Craft Beer, Cheese & Comedy: How To Live It Up In Chicago
Including cheese, baseball, pizza, cheese, comedy, and cheese.
Say ‘Chicago’ and most people will think one of two things; if you’re young, you’ll immediately think of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s youngest daughter, Chicago West.
If you’re less young and less you’ll with it, you’ll probably break out into a rendition of “All That Jazz”.
But there’s so much more to Chicago than famous parents and campy broadway! You might not know it, but the city, one of the largest in the US, has become a must-visit destination thanks to it’s emerging craft beer scene, incredible sports and stunning architecture. If you’ve done New York a couple of times, and you fancy a city break with a difference, it’s got something for everyone.
We headed over there this summer to find out exactly what makes the city so great - here are our recommendations for the best ways to live it up in Chicago.
1. Eat the city’s iconic pizza
Remember those Chicago Town pizzas you used to whack in the microwave after school? Yeah well sorry to break it to you but they are awful and do a disservice to the gooey, cheesey, molten gold smothered genius that is a true Chicago pizza. And when you visit, you must, must try one.
Chicago’s deep-dish pizza is legendary, and locals are split on where the best pizza in Chicago truly is. Most people say it’s either Lou Malnati’s - there’s one North of the city’s great shopping district, making it perfect for a post-fashun pick-me-up - though others say Giordino’s is the one. In the interests of Pullitzer-winning investigative journalism, we did both. Our money’s on Lou’s tbh - sorry, Cab Driver Who Told Us Giordino’s Was Better!
2. Check out Chicago’s amazing sports scene
Chicago has two, count em, two baseball teams - the city really loves their sport. Baseball’s a great sport for people who want a pastime that combines easy-to-follow rules with mass consumption of fast food; the games often go on for hours but you’re encouraged to grab a drink, destroy a bucket of nachos or chat. Ideal!
The teams are the White Sox and the Cubs - and Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, happens to be in an emerging district of town that’s great for dinner and boozing. The adjacent Hotel Zachary is an elegant, art-deco-meets-industrial-chic space that has an on-site bakery which serves cocktails in the evening. We’d recommend the fantastic micro brewery Lucky Dorr for a flight of local beers, and Mordacai for cocktails and fancy food.
3. Discover the best craft beer in Chicago
The other place you can check out the baseball is at Guaranteed Rate Field - yep, it’s a weird name, but it was bought out by a mega-corporate mortgage company in 2016, just go with it. While it’s a little further out the center of town, the stadium has an incredible VIP Craft Beer Lounge on site, meaning you can park your bum at the bar and try some amazing beers from a rotating selection while watching the game play out in front of you.
Some of the concoctions we tried including a Jalapeno Pepper Ale and a cream and pistachio IPA. SOUNDS RIDICULOUS, was actually sublime.
The scene in Chicago is amazing and you’ll have fun hopping from brewery to brewery. Dovetail Brewery, Ravenswood is where you will find more classics and less wacky flavours. In fact, the owners are so committed to studying the iconic German lagers, that they’ve developed reverse-osmosis technology to turn Chicago’s funky water so it more closely resembles the natural water from Pilsen, Bohemia, where the best beer is made.
Elsewhere, Spiteful Brewing has a cosy open-air patio and very Instagrammable can designs; Motor Row has a huge private tasting room in a huge warehouse setting, and if beer isn’t your thing, Koval is a whisky distillery that’s well worth checking out.
4. Make the most of Chicago’s iconic rivers
Okay so you drank enough beer to fell a rhino. But the good news is Chicago is an active, busy city, and that means it’s just as great for fresh air and walkabouts.
For a start, Chicago has an intricate set of rivers running through it - the short version is that they’re manmade - the water flow was even reversed at one point to ensure the waste flowed out of the city rather than in.
As intimidating as it sounds, you can rent kayaks and paddle through the river that goes through the center of the city. Yes, there are massive ships honking their way through the waterways, too, but most companies - we went with Urban kayaks - insist on instructors who help you cross waterways without getting smooshed by a massive boat.
And it’s such an amazing way to take in the city, from the shimmering blue-green waters to the incredible buildings stretching up into the sky.
If that sounds like a bit too much hard work for you, the architecture boat tour will take some of the strain out while letting you enjoy an expansive trip across the river that loops through the center of the city. You’ll take in generations of incredible buildings and learn how Chicago earned its reputation for stunning architecture. Plus, it even goes past the gargantuan eyesore that is Trump Tower, so feel free to boo it loudly.
5. Eat, drink and Instagram in Lake View
Lake View is a neighbourhood that is extremely cool - incredible street food, brilliant drinks, and loads of great art and stuff to check out. If you can, put aside a day to wander around the indie shops and bars.
Corridor Brewery & Provisions is known for its beers, but the food is top-notch, too, and their rotating list of cocktails mean there’s something for everyone. The buffalo-cauliflower bites with cheese curds and blue cheese sauce are incredible with a cold pint.
Elsewhere, Cafe Tola does incredible empanadas - think Cornish pasties with more exciting fillings - and homemade lemonade (try the lavender one). Perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. They also have some cool artwork on the side of their shop.
6. Have a laugh at the Second City
What if we told you there was a comedy mecca in Chicago that birthed (not literally) the likes of Amy Pohler, Tina Fey and Bill Murray?
Second City is an improv group that is one of the most prolific comedy clubs in the world. There’s several shows a day from up-and-coming talent and current members - old faces sometimes swing by, too, but put it this way: given how many talents were scouted performing here, you could be looking at the next Steve Carrell or Dan Akroyd.
They also do walking tours of the neighborhood, which also have a sort of comedy lean to them. Comedy and walking! It’s a great way to check out new parts of Chicago and learn about the comedy circuit that is a crucial part of the city’s identity.
MTV Travelled With... Choose Chicago.
Words: Chris Mandle=