Chicago Insider: Mark Kraemer on restaurants like Naha and Mon Ami Gabi, chef Rick Bayless and fall strolls in Lincoln Park Zoo
How long you’ve lived here: I am a life-long Chicagoan, born and bred.
What you like best about Chicago: Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods, ease of transportation, and our beautiful Lake Michigan.
Best meal you’ve had recently: I recently enjoyed some New Orleans Style cuisine at Pearle’s Southern Comfort in the Edgewater neighborhood. Big ol’ double-cut pork chop with red beans and rice, greens and grilled sweet potato with pepper jelly. There were some pretty good craft beers to wash it down with, so I was very happy.
Favorite big-name restaurant: Naha. I am a bit of a “foodie,” and Chef Carrie delivers. I also like how the beautiful, serene restaurant carries an informal fine-dining vibe.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: Mon Ami Gabi, a classic French Bistro tucked away in the historic Belden Stratford apartment building overlooking Lincoln Park. You’ll swear you were transported to Paris!
Best sports bar to catch the game: Joe’s on Weed Street. Tons of huge flat screens and an awesome place on Saturdays for Big Ten fans.
A great night out with friends usually includes… a lot of exploring new places, laughter and bourbon! Chicago has a great cocktail scene, and while I will always have Sable Kitchen & Bar closest to my heart, I am looking forward to checking out Vol. 39 and Boleo in the new Kimpton Gray Hotel.
“Gino’s North in Rogers Park was originally a cocktail lounge called the Snow Globe in the 1930s, but it’s now a pizzeria. Dimly lit, great jukebox, and they kept the art deco décor. Very cool neighborhood spot.”
Favorite store or best shopping area: The Magnificent Mile. Famous the world over, there are huge malls, small boutiques and specialty stores all along a 13-block stretch of Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to the Chicago River.
The best way to spend a fall Saturday in the city: Taking in the colorful autumn leaves at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The nature boardwalk around the lagoon is an urban oasis.
One thing every visitor must do here: Get away from downtown and experience one of our diverse neighborhoods.
Secret Chicago spot: Gino’s North near Loyola University in Rogers Park. Originally a cocktail lounge called the Snow Globe in the 1930s, it is now a pizzeria. Dimly lit, great jukebox, and they kept the art deco décor. Very cool neighborhood spot.
Underrated activity in the city: A walking architecture tour of the Loop. Learn that not only is Chicago the birthplace of the modern skyscraper, but most innovations in skyscraper design also originated here.
What’s one place you hear great things about but have yet to try? Rick Bayless’s new hot spot in the West Loop: Lena Brava. I have never tried Baja-style seafood, but I have tremendous respect for Chef Bayless.