Riverwalk Chicago. PHOTO BY RANVESTEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Summer in Chicago
The city evolves with new parks and luxury hotels, of-the-moment restaurants, theater debuts, and a new jazz club
BY ELAINE GLUSAC — Summer 2017
Walk: Completed last fall, the 1.25-mile Riverwalk Chicago connects Lake Michigan to the Loop downtown business center, offering unique views of Chicago’s skyscrapers and architectural landmarks, such as Bertrand Goldberg’s 1967 cylindrical Marina Towers, from water level. Stop along the way at one of the route’s lively outdoor restaurants and bars, such as Tiny Tapp for craft cocktails and local beers and City Winery for outdoor concerts with a house-made cabernet. 877-300-6746; chicagoriverwalk.us
Bike: The 2-year-old Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.7-mile-long linear park created from an elevated and abandoned railway route, links several hip neighborhoods, including Logan Square and Wicker Park. It’s the centerpiece of a larger project known as the 606 (the606.org) that connects the trail to ground-level parks and an ideal way to get a feel for the city’s motto “Urbs in Horto,” or “City in a Garden.” Explore it on two wheels with Divvy, the city’s bike-share program, which operates several stations near the route ($9.95 for a 24-hour pass; divvybikes.com).
Imbibe: Rooftop bars crown a clutch of new hotels. Ride the elevator to the 22nd floor of the year-old 452-room LondonHouse Chicago for drinks above the Chicago River. You can have the grand cupola that tops the 1923-vintage skyscraper all to yourself for 30 minutes by purchasing a glass of Dom Perignon champagne ($50). Rooms from $299. 85 E. Upper Wacker Drive; 312-357-1200; londonhousechicago.com
Guests of the 69-room Robey hotel, which opened last November in Wicker Park, have priority access to the 13th-floor, 35-seat rooftop lounge and its panoramic views back to downtown. If you’re not a guest, try putting your name on the waiting list kept at the ground-floor French café. Rooms from $175. 2018 W. North Ave.; 872-315-3050; therobey.com
Listen: Chicago’s legendary jazz scene spans period speakeasies such as the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge and fixtures on the global touring circuit such as the Jazz Showcase. Last November, in the Streeterville neighborhood just west of Navy Pier, Winter’s Jazz Club debuted with 100 seats at cabaret tables that cluster around a low stage. The venue attracts a reverent following with its intimacy and good acoustics. Look for performances by local talents including guitarist Guy King, who has opened shows for B.B. King; and drummer George Fludas, who has toured with Diana Krall. 465 N. McClurg Court; 312-344-1270; wintersjazzclub.com
See: Steppenwolf Theatre Company expanded last summer to include a small cabaret-style space in the Lincoln Park complex. It also added the Front Bar, a buzzy lounge for pre- and post-curtain gathering. 1650 N. Halsted St.; 312-335-1650; steppenwolf.org
Hamilton had its Chicago premiere last September at the PrivateBank Theatre in the downtown Loop. Much-sought-after tickets are currently on sale through Jan. 7, 2018, starting at $65. 18 W. Monroe St.; 800-775-2000; broadwayinchicago.com
Dine: It’s hard to go wrong dining in Chicago (hint: hit Randolph Street in the West Loop for a string of sure-bet food spots). But over the past year, the most acclaimed innovators have reinvented some of the oldest formulas, from food courts to steakhouses.
At GT Prime, a sexy steakhouse where the prime cuts, from lamb loin to wagyu, come pre-sliced, chef Giuseppe Tentori makes meat sharable. Do yourself a favor and don’t pass on the first-course Bolognese pasta from the Italian-born chef.
707 N. Wells St.; 312-600-6305; gtprimerestaurant.com
At Revival Food Hall in the Loop, food stands represent popular neighborhood restaurants, including the raw fish salad specialist Aloha Poke Co. and Black Dog Gelato. A DJ twice weekly and a bar help amp the energy here. 125 S. Clark St.; 773-999-9411; revivalfoodhall.com
Regional Mexican cuisine specialist Rick Bayless recently opened Leña Brava in homage to Mexico’s northern Baja. Split between cold and flamed dishes, the menu highlights sushi-like raw fish starters and fire-roasted proteins. 900 W. Randolph St.; 312-733-1975; lenabrava.com
Chef Stephanie Izard has some fun with Chinese food at Duck Duck Goat. She calls it “reasonably authentic,” but if you’re hooked on Chinese-American staples such as crab Rangoon and moo shu pork, you’ll appreciate these elevated versions. 857 W. Fulton Market; 312-902-3825; duckduckgoatchicago.com
ALSO TRY: Digest the city’s character without leaving the Loop at the new Potter’s-Chicago Burger Bar at the Palmer House Hotel. Each quarter-pounder is themed after a local neighborhood; the ritzy Gold Coast comes embellished with foie gras and truffle aioli and Little Italy mixes Italian beef with spicy giardiniera. 124 S. Wabash Ave;
Visit: The American Writers Museum opened in May near Millennium Park. Its galleries explore great authors, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dr. Seuss. 180 N. Michigan Ave. americanwritersmuseum.org
Sleep: Another noteworthy hotel opened last November just steps from the shop-centric Magnificent Mile — the 287-room Conrad Chicago, with sleek interiors from designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. Chef Richard Sandoval oversees two restaurants, including Baptiste & Bottle, which specializes in bourbon cocktails and American fare such as cheddar and chive biscuits and triple-seared New York strip steaks. At press time, a rooftop sushi bar was scheduled to open in late spring. From $325. 101 E. Erie St.; 312-667-6700; conradchicagohotel.com