Magnolia Bakery Chicago
108 N. State St. at Block 37, The Loop
They’re obviously famous for their cupcakes, but Magnolia also puts that amazing buttercream to good use on wedding cakes. Their bakers are especially adept at creating beautiful textures on their layered cakes, creating soft, flower petal effects and even taking on the challenge of ombré frosting. In addition to the New York original, they now have locations in Chicago and Los Angeles.
A New Leaf (Closed)
312 S. Dearborn St., The Loop
With 30-plus years of experience, and three locations in the city, A New Leaf has become a Chicago mainstay florist. Their arrangements, many of which include gorgeous exotic flowers, are available for delivery or pick-up. This shop in the Loop is only open weekdays, but early (8am). The other two shops are both in Old Town and open seven days a week. A New Leaf also has an awesome event space in Old Town with an outdoor courtyard and open, airy interior with exposed brick and cool industrial details.
211 W. Adams St., The Loop
Snap Kitchen has revolved around grab-and-go meals since 2010, making them one of the older companies in the relatively new healthy-pre-made-meal space. There are convenient pickup locations in Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Chicago, but you can also arrange delivery through their app. Snap also offers a 21-day "commit" program, which offers healthy takes on hearty meals like gluten-free beef stroganoff, bison quinoa hash, chicken butternut squash macaroni, and fettucine and vegetable “alfredo.” The cooking style is relatively free from the niche health foods that turn some people off of clean eating, making it an easy transition for health-food rookies.
Art Institute Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave., The Loop
Founded in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago is hands down one of the city’s oldest treasures. The permanent collection is 300,000-strong, boasting such American classics as Grant Wood's American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s worth a visit just to see the recently opened, Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing. Piano is famous for his lighting, and the shelter above the space (which allows some daylight to sift into the galleries) is one of the best examples of his work to date.
A New Leaf
312 S. Dearborn Ave., The Loop
With three locations and a newly minted event space—boasting two levels of exposed brick and a courtyard—A New Leaf is a pretty sizable operation with a boutique-y, refreshingly approachable sensibility, which is good since special occasion and wedding florals are their jam. In fact, we asked them to beautify a number of Chicago goop pop-related events. And while they happily take phone orders, we suggest stopping by the Old Town flagship in person to DIY a bouquet from a garden’s worth of cut flowers and color-coordinated ribbon wall. There are also two outposts in Old Town.
17 E. Monroe St., The Loop
Stepping in here is the closest thing to time travel. Peter Merz opened this North Side institution in 1875 to resemble the European apothecaries his customers were missing, and other than moving to a bigger space in the 80s, it really hasn’t changed much: Holistic remedies and herbal tinctures (rounded out by a massive selection of vitamins and supplements) are displayed in their original antique jars, while natural skincare and beauty products from modern day favorites like Dr. Hauschka, Klorane, and Jao line the shelves. There’s also an equally well-stocked Lincoln Square location.
1 W. Washington St., The Loop
Atwood's airy open dining room means that every seat—be it bar, booth, or window—is the best seat in the house. It's the kind of reliable place that covers all its bases by serving a great omelet at breakfast, quickie but filling lunch, and a solid seafood or steak dinner at night. The private mezzanine area seats up to 30, making it particularly well-suited for business lunches.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
12 S. Michigan Ave., The Loop
Over a century ago, this Michigan Avenue landmark served as home base of the Chicago Athletic Association. The building had been vacant since 1997, so it was a pretty big deal when design firm Roman and Williams stepped in to re-imagine the massive building as a slick 241-room hotel. Sport is still a prominent theme here, as evidenced by a tricked out game room and walls of museum quality athletic memorabilia. And while the stained glass windows, grand ballroom, and general clubbiness were left intact, the brass lighting fixtures and leather furniture (both in-room and throughout the hotel) are welcome additions. There's also the sexy rooftop restaurant, Cindy's, a Shake Shack, and three more places to eat and drink. Incidentally, the cozy library at Cindy's is an excellent place to host a private event—it doesn't feel at all like a corporate hotel space, and the views of Lake Michigan are jaw-dropping.
Monadnock Building, 53 W. Jackson Blvd., The Loop
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 pretty perfect cup. As a rule, all outposts are aesthetically unique (five others are scattered in Old Town, Broadway, Millennium Park, Logan Square, and Wicker Park), offer free Wifi, and loads of seating options. Plus, you kind of have to love the theme-dressed baristas.