NRA After Hours: What to Do, Taste, and See While in Chicago

Chicago is a quilt of very distinct neighborhoods. The factories that built this once working-man’s city have given way to an endless scene of restaurants, bars, galleries, and hip hangouts. While visiting for the NRA show, here are some necessary stops for grabbing a drink, dish, or just a good time.


McCormick Place is a part of the Southloop neighborhood. It’s eastern end along the lakefront includes the Museum Campus boasting three museums: The Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. This quite gem of a neighborhood also offers restaurants from casual to impressive.

What to Eat

In terms of fine dining, Acadia (a Michelin Guide Winner) is said to offer a tasting menu that will rock your world.

Feeling some more relaxed fare? Cafecito has some of the best Cuban sandwiches in the city. Pro tip: the Ropa Vieja is even better than the classic Cubano.

Where to Drink

When it comes to drinks, there is a wide variety of places to grab one, including a few jazz spots (Jazz Showcase comes highly recommended), and even a taproom called Vice District.


One of the closest neighborhoods to the McCormick Place is Chicago’s Chinatown. While probably not as big as similar neighborhoods in New York or California, it’s still a great spot for dim sum and oriental eats or a unique night out.

What to Eat

Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings is rumored to have the best dumplings in the city. Chicagoans rave about the dim sum at Dolo.

Where to drink

You can’t get drinks in Chinatown without visiting a karaoke bar. Locals love No.18.

River North

Also known as the “Gallery District” because it has one of the greatest gallery concentrations in the country, Hubbard street has become a nightlife staple in the city. Often synonymous with nearby “Streeterville”, there are no shortages of things to do, dine, and drink here. The neighborhood is a must-visit for both lively nightlife and daytime exploring escapades in Chicago.

What to Eat

Great food is everywhere in River North. Portillo’s literally specializes in “Chicago-style food” and is a great indoor place to grab a Chicago dog.

Mr. Beef is a citywide legend for.. you guessed it, classic beef sandwiches. You can even get a Chicago deep-dish pizza nearby at Lou’s.

For a more unconventional and upscale Chicago meal, Bohemian House offers a noteworthy Central European based menu with a modern twist.

A two Michelan Star restaurant also calls this neighborhood home. Sixteen offers a dinner tasting menu that changes every season and is known to impress.

Where to Drink

Headquarters Beercade offers a great beer selection, food… and video games.

Three Dots and a Dash is a tiki-themed speakeasy with more than 200 rums. Need I say more?

If you’re looking for more a dive bar amidst all of the trendiness in River North, try Rossi’s.

West Loop

West Loop is a neighborhood of former factories once affectionally known as the “meatpacking district” or “Skid Row”. It stretches from the outskirts of Union Park (Ashland) to the River and from Grand until I-290. Oprah moved her studio into an empty factory in the 90s, and the neighborhood was never the same. It has transformed into trendy lofts, bars, galleries and restaurants with a luxe industrial vibe. Plenty of night life to go around here. Check out this article on some of the drinking and dining highlights.

What to Eat

The restaurants Au Cheval (a “super diner”), avec (French cuisine), or Girl & the Goat (New American) are typically the first places that come to mind in this hotspot. All are definitely worth the trip to the West Loop.

Where to Drink

Great bar options are limitless in throughout the West Loop. CH Distillery is one of the most highly recommended. RM Champagne Salon is great for a celebration, French food, or even 5$ champaign on Mondays.

Gold Coast

This neighborhood, just north of downtown, is lakeside and one of the country’s most affluent neighborhoods. Historic mansions line the inner streets and a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants call this swanky hotspot home. Appearing to seamlessly stem into Chicago’s shopping hub (Magnificent Mile), go from day to night visiting the famed Rush Street for drinks.

What to Eat

Visit Doc B’s for some delicious modern America fare.

Where to Drink

Get drinks, or even dinner, at the Pump Room for an elegant meal in an atmosphere brimming with Chicago history.

If you have time to explore even more of the city, here is a list of 32 neighborhoods and what to do there.