Kenney Marlatt, who writes about his city’s cocktail scene for the Chicago Tribune and is a design lead at the Tribune Design & Production Studio, wants to be sure you get the most out of your visit. Kenney, whose Instagram we absolutely recommend you check out, is on the team that’s been planning SND Chicago for the last several months and is the driving force behind the opening night food and drink. Take his advice. We have. — The SND Chicago Team
When I travel to a new city, I always try to figure out what the locals like to do. For your trip to the Windy City for SND Chicago, I’ll save you some time and just tell you. So listen up, because here’s what I would do if I were you.
A Short Walk: Want to snag that selfie next to “The Bean”? Cloud Gate is located on the northeast corner of Chicago’s Millennium Park, a 25-acre public space featuring sculptures, a Frank Gehry designed pedestrian bridge and the gorgeous Lurie Garden. Check it out on your way to the opening reception!
A Short Walk: Recreate Ferris Bueller’s Day off at The Art Institute of Chicago where you’ll find famous works such as Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
A Short Walk: Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the world’s largest contemporary art venues. Its mission is to bring audiences together, “presenting contemporary art and culture in ways that illuminate what it means to be a citizen of both Chicago and the world.”
A Short Walk: When folks come to Chicago, they often think they should go check out the observation deck at the Sears (ahem, Willis) Tower. But I say, stroll over to the John Hancock Center, skip the observation deck, and head to The Signature Lounge. The drinks are pricey, but the elevator ride is free. Bonus: You’ll get the Tower-Formerly-Known-As-Sears in your Instagram shots.
Venturing Out: One of the largest natural history museums in the world, The Field Museum first opened its doors during the 1893 World’s Fair. One of the museum’s current exhibitions showcases some of the world’s best nature photographs.
Venturing Out: Baseball time is here again, and if you are sticking around after the workshop, opening day at Wrigley Field is Monday, April 8. The Cubs take on the Pirates at 1:20 p.m.
A Short Walk: Want to grab a breakfast sandwich and catch up on some email? Dollop Coffee Co served specialty coffees and snacks with a side of WiFi.
A Short Walk: If you are an early riser and want a sit-down breakfast, Yolk Streeterville is just a couple blocks from the Sheraton and offers your standard pancakes, waffles and omelets.
A Short Walk: Popular at all times of the day, Beatrix opens for breakfast at 7am on weekdays and features a large menu that includes fresh juices and smoothies.
Venturing Out: Located inside the swanky Viceroy Hotel, Somerset is a beautiful restaurant run by chef Lee Wolen, who is serving up one of my favorite breakfasts in the city. They open at 7 a.m. so you can grab a quiet morning breakfast before the workshop starts. Get the baked eggs, with spicy tomato sauce, feta cheese, merguez sausage and grilled bread.
Nearby: Heading to the Gleacher Center on Thursday morning? Espressamente Illy is open weekdays at the base of the NBC Tower right between the Sheraton and the Gleacher Center.
Nearby: Munchkin fans will find a Dunkin’ Donuts in the Chicago Pedway beneath the Medill Building. The Pedway is an underground pedestrian walkway that connects downtown buildings and is accessible from the Swissotel.
Nearby: When the Chicago Tribune was still in the Tower, I would grab an afternoon latte at Peet’s Coffee, inside the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue.
Nearby: The Illinois Center at 111 East Wacker offers every sort of fast food outlet you can think of. Options include Jimmy John’s, Potbelly, McDonald’s, Pret A Manger and local favorite Blackwood BBQ. They’re all accessible via the Chicago Pedway from the Swissotel.
Nearby: Cheezeborger! Cheezeborger! The burgers served up at The Goat may not be the best in the city, but nevertheless the Billy Goat Tavern is a landmark watering hole for Chicago journalists. Don’t bother getting a single cheeseburger, double is the best. (It also opens at 6am on weekdays for early-morning bacon and egg sandwiches.)
Venturing Out: Chicago is known for deep-dish pizza but I’m here to tell you the real truth: Deep-dish pizza spots are where we take our friends from out-of-town. But every day in hole-in-the-wall spots across the city, you’ll find locals ordering up hot dogs loaded with traditional Chicago-style toppings: mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, sport peppers, a pickle spear and celery salt. There are great versions all over the city, but you won’t go wrong at the Portillo’s Hot Dogs outpost in River North.
Venturing Out: Think of a mall food court but with some of the city’s best fast-casual restaurants and you’ll have Revival Food Hall. You’ll probably need a quick Lyft from the Swissotel but grab a fancy grilled cheese from the Fat Shallot or dig into the smoked cheddar links at Smoque BBQ and you will not regret it.
Deep Cut: If you have some extra time when you get in town, take the Blue Line L train to the Damen stop and grab lunch at Dove’s Luncheonette. It’s a modern diner serving Tex-Mex leaning comfort food such as the chicken-fried chicken with chorizo verde gravy.
Deep Cut: Chicago is all about the neighborhoods. So for Sunday brunch you should eat like a local. Hop in a Lyft to Humboldt Park and put in for a table at Café Marie-Jeanne. Don’t sleep on the housemade breakfast sausage and grab coffee at C.C. Ferns if there’s a wait.
Nearby: For an upscale dinner close to the hotel, try The Beacon Tavern right behind the Wrigley Building. Don’t miss the plaid tilework around the bar. It’s beautiful.
A Short Walk: The Chicago Athletic Association hotel’s Cherry Circle Room is one of my favorite places to have dinner. Fortunately, it’s a short walk from the workshop site. The hotel also has a Shake Shack if burgers are more your speed.
A Short Walk: River North’s Il Porcellino serves a crowd-pleasing menu of Italian favorites. It also boasts a daily Happy Hour from 4pm-6pm serving up $8 Negronis and $3 sandwiches. If you’re looking to grab a cocktail before the Opening Reception, this deal can’t be beat.
Venturing Out: Tucked below the Michelin-starred Smyth is The Loyalist, a cozy basement tavern serving a beloved Chicago cheeseburger. Will you run into John Cusack while you are there? It’s possible.
Venturing Out: One of the newest restaurants from celebrity chef Rick Bayless is actually a brewery. Cruz Blanca serves a number of craft brews alongside Oaxacan-inspiried tacos made with wood-grilled meats.
Venturing Out: I’m going to guess chef Grant Achatz hasn’t gotten back to you about that table you requested at Alinea. Never fear. Their casual restaurant Roister may have a seat for you. A half order of their now-famous chicken is a must. Reservations are strongly suggested but they take walk-ins too.
Deep Cut: One of my favorite nights out is digging into some Indian comfort food at Wicker Park’s Pub Royale. Start with the Gobi Manchurian, order a Chicken Tikka Kati Roll, and walk down to Queen Mary Tavern for a Navy Strength Old Fashioned before heading back downtown.
Nearby: The closest bar to the Sheraton is Lizzie McNeill’s, a casual bar open until 1:30 a.m.
Nearby: The Billy Goat Tavern is a long-time hangout for Chicago journalists, stemming from the days when it was located halfway between the Sun-Times Building (demolished and replaced with the Trump Hotel) and the Tribune Tower (gone condo). Turns out The Goat outlasted them all. Open until 1:30am.
A Short Walk: The Chicago Athletic Association is a hotel in a beautifully restored building that used to be a turn-of-the-century athletic club. The hotel has multiple bars including the clubby Cherry Circle Room, the lively Game Room, rooftop hotspot Cindy’s and a gorgeous lobby serving beer, wine and excellent cocktails. If you have the scratch, make a reservation for the exclusive Milk Room, which features cocktails made with vintage spirits.
A Short Walk: A few Chicago bars are allowed to serve drinks after 2 a.m. Timothy O’Toole’s Pub is one of them. They are open until 3:30 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Venturing Out: Take the Blue Line L Train to Logan Square and grab a daiquiri at Lost Lake. You’ll be able to try a couple of their favorite drinks at the Opening Reception, but you owe it to yourself to visit America’s Best Cocktail Bar while you are in town. Pull up a stool and order a Jamaican rum daiquiri Party Girl Style. You won’t regret it.
Venturing Out: A craft beer-lover’s dream, The Map Room is a long-time Chicago favorite. They have hundreds of beers as well as a surprisingly extensive collection of vintage National Geographic Magazines.
Deep Cut: Logan Square is filled with some cocktail bars, but Estereo has quickly become one of my favorites. Order a Tecate from the bar or try their fizzy mezcal cocktail made with aqua fresca. Thank me later.
FORGOT SOMETHING AT HOME?
Nearby: If you need to make a Target run, there’s one right around the corner. Open until midnight.
Nearby: Chicago’s favorite drugstore, Walgreens, is also open until midnight.
Nearby: The new Apple Michigan Avenue store is right on the river. It is beautiful and worth walking by even if you packed all the dongles you need for your presentation.
A Short Walk: Break a heel? Forget to pack a belt? Find a Nordstrom and assorted other mall staples at The Shops at Northbridge, just down the street from the Tribune Tower.
GROCERY STORES AND LIQUOR STORES
Nearby: Our local grocery chain is Mariano’s. There’s a nice one behind the Swissotel. You might find me at their hot bar for lunch.
Nearby: There’s a Whole Foods just north of Sheraton. You can find some of my Chicago Tribune front pages in the newspaper mural by the entrance. Fun!
Nearby: Want to pick up some local beers as a souvenir? Does the hotel not stock Red Bull? Check out UnCorkIt Wine Superstore, just around the corner from the Sheraton.
Venturing Out: Looking for some obscure spirits or hard-to-find beers to take home? Take a Lyft over to Binny’s Beverage Depot. This is their flagship location, the largest in the city.