This is a great area of Chicago for shopping, hotels, theater and restaurants.
Museum of Contemporary Art: Just south and east of Water Tower Place is the Museum of Contemporary Art. It offers exhibitions of contemporary art and does offer a series of programs including musical performances throughout the year. Their museum store is well-worth the trip by itself. 220 E. Chicago Ave.
Arts Club of Chicago: A private club that has a public gallery on the first floor. Check out the calendar as they have some great temporary exhibitions. Make sure to see the Calder sculpture and the Mies van der Rohe staircase that was constructed for its original building and then moved to this new building. Many of the 20th century’s most celebrated visual artists received their first solo exhibitions in the United States, or the Midwest, at The Arts Club. 201 E. Ontario, east of Michigan Ave.
Fred’s at Barney’s New York: This sleek restaurant is on the top floor of Barney’s. It has great views of Oak Street and the staff is excellent. The lobster BLT is to die for. The gift department across the hall has some wonderful books and home accessories. 15 E. Oak St. Another great restaurant in a retail store is the new Sophie’s at Saks Fifth Ave. at 700 N. Michigan. I was just there for the first time. Chef Ron Aleman has created some great dishes. There are wonderful salads, sandwiches and entrees. After tasting a creative grapefruit, arugula salad I loved the soup, salad and sandwhich combination. They are open for brunch, lunch and dinner three nights a week. The space is contemporary and sleek with great views of Michigan Ave.
One of our top new finds is Fig & Olive, which opened at 104 E. Oak. This 10,000 sq. restaurant on two levels, is warm, contemporary and sleek. There is a small outdoor terrace as well. The menu inspired by the South of France, Italy and Spain is really excellent. I loved the brunch menu with a really wonderful crab cake benedict, made with the best in fresh ingredients. My friends raved about the French omelette, the octopus and gazpacho.
Eataly: A block off of Michigan Ave. is Eataly, one of the chain’s newest international locations. Here you will find a wonderful market featuring Italian specialties, restaurants, a wine shop and a cooking school. You will find plenty of options with 23 eateries from fine dining to a Nutella Bar. 43 E. Ohio.
Chicago Poetry Foundation: I was blown away by the architecture of this building which I saw for the first time during Open House Chicago 2011. The building is sleek and contemporary. There is huge library dedicated to poetry which is open to the public and there is an attractive performance space where they offer programs throughout the year.
LUMA/Loyola University Museum of Art: A good, small art museum with a permanent collection as well as rotating exhibitions. You might stop in to see what is being featured. The permanent collections features European art from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. It is located at 820 N. Michigan.
City Gallery: Located in the historic Water Tower that survived the Great Fire of 1871, this gallery has free, temporary art exhibitions featuring local photographers and artists. So stop in and take a look, at 806 N. Michigan.
Driehaus Museum: This is a museum, located in the historic Samuel M. Nickerson mansion dating from America’s Guilded Age in the 19th century, that is a perfect place if you like antiques and the decorative arts. It is particularly wonderful during the holidays when it is totally decorated for Christmas. It is located at 40 E. Erie, just west of Michigan Ave.
Bistronomic: Bistronomic is an updated version of a classic French bistro. It is at 840 N. Wabash. I was just back and enjoyed a great brunch on a Saturday before a Joffrey Ballet performance.
Lookinglass Theatre: This is a great Chicago-based theater company located in the old Water Tower Pumping Station directly across from Water Tower Place. If you see a play on the schedule directed by Mary Zimmerman, don’t miss it. 821 N. Michigan. Nearby is the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, which features plays and musicals through Broadway in Chicago. It is at 175 E. Chestnut.
Cafe Spiaggia: At 980 N. Michigan Ave. on the second floor, is Tony Mantuano’s Cafe Spiaggia. It is a great Italian restaurant that is on casual side compared to the well-known Spiaggia next door that was recently totally remodeled.
Coco Pazzo Cafe also has great Italian dishes in a warm atmosphere at its location east of Michigan Ave.. They recently moved from 636 N. St. Clair to 212 E. Ohio to larger space. It still has the great murals and atmosphere. I just went for dinner and thought the food and service were very good. I will definitely go back.
Purple Pig: Popular N. Michigan Ave. restaurant that is a collaboration of chefs Scott Harris of Mia Francesca, Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia and Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Bannos Jr. of Heaven on Seven. Bannos Jr. shared the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in 2014. It features Mediterranean food with housemade charcuterie and cheeses. 500 N. Michigan.
Just south of the Purple Pig, is Beacon Tavern at 405 N. Wabash. Owned by Billy Lawless, of Acanto, The Dawson and The Gage, it is opened for lunch, dinner and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. I enjoyed a Sunday brunch on a warm, February day. They feature American gastropub fare with an emphasis on seafood and cocktails. I enjoyed my omelette and an amazing almond croissant.
For a casual breakfast or lunch, check out the Oaktree Restaurant which has been in the neighborhood for over 40 years. It is now located at 900 N. Michigan Ave.
For true elegance on Michigan Avenue, head to The Four Seasons at 120 E. Delaware and their new Allium restaurant. It is great for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea. Also for elegance is the famous Drake Hotel at 121 E. Walton. Here you can enjoy afternoon tea in the Palm Court which also has jazz and music on weekend nights. The Peninsula Hotel’s The Lobby, at 108 E. Superior, is also perfect for afternoon tea! RL is the great, clubby restaurant with American classic food that is part of the Ralph Lauren flagship store on Michigan Ave. The entrance is at 115 E. Chicago Ave.
Paul Stuart: This is one of the two Chicago locations for this New York based menswear retailer celebrating 75 years. It also offers updated, traditional styling and women’s apparel as well. 107 E. Oak. For women, Ikram is high on the list. 15 E. Huron. It carries apparel and home fashion plus has a gallery featuring Chicago artists and a cafe. The cafe is a “calm oasis” away from the crowds on Michigan Ave. Across from Ikram is Material Possessions, a wonderful home furnishings and accessories store. 704 N. Wabash.
Made famous by Saturday Night Live, “Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! No Coke! Pepsi!No Fries! Chips!”, Billy Goat Tavern is located below 430 N. Michigan Ave. Walk down the stairs to the lower level.
NoMI Kitchen, at the Park Hyatt is a perfect spot for brunch overlooking Michigan Avenue at 800 N. Michigan Ave. They have a great terrace in the back during the warmer months.
I also like the recently opened, The Little Beet Table, their first location outside of NYC. They feature a number of healthy options from mains and sides to salads and vegetables. The roaster shrimp salad with romaine, quinoa, avocado, spiced almonds, golden raisins with a wile balsamic dressing was the perfect lunch. 845 N. State.
One of my favorite spots off Michigan Ave. is Le Colonial at 937. N. Rush. It features upscale French-Vietnamese cuisine in an attractive, French Colonial setting.
Michael Mina has recently opened Margeaux Brasserie in the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago at 11 E. Walton. This upscale French brasserie reminded me of his popular Bardot Brasserie at the Venetian in Las Vegas. I recommend it for brunch as the room is bright and elegant and the menu perfect with a number of omelettes, croissant benedicts, soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches. The service was excellent.
I was able to have lunch at Petite Margeaux, their casual cafe on the first floor. The have a menu including quiche, salads, sandwiches, desserts and pastries along with coffee drinks and tea. I enjoyed a tasty quiche with a side salad and a perfect large macaron. It is a perfect spot while shopping on Michigan Avenue or Oak Street.
Recently opened is the upscale dining spot, Truluck’s Seafood Steak Crab House at 41 E. Chestnut. I had been to the one in Naples, Fl, two years ago. They also have locations in Boca Raton, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Houston, Austin and La Jolla. The decor is reminiscent of a high end supper club with a large bar. It features fish, seafood and steaks. The service and food are excellent, but be prepared for an expensive meal!
20 East at the Talbott Hotel at 20 E. Delaware is an attractive new restaurant that is a good spot to grab a bite while shopping or visiting the area. I enjoyed having a Saturday brunch.
La Storia Restaurante: This Michelin recommended Italian restaurant, has a warm, classic atmosphere and an extensive menu. They feature a number of pizzas, pastas, risottos and main courses from fish and scallops to beef and lamb. I really enjoyed the cioppino with fish, clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari in a puttanesca tomato sauce. The arugula pizza was also excellent.
One of the highlights is the colorful mural by Ed Sorels who is an illustrator, caricaturist, cartoonist, graphic designer and author whose work is known for its storytelling. The mural features some of Chicago’s historic figures over many years. 1154 N.Dearborn.
Getting great press is Marisol the new restaurant and bar on the lower level of the Museum of Contemporary Art/MCA. There is a casual area for coffee, a community work space, a bar, counter service with communal tables, and an attractive dining room for lunch, brunch or dinner. It was a great spot for brunch on a busy Saturday, before a musical nearby at the Broadway Playhouse.