Chicago Overview

Dining

Chicago restaurants, while offering any cuisine that you could conceivably desire; run the gamut from informal eateries to formalized, four-star fine dining. While a comprehensive list of every single restaurant within the Chicago city limits would be virtually impossible, there are a handful of world famous restaurants that definitely deserve your attention.

Charlie Trotter’s is probably the most famous restaurant in the city, and deservedly so. The restaurant itself is housed within a posh townhouse, but don’t be fooled by the lack of pretense: reservations are required. In fact, they are required far, far in advance; it is best to book your evening there months in advance, as everyone wants a taste of Chef Trotter’s award-winning elegant and subtle cuisine.

While Trotter’s epitomizes fine dining in the city, there are several other restaurants that are particularly popular with the elite crowd. Tru, located on the Magnificent Mile, is relatively new but has already established itself as a creative establishment that values the artistic aspect of food as much as the taste. Ambria, a bit further north in Lincoln Park, has been around a bit longer, and is the go-to place for a romantic, decidedly upscale French meal.

While slightly less chic, Rick Bayless, of PBS television’s “One Plate at a Time.” has two fantastic restaurants in River North: Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. Bayless is firmly committed to traditional Mexican cooking, and many experts believe that this is the premier restaurant for Mexican cuisine in the United States.

Shopping

The Chicago shopping scene offers an excellent combination of brand name accessibility and highly specialized boutiques. For the more unique shopping experience, visit Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, or the Ukrainian Village. Most of the most revered names in couture have a boutique on Michigan Avenue or Oak Street, which is on the Gold Coast. The downtown area also encompasses huge department stores the likes of Nordstroms, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman-Marcus. Finally, any self-respecting shopper will make sure to visit the home-grown Marshall Field’s on State Street. Considered to embody the personality of Chicago, while many know the store for its grand, antique clock and infamous Frango mints, it is most impressive during the holiday seasons when its windows are a sight to behold.

Public Transportation

City drivers often opt to leave their vehicles at home when sojourning into the heart of the downtown area. Parking there is notoriously difficult and expensive, and traffic at any time of day is enough to send your blood pressure soaring. Luckily, there are several good alternatives to automotive transportation. The Chicago El, the city’s underground rail system: the CTA, the above-ground bus system; and the Metra, trains coming in and out of the city, are all excellent options. And, of course for the savvy traveler, there are always taxis.