If you’re attending the 2017 National Restaurant Show taking place at McCormick Place in Chicago this weekend, then you’d be smart to take an extra day or two for yourself to explore and enjoy the city away from overload of the restaurant industry’s largest trade show. If you didn’t, well, you messed up! Take a local’s advice and follow these tips! You’ll be guaranteed to have a good time. We’ve mapped out every place on this list for you at the bottom of this post.
Hot New Places to Grab a Drink
You should feel good about yourself, because you could not ask for a better time to visit Chicago. These are some of the newest spots that have Chicagoans buzzing after a long winter. Warning: this list will not help you get your beach body back.
For a comprehensive list of recent bars and cool watering holes to visit, check out Chicago Eater’s Chicago Cocktail Heat Map. You’ll get more than cocktail bars on the list. Here’s a few of our favorite places that are both on and off the list.
Recently Opened in late March, this wine bar has been a long time coming. It’s located on Randolph Street in the West Loop, at the start of a stretch dubbed “Restaurant Row,” that is full of trendy dining and drinking spots. With a wine list cultivated by “acclaimed longtime sommelier Tom Powers,” The Lunatic “offers an outstanding wine list and cocktail menu with an approachable food menu.”
Another new entry that sits on the outskirts of the Loop. Slightly Toasted is the perfect spot to snag a great breakfast or choose a dram from a tremendous whiskey list. It’s a great place to start or end your day. Located by Ogilvie transportation center, and a few minutes walk from Union Station, this place is a must-visit if you’re coming into the city by train. If you’re in town on Monday for the show, swing by afterward for their Monday night whiskey special and enjoy 50 percent off (most) whiskey pours.
Originally built in the 1890s, this rehabbed hotel is a stunning adult playground. It’s design is gorgeous and honors its Gothic artcitechture and deep history. From top to bottom, CAA is a must visit in the heart of the Loop. At Cindy’s roof top bar you can enjoy views of Millennium Park and downtown Chicago, or, grab dinner at the 1950s inspired Cherry Circle Room. Once dinner is done, stop by the Game Room for a drink and a game of pool or bocce ball.
Classic Chicago Bars & Restaurants
- Tavern at the Park – A great Chicago lunch spot in the heart of the loop. It’s got classic American fare and great local beer options. The best part? The Treehouse. Their rooftop patio that overlooks Millennium park and Michigan Avenue.
- Matchbox – This bar takes it’s name from the tiny, hallway-like size of the bar. Bartenders here mix classic cocktails with a heavy hand. If you’re feeling down, swap out the extra-strength Tylenol for an extra strength gin Martini. Neighborhood: River West
- Delilah’s – An iconic whiskey bar known for its punk rock posturing. Catch DJs every weeknight spinning artists that your shazaam probably won’t recognize. Stop in for Punk Rock Monday pair a $1 beer with a pour of 50 year old Scotch. Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
- Map Room – Like a beer geek’s basement, with European beers and pretzel sticks standing in for plastic wrapped Star Wars figurines. This bar is cash only, so come with some bills, and a list of the beers you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t come across. They probably have it. Neighborhood: Bucktown
- Green Door – The building was built in the 1870s, right after the Great Chicago Fire. Filled with Chicago history and a great beer list, the Green Door is a must-stop for a classic Chicago Irish Bar feel. Also, look for the bar’s hidden speakeasy in the basement, The Drifter. Neighborhood: River North
- Green Mill – An institution on the North Side. A famous jazz bar known for classic cocktails and a thing for Chicago history – from its decor to the bartender’s uniforms being straight out of The Shining. It’s also known for secret rooms and tunnels that were used by Al Capone during the height of Chicago’s gang run prohibition era. Neighborhood: Uptown
- Billy Goat Tavern – Home to Chicago’s biggest super fans and “cheeseborgers, cheeseborgers” from the famous SNL skit. There are a few locations across the city, including one right down the street from the United Center where the Bulls and Blackhawks play, and in the Loop on Lake St. If you want the original, visit the subterranean location at 430 N. Michigan Ave, lower level. Neighborhood: Loop (2), Navy Pier, Near West Side
Near McCormick Place
If you’d like to explore the area near the convention center, there are plenty of places to try on Chicago’s under-appreciated and grossly misrepresented Southside.
- Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar: A now iconic spot in Bridgeport. When you walk into Maria’s, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a beer shop, or package store. But don’t stop there! In the back there are two bars and a great beer garden outside. You can also grab food at Kimski, a counter-service expansion serving Korean Polish Street Food. If you’re looking for a connection between the two cuisines, just remember one word: cabbage. Neighborhood: Bridgeport
- Reggie’s Chicago: A live music venue and record shop with a third identity as one of Chicago’s coolest and most laid back roof top bars. You don’t need to swing by for a show, but do stop in for a bucket of Miller Lite and daily food specials. Neighborhood: South Loop
- Baderbräu Brewery and Brewpub: A (relatively) new Chicago brewery specializing in lagers and wheat beers, with a Deutsche influence. They serve food at their brewpub and offer daily specials. They are closed on Mondays. Neighborhood: Near Southside
- Chinatown: McCormick Place is just east of Chicago’s famous Chinatown neighborhood. There is plenty to check out behind the Chinatown Gate, check out Time Out’s Chinatown guide for more information. If you’re looking for a quick bite, try the pulled pork buns at Chiu Quoun Bakery. Neighborhood: Chinatown (Duh!)
Places For Dinner
You can check out the Eater 38 for some great dining ideas in Chicago. But a lot of these places may be hard to get a seat at on short notice. Especially on Saturday night.
Pro Tip: For dining at restaurants where a seat is tough to find, just sit at the bar! Most restaurants offer full meal service at the bar, and the bartender is the best person to become friends with at any restaurant.
Best Pizza Spots
- Lou Malnati’s, Geno’s East, and Giordano’s are the triumvirate of famous Chicago deep dish pizza places. You could also stop by Pizzeria Uno. You can argue with your friends about which place is the best, everyone has an opinion. Multiple Locations
- Pequod’s Pizza: This is a local favorite, it’s not quite Chicago deep dish, more 0f a pan pizza. But no matter what, you won’t be able to eat your entire pie. Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
- Piece Pizza: A great New Haven-style pizza place with a bit of a hippie complex. They also brew their own beer. Neighborhood: Wicker Park
- Phil’s Pizza: Deep Dish get’s all the headlines when it comes to Chicago and pizza. Which is too bad, because, I mean is deep dish really even pizza? Or is it a pizza like casserole? Chicago’s Southside doesn’t do deep dish quite like its northside counterrparts, instead, they opt for the more delicious and enjoyable thin crust variety. Check out Phil’s in Bridgeport for the hero in the shadows of Chicago pizza.
Come see Uncorkd at booth #7752 in the North Hall at the 2017 NRA Show. Try your hand at winning a magnum of wine!