Chicago Insider: Jan Viscum on where to go for tapas and walking to Northerly Island
Chicago Office of Tourism
How long you’ve lived here: I have lived in Chicago for about 25 years. However, I grew up in Joliet and have been coming to the city my entire life. I always loved to take the train to Chicago when I was a little girl and couldn’t wait to move here.
What you like best about Chicago: It’s is such an amazingly beautiful city. The architecture, the lakefront…it really is a “City in a Garden.” I also love the people. I think Chicagoans are the funniest people in the world. Maybe that’s why we’ve had so many great comedians who are either from Chicago or got their training here.
Best meal you’ve had recently: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! I love the great variety of tapas. I’ve been going there forever. I just love the food.
Favorite big-name restaurant: Gibsons. I love the Chicago vibe, the ridiculously huge portions, the people watching. And the food is great too!
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: Calypso in Hyde Park. Not only do they have wonderful Caribbean food, but they also offer fabulous Southern dishes. The owners used to have a restaurant called Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop. Dixie closed a couple of years ago, but Calypso made its back room look like the old Dixie Kitchen, and they serve many of the same items. It really is a hidden gem within a hidden gem.
Best sports bar to catch the game: For soccer, I love D4. It feels like an authentic Irish Bar, but the food is much better. They have great Southern dishes. My favorite is the shrimp and cheese grits. And they have lots of TVs to watch the game.
A great night out with friends usually includes… wonderful Chicago food, of course. It’s always fun to stop in Jilly’s after dinner for a drink and dancing.
Favorite store or best shopping area: Oh I love to shop anywhere! I recently discovered a great little boutique in Lincoln Square called DLR. The have great trendy clothes at reasonable prices. For furniture and housewares, I love CB2. They have such unique designs.
Spring activity that calls your name: Croquet! I am a member of the Chicago Croquet Club and love to play. We play in Jackson Park, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s absolutely beautiful there. We have an old clubhouse that we share with the Chicago Lawn Bowlers. There is a beautiful view of the lake from the lawns. There is nothing like going there in the spring when everything is green, enjoying a game of croquet on a sunny day.
One thing every visitor must do here: It really depends on the visitor and their interests. The Art Institute is my number one choice. I am still awed by the collection they have. I would also want to experience a walk along the lakefront. I particularly like walking from Navy Pier to Northerly Island. I love seeing the lake and boats on one side and the beautiful Chicago skyline on the other.
While in Chicago, don’t bother… driving. Leave the car at home. Having a car in the city is just a bother. We have public transportation and plenty of cabs.
Secret Chicago spot: The Riverwalk is one of my favorite places. It isn’t really “hidden” because thousands of people walk over it on the bridges every day, but very few actually walk along the river. I love it because it is so beautiful and surprisingly quiet yet it’s in the middle of the city. On the south bank, I like to walk from Michigan Avenue to the lake. It’s a little bit of nature in the middle of Chicago. There is a tunnel you go through that has a mosaic on the history of Chicago. I love to walk my dog there. In warm weather, on the north side of the river, we stop at Chicago Burger or Lizzie McNeill’s and share a sandwich. They even bring him a bowl of water.
Underrated activity in the city: The Chicago History Museum. It doesn’t get the same buzz as the larger museums, but it’s fascinating. If you want to learn about the history of Chicago, this is the place to go.