Chicago List: Out of Hibernation

It’s been a while since I drafted a new list of things to do around the city. With summer ramping up, it seemed a perfect time to build out something fresh, a brand new list of what I’m looking forward to doing and seeing and experiencing as the city comes out of hibernation.

The 3 Arts Club Cafe in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood

It seems like I constantly see Instagrams of the photogenic Three Arts Club Cafe at Restoration Hardware. I’ve actually walked past it several times without even realizing it, as it’s just a block away from the Public Hotel, where I used to host a screening series, in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. Apparently located inside a Restoration Hardware store, it’s part cafe, part wine tasting room and all well-appointed. I’m not sure it’s a cafe made for working, so I may have to enlist a friend or two to join me for coffee some afternoon.

Just south of 3 Arts is the tapas bar Arbella, a narrow space with a long bar and deep booths serving craft cocktails and small plates. With food options like golden beet flatbreads and grilled steak skewers, and drinks including the Fallen Aristocrat and Fool’s Gold, there’s adventure to be had over happy hour. The menu even includes a section called N.F.A – their list of options for patrons who are not fucking around. Get it? They’ll run you a cool $35, but I imagine these potions are worth it.

I’ve been far, far too lax in my karaoke adventures here in Chicago. I got a solid fix in during the film festival; that gang’s preferred hangout is Brando’s Speakeasy. But I’m itching for a classic night of pseudo-rockstardom, a private room and plenty of beverages to grease the vocal chords. I’ve heard Lincoln Karaoke is a great option – the private rooms in true Koreatown fashion with a full bar and menu to keep your group fueled up for the long haul. Sign me up!

I discovered the newly launched American Writers Museum via a New York Times post on Facebook; as I read the article, I was delighted to see that it was actually inspired by a similar institution in Dublin. I remember seeing it as we rode a bus through town back in 2015 and wishing we had more time in the city to fit in a visit. This U.S. edition features histories of a broad spectrum of American writers, and they’ve opened with an exhibit including Jack Kerouac’s original scroll of On The Road.

Are you really a Chicagoan if you haven’t soaked up Al Capone’s Chicago? Not many haunts are left, but The Green Mill ranks up there as a must; he was known to hang out at a certain booth where he and his henchmen could keep an eye on both doors. Today, the jazz club features live music pretty much every night of the week (and late into the night, at that) and a martini for the ages. They say they don’t have a dress code, but I’d do it up right and find something fabulous to wear – probably with fringe – to make a night out of it.

When I was making plans to move back to Chicago, I had to get acquainted with the city’s neighborhoods, and fast. Several people suggested I give Pilsen a look. On the city’s near-south-side, it’s probably just a few years behind Logan Square on the gentrification train, so the suggestion was not without value; why not get in on a neighborhood on the way up? I landed elsewhere, but I’d love to take a day to eat my way through the area’s best options, and see the sights along the way.

What are the undiscovered gems around Chicago (or your own neighborhood) that you keep meaning to check out? What’s stopping you? Go on, get out there!