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The Chicago Guide

The Chicago Guide

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Chicago is easy to love. First, there’s the famous Midwestern charm, which can’t be overstated and seems genetically wired in its inhabitants. People are just really nice here. Then, of course, there are world class museums, parks, parks, parks everywhere you look, and so many great restaurants we’ve barely made a dent in our checklist. And every year, it just gets better. Formerly off-the-beaten path neighborhoods, like Logan Square and Bucktown, are now front-and-center when it comes to Chicago’s new crop of hip watering holes, while old school haunts, like The Peninsula (one of GP’s favorites), are getting fresh, modern makeovers. As much as we love sharing everything new, though, we’re also rediscovering cultural institutions, shops, and restaurants that deserve newfound attention. It’s this uniquely Chicago mix, after all, that makes this city so endlessly exciting.

Blue Door Farm Stand

Blue Door Farm Stand

2010 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park | 312.265.0259

Part neighborhood café, part grocery, this Lincoln Park favorite is the definition of farm-to-table: All seasonal ingredients for the café and fresh produce for the market either come from the Blue Door farm, which is situated on what used to be Oprah’s property, or a number of other local purveyors. The eat-in menu has six grilled cheese varieties and a selection of craft beers while the small dry-goods section offers house-made pantry stockers and giftables from Chicago Candle Co., and goop-approved Murchison-Hume.

Dollop Coffee Co.

Dollop Coffee Co.

343 S. Dearborn St., Downtown | 312.846.6103

While Dollop has expanded across Chicago over the past 10 years, it’s still very much the neighborhood coffee house at heart—there’s nothing slick or overwhelmingly modern about any of the cafes. At the original Uptown spot, the seating options include lived-in couches and upholstered chairs, which if you’re in it for the long haul, makes a difference. The food offering, while modest, will do the trick in a pinch. The Streeterville location is spacious and well suited for study groups or casual meeting. Want fresh-baked pie to go with your coffee? Evanston serves Hoosier Mama pie all day. Perfectly brewed Metropolis coffee is consistent throughout so check out the Gold Coast outpost, too.

Doughnut Vault

Doughnut Vault

111 N. Canal St., West Loop | 312.285.2830

Doughnuts have been enjoying a pretty awesome resurgence, and nowhere is that more evident than this family of bakeries, where out-the-door lines are a daily occurrence. Flavors run the gamut from buttermilk to gingerbread stack, but the award winning glazed is the long-standing favorite. For diehards, it might be worth it to hop from shop to shop, as the menus and daily specials vary. Keep in mind that all three can shut down unexpectedly if stock runs out, so check twitter if you're planning a visit for later in the day. (The other standing location is in River North.)

Eli’s Cheesecake

Eli’s Cheesecake

6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr., Dunning | 773.205.3800

This is where real Chicagoans go for Chicago-style cheesecake—less dense than NY-style with a moist, butter-cookie crust. There’s a miles-long list of inventive flavors—white chocolate raspberry, hot chocolate, blackberry sour cream—but the original is still tops. Coincidentally, Eli’s is also famous for having the best tofu-based vegan cheesecake in the country, which according to lore, the owners developed after GP suggested there was a hole in the market for vegan cheesecake that didn't taste like cardboard.

Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Gaslight Coffee Roasters

2385 N Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square

It may appear to be one of those hipster, brick coffee houses that are ubiquitous these days, but this Logan Square roaster also happens to serve an excellent breakfast and lunch, too. Locals swear by the duck egg benedict and house made pickles, and the tartines (ricotta with pear, prosciutto and olive oil; salmon with goat cheese, capers and chives) make for great snacks in between exploring the area’s vintage and specialty stores. Pro tip: Buy a bag of Gaslight’s beans to bring home, and you’ll get your coffee order for free.

Heritage Bicycles

Heritage Bicycles

1325 W. Wilson Ave., Uptown | 872.806.0639

We teamed up with Heritage as part of our Chicago pop last year (we're currently in Sag Harbor, Dallas, and Aspen for the summer). After all, this is the kind of family-run operation that can make all your bike-related dreams come true. Not only will they custom build one from scratch (Tassels? Glitter? No problem!), but they make great coffee, too. The original Lincoln Avenue outpost (owners Mike and Melissa Salvatore actually live upstairs) does both in addition to a sweet general store, while the newer Heritage Outpost in Uptown is devoted entirely to coffee. You'll find free Wifi, and a group of people working on laptops, at both locations.

Intelligentsia

Intelligentsia

2642 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square | 773.945.1690

Chicago-based Intelligentsia ushered in a new wave of gourmet coffee shops, the kind where responsibly sourced and expertly roasted coffee is prepared using methods that, though time-consuming, result in a perfect cup. As a rule, all outposts are aesthetically unique (five others are scattered in Old Town, Broadway, Millennium Park, Wicker Park, and The Loop), offer free wi-fi, and loads of seating options. Plus, you have to love the theme-dressed baristas.

Oromo

Oromo

4703 N Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Square | 773.799.1931

Tired of almond milk? This is your place. This colorful little place gives the health-obsessed cafés of L.A. a serious run for their money when it comes to alternative creamers. Pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, and coconuts are all soaked, pressed, blitzed, and strained for the perfect velvety, dairy-free latte. These nutty elixirs are spiked with all manner of adaptogens and superfoods (ashwagandha, moringa, maca, camu camu) for a supercharged, super healthy pick-me-up. The coconut Cubano—hot espresso poured over a teaspoon of coconut sugar—is the perfect marriage of syrupy sweetness and bitter heat.

Pequod’s Pizza

Pequod’s Pizza

2207 N. Clybourn Ave., Lincoln Park | 773.327.1512

It’s kind of blasphemous to visit Chicago and not indulge in a deep-dish pizza, and the pan pies at Pequod’s (they’ve been churning them out since 1970) are the best money can buy. Sure the crust is simultaneously crispy and pillowy and the toppings bountiful, but it’s the extra layer of cheese between the dough and the pan that’s helped them stand the test of time.

Real Good Juice Co.

Real Good Juice Co.

1647 N. Wells St., Old Town | 773.451.5484

This Old Town juicery goes to great lengths to make their cold pressed juices (and smoothies, yogurts, salads, snacks…) live up to its name. A dedicated juice chef takes care of sourcing (all local, always organic), and the hilariously punny names make remembering your favorite blends easy (Juice Springsteen, Punky Juice-ster, Juice-tin Bieber—you get the idea). Plus, the space itself—all white save for the occasional bursts of neon—is nice for a mid-day breather.

Wells Street Market

Wells Street Market

205 W. Wacker Dr., Downtown | 312.614.4176

Chicago’s newest food hall is a 10,500 square foot temple to the new wave American culinary themes that have exploded in the last decade. Modern iterations of ethnic cuisine (chicken shio ramen from Japanese noodle bar Furious Spoon, non-GMO Polish pierogi from The Chow Brothers) are right next to farm-to-table fast casual spots, like Fare, which serves organic, produce-driven dishes (try the breakfast bowls with Tuscan kale, slow roasted tomatoes, cage-free eggs, and an herby pesto). For a quick pick-me-up, there’s even a florist, Flowers for Dreams, which offers sustainable, artisanal bouquets starting at $15 and come wrapped in recyclable cloth or vases made of reclaimed wood.