Chicago Insider: Etienne Padin on Bom Bolla’s tapas, Myopic Books and relaxing at Red Square
How long you’ve lived here: I am a Chicago native.
What you like best about Chicago: What I love about Chicago is all the street festivals and cycling opportunities in the summer.
Best meal you’ve had recently: Bom Bolla in Wicker Park is a small Spanish Cava bar. Tapas-style menu. I couldn’t get enough of the chicken liver paté with sherry-glazed onions! I have to be honest with you, the food was amazing, but what sold me was the backroom with prints and photos of many of my favorite director’s movies — Pedro Almodovar.
Favorite big-name restaurant: I’ve always enjoyed going to Blackbird.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: Tuman’s Tap and Grill in Ukrainian Village is a great little neighborhood stop with a seasonally changing menu.
Best sports bar to catch the game: I enjoy going to Benchmark in Old Town on a sunny day. It is great to be on the second floor where you’ll find a retractable roof.
A great night out with friends usually includes… discovering new neighborhood places. I recently went to the California Clipper. Where else would you have a Boulevardier?
Favorite store or best shopping area: For shopping and interesting stores, I would check out Wicker Park. I can get lost at Myopic Books on Milwaukee Ave. Any bibliophile will fall in love with Myopic; many genres and obscure books to browse. I always gravitate towards the photography section.
The best way to spend a winter Saturday in the city: Chicago winters can be long and gloomy, but one of my favorite things to do is visit Red Square in Wicker Park. It’s one of the oldest Russian/Turkish bathhouses in the US, and a great spot to relax and escape the winter blues.
One thing every visitor must do here: At first it might seem obvious, but if you come for one day, a weekend or a week, you must check out the lakefront trail and Lake Michigan, just to really comprehend the magnitude of it.
Secret Chicago spot: Sometimes in the summertime, I like to go to the Lincoln Park’s Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, located right behind the Lincoln Park Conservatory on Fullerton Ave. Great place to meditate and re-energize.
Underrated activity in the city: The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of many underrated activities in the city. Be sure to visit this winter and check out the exhibit Solarise — a series of light and sculptural installations. Wednesday evenings are the best time in the winter because they are open until 8 p.m.
What’s one place you hear great things about but have yet to try?
I’ve heard a lot about the iconic Lou Mitchell’s restaurant on Jackson. I hope to explore this Chicago gem, which is right by the starting point of the original Route 66!