Streeterville offers the very best of Chicago living: iconic skyscrapers along Lakeshore Drive, spectacular views of Lake Michigan, must- see theater and contemporary art shows, kid-friendly fun, top-notch shopping, and – of course – great food from tasty barbecue to fine French cuisine. Streeterville’s local highlights will certainly convince you to make it a regular stop on your urban explorer’s itinerary. It also has what might be the best origin story when it comes to neighborhood names in Chicago: according to city lore, an eccentric tugboat captain named George Streeter falsely claimed his boat had struck a sandbar off the coast during a violent storm, announced the area on which he was marooned was an independent territory, and called it the District of Lake Michigan. Needless to say, Streeter did not ultimately succeed in his attempt to claim a section of the Chicago coastline, but his name lives on. You’ll understand why the area appealed so much to the tugboat captain once you embark on a stroll along the water
The centerpiece of Streeterville’s coastline is the historic Navy Pier. Just one year shy of its centennial, the Pier is Chicago’s number one visitor attraction, and anyone traveling with kids will understand why: once inside, you’ll find an array of rides including the famous 150-foot-tall Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and a beautifully restored 1920s carousel. You can take guided tours of the docked Tall Ship Windy, and there are various options for day cruises that allow you to explore the city from the lake’s point of view. The balmy Crystal Gardens house specimen plants and flowers from all over the world, and at the Chicago Children’s Museum, hands-on exhibits and activities are the main event.
Grownups will enjoy an evening at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and history buffs will love learning about the Pier’s early years, which included a stint as a major site of the 1933 World’s Fair, which was known as the Century of Progress Exposition. Pier food options range from classic theme park fare like hot dogs to Chicago’s iconic deep-dish pizza, but if you’re in search of something really special for dinner after a day of Navy Pier fun, there are some truly world-class eateries just a short stroll away.
Chicago’s French bistro par excellence is Les Nomades at 222 East Ontario Street, where chef Roland Liccioni has been interpreting classics like duck confit and mushroom quenelles since the early 1990s. Les Nomades isn’t highly experimental or attention seeking; you won’t find any high-tech molecular gastronomy here, just thoroughly satisfying and superbly prepared meals with the best ingredients to be found anywhere. Liccioni is known among regulars for his gift with vegetables and legumes: forest mushrooms and celery root, beets, roasted peppers, and even toasted pine nuts take on an almost poetic quality with the right measure of Périgueux sauce (a heavenly veal stock reduction with truffles). Paired with centerpieces like Maine lobster, crispy veal, or roasted squab breast, every menu choice here is probably the right one. The wine list offers a range of carefully selected French vintages, and staff members are well-versed in great pairings.
If you fancy something a little more casual, visitors of all ages will find something delicious at The Purple Pig. This North Michigan Avenue enoteca (Italian for “wine repository”) offers creative iterations of pork in all its forms: roasted, cured, and fried until crispy. Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. learned the trade in Mario Batali’s New York restaurants, so it’s no surprise that The Purple Pig strikes a fine balance between the luxurious flavors of traditional Italian delicacies and the rustic glamour of a family-friendly eatery where using your hands is always ok. Bannos’s “smears” offer tastes of sweet-and-sour pork tongue, roasted bone marrow, and pork liver paté. Lighter fare includes olive- oil poached tuna with brussels sprouts and Greek lima beans, delightful cold antipasti, scallops spiedini with chickpea aioli, and pan-fried skate wing with beets, turnips, and mint in a balsamic blood orange reduction. Wines are served by the bottle or the glass, and the all-European list is primarily Italian, of course.
For a Sunday morning dose of local culture, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago at 220 East Chicago Avenue. With a rotating series of exhibitions in a variety of media, MCAC offers something new with every visit. This summer and fall, the museum’s highly acclaimed show “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now” features material from the African-American avant-garde movement in music and visual art in the 1960s and connects it to contemporary works. The exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a Chicago-based organization of like-minded musicians seeking to push the creative boundaries of jazz. The show elegantly weaves together the music, art, graphic design, and fashion of a culture that shaped how music is made around the globe. Recent works on view include pieces by the late Terry Adkins, who was featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and Nick Cave, whose “soundsuits” have appeared in the pages of Vogue and in museums around the world. For more information, visit: http://www2.mcachicago.org.
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