A bit of back story first, I went to high school in Oak Park, just west of downtown Chicago.  I usually spent my weekends in the city going to restaurants and clubs, of course to the dislike of my parents, but isn’t that what the teen years are for?

Last week I was home with family while also enjoying some time at a few local favorite restaurants.  They are not glamorous or expensive, but some of the best food you can find.  The great thing about Chicago is there is not a bad hotdog or Italian beef in town.  My favorite spots are right along Roosevelt Rd/Oak Park Ave (Oak Park, Berwyn, River Forest areas).  Perhaps because that is where some great memories were had, and usually over a meal.   I digress…

Over the last few years there has had a major shift in the direction of the Chicago food and wine industry with some key talents: Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat), Paul Kahan (Blackbird), Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next, and Aviary), just to name a few.  This along with the release of the first Chicago Michelin Guide last fall (regardless of its content) has shown the spotlight on a resurgence of quality cuisine options to the downtown area.  As summer approaches (and as one of the worst winters on record comes to an end), it’s a great time to hop on the L/Metra and head downtown for some great food, wine, and entertainment.    

Selections from the area:


Foss Food Trucks.  (@FossFoodTrucks) I love a good meatball.

Henri.  An award winning lineup with the talents of Chef Dirk Flanigan (2011 James Beard Awards Semi-Finalist/Best Chef Great Lakes Region) and Shebnem Ince (Food & Wines 2011 Top Sommeliers).

The Gage.  (@thegagechicago) Next door to Henri (and same owners), this is Chef Flanigan’s more casual but still top quality/presentation of seasonal and tavern inspired food, beer and cocktails.  A must: mussels, smoked salmon sandwich, and fish & chips.  I sit at the bar or on their patio in the summer while enjoying the view of Millennium Park.

DMK Burger Bar.  (@DMKBurgerBar) A must if you are in the Lakeview area (north of downtown, and an easy ride on the L).  My favorites: #4 Hatch green chili burger with cheddar and scallion fries.

And of course…just about any hotdog/Italian beef stand in the city. 😉


Millennium Park

Museum of Science and Industry.  Even as an adult this really has some great exhibits (both traveling and permanent), including the immense exhibit of the U-505 Submarine.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio.  Located in Oak Park, this is a must if you are at all interested in architecture.  Oak Park is also home to quite a few great local restaurants and shopping (especially art and artisanal foods) as well as a multitude of great examples of FLW architecture.  If you have a day, spend it walking along the streets of downtown Oak Park and a visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.


A special thanks to Emily Kirkman for the photos. 😉

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