Archive for the ‘food’ Category

New visitor center makes navigating Chicago easier

Visiting Chicago can be overwhelming without a little concierge help. You know to toss questions at a hotel concierge but when downtown you now have another concierge desk ready to answer those “where are” and “how do you get there” questions.

A new Chicago Visitors Center recently opened at Macy's on State Street

A new Chicago Visitors Center recently opened at Macy's on State Street

Macy’s on State Street added a terrific Visitor Information Center in June in conjunction with Choose Chicago, the city’s main tourist information bureau.

The Macy’s center has a concierge desk, maps, brochures and interactive kiosks that have dining, attractions and shopping suggestions.

When you stop in the store, ask for directions to the fountain and its main escalators. Then go down to lower level near the candy and food area to find the Visitor Information Center.

The kiosks there will not merely light up with restaurant suggestions for several types of cuisines and tell you how to get to your restaurant of choice by bus, car or walking, it will also print out the directions so you don’t have to write them down. Same goes for attractions such as museums and shopping categories.

Restaurant choices and how to get there are on interactive kiosks

Restaurant choices and how to get there are on interactive kiosks

However, you can also check at the desk for savings passes and other information.

Macy’s has the International and Domestic Savings Program that gives a 10 percent discount on most store purchases to visitors from outside the store’s shopping region. Qualifying documentation such as a government issued ID is needed. The Savings Pass can be printed at interactive kiosks or from the concierge desk. BTW, remember on your travels to ask for a Macy’s savings pass when at the company’s other stores.

Visit Macy’s State Street for more information.

Photos (C) Jodie Jacobs

Restaurants that complement Chicago sights

Berghoff's on Adams Street, well placed for architecture walks, is among Chicago's oldest, family-owned restaurants.the oldest

Berghoff's on Adams Street, well placed for architecture walks, is among Chicago's oldest, family-owned restaurants.

If you are doing the art and architecture walks or shopping, you need some suggestions on where to revive or take a break. If going to the theater, you’ll want to know a good place to eat within walking distance.

We could say luckily for tourists, commuters and residents Chicago is a foodie town so there are several options. But luck has nothing to do with it.

Once known for its steaks (after all the stockyards were here), expense-account, three-martini lunches, Sunday family dinners and neighborhood German, Italian, Greek and Chinese eateries, the city’s dining options began to expand about 1986-87 when James Beard award-winning chefs J Joho (The Everest Room), Charles Trotter (Charlie Trotter’s) and Rick Bayless  (Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo and their restaurants became house-hold names among people looking for exceptional dining-out experiences.

Ironically, as experimental dish combinations took hold among chefs opening their own places, steaks and ethnic eateries came back in style.

Of course, some old-time Chicago favorites such as Gene and Georgetti’s for steaks in River North (north of the Chicago River, west of Michigan Avenue) and Berghoff’s for German food in the financial district (on Adams Street near LaSalle Street) made it through the fads.

Terzo Piano on the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing terrace has indoor seating but when the weather allows, sit outside for a skyline view.

Terzo Piano on the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing terrace has indoor seating but when the weather allows, sit outside for a skyline view.

Now, new restaurants open every week in the West Loop, South Loop and River North areas that circle downtown. Arguably, the problem is that Chicago’s vibrant dining scene means there are enough good choices to fill more than a month of lunch and dinners in and near downtown Chicago.

The following is a small sample of places to try. They are reasonably-priced gems. Reservations are strongly recommended for lunch or dinner.

When shopping Chicago’s  “Magnificent Mile” along North Michigan Avenue from Wacker Drive to Oak Street, you can walk a couple of blocks either side of the Avenue and find excellent eateries for lunch or dinner.  Two of them are Café des Architectes in the Sofitel Hotel 20 E. Chestnut St., just west of Michigan Avenue, near the Hancock Building north of the Chicago Avenue midpoint and Coco Pazzo Café at 636 N. St. Clair, east of Michigan Avenue, south of Chicago Avenue.

When doing an art or architecture walk, try to do lunch at Terzo Piano on the terrace of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing. Or go nearby to Park Grill at 11 N. Michigan Ave. under Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate “Bean.”

The Park Grill in Millennium Park is a rink-side seat to ice skating in winter and strollers in the park the other seasons.

The Park Grill in Millennium Park is a rink-side seat to ice skating in winter and strollers in the park the other seasons.

To get good, light ethnic foods in time for a performance at Symphony Center home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Michigan Avenue near Monroe Street or a Broadway in Chicago show at the Bank America Theatre  on Monroe Street near State Street, try to get a reservation at Russian Tea Time, 77 E. Adams St.

Further south and west, is 312 Chicago at 136 N. LaSalle St. It is around the corner from the Cadillac Palace on Randolph Street which also does Broadway in Chicago shows and it’s about two blocks from the famed Goodman Theatre on Dearborn Street whose “Death of a Salesman” production traveled to New York.

Not everyone’s favorite restaurant is mentioned here and it’s OK to stumble on a place while walking and try it. There are so many good places, it’s hard to go wrong. So, enjoy Chicago!

Photos (c) Jodie Jacobs

Three tips to help plan your Spring Break now

If you live in one of the states that felt winter’s arctic temps or wild winds or unpredicted floods (and that is most of the United States), you deserve a treat.

So, don’t wait until you can actually escape to somewhere fun, interesting or colorful for Spring Break. Start planning now while the skies are grey or work impinges on sleep. Part of the fun of getting away is thinking about where to go and what to do when you get there.

Here are some tips to help you decide but they require fairly quick action because spaces and tickets go quickly.

Become familiar with cruise line deals. For example: Go to Princess to find half-price fares. The cruise line delivers what it promises. However, other cruise lines such as Norwegian also do last minute deals. The lines want to book their cabins and some of the destinations are perfect for a spring break.

Tie your spring break with something you’d love to try or do such as expert cooking.

Members of a food enthusiasts class who wanted to learn more about Southwest dishes and preparations are at the San Antonio CIA site

Members of a food enthusiasts class who wanted to learn more about Southwest dishes and preparations are at the San Antonio CIA site

The CIA, not the spy organization, but the Culinary Institute of America, offers food enthusiast courses at its Hyde Park site in New York, its Napa site in California and its San Antonio site in Texas. The places are in interesting vacation destinations.

Tie the spring break to a sport your family loves such as baseball’s spring training.

Go to Major League Baseball for the schedule to see what ties in with your spring break. By baseball definitions these are warm vacation destinations. The Cactus League is in Arizona and the Grapefruit League is in Florida.

Bonus tip: Have fun so don’t worry about what you can’t change.

Five top things to do now in Chicago

It doesn’t matter if you have visited Chicago or are now thinking of putting the city on your summer vacation list. Chicago simply does not stay still long enough to make any experience old or boring.

A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections

A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections

Millennium Park, home to the city’s famed “Cloud Gate” (“The Bean”) and Jay Pritzker Pavilion, keeps adding and changing sculptures and concerts.

The Art Institute of Chicago, connected to Millennium Park by the Sky Bridge over Monroe, moves from one block buster exhibition to the next. The theater scene, home of 200 live stage companies including Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres and Broadway productions, keep turning out Jeff and Tony award winners.

Just as important, new restaurants pop up weekly and new and remodeled hotels cater to today’s plugged-in generation and suburbanites who want to take advantage of Chicago’s downtown attractions.

With so much going on, planning a weekend can either be fun or a challenge. Here are five top Chicago destinations that can be centerpieces of a great vacation minus the confusing what-to-do part.

Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago

Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago

  1. You don’t have to know anything about art to find something fascinating at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The world-class museum happens to be showcasing French Impressionism from the Musee d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and its own collection now through Sept. 29, 2013. However, adults and youngsters ooh and ah at the miniature furniture and interiors in the Thorne Rooms and Medieval arms and armor.
  2. If you make it to Chicago before Aug. 18 you can still catch Goodman’s beautiful production of “The Jungle Book.”  Another hot 2013 ticket is the “Book of Mormon.” At the Bank of America Theater through Oct. 06, 2013. This is  the writers’ and director’s recently revised production which many critics think is even better than the original.
  3. Visitors often talk about and recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river boat tour. However if the price or times don’t match your pocket book or schedule you’ll do fine with the other boat companies’ architecture tours.  If you don’t mind walking you’ll like the Architecture Foundation’s tours that go inside buildings.

    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.

    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.

  4. Movie and television producers love Chicago. To see where some of the 80 movies set in Chicago were shot such as “Dark Knight” and “Blues Brothers” take the Chicago Film Tour. The guides are knowledgeable. You see parts of Chicago that even locals have not visited. And you see clips on the bus while traveling.
  5. You’ve heard of China Town, which is fun and interesting. But other Chicago neighborhoods also have their own character and unique restaurants. You can learn more about the city and explore some of its culinary scene with Chicago Tours and Sidewalk Tours.

Enjoy Chicago!

Photos (C) by Jodie Jacobs

For More endless summer ideas visit summer blogs

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