What to Do In Chicago
I spent a week in Chicago and it was not nearly enough to absorb it that it has to offer. Chicago is a big city. Full of energy, heart, and diversity. It's actually one of my favorite cities in the US to visit. In addition to being a great food town, it is also excellent for theatre, art, and music. The cultural vibe of Chicago is equal to New York, in my opinion, and may even do some things better.
I only had a week there this time around which is not really sufficient time to get to really see the whole city and all it has to offer and as we were performing in the Loop downtown my experiences we limited to that area of town. Despite all that, I still had an enjoyable time and were left feeling that I wish I had been able to do and see more. So if you're wondering what to do in Chicago, I have some suggestions for you.
Music Is Everything There
One of the coolest things about Chicago is how musician-friendly a city it is. It's the home of so many great blues and jazz artists, such as Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, the band Chicago and Benny Goodman. The music venues feature a wide variety of styles and it's easy to go from a jazz club to a blues club to a rock club with relative ease.
Below are my picks for favorite places to check out while in Chicago. From a musicians point of view, of course. Enjoy!!
Places to Go
Kingston Mines: A mainstay for great blues for over 30 years, Kingston Mines features live blues 365 days a week on 2 stages. A great place that is frequented by both locals and tourists alike. If you are hungry, they make some killer BBQ and the drinks are pretty cheap as well. A cool spot to check out local blues artists and not break the bank like at Buddy Guy's Legends, which is a bit pricier and more touristy. The bands at Kingston Minds can be a bit more "modest" but it's still a fun place to hear good music. Great hang!
Blues Heaven Museum (aka Chess Records Museum): Owned by the grandson of blues legend Willie Dixon, this museum is a musician/history buff's dream. In its heyday, the studio recorded such artist as Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and the Rolling Stones. At only 3 rooms, it's a small space but big on historical significance. The studio is actually still up and running and musicians can book time there to record. Bands like Guns and Roses have been known to just drop in for a visit. There is also a regular concert series. Although I did not get a chance to visit the museum personally, my good friend and great guitarist Oscar Bautista went and you can not only see photos on the museum's website but on Oscar's Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/oscargtr/?hl=en
City Winery: A chain of restaurant/concert venue, City Winery has an impressive wine list and equally impressive live music schedule. While in Chicago, I saw both the great R&B/Jazz artist Frank McComb and Deacon Blues, a Steely Dan cover band. The sound is decent and the room is intimate enough that even a seat in the back, by the bar is a good seat with a good view of the stage.
Roti : Laffa, and pita wraps are all customizable with an assortment of veggies and sauces. You can get a great meal for under $10. There are many locations throughout the city.
Wow Bao (Hot Asian Buns) : As a sucker for all things noodle related I was happy to find this Chinese-American food chain. They specialize in Asian Bao sandwiches but also have rice and noodle bowls. I had a great Thai Curry chicken bowl and some potstickers that were great. I was able to get away with a nice lunch under $15.
Lou Malnati's: Of course no trip to Chicago would be complete without getting some deep-dish pizza in your life. This place remains one of my favorites.
Randolph Tavern: In the heart of the theatre district is a cool restaurant that is convenient if you are playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The service can be a little slow before show time, but the food is good and affordable. They also have a good beer selection.
Momotaro: I'm a sushi lover and I wanted to find some great sushi and decided to give myself a budget of around $100 to go and splurge on a nice meal. This place was great. They abandoned the classic roll format for a more artistic but flavorful approach. Their bar featured a shochu-based cocktail called the Juicebox that was strong and sweet. I had the unagi-don (eel over rice), the "Go Takara" roll, which was a fancier spin on a rainbow (picture below), and a piece of uni nigiri which was pretty good but not great.