I love walking around Chicago! It’s one of my favorite cities to explore.
There’s a peaceful electricity in Chi-Town (unlike the red hot fire electricity of NYC). Each time I’m there, I try to walk everywhere I go, to look up and look around and absorb what the city has to offer. This visit, I stayed in the heart of the city, right on the famed Magnificent Mile (which got its name for all the great shopping choices).
It’s a mouthful, but the Chicago Downtown Marriott Magnificent Mile (CDMMM) is all about location! From this 46-story high-rise hotel, you can easily get to where you want to go, whether it be shopping on the Mile, to popular tourist attractions (purchase the Chicago CityPASS before you go), across the river for foodie explorations or towards the lakefront, you can’t go wrong. The hotel is currently under a reno but the staff is friendly and courteous, the rooms are spacious and Marriott is consistent. (My only critique is that you still have to pay for WiFi in guest rooms, which seems outdated to this traveler.)
With the Chicago CityPASS, you have access to the Adler Planetarium, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium (check out the beluga whales!), 360 Chicago for a view and a few other options.
But, let’s be honest. We really want to eat in Chicago! Here are four finds for your culinary pleasure.
About 10 years old, the Chicago French Market (1.3 miles from CDMMM) hosts over 30 various vendors for your eating pleasure. Their retail and carryout options abound but you’ll want to order some grub and enjoy it there within the small seating area while listening to French music. You won’t find a more diverse array of cuisines (over 18), including Ethiopian, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Korean, Indian, Cajun, Polish, French, Hawaiian plus a raw bar and kosher deli. CFM started the growing food hall trend in towns and is likely the only one where you can find “vegan soul food.”
CFM serves around 7,000 people daily on weekdays from restaurants like Polpetti Meatball Bar, The Dapper Donut and Wood Fire Counter BBQ. But if you’re there for breakfast, get a crepe from Flip Crepes (which are even gluten free). I loved The Sunshine with eggs, bacon, avocado, pepperjack cheese and chipotle mayo.
An easy walk from CDMMM (right up the Mag Mile if you wish), you will be wowed at The Little Beet Table (which got its start in NYC ) by their fresh menu. The restaurant is cozy and bright (the interior artwork is Insta worthy, as their food).
Start with sunflower hummus made with za’atar and herbs and served with pita bread and veggie crudites, or the watercress guacamole with a charred jalapeno-scallion pebre and lime, served with corn tostadas. You might start these apps with a cucumber lemonade, which will hit the spot on a warm day. Journey on to their mushroom and black bean burger, topped with avocado, sprouts, pickled onion, tomato and chipotle mayo. Your side will be two perfectly roasted sweet potato halves. (Not a bad pair with chardonnay, wink wink!)
The ideal place for a late afternoon snack and cocktails, Reviver is the lobby bar area on the first floor of CDMMM. Seated here, you can also order from the lunch menu of Harvest, which is the second floor restaurant. Depending on how hungry you are, you can choose from hummus, a grilled chicken wrap, salads, burgers and such. Because it is a bar, you can also enjoy a variety of cocktails (or mocktails), wine or beer. It’s a great location to meet a friend or just decompress by yourself for the day.
Missing Texas while in Chicago? Dine at the delicious Texas de Brazil steakhouse, just steps from CDMMM and a luxurious and filling dinner extravaganza. Start with what they call the salad bar, but is so much more. Sure, there’s lettuce and veggies that you can drench in ranch dressing, but there’s also fresh cubes of mozzarella, herbed tomatoes and sliced salami; hummus and fresh bread; various olives and an entire hot bar with soups, potatoes and other sides.
Back at your table, you’ll enjoy bite-sized biscuits and mashed potatoes as server after server comes by to offer one meat or another. From filet mignon wrapped in bacon to pork tenderloin to parmesan drumettes, you will eat until your heart’s content. Of course, the cabernet sauvignon will be flowing to pair with your meat parade. And, save room in your dessert pocket for the most delicious bananas foster pie your mouth has ever experienced!
Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine and the voice of the “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s show, Texas Standard. She’s also the founder of the book publicity firm, PR by the Book. Find Marika on Twitter and Instagram.