Guys, Chicago is your kind of town

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL - BY DAVID GER­RIE

CALL­ING REAL MEN. Women may think New York i s t he best US shop­ping city, but the one that favours the male of the species has got to be Chicago. The Windy City has re­tail de­lights to match the best of Fifth Av­enue, but it also of­fers the man-sized meals, sump­tu­ous, dim­lylit cock­tail bars and old-fash­ioned cus­tomer ser­vice which has be­come a bit of a rar­ity in Man­hat­tan.

You could spend two happy days just trawl­ing North Michi­gan Av­enue, where a good base is the Mil­len­nium Knicker­bocker Ho­tel, one block from the shores of Lake Michi­gan. Apart from sit­ting in the midst of re­tail heaven, it fields a bar serv­ing no less than 50 va­ri­eties of the city’s favourite drink: the mar­tini.

The ho­tel hap­pens to be bang op­po­site Bloom­ing­dale’s, which was never overly pricey, but sud­denly looks like a bar­gain at $2 to the pound. All the favourite brands are here and what man can re­sist a Ralph Lauren denim shirt for £40? An­other £25 buys a twohour ses­sion with a top hair­styl­ist in the base­ment spa.

In truth — other than for a brief cab ride to some of the city’s best eat­ing places — you never need leave this area, even if you pre­fer rub­ber-neck­ing the ar­chi­tec­ture to shop­ping. The Wrigley Build­ing, Wa­ter Tower Plaza and im­pos­ing ed­i­fice of the Chicago Sun-Times are all within a short walk along the same wide, Euro­pean-style boule­vard. It is worth cross­ing the canal at the top of the av­enue for a per­fect lunch at McCormick & Sch­mick’s, whose motto seems to be if it swims, we will cook it. That in­cludes rare species like char, tilapia and wild sock­eye salmon, served plainly grilled. All pretty trad, un­like Sushi Samba, the hot new place where skilled Ja­panese chefs pre­pare raw fish with a Latin twist.

If you want to splurge, N9ine is the place to be seen — a vast, glitzy base­ment din­ing room with ta­bles ra­di­at­ing out from a huge cen­tral cir­cu­lar bar. Chef Michael Schrader has ab­sorbed the best of Amer­i­can and Euro­pean in­flu­ences to pro­duce brasserie cook­ing with a col­lege de­gree — deep­fried cour­gette flow­ers stuffed with goat’s cheese, wild sea bass in beurre blanc, or­gas­mic creme brulée in­fused with Tahi­tian vanilla and the like, plus a very se­ri­ous wine list.

With a large Jewish pop­u­la­tion, the Sec­ond City has a wealth of kosher restau­rants in­clud­ing Shal­lots on N Clark Street and the Jerusalem and the Great Chicago Food & Bev­er­age Com­pany, both on W Devon Av­enue, the city’s pre­mier gefilte gulch in its most heimishe neigh­bour­hood.

It also has a num­ber of syn­a­gogues, in­clud­ing the Chicago Loop Syn­a­gogue on S Clark Street which serves a daily kosher lunch in the heart of the Down­town shop­ping dis­trict.

Don’t leave the Mag­nif­i­cent Mile with­out ex­plor­ing Oak Street, a thor­ough­fare lined with big de­signer names as well as the fashionistas favourite de­part­ment store, Bar­ney’s.

Mu­sophiles should also check out the Jazz Record Mart at 25 East Il­lionois; Chicago is the home of blues and jazz, and the Mart has mu­sic from ev­ery era, as well as ter­rific posters and other mem­o­ra­bilia. Jazz-lovers will want to check out the Green Mill and the Jazz Show­case, the two old­est jazz clubs in the US, while the mecca for blues-lovers is Blues Chicago.

Once you have done the town, it is time for eclec­tic neigh­bour­hoods such as edgy, ur­ban Buck­town, where Lan­guage, the Sil­ver Room, He­j­fina, Jade, Saint Al­fred, G-Star Chicago, all on Mil­wau­kee Av­enue, are worth a browse. North Da­men Av­enue with the only-in-Chicago de­signer bou­tique P4, is an­other good shop­ping street. Also check out Stitch on the next block.

Buck­town segues into funky Lin­coln Park, where the street to shop till you drop (for her, as well as you) is Ar­mitage Av­enue. Art Ef­fect is a great place to pick up fun and un­usual gifts, and it is well worth hik­ing sev­eral blocks north to the Blues Jean Bar at 2210 N Halstead for top-end den­ims for both sexes. If you have not had enough of shop­ping, you could pro­ceed to Wicker Street, then tramp Di­vi­sion Street.

The city’s cul­tural of­fer­ings are not to be missed, even for shopaholics, if only be­cause world-class mu­seum shops are a Chicago phe­nom­e­non. Some, like the Sym­phony Cen­tre shop, are on the Mag­nif­i­cent Mile it­self, oth­ers, like the re­tail out­let of the Chicago Ar­chi­tec­ture Foun­da­tion, are worth go­ing on down the av­enue to ex­plore, as are the Field Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory and the Art In­sti­tute, which houses one of Amer­ica’s finest col­lec­tions.

Sec­ond City . . . first for shop­ping. Chicago’s mag­nif­i­cent sky­line and lake shore

Bloom­ing­dales in Chicago: one of the Windy City’s shop­ping favourites

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