CHICAGO

Diva (UK) - - Contents -

Car­rie Lyell find’s food, his­tory and women

Chicago has ap­peared in so many films and TV shows that I feel like I’ve al­ready been here. The sky­line, tow­er­ing over us as we drive in from the air­port, is as recog­nis­able as that of New York, and I have the strangest sen­sa­tion that I’m vis­it­ing an old friend. But this is a city – and a state – full of sur­prises, as I’m about to dis­cover.

Our first stop is the Acme Ho­tel ( acme­hotel­com­pany.com), lo­cated in the city’s River North dis­trict and the coolest place to lay your head in Chicago, or so I’m told. I only get as far as the el­e­va­tor when I re­alise they’re right. The place is beau­ti­fully de­signed, and iconic al­bums cover the walls. A killer sound­track ac­com­pa­nies me to the 15th floor where I find my room. I say room – it was more like an apart­ment – and tear­ing my­self away from this, my new home, to ex­plore was more than a lit­tle tough.

But tear my­self away I must, be­cause we’re only in town for a few days, and there’s so much to see. So I ask my very own Alexa where to go for a li­ba­tion, and it points me in the di­rec­tion of Rock Bot­tom ( rock­bot­tom. com/ lo­ca­tions/chicago), a brew­pub famed for its se­lec­tion of craft beers. We fol­low the smell of hops up to the rooftop where we sink our teeth into gi­ant Baja Chicken sand­wiches and sal­ads, washed down with a small batch beer brewed on-site. Jet lag briefly abated, I say good­bye to the group of jour­nal­ists I’m with and go for a wan­der around down­town Chicago, fol­low­ing the loop of the “L”. I al­most get lost, dis­ori­en­tated by the many branches of the river, but the com­pli­men­tary Wifi hotspot pro­vided by the lovely folk at Acme helps me find my way back home again.

For din­ner, I re­join the oth­ers and head to GT Fish and Oys­ter ( gtoys­ter. com), an award-win­ning mod­ern seafood eatery who wowed us with de­lights in­clud­ing Oys­ter Po’boys, Korean-style Oc­to­pus and Fish Ta­cos. Then for one of my high­lights: Hamil­ton ( broad­way­inchicago.com). The smash-hit mu­si­cal re­cently cel­e­brated its 300th per­for­mance at The Pri­vate­bank and is just one of a hand­ful of shows that make Chicago a top des­ti­na­tion for theatre lovers. I’m sing­ing all the way to Cindy’s Rooftop ( cindys­rooftop. com) and en­joy a quick cock­tail and stun­ning views of the city’s Mil­len­nium Park be­fore head­ing back to the ho­tel where I’m asleep be­fore my head hits the pil­low.

Our sec­ond day in Chicago is just as packed. We take break­fast 1,353 feet in the air at The Sky Deck ( thesky­deck. com) and en­joy the views be­fore get­ting our cul­ture on with the fan­tas­tic Chicago Ar­chi­tec­ture Foun­da­tion River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises ( cruisechicago.com). Bloody Marys in hand, we learn about the his­tory of the city, and it’s per­fect for ar­chi­tec­ture buffs and novices alike. It’s no sur­prise this 90 minute tour ranks among the best in the US. Af­ter lunch (hello, deep dish pizza!), we’re given a tour of the brand-spank­ing-new Amer­i­can Writ­ers Mu­seum ( amer­i­can­writ­ersmu­seum.com) and then there’s time for self­ies in front of “the bean”, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculp­ture, ar­guably the most fa­mous land­mark in the city.

My first 48 hours in Illi­nois have been a blast, but there’s been a dis­tinct lack of les­bians and bi women. When I ask where they’re hid­ing and I’m told to head to Boys­town, I’m con­fused. But they are here: it’s one of the city’s largest LGBT neigh­bour­hoods and we learn about badass women in­clud­ing Au­dre Lorde, Frida Kahlo and Jane Ad­dams on a mov­ing tour by Vic­tor Salvo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The Legacy Project, a bril­liant cel­e­bra­tion

CAR­RIE LYELL HEADS MID­WEST AND FALLS IN LOVE WITH ILLI­NOIS

of les­bian, gay, bi and trans his­tory. We stay in Boys­town for din­ner at Drew’s on Hal­stead ( drew­son­hal­stead.com) and then we’re treated to an out­ra­geous per­for­mance by the world fa­mous Blue Man Group. Why aren’t there any blue women, I ask af­ter­wards – all ready for a fem­i­nist rant – only to be told there are. That showed me!

The hunt for queer women con­tin­ues at Side­track, a huge gay club and fi­nal­ist in Logo TV’S “Best Gay Bar in the World” com­pe­ti­tion, but I only count three – and I’m one of them. So I’m de­lighted the next day when we head to An­der­son­ville and ac­tu­ally meet some liv­ing, breath­ing les­bians at Women and Chil­dren First ( wom­e­nand­chil­dren­first. com), an in­de­pen­dent fem­i­nist book­store which has been at the heart of the com­mu­nity since it opened in 1979. W&CF is one of the largest (and last sur­viv­ing) fem­i­nist book­stores in the US, stock­ing more than 30,000 books and mag­a­zines, and is well worth a visit if you’re in town. An­der­son­ville, our guide tells us, is also home to Back Lot Bash ( back­lot­bashchicago.com), a huge fes­ti­val for queer women founded in 2004 by Amie Klu­jian and Christina Wies­more, which I’m sad to have missed.

We wave good­bye to An­der­son­ville to check out an­other Chicago sub­urb – Oak Park – and I de­vour the best burger of my life at Ob­sessed ( facebook.com/ob­sessed­kitchenand­bar), a hid­den gem and top of my to-visit list the next time I’m in the mid­west. Oak Park is home to more Frank Lloyd Wright build­ings than any­where in the world, so af­ter lunch we take a fas­ci­nat­ing tour of his home and stu­dio be­fore head­ing back down­town on the L for cock­tails and more breath­tak­ing views at 360 Chicago. There are more cock­tails on the menu at STK ( ogrp.com/venue/stk- chicago), a night­club- cum-steak­house where we eat our­selves silly be­fore head­ing to a nearby dive bar with two of the wait­ers – Ryan and Matt – who prom­ise me les­bians. Again, I count three, but this time I think my re­flec­tion was one of them. Those cock­tails were strong! So we bun­dle into an Uber back to An­der­son­ville and I’m de­lighted to find at least 10 women in The Closet ( the­clos­etchicago.com), founded in 1978 by two women, Judi and Rose. The crowd are friendly, and a lovely gay man moves his male pals so the women can have the dance floor to our­selves. “Fuck­ing pa­tri­archy, right?” he smiles as we all shake our money mak­ers un­til the wee small hours.

The next morn­ing, heads pound­ing, we check out of the ho­tel and pile onto a coach to see what else this great state has to of­fer. Three hours west of Chicago is Galena, a small town that feels frozen in time. In fact, it’s known as “the city time for­got” and as I’m check­ing into the Desoto House Ho­tel, which dates back to 1855 and re­tains much of its Vic­to­rian style, I half- ex­pect to bump into for­mer guest Abra­ham Lin­coln. But while you could feel like you’re time-trav­el­ling, scratch the sur­face and you’ll see Galena is thor­oughly mod­ern. One Eleven Main ( oneeleven­main.com), for ex­am­ple, is to­tally down with the hip­ster beer trend, and Blaum Bros (@ Blaum­bros) is an achingly cool dis­tillery on the edge of town. There are gays here too: dur­ing din­ner at Fried Green Toma­toes we’re seated near a hen party of two brides, and dur­ing a trol­ley tour of his­toric Galena, we spot a Pride flag fly­ing out­side some­one’s house, leav­ing me to de­clare this town Gay-lena.

Home time comes too soon – I feel like I’ve only seen a frac­tion of this fan­tas­tic state – but I make a note to self that I will be back. And next time, I’m bring­ing les­bians.

“Boys­town is one of the city’s largest LGBT neigh­bour­hoods”

Chicago and Galena: full of sur­prises

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.