Hi, I’m Elle + I’m a city-girl wannabe. While Kansas City is no where near the kind of bustling city that Chicago is, it still gives me enough of a fix to keep me going until my next big city moment.
Central Illinois? Not quite fulfilling that need.
Sorry Champaign, I love you, but I need more than a ‘cute’ downtown sometimes.
So, while I am nowhere near a Chicago native, here’s my breakdown of my personal favorite hidden gems of the city and a guide to getting around a good chunk of my (sort of) new home, (at least for the next few years).
Starting off your day: The West Loop
I’m going to be real with you all, I don’t quite get the Chicago rail system lingo, but I was told I was in the West Loop. And I don’t question the locals.
Brunch: Recess at City Hall
Listen, I don’t care if you aren’t a brunch person, Recess will change your mind. This new-ish location is the best brunch move. Not too pricey (for a Chicago brunch), the COOLEST atmosphere, and amazing food.
The manager + waitress were amazing and gave us the best advice on food and experience in the West Loop. They have a courtyard made of shipping containers that they plan to use as an amazing outdoor venue in the warmer months, so I can’t wait to go back.
I chowed down on the Avocado Toast with arugula + zaatar topped with a fried egg. Then their sliders with ‘atomic sauce’* + waffle fries. And, as if I wasn’t stuffed enough already, finished it off with the dreamiest banana pudding.
* side note on this atomic sauce: I could drink it. It has capers in it. No joke, best burger sauce ever. My mouth is drooling just thinking about it.
Time To Walk: Heading to Maggie Daley Park + The Waterfront
We decided to take advantage of the nice day, and to see the city by foot (which my feet did NOT appreciate). The 40 minute walk from the West Loop took us past the most amazing smelling chocolate factory, over some pretty bridges, and through the heart of downtown Chicago.
After a quick pitstop at the Bean to be just a little touristy, we headed over to the other side and my personal favorite green scape in the city, Maggie Daley Park. It’s like a more pared down Millennium, with a rock wall surrounded by an ice rink, putt putt courses, a playground that tempted me to join in, and lush greenery. I don’t quite get how they can keep a park looking lush in mid-February, but I’m crediting it to the magic of city life.
We walked down to the Chicago Yacht Club and watched runners, walkers, and bikers from one of the docks, and took pictures of the Insta-worthy frozen water against the bluest sky I’ve seen in a while. Again, City. Magic.
Onto Chinatown: Rail System Adventures
In true tourist fashion, we had to try out the Red Line, which the manager at Recess promised was safe for first time riders. After a few stops on the wrong train, we got onto the right one (it was a 50/50 chance, okay?) and headed into Chinatown.
While Chicago Chinatown doesn’t strike you quite as much as San Fran’s, it still carries the same excitement + energy. We searched around for the best steamed pork buns, and found not only the best, but also the cheapest. CITY. MAGIC.
These pork buns from Chiu Quon Bakery were only $1.50 each, and they can truly attest to why it’s been around for a quarter of a century. They are the fluffiest, happiest, most flavorful steamed buns I have ever had, and I could probably eat them for every meal.
After our snack/second lunch, we headed to Tom Ping Park to see the city from the South Side. The stroll through Chinatown was the perfect way to digest the massive buns and we found some well-lit wall murals hidden near the kayak rentals.
Wrapping Up Your Day: Wrigleyville
After catching a quick Uber back to our car parked across from Recess, we hopped on the road to Wrigleyville. Even though there wasn’t a game, there was still the same amount of energy pulsing through the center. We walked around for a bit, popping in to Starbucks to give me my caffeine fix, and into McDonald’s for my dad’s daily Coke with light ice. Our Chicago adventure wrapped up with the best dinner at Mordecai, an upscale American joint tucked into the bar-heavy area.
Their steak frites put me into a happy food coma, but you know I’ll be coming back for their CrackerJack beignets.
Thank you for indulging my food-blogger aspirations, and let me know if you try any of my new favorite spots!