Dissentian guide to Chicago


Well-known member
I'm off for Chicago in a few weeks and looking for some recommendations from the locals/dissentians. Esp. interested in nice restaurants, good street food, book shops, galleries, good record shops, spectacular jazz clubs ... Everything really that I won't find in a guide.

Any help?


Well-known member

haven't visited in a while but remember having a blast at gramophone records, great for all forms of house music. lots of limited pressing chicago stuff that i hadn't found elsewhere, like old dancemania 12". mostly vinyl, some cds.

one great memory: i went once on a sunday afternoon and derrick may was on the store turntables checking out new stuff. he had done a gig the night before and was checking out new releases before heading out of town. there was only a half dozen people in the store and no one made a fuss about may, no hero worship, just left him to do his thing and we all enjoyed our little private dj show.


Well-known member
also, art institute of chicago is one of the country's greatest museums.

and definitely check out lou mitchell's for breakfast, a chicago institution on jackson (the start of route 66)

and get a chicago hot dog, there are lots of small specialized hot dog places, unlike any others. deep-dish pizza, obvs.

and even though it's still september, bring a warm sweater or jacket anyway, could get cool at night.

a good resources: http://chicago.metromix.com/
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Try and have dinner, or at least a drink in the cocktail bar, in the restaurant on the top (= 95th) floor of the Hancock Tower. The view over the city on a clear night is nothing short of breathtaking. Great food too, but it's what you can see outside that makes it.

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
spectacular jazz clubs ...?
every Tuesday night Von Freeman, an (I gather) Chicago jazz legend plays a couple of sets at the New Apartment Lounge, on E. 75th (South Side, a couple miles from the U of C campus). personally I don't like jazz - any jazz - but I still had a great time when I went; it's real low-key, neighborhood dive bar, v. mixed race/age crowd & not touristy at all, he just kinda sits up there and does his thing and then commands other musicians from the audience to come up & play with him. and conveniently, it's literally right down the street from Soul Vegetarian, purveyors of excellent vegan soul food. an ideal (Tuesday) night out is to hit up Soul Veg for a late dinner then head over to the New Apartment Lounge around 10 or so - the music stands around I dunno, 11-ish and goes til 4 or 5. anyway if you like jazz tho it's kind of unmissable.

other restaurants - Chicago Diner (great veg/vegan), Kuma's Corner (I'll let their site speak for itself), Reza's in Andersonville is good if a bit pricy Persian. Hot Doug's is definitely the king spot of the Chicago hot dog. Devon Avenue for all things Indian. Argyle for all things Southeast Asian (& Korean BBQ, I guess). there's taquerias everywhere, my personal favorite 24-hour joint is on Clark a couple blocks north of Montrose. there's a ton of Polish, Ukrainian, etc food too but I'm not the person to ask about that.

I dunno much about art really - cosign the Art Institute I guess, it's free on Thursday evenings altho if you go then be prepared to wait for 20-30 min cause it gets hella mobbed. bookstores & record stores I dunno, I don't really buy a lot of either. as far as music I moved away a couple months ago so my finger's not on the pulse but there's always stuff going on.

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Yeah, I seem to remember the Institute does pre-Colombian Meso/South American stuff in a quality and quantity comparable to the Egyptian gear in the British Museum - a must if you're even slightly into gawping at cool ancient things. Some of the Mayan and Aztec objects are just breathtaking.
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Diggedy Derek

Stray Dog
I've just got back from Chicago. Second time, I love it. I wrote a long report for another message board on food and drink, which I'll post here if that's OK. Record-wise, I recommend Permanent Records. Rock orientated, but vinyl specialists, with a lot of weird stuff like Mississippi Records etc. Very cool.

Where did I get that feeling of 'everything is permitted' in Chicago that you (or at least I) only get in the US? Perhaps it was while having a burger in Lockdown, a burger joint in the Ukranian Village where all the burger names are riffs on incarceration themes (Citizen's Arrest, Conjugal Visit, Electric Chair), where your water is served in jam jars with straws, and they had hard rock DVDs on repeat on a club-quality PA system? Or maybe at Smoke Daddy's, a barbeque place where the dude checks you're satisfied with your fine pint of IPA and phalanx of ribs not with some weak-ass "is everything OK for you?" but with the gnostic prompt "life is good?". But it was probably at Kuma's Corner, another burger place, just round the corner from Hot Doug's (which closes surprisingly early on a weekday), where all the burger's are named after metal bands. I took the Motörhead*, while my companion opted for the Neurosis with chicken**. And it's not often you can say that. They were the best burgers ever.

Chicago was great, again. I don't think you can go wrong eating or at certainly drinking-wise. We did a fair amount of other stuff too, but really most of the time we were just hanging out with various nice people, and doing everything that comes with that. Almost everywhere, it seemed, the kitchen closed when the venue closed, typically after midnight. How the hell do they manage it?

We had a great Mexican meal in Pilsen, just choosing a fairly random place called Los Alamos on 18th street, which was half supermarket and half canteen, with a whole bunch of crazy sodas. I think any neighbourhood where people drive around with national flags bigger than their car is bound to be good.

Beer-wise I got to the stage where I was just asking Krisse to just order me anything at all when she went to the bar. It's that good and varied. A Chicagoan noted that the city, and indeed the state itself, is not that prolific in beer-making these days, but there's a strong heritage of it with all the Germans and Eastern Europeans, and it's very well located near several regional strongholds of beer making – Wisconsin, Indiana etc. I won't bother mentioning huge loads of beers, but I enjoyed several fine beers made by Two Brothers brewing co, who did a really nice wheat beer (Edel Weiss) and some great pale ales. As your standard session beers (as the menu in the Wrigley Park branch of the Goose Island brew pub, which was a bit non-descript, put it), I liked Goose Island IPA and Lagunitas. I thought Rogue Dead Guy Ale, which was an appropriate choice in Lockdown, was nice. I'll make just one very special recommendation, which is Alpha King Pale Ale, which was just outstanding. Do try it if you can.

We were staying in Roscoe Village, which is half way in London comparisons between Tufnell Park and Holland Park. Basically, you had to have a dog and deck shoes to live there. It was a bit boring, but I liked hanging out in Wicker Park instead, which is stylish though admittedly pretty gentrified. The bookshops (Quimby's and Myopic) are good, and there's a good cafe called Earwax. That neighbourhood has amazing architecture. Each house is a unique project in its own right. Also in the north, we went to a pretty nice place called Longman And Eagle, which has a great range of beers and a truly outstanding range of whiskeys (mostly US-style). This is quite a serious foody place which is worth considering. Though when I was in there I enjoyed the vibe more than the food.

I was recommended to try Art Of Pizza for my first deep dish experience, but I can't get my head round people lusting after so much tomAHto paste and dried herbs. It's not unlike a cheese and tomato puree toastie, which is nice enough, but hard to get excited about. Weird.

Enjoyed the architectural boat tour again, this time seeing the Trump Tower, which is massive yet impressively elegant. We went up the John Hancock tower, where you get a quite mindboggling view. You need to buy an overpriced glass of wine or beer (don't get a cocktail, I'd say), but it's worth it. You can look hundreds and hundreds of feet down below, and see swimming pools on the top of smaller skyscrapers.

While the neighbourhoods were great, I thought the Millennium Park area was flashy and soulless. Horrendous cock-swinging architecture and it seemed really middle class – nothing wrong with that, but I didn't get the sense of it being an amenity particularly integrated with the life of real people in the city. The public transport isn't great either, is it? We had some fairly terrifying experiences crossing the road. It's a total free for all. One of the guys I met summed it up well: "if you get across the road, they won't arrest you for jaywalking. If you get hit, it's your own fault."

Coffee wise I enjoyed going to a Julius Meinl. Those Austrians have good taste in cakes.

It's a cliche, but the people are really fucking nice aren't they? Perhaps the real epiphanic moment, now I come to think of it, was when I spent ages cocking around like an idiot with my CTA travel card on the bus, and when I thanked the driver for telling me which slot to stick it in, he just said "no problem". This has never happened, to anyone, ever, in London.

* tzaziki, olives, oregano

** cheeses, caramelised onion, sauted mushrooms



not just an addiction
First: Greetings, its nice to be back. I moved from Chicago 3 years ago to Mexico, and still remember a lot of Chicago fondly. Also this was the time when i stopped posting on Dissensus. This thread was just too tempting to ignore. So remember, all my advice is about 3 years old, but should still mostly be accurate.

Record stores in Chicago:
For electronic music, you cant beat Gramaphone (as mentioned above). If you stop there, there were 2 other record stores in the area that are definitely worth a visit. Reckless Records (www.reckless.com) is the indie rock style store with a great selection of vinyl, cds, and dvds, both new and used. They also have some decent electronic, jazz, blues, and other styles. Theres another store about a 10 minute walk down Broadway thats almost entirely used records, with some brand new ones. I always hit up their cut-out bin for some great deals. Sorry, cant remember the name (Either 2nd Hand Tunes or HiFi Records, or neither.)

In the Wicker Park neighborhood there are also several very good stores. A 2nd Reckless is there on Milwaukee by North Avenue. Heading south to Ashland, then just south past Division is Dusty Groove (www.dustygroove.com). This place is amazing, especially for funk, soul, jazz, reggae, and hip hop.
A newer store which seems to be getting more of my money than others on my trips back to Chicago is K Starke Records on Western and Division. The owner is an old school Chicago DJ who seems to have stumbled upon a warehouse of old music. There were some great finds for old school house and booty in there, as well as decent 80s, jazz, funk, and classic rock. Almost entirely vinyl the last time i was there, but Im not sure what direction he has taken the store in recently.

After living in Chicago for 10 years, my favorite restaurant is The Red Apple, although its real name is in Polish. Cant remember the spelling of it, but its something like "Cerwone Jablusko". Its on Milwaukee closer to Addison, and is a Polish buffet. If you like buffets, and you like pork, this is the best place to eat.
You MUST eat pizza in Chicago, and it really should be stuffed pizza. My favorite is Nancy's, and its on the walk between Reckless and that other record store, at Broadway and Wellington.
Hot dogs are another necessary in Chicago. Hot Dougs is out of the way and not near anything, but famous for their gourmet hot dogs. Its a lunchtime only place, which explains their short hours. But for a more standard Chicago dog, stop anywhere near Wrigley Field. The famous place across the street is a good one, and they are open late (till like 5 or 6 am i think). Cant remember the name right now. But a good time to stop there is after checking out Smartbar or Metro, which are two of the greatest places to see Djs and bands, respectively (plus theyre connected, so a ticket to Metro gets you into Smartbar, but not the other way around).
If youre stuck downtown, head over to Portillos (across from what used to be the Rock n Roll McDonalds) and get a pulled pork sammich, and learn that you can then order them from anywhere ini the world, delivered by the mail on dry ice.
Finally, even living in Mexico now, I miss the burritos in Chicago. I learned that burritos are defintely a Mexican-American thing and not a Mexican thing, although Ive heard they have some in the northern part of Mexico. Skip the touristy "Burritos as Big as Your Head", theyre not the biggest or the best by any means. Flash Taco used to be pretty good, and its directly on the corner of Milwaukee and North, in the heart of Wicker Park.

Definitely agree with having a drink at the cocktail bar at the top of Hancock. Also, I believe they are putting an ice-skating rink in either the Sears (Willis) Tower or the Hancock, so you could say you have skated at the highest rink in the world.
The Art Institute is the only museum that I would visit repeatedly while living there. Im especially fond of the Bauhaus room, being a huge fan of Kandinsky and Klee.
Theres also The MCA for modern art, but its never been that exciting. If youve got a nice day to just walk around and want to do some touristy stuff, head to the Museum Campus which includes the Planetarium, The Aquarium, The Field Museum, and Soldier Field. Its a nice walk, highlighted by the big space ship that landed in the middle of Soldier Field and is now what passes for a stadium there.

I apologize for not having any really good music suggestions. These places change so often that Im sure the places I went to are wither gone, or have lost their appeal.

Hope this was helpful.


Well-known member
I have been terribly busy, but I'd like to thank you all for the nice advise. I'll put it to good use when I get there.

Cheers again!