Like the return of the swallows to San Capistrano in California every year, radiologists, IT and other executives, and vendors return to McCormick Place in Chicago every year the week after Thanksgiving for the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual conference and exhibition.
So your idea of paradise isn’t Chicago in the last week of November/first week of December? It truly does get windy and cold here, usually just around the time RSNA begins. Inevitably, there is at least some light snow, and almost always some cold rain. But, just so you know, the popular misconception about Chicago’s nickname “the Windy City” coming from its weather is simply incorrect. In fact, the nickname is generally attributed to an editorialist a century ago referring to the very “windy” politicians here—a characterization as apt in 2009 as it was 100 years ago.
Nevertheless, if you arrive at McCormick Place next week and are greeted with a sharp wind out of the northwest, and cold, hard rain or light snow, it won’t really matter to you what the origin of our city’s nickname is, now will it?
Nonetheless, you’ll be pleased to learn that Chicago is a great restaurant city, with literally hundreds of star-rated restaurants everywhere. Among my favorites (and it’s hard to choose, there are so many!), are these… Enjoy!
Spiaggia (http://www.levyrestaurants.com/Levy/DiningExperiences/Restaurants/Group2...): 980 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago 60611 / (312) 280-2750. Nothing can beat Spiaggia for its great view (overlooking Oak Street Beach, thus the restaurant’s name, which means “beach” in Italian) or sense of occasion. This upscale Italian eatery is fancy (yep, there’s a dress code) and urbanely elegant. I haven’t been to Spiaggia in several years, but I’d expect to pay close to $100 per person for dinner—a bargain compared to the prices at Trotter’s, above). But dining here is always enjoyable and tasty, with its fancy versions of well-known Italian dishes. You can have most of the same dishes next door at Café Spiaggia for probably about half the price, and you don’t have to wear a jacket and tie next door, either. A fun experience.
RL Restaurant (www.rlrestaurant.ralphlauren.com): 115 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago 60611 / (312) 475-1100. This young-ish restaurant, located inside the Ralph Lauren area flagship store at Chicago Avenue and Michigan Avenue, focuses on American classics, including crab Louie, steak Diane, and green goddess salad. It’s somewhat pricey for what you get, but its location will be extremely convenient to those staying in North Michigan Avenue hotels. Hey, want a side of khakis with that…??
Mon Ami Gabi: 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, 60614 / (773) 348-8886 (www.monamigabi.com/chicago): This is one of my very favorite restaurants, a classic French bistro with excellent food and a relaxed atmosphere. Not far from North Pond, Mon Ami Gabi is also located in the beautiful Lincoln Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side, in this case, directly across from the park itself, inside the beautiful Belden-Stratford Hotel (which is mostly residential these days). You can’t go wrong with any of the steak-frites combinations here.
Bistrot Zinc (www.bistrotzinc.com): 1131 N. State St., Chicago, 60611 (312) 337-1131. Very similar to Mon Ami Gabi, Bistrot Zinc is my favorite downtown French bistro. They have the best French onion soup in the city, as far as I’m concerned; and their atmosphere is about as relaxed as you’ll get downtown. Also, Bistro Zinc is located very conveniently just north and west of the North Michigan Avenue hotels. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here, and as at Mon Ami Gabi, it’s an excellent value.