Chicago Insider: Rich Zell on the city’s best brunches and the Chicago History Museums
How long you’ve lived here: 12 years.
What you like best about Chicago: When summer arrives, the city comes alive with festivals, concerts, street fairs and barbeques. The summer is our reward for a punishing January/February. The people of Chicago squeeze every last bit of summer out of the calendar, usually planning large-scale outdoor events well into October. Also, the people who inhabit this city are wonderful. Chicagoans are some of the most genuine and down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. Need directions? Just ask.
Best meal you’ve had recently: There are so many great restaurants in the city. Most people think of dinner when they look for a great meal. But Chicago also has some great breakfast spots. Orange on Grand Ave. Toast on Damen. M. Henry on Clark Street is the best, and well worth the trip up north. Go early! Certainly try to get there before 10 a.m. on the weekends to avoid the crowds.
Favorite big-name restaurant: Tavern at the Park on Randolph & Michigan.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: The Village, which is the upstairs offering of the Italian Village. As the names implies, the whole place is made to feel like a little village in Italy. You feel as if you are eating al fresco in Tuscany! The place is full of hidden booths, little nooks for dining. The waitstaff is tremendous, and the food is authentically exquisite!
Best sports bar to catch the game: Harry Caray’s on Kinzie & Dearborn.
A great night out with friends usually includes… a concert in Millennium Park and a short walk to get dessert at The Gage (PB&J ice cream).
Favorite store or best shopping area: REI at North & Clybourn carries just about everything I could ever need/want. But if I am looking for a unique shopping experience, I like going to the antique stores in Printers Row, Lincoln Ave. or Wells Street.
The best way to spend a fall Saturday in Chicago: Walk through Grant Park to the lake and then down to the Museum Campus. Spend the afternoon at the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. After you’ve filled your brain with knowledge, head up to Navy Pier for dinner and a ride on the Ferris wheel.
One thing every visitor must do here: An architectural tour. Either walking or on the boat. Also, grab a vanilla latté at Intelligentsia on Randolph. I challenge anyone to find a better vanilla latte.
While in Chicago, don’t bother…playing miniature golf in The Green at Grant Park. A very sadistic person designed those holes. The greens are fast, impossible to read and will have you exasperated before the turn.
Secret Chicago spot: There is a park directly to the south of the Art Institute complete with fountains, hedges, benches and sculptures. It is a great respite from the hustle and bustle.
Underrated activity in the city: The Chicago History Museum at Clark & North Ave. Go and check out the 150-plus years of history that make Chicago the wonderful city that it is today. The museum does a great job capturing the important events and people that have shaped the city. The museum even has Abe Lincoln’s death bed on display.
Overrated activity in the city: Going out for Chicago deep-dish pizza. Order the thin-crust and have dessert.