Chicago Insider: Laura Dietzel on the genius of Jimmy Bannos, farmer’s markets and sitting outside at Big Star
Ever wish you had an active local’s opinion on how best to enjoy your own city? We have too, so here are some answers
How long you’ve lived here: Seven years.
What you like best about Chicago: Urban jungle meets Midwest — a big city with a big heart.
Best meal you’ve had recently: Sienna Tavern. Do not forget to order the meatballs lest you live in regret the rest of your days.
Favorite big-name restaurant: Purple Pig. Jimmy Bannos Jr. is a genius.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: VOLO (2008 W. Roscoe). Escape to the tucked-away patio in the back to get away from the hustle and bustle of the street. You’ll be glad you found it!
Best sports bar to catch the game: The Scout — perfect for Bears games and walking distance to Soldier Field.
A great night out with friends usually includes… ending up at Hangge Uppe or Kingston Mines, if we do it right. Chicago does many things well — the lounge, the club, the Irish bar — and at the end of the day, the best nights out require the same ingredients: good people, good music and fun. It’s good to get away from the trappings of long lines, bouncers, bottle service and scene sometimes.
The best way to spend a summer Saturday in the city: Start the day running or biking on the lakefront path, enjoying the city scenes, boats on Lake Michigan and pretty people (seriously, sometimes you can’t tell during the winter under sweaters, boots and parkas that Chicagoans are actually ridiculously in shape). Then head over to the Lincoln Park farmer’s market for delicious fruits, veggies, meats and cheese and procure the freshest ingredients for your brunch masterpiece. If you aren’t much of a chef, brunch in the city, preferably outside, is a must on a Saturday. You can post up at Perennial Virant on the patio for a beautiful meal overlooking the park.
For the remainder of your afternoon, find the nearest street festival and check out the neighborhood scene. In the evening, find an alfresco dining option – Fulton’s on the River is a nice treat. If you’re up for cocktails, head to a rooftop. Try ROOF at the Wit for the lounge/party scene, and Trump for some romance.
My goal every weekend in the summer is the same: Plan to spend the maximum amount of time outdoors because the chill of the Chicago winter is never that far off!
One thing every visitor must do here: In the summer, an architectural boat tour. Year round, the Willis Tower observatory deck (it will always be Sears to me!) or the Hancock observatory to check out the city lights.
Secret Chicago spot: Maude’s Liquor Bar, upstairs: dark, sexy, French. Obsessed.
Underrated activity in the city: There is so much more to Chicago than drinking, sports and deep dish (sorry, I definitely prefer New York style!). The comedy club scene is fantastic. Other than The Second City, there is Zanies and ComedySportz among the many other establishments that will have you in hysterics.
If you had to pick one place to eat or drink outside in July, where would it be? Big Star patio. Just keep the pitchers of margarita and specialty tacos coming por favor!