River North Specialty

Establishment neighborhood
The Chopping Block
The Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 107, River North
Owner Shelley Young opened the Chopping Block in a small cottage in Lincoln Park back in 1997 with the goal of sharing her love of prepping a home cooked meal with others. Since then, they've relocated their flagship to an 8,000-square-foot space in the Merchandise Mart. Here, a monthly roster of classes covers everything from knife skills to sushi and pasta workshops (we particularly like the "Know Your Gnocchi" class) and a course devoted to deep dish pizza and calzones—this is Chicago, after all. Classes range from 2-3 hours in length and there's a fully packed weekend schedule if you can't make it during the week. For locals wanting to take their kitchen skills to the next level, it's worth looking into their culinary bootcamp, which teaches professional techniques to home cooks in just five sessions. There's a second smaller location in Lincoln Square.
Doughnut Vault
401 N. Franklin St., River North
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, to truck as the menus and daily specials vary. The truck, for example, serves strictly old fashioneds (check twitter to find out where it’s parked). Keep in mind that all three can shut down unexpectedly if stock runs out. (The other standing location is in West Loop.)