In Spite of the Polar Vortex: Part 1

In the past year, Chicago has gotten a pretty bad rep. Granted, it’s freezing from November to mid April, windchill got down to -50 Fahrenheit multiple times this year, the snow seems never ending, and you forget what warmth feels like… so yeah winter in Chicago can be brutal. My parents, and friends living in ridiculous places like SoCal, imagine me in some dormant snow-covered tundra (the latter might be true), but it’s so much more. While spring is starting to poke out it’s adorable little head, lets not forget all the bomb things the city has to offer in the winter. In defense of Chicago, in spite of the polar vortex, my favorite places for winter.

BongoKanela King KruleFritz

Music: I have yet to really take full advantaged of the music scene in Chicago, but there is music everywhere. Any artist you want to see will undoubtedly come to Chicago if they are on tour. This past winter my two favorite shows were King Krule and Childish Gambino (okay I guess Gambino was last week… but still). They were my favorites mostly because of the artists, rather than the shows or venues themselves, but were held in two distinctly different locations that I think are worth mentioning.

  • King Krule: King Krule was at Lincoln Hall in Lincoln Park not far from the Fullerton red/brown/purple-line stop. Lincoln Hall is the brother of Schuba’s Tavern further north near Wriggleyville, a historic building with an interesting history, albeit the place is completely redone. I prefer front and center for shows, which is what I did for this one, but there is also a bar area with seating above and little tables scattered around the banister if that’s more your style. Getting drinks was a bit of a struggle because there is only one bar below, and one above, but this is expected. Overall, I like the venue’s vibes, clean, chill, but not overly hip, and look forward to attending more shows there!
  • Childish Gambino: Gambino preformed at the historic Riviera Theater. The building is beautiful and worth checking out just to see it; it’s large and super close to the Lawrence red-line stop, but still very old and definitely seen better days. To start, it was about a million degrees in the building because it’s outfitted with old water heaters that only have two settings – on and off. So by the time the show actually started I was sweating bullets. Secondly, the bathrooms were pretty scary, but… somewhat expected for a larger, old concert venue. On the upside, there were a whole bunch of make shift bars scattered across the venue, so getting a drink or water was no issue – but be sure to bring cash because there is a minimum on cards. Overall, I enjoyed the show, but not sure it is the kind of venue I would patron on a regular basis.

Brunch/Restaurants: Eating and drinking are my primary activities in the winter, and there’s nothing I like better than a good brunch (except maybe pizza, which is why it has its own section). So he’s my list of favorite places.

  • Fritz Pastry: So one day I had I happened to have a dentist appointment in the middle of a blizzard. After leaving my appointment I got lost, even though I was in my neighborhood (which happens more often than not). I happened to come across this little piece of heaven, and went in to get my bearings. And what do I find? Donuts upon donuts upon donuts. I never met a donut I didn’t like so instead of just getting 1, I got 1 of each of the freshly made donuts they had left (so three – see photo above). The were all AMAZING. They have vegan and gluten-free donuts too if that’s your thing. To get your donut fix to look further than fritz.
  • Bongo Room (West Side): There are a few Bongo Rooms in the city, but the original one off of Milwaukee seems to still be the best of them. It’s very small, thus waits are long, but it is definitely worth the wait (or waking up early for).  I dragged some visiting friends out of bed at 8:00am on a Saturday so we could get there early, and it was all we talked about the rest of their trip. You could order practically anything off the menu and it would be delicious. And their pancake and french toast recipes change seasonally so you have a reason to go there at least every season.
  • Kanela’s Breakfast Club: This place mostly needs to be mentioned because my roommate is obsessed, though not without reason. It’s close to our apartment and the Belmont red/brow/purple-line stop, quaint, delicious, and the wait usually isn’t more than 30 minutes. The food is a fusion between Greek and American brunch, so you can always get something standard or change it up, and it will be delicious. Don’t forget to order loukoumades (little Greek donut angels) to start!
  • Wilde: This place is named after Oscar Wilde, so obviously I’m into it. In addition, the inside looks like a very large private study, books on the walls, large plush chairs, and so on. The food is Irish/American, and they have a great beer selection. This is a good go-to restaurant because the food is always great, and the vibe is a little different from the restaurants surrounding it.
  • DMK: If you haven’t been to this Lakeview burger joint yet, you need to. The fries and burgers are always amazing, clutch beer selection, awesome service, seasonal shakes – enough said. Plus, sometimes if the bartenders like you they’ll give you free drink tickets.

On Part 2 of ‘In Spite of the Polar Vortex’ I’ll explore my favorite night-time places, other random activities, as well as places I have yet to explore! Stay tuned.

Keep your chin up Chicago

Arty the Alien