New York City, Los Angeles and Portland had better watch their backs: Chicago is proving to be a dark horse contender for cool-girl capital of America. The city has finally broken out of its Midwestern style rut, thanks in part to a rising class of young entrepreneurs and creative professionals who are flocking home in droves, seriously upping its style quotient. One note: those in the know don’t hang downtown. So if you’ve done the boat tour, seen the Bean and tried the deep dish, it’s time to venture outside the Loop.
Stay & Play
Formerly an industrial warehouse district, Chicago’s West Loop has been on the come-up for the past few years (Randolph Street is the city’s unofficial restaurant row, plus Google recently moved in), but the arrival of Soho House this past August cemented the hood’s style status. Occupying a six-storey former belt factory, Soho House Chicago is the Brit club’s largest outpost to date, with 40 rooms plus a members-only rooftop pool, boxing gym and screening room. Not a member? You can still get pampered at Cowshed Spa or nosh at the two public restaurants (the club’s famous Dirty Burger makes a cameo on the Chicken Shop menu). Or, book a room for free rein of all amenities.
Eat & Drink
The food scene in Chicago is good—like, really good—so pace yourself. Start with brekkie in West Loop, where Little Goat serves up playful takes on diner classics—waffles with bacon maple syrup and peanut-butter butter, anyone? For lunch, head to Parsons Chicken & Fish in Logan Square for fried chicken and hush puppies, then satisfy 3 p.m. sugar cravings with buttery, jam-slathered biscuits and honkin’ slices of chocolate pecan pie at Bang Bang. Make your next stop Owen & Alchemy, a slick new juice bar offering a variety of cold-pressed organic elixirs, before indulging in pork belly tacos and pints of local brew (Chicago’s craft beer movement is exploding, right on cue) at Wicker Park’s Big Star. Cap off the night with a warming cocktail (the Gimme Shelter features spiced rum, coffee-infused brown-sugar syrup and walnut liqueur) at The Violet Hour. Repeat as needed.
Shop & Hop
The problem with any great food town is what to do between meals. Option 1: Shop. Sure, there’s the Mag Mile, but if you’re looking to make like a Chi-towner, get thee to Ikram, a concept shop that combines boutique, gallery and café; Blake, a minimal space featuring Dries Van Noten and Céline; and Robin Richman, curator of hip international labels.
Option 2: Gallery hop. The Art Institute of Chicago may be world renowned for its Impressionist collections, but for a more contemporary fix, visit outliers like Alderman Exhibitions in West Loop and Monique Meloche Gallery in Wicker Park. Then, it’ll be time to eat again.