampling confections like the Rib Eye Steak and the Salami & Egg sandwich. That’s when you see the walls, mod-podged with an endless photographic parade of celebrities and reporters and newspaper clippings. Lots and lots of yellowed, cigarette smoke-infused newspaper clippings. Maybe this place is kind of legendary. But it’s so gritty! The burger is decent, the Coke fizzy, and the environs—wow. You climb the stairs and re-enter the light of day, feeling differently. You feel—as pavement, pigeons and greasy food as your witnesses—like a real Chicagoan.



Posted By:  Paul Barile
Photo:  Paul Barile

Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a popular place for tourists. Statistics say it is the number one “visitor destination” in the state. That’s fine, but there are a few things on the pier you shouldn’t miss if you are a native Chicagoan. One of these things is Cirque Shanghai: Bai Xi which only runs until September 23. This is a spectacle like one other. These jaded old eyes have been a lot of places and seen a lot of things, but little compares to what awaits you at Cirque Shanghai. The physical acts of strength and balance blend flawlessly with the dance and movement elements combining to make an evening of head shaking and spontaneous applause. These performers—or better yet, athletes—defy human anatomy with their flexibility and grace. Many of the performers seem to lack two things; bones and fear. While non-animal circus performances are all the rage, old school fans often miss the bears or the lions. Each funambulist—each ponger—draws you in deeper until you realize that you don’t even miss the animals. So ignore the refugees from Idaho and make your way over to the Skyline Stage for an unforgettable evening of derring-do. This ain’t no Horse Opery!



Posted By:  Max Grinnell
Photo:  Max Grinnell

One of the most inconvenient truths about summer in Chicago is well known: They are humid as hell and show no signs of letting up. A temporary respite from this condition can be found on board one of the RiverBus Passenger Ferry’s operated by the Wendella Boats company. Wendella operates some quality narrated tours of the Chicago River and the buildings that lurk on its banks, but why shell out that money when you can just pay $2 for a ride on its commuter-companion, the RiverBus? The RiverBus leaves every 20 minutes or so, and winds its way all the way over to Madison Street, leaving passengers by the Riverside Plaza. Bring a sandwich, find a captain’s hat (you know, with all the scrambled eggs on the brim), and wave to passers-by like you own the river. Well, you probably won't fool anybody, but it’s worth a shot.



Posted By:  Bathsheba Birman
Photo:  Courtesy MCA

Museum of Contemporary Art
Weekly free days, once the museum norm, are now an endangered species. But Tuesdays at the MCA are just that—gratis, complimentary, on the proverbial house. And the gift keeps on giving. Visit the galleries, then stick around for a Tuesday night lineup of events in the museum’s cafe through May 22. The roster? On the first Tuesday of the month, exchange tips and techniques with knitters of all levels during Stitch-n-Bitch (5:30-8 pm). At Bingo/Tango (6-8 pm) on the following Tuesday, host Jason Pickleman calls bingo numbers and instructors offer dance lessons between games. The next week, author and poet Cassie Sparkman hosts readings by local writers at The Literary Gangs of Chicago (6:30-8 pm). And at the Magical Acoustical Musical Showcase (6:30-8 pm) on the fourth Tuesday of the month, area music clubs present sets with emerging singer songwriters. Field Museum, do you copy?



Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo: 

This skyscraping mixture of Art Deco and ancient classical styles was originally built in 1929 as the Medinah Athletic Club, a luxury men’s club for the Shriners fraternal organization. Crippled by the Stock Market crash and subsequent Great Depression that ensued shortly after its opening, the club was forced to close its doors to an uncertain future in 1934. InterContinental bought the property in 1988 and set to work on a $200 million restoration, guided by a copy of the club’s 1930 yearbook donated by a member. The restoration was completed in 2001, capturing the minutest details dating back to the end of the Roaring Twenties. Most recognizable from the street are the Assyrian motifs of the building’s exterior, especially the bull, used to typify the highest powers of nature. Directly above the hotel’s Grand Ballroom on the fourth floor is its junior Olympic-style swimming pool, an engineering feat at that time of its completion that attracted the likes of Olympic gold medalist and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller.



Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo: 

This popular North Loop park for salary workers was dedicated in 1963 by the then Mexican consulate general in honor of member countries with the Organization of American States. Prominent displays of flags for each OAS member country ring the plaza. The park’s other two features is a Space Age fountain and a relatively colossal bronze statue of Mexico’s first president Benito Juarez. Shrubs and flowers strategically situated around the plaza relieve the mundane-ness of concrete. Chicago, like back when the plaza was dedicated, boasts a large Chicano population, including those who share Juarez’s Native American heritage. Juarez’s country was the first in the Americas to outlaw slavery in its constitution and the only one to do so in its very first constitution. His statue is ironically a few feet from the site of the former restaurant Ricardo’s, which was once one of the few Loop eateries that would serve blacks when the City of Big Shoulders brushed off those who wandered beyond Bronzeville.



Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo: 

Allerton Hotel Chicago
Built between 1922-1924 by the Allerton House Co. as part of national chain of “club hotels” providing young professionals with hotel service and private club sociability, the 25-story Allerton helped bolster N Michigan Avenue’s image. The Allerton was the first Chicago high-rise to feature pronounced setbacks and towers, all encouraged by new zoning laws. Its stylings are characterized by decorative brickwork, carved stone details, and a roofline recalling architecture of 14th and 15th century northern Italy. The hotel was once home to the Tip Top Tap cocktail lounge, where Don McNeil hosted his popular weekend “Breakfast Club” radio show of humor, music, and audience participation on ABC from 1933-1968. Among the show’s fans were J. Edgar Hoover and U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Its celebrity guests included such greats as Lucille Ball, Jerry Lewis, and Jimmy Stewart.



Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo: 

Thanks to a National Park Service plaque, a free biracial Haitian trader and trapper named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable gets more apparent props as Chicago’s first permanent non-indigenous settler in 1779. Under the pylons of this portion of the Mag Mile, DuSable built an elegant French villa and established a full-service farm. By all accounts, he was as genteel a farmer as a Louisiana planter. When the British held him prisoner on Mackinaw Island, Michigan, during the Revolutionary War on unfounded suspicions of him sympathizing with the Anglo colonials, the Redcoats described him as exceptionally intelligent, handsome, and accomplished. So substantial was DuSable’s estate by the time he put it down to retire to St. Charles, Mo., that it outlasted Jean la Lime, who immediately passed it onto John Kinzie, a survivor of the Ft. Dearborn Massacre who become Chicago’s first permanent white settler.



Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo:  Mark F. Armstrong

With a clock tower pointing finger-like toward the heavens from the Chicago River’s north bank, this gleaming white study in terra cotta ornamentation was named for the family most associated with chewing gum. The skyscraper’s revivalist exterior, built in stages from 1920-1924, patterned after Giralda Tower of Seville’s Cathedral, and adapting French Renaissance styling, is sheathed every night in powerful floodlights, which makes it a hard-to-miss feature of Chicago’s skyline. It was part of radio’s golden age when it housed radio broadcasting facilities on its top floor. (Its original radio transmitting antenna is intact.) The main building and annex are connected via the third and 14th floors by gilded bridges reminiscent of Venice’s Bridge of Sighs. Between the Wrigley Building’s main building and annex is a small attractive plaza, characterized by an ornate entrance known as the Breezeway. From the courtyard you can access the shops and eateries on the ground floor of the River Plaza condo community or gaze on the emerging Trump Tower & Hotel going up on the former site of the Sun-Times Building



Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo:  Mark F. Armstrong

In 1922, the Chicago Tribune’s publisher, Robert R. McCormick, sponsored an international competition to design a new building befitting a Midwestern daily newspaper with one of the largest circulations in the United States. Prominent New York architects Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells were proclaimed the winners and the newspaper’s skyscraper was completed in 1925. Immediately eye catching is the WGN radio studio visible from the sidewalk. Check out the Gothic arch entrance and small pieces of stone from the world’s most famous buildings (Parthenon, Westminster Abbey, Paris’ Arc di Triomphe, the Holy Door of Rome’s St. Peter’ s Basilica, Notre Dame, the White House, and the Taj Mahal) embedded in the Tribune Tower’s base. Most striking are the flying buttresses and gargoyles, resembling those on exteriors of European cathedrals. Just east of Tribune Tower, a brick building designed by architect Jarvis Hunt displays front pages of various Tribune issues featuring headlines of great national events dating back to the last century (including the infamously erroneous 1948 report of Dewey’s projected presidential election victory over Truman). The Annex, used for the Tribune Co.’s offices, is a 4-story gothic structure with an Indiana limestone skin. In the Annex’s courtyard, a statue of Revolutionary War martyr Nathan Hale guards the entrance.



Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong
Photo:  Mark F. Armstrong

Apple Store
Before this Mag Mile tech jewel opened in 2003, you had to trek to the deep ‘burbs for an offline Mac community in the flesh. If you don’t mind having iPod products thrust in your face at every twist and turn, you can test the latest Mac toys and get a little quality email time in, with handy assistance from Mac techy floor-walkers. Upstairs, you can shop for peripherals, obtain specialized Mac advice (by appointment only) from the Genius Bar, or attend the monthly lineup of events including DJ’ing Fridays, movie screenings, how-to lectures, and workshops.




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Restaurants (21)
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