We're getting geared-up for a short trip to Chicago next week. I spent 7 years of my life there, from 1997-2004. During that time, I worked hard to perfect this list of my 12 favorite things. #'s 1-6 are in the Gold Coast/Olde Town/Lincoln Park area while #'s 7-12 are in Bucktown, Southport, and Andersonville. I rarely spend much town South of North Avenue.A New Leaf was always a favorite spot of mine. It's located in one of the most beautiful spots in the city on the corner of Lincoln and Wells. The shop boasts an amazing assortment of flowers, interesting curiosities, and small home decor items. The event space next door is also a special treat. It's usually closed off but you can request a peek inside. It holds a special place in my heart, it's where I got married. Image: A New Leaf.
2) I was working for Paper Source when this store opened. I've never seen an owner more proud. This location continues to be my favorite one.
3) A half block from P.S. is a lunchtime treasure: Chicago Bagel Authority. This might be partly a nostalgia thing with me but I crave CBA (especially after a night of too-much-fun.) They steam their sandwiches in a way I've never had anywhere else--delicious. Pay attention to all the funny pictures and signs in the shop, you can tell the owners and staff make the best of their time. Image: YoChicago1.
4) Keep on walking down Armitage (almost to the end) and you'll find Tom and Wendee's italian ice. Don't be fooled by the cheesy/odd decor and all the stuffed animals, this is by far the best frozen sweet in the midwest. Try the chocolate toffee crunch, again the appearance is--well, interesting, but the taste is divine. Image: I am wildcat.
5) Within walking distance from Armitage is Jayson Home and Garden--a home design mecca. Beautiful furniture, artwork and accessories, stunning styling, helpful staff, and if you spend enough money there, you get a bottle of wine around the holidays.
6) Funny, this is the only clothing store on my list. I've never been a huge fan of shopping for clothes in person. The Anthro. in the "viagra triangle" is a little piece of heaven. We usually stay in a nearby hotel, so I make the journey. Image: Sortov.com
7) I'm not sure if I can name a trip I've taken to Chicago in the past 5 years where I didn't go to Toast. I always order the same thing: a short stack of lemon poppyseed pancakes with extra lemon on the side, and a fruit cup. The same people have worked there since it opened. It's a true Chicago gem. Visit Robin Richman, The Red Ballon, and Pavilion to round out the drive to Bucktown.
8) Revival is the one place on this list that I discovered after I moved on. Right at the edge of the Southport Corridor neighborhood, it has a great mix of vintage, antique, and modern home furnishings with prices that aren't too crazy.
9) Head North by the Metra tracks and you'll find a tucked-away playground for design-crazed city-dwellers. Architectural Artifacts is truly the most interesting shop in town. Not just a salvage yard, they stock their 80,000 square foot space with everything from a 1959 Argentinian pick-up truck to antique wood block print letters. The prices can be up there, but be on the lookout for yellow tags that read: "Stuart doesn't love me anymore" for deep discounts. Image: Sassnasty.
10) Continue traveling North to Andersonville to find my #1 must-go spot in the city: Scout. Shop owner Larry Vodak's curates my favorite overall look and feel for interiors: a bit industrial, a lot of contrast, painted wood, interesting textures and lots of black accessories. He's one of the friendlies shop owners I've ever encountered, to boot. Image: thetodd.
11) If it's lunch time when you're in Andersonville, don't miss M. Henry. The food is kinda comfort/old-school/delicious and the space is just as pleasing to the eye as the food is to the tummy.
12) Hands-down my favorite meal in town is the Bi Bim Bop at Jin Ju. I've never had anything else like it, and I've had plenty of Korean food elsewhere. The restaurant has a clubby-feel, a fun drink menu and is home to Chicago's best server according to Chicago Magazine. Image: Eliza Evans.
All images not sourced are via the shop or restaurant's own websites.