Most visitors to Chicago only make it outside of the Loop (our name for downtown) to head to the Southside for the Museum of Science and Industry, or maybe to head a little bit north to Wrigley Field; and that's a real shame, because our city is vibrant, diverse and full of incredible experiences, many of the best of which are outside the tourist hubs. If you want to escape the endless hordes of people on Michigan Avenue, hop the CTA Blue Line for twenty minutes and get off at either the California or Logan Square stops, and you'll find yourself in Logan Square, the most up-and-coming area in the city, jam-packed with award-winning bars and restaurants. Here are some of my favorite dining, drinking and shopping spots in my neighborhood.
The signature dish at Logan Square's Fat Rice. Photo via Bon Appetit.
Dining. Some of the most exciting and unique dining experiences in the city reside in Logan Square. My favorite is Fat Rice, which serves Macau cuisine—Macau was a Portuguese trading outpost in China where many cultures blended, producing a one-of-a-kind fusion cuisine. You'll find dumplings and pork buns along with traditional Portuguese drinks such as caipirinhas, but the real star is the titular dish, the fat rice, which is a rice pot loaded with clams, prawns, a variety of sausages and porks, and hardboiled eggs (it'll feed two to four people). It's basically a treasure trove that you eat. Get a reservation, because I was once told on a Thursday evening that it was a two-and-a-half-hour wait for a party of two. (Tip: Fat Rice has a bakery next door where you can buy a wide variety of buns (they even have a Chicago-style hot dog bun, if you're feeling brave) and coffee and tea that's open during the day.)
Some other dining highlights: Longman and Eagle, a Michelin-starred restaurant with the most impressive selection of whiskies in the city; Parson's Chicken and Fish, an offshoot of Longman with incredible fried chicken and fish (and some salads and sides, too!) and a frozen Negroni that is maybe the best thing you'll ever drink; and Bang Bang Pie, a fantastic breakfast spot with killer biscuits and to-die-for pie.
Everyone deserves to experience this daiquiri. Photo via Lost Lake.
Drinking. If you look at any list of the best cocktail bars in Chicago, it's likely that at least 75 percent of them are going to be located in Logan Square. So, where to start? You really can't go wrong with Lost Lake (conveniently located just a few blocks from Fat Rice), a tiki bar with drinks that will knock you out. Seriously, it's a one-and-done kind of place, so let me recommend the Bunny's Banana Daiquiri, mostly because of the cute dolphin made out of a banana that's in it, but also because it's delicious. This place gets packed pretty much as soon as it opens, daily at 4 pm.
More drinking options: Revolution Brewing, perhaps the best-loved of Chicago's breweries, has its headquarters in Logan Square, and you can get exclusive beers at their brick-and-mortar location, along with very good American bar food; The Whistler mixes up wonderful cocktails along with nightly readings, concerts, performances and DJs; Best Intentions has a friendly, divey atmosphere with fancy drinks, including a malted mint chocolate milkshake loaded up with gin (my favorite!) and a horchata margarita.
Well-curated options at Felt. Photo via the boutique.
Shopping. Most high-end shopping in Chicago is downtown, on Rush and State streets and Michigan Avenue; but on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, there's Felt, a luxury boutique carrying new, interesting designers that you can't find elsewhere in the city, along with staples such as T by Alexander Wang. The ladies there greet you with a glass of champagne, then dress you perfectly—they'll get you to not only embrace, but fully rock, trends that you might not have been sure about before. For fashionistas, this is a destination in itself.
Other shopping spots: Right next to Felt is Steel Petal Press, a greeting card and gift store perfect for finding a cute card for any occasion or a special, hand-pressed Chicago postcard; Uncharted Books, a small but lovely used bookstore with a good selection of zines and locally published works; Logan Hardware, because no hipper-than-thou neighborhood can exist without a record store (be sure to check out the bar it runs a block down the street, also called Logan Hardware, which boasts at least thirty pinball machines and a wide variety of other arcade games, along with a great draft list).
Logan Square, the Illinois Centennial Memorial Column at its center. Photo by Sam Park via Wikimedia Commons
There's so much to see outside of the Loop! Chicagoans are nice (it's that Midwestern thing), so come out to our neighborhood and we'll treat you right. Logan Square is just one of more than 70 recognized neighborhoods within the city of Chicago. You owe it to yourself to see at least one of them up close and personal, rather than in miniature from the glass cube of the Willis Tower.