Chicago

Overview

From Andrew Harper

Hunkered down at the southwestern edge of oceanic Lake Michigan, Illinois’ largest city (and the nation’s third-largest metropolis) has endured devastating fires, icy winds, Al Capone’s corruption and beleaguered baseball teams. Yet its hearty Midwestern character not only endures but flourishes, with dazzling architecture, gritty blues, innovative theater and comedy, rich cuisine and a welcoming heartland disposition.

Most visitors stay within the downtown “Loop” (the central business district circumscribed by the elevated metro tracks) and there are ample attractions here, from the nation’s tallest skyscraper, Sears Tower; to the art deco masterpiece, The Chicago Board of Trade Building; to the resplendent civic green space of Grant Park. The postmodern public art of Millennium Park and the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago can constitute an afternoon alone. But for a truer taste of the city, venture out into the neighborhoods, like the North Side’s theaters, bars and clubs (and vintage baseball stadium, Wrigley Field) or the bohemian havens of the West Side, where, in Wicker Park, an independent arts scene thrives and Polish and Ukrainian cultural attractions offer a taste of the city’s Slavic roots. Enjoy a beer and sausage to bridge the Old World with the New.

Hotels

All recommended hotels in Chicago

Illinois, United States
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

Exceptional 345-room hotel offering lake and city views from the middle floors of a downtown tower complex incorporating upscale Michigan Avenue shops.

Illinois
The Peninsula Chicago
The Peninsula Chicago

Sophisticated 339-room hotel overlooking North Michigan Avenue in the heart of the premier shopping district. Enhancements have recently been made to the opulent lobby and the classically elegant, high- tech guest rooms and suites.

Illinois
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago

Contemporary 339-room hotel occupying first 28 floors of a 92-floor steel-and-glass tower. Spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows afford spectacular city views.

Illinois
Waldorf Astoria Chicago
Waldorf Astoria Chicago

Luxurious 188-room European- style hotel in prestigious Gold Coast neighborhood. Gated entry courtyard with central fountain. Interiors blend classic and contemporary décors.

Illinois

Dining

All recommended restaurants in Illinois

Everest

No one can argue about one attribute of this restaurant: The view is magnificent, as Everest is perched on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange. The interior is low-key, with pale colors and discreet lighting. The food, however, will certainly grab your full attention. Chef Jean Joho hails from Alsace, and here he combines that heritage with top American ingredients. The menu changes frequently, but starters might include crusted Berkshire pork cheeks with a choucroute salad. Among the main courses, you could find halibut with carrots, cipollini onions and double-smoked bacon; or rack of lamb with a sweet garlic flan and a compote of peas and fava beans. The wine list contains more than 1,700 selections.

440 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60605
United States
$95
Les Nomades

This is one of the prettiest restaurants in the city, set in a turn- of-the-century brownstone. The menu is contemporary French and changes according to availability, but look for starters such as herb-roasted lobster with heirloom squash in a coconut milk-curry sauce. Main courses might include Arctic char with maitake mushrooms, rice and tapenade in a yellow tomato- lemongrass sauce; or the braised wagyu flat iron steak with root vegetables and trumpet royale mushrooms. The extensive wine list has 18 selections by the glass.

222 East Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
Four-course menu, $115; five courses, $130
MK

Mellow brick walls, soaring windows and a vaulted wood ceiling create a handsome setting for the straightforward but impeccably prepared food of chef Michael Kornick. For example, the starter of yellowfin tuna tartare comes with a celery root remoulade and Moroccan oil-cured olives that complement rather than hide its flavors. Another starter you might see is medallions of Maine lobster in a green garlic-lobster soup with lemon and chervil. Among the main courses, you could find Atlantic salmon grilled over hardwood charcoal and served with bok choy glazed with Chinese mustard, shiitake mushrooms and a ginger-soy vinaigrette; or a grilled veal porterhouse with asparagus and a balsamic-based sauce.

868 North Franklin Street
Chicago, IL 60610
United States
$60
North Pond

This 1912 structure once served as a warming shelter for ice skaters. The redone interior is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts style, with wood accents, ochre brick walls, period posters and a feel of rustic elegance. Chef Bruce Sherman’s creative menu is keyed to fresh, seasonal ingredients, so items change regularly. Recent starters have included a tarragon crêpe stuffed with chicken served with a poached egg, morels and asparagus, all in a Madeira jus with watercress garnish; and a luxurious soup of a velouté of artichokes and white wine with a goat cheese emulsion and a touch of rosemary. Look for main courses such as grilled fillet of black bass with charred leeks and a bacon-infused braise of shell beans with Vidalia onions, or medallions of charred New York strip steak, roasted golden beets and a red-onion salad. The wide-ranging, fairly priced wine list has 21 selections by the glass.

2610 North Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
United States
$65
Spiaggia

Since it first opened more than 20 years ago, this restaurant has performed like a finely crafted instrument, a testament to the vision of its founder, Larry Levy. With its enviable perch overlooking Oak Street Beach, and a supremely talented chef, Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia is the city’s finest Italian restaurant. The menu changes with the market, but look for pastas such as the fusilli with sea urchin, sugar snap peas, dashi and controne pepper; or potato gnocchi with a ricotta sauce and black truffles. Main courses might include roasted salmon with asparagus, snails, polenta and fresh herbs; or grilled veal chop with nettle pesto, sunflower honey, grilled grapefruit and asparagus.

980 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
$85
Takashi

Named for chef Takashi Yagihashi, this fine restaurant serves food billed as French-American with Japanese influences, but that doesn’t quite account for the menu’s inventiveness. Selections are categorized as hot and cold small plates and large plates. Among the intriguing choices: a spring roll packed with shrimp, octopus, arugula, carrots, peanuts and jicama with a piquant chili-sansho pepper vinaigrette; sautéed Maine scallops and soba gnocchi with trumpet royale mushrooms in a celery root-Parmesan foam; Amish chicken in a clay pot with shimeji mushrooms, eggplant and haricots verts, all in a tangy yuzu juice; and a seared veal loin with a gratin of scallions, couscous with asparagus and bacon and a preserved lemon-caper brown butter. The wine list is based on the predominant characteristics of the wines, so you will see categories such as “Crisp, Clean and Refreshing” for whites and “Big Boys” for reds.

1952 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
United States
$60
The Chicago Chop House

In a city that has been called “America’s butcher,” you expect a great steakhouse. There are several here, but for something specifically Chicago, head for this beautifully restored Victorian townhouse. Its clubby atmosphere is heightened by dark wood paneling and walls decked with more than 1,400 photographs of the city’s colorful past. The menu offers great renditions of favorite starters such as a lettuce-wedge salad with smoked bacon and blue- cheese dressing, and crab cakes. Main courses include New York strip steak, porterhouse, filet mignon and prime rib with classic sides like creamed spinach and a jumbo Idaho baked potato. The wine list has more than 650 selections, including 30 by the glass.

60 West Ontario
Chicago, IL 60654
United States
$75

Special Offers

Special Offers

The Peninsula Hotels - Suite Experience
The Peninsula Hotels - Suite Experience

Explore The Peninsula hotels’ spacious suites, featuring elegant design and state-of-the-art technology in sophisticated comfort. The Suite Experience offers a wealth of benefits including: round-trip airport transfers, daily breakfast for two, complimentary minibar, one culinary journey or dining experience for two at the hotel’s signature restaurants, and flexible check-in and check-out times. A minimum stay of two consecutive nights is required to enjoy these amenities.