i'll start by admitting that putting together a list of my favorite things about chicago is both totally arbitrary and, at this point in my life, actually kind of painful. BUT i've had this list bouncing around in my head for the last several years and that information has to go somewhere.
1. (duh) the lake front
this one is pretty obvious for anyone who has ever been to the city of chicago. one of its greatest assets is the beautiful location on lake michigan. but it's more than just a view. once the weather turns even remotely nice, people come out to the lake in DROVES. i love the way the city shows up when the weather turns. after sad and cold winters, people are looking for basically any way to get outside and be active. my love of biking was definitely rekindled in chicago, and i have spent so many mornings watching the sun rise on that path. i honestly never got sick of the feeling of turning onto the path and riding toward the skyline. it always felt like a gift, and i'll miss it all the time.
okay, everyone talks about chicago pizza like deep dish is the only option, but honestly i've found all KINDS of delicious pizza in chicago, whether it's deep dish or thin crust or pan. i'm not sure i should admit this so early in our relationship but i eat pizza once a week at a minimum. the good and bad news is my husband is equally addicted, so we enable each other to such an extent that we have regular pizza sundays. the good news is this has allowed us to try like, every place we have ever wanted to try, and i have a pretty exhaustive list of my favorites that i'll save for another post. for the sake of chicago-ness of this list, i'll say that lou malnati's was in walking distance to our apartment and we did not take that for granted. our order was always thin crust with pepperoni and giardinera, well done, and HOO BOY you can not go wrong with that.
3. street fests
see, i even like street fests in the summer while eight months pregnant! this is one of the best things about chicago in the summer. every weekend there is some kind of street fest going on. some are much, much better than others, but if you're looking for something to do to get out and you don't want to sit in a bar or something, street fests are a great option. food can be hit or miss, but there's always overpriced booze to entice you, and if you can catch bands like sixteen candles or too white crew, it's definitely worth a trip. if you're going during the day, you can usually expect some cute shops holding booths too. it's a great time. some of my favorites are the taste of lincoln and the old town art fest, but really they're all worth checking out if you're in the mood for people watching and a plethora of treats that you can't get anywhere else. see: cookie dough you're SUPPOSED to eat raw.
4. outdoor patios
are you starting to see a trend here? when the weather turns nice in chicago, people want to do EVERYTHING OUTSIDE. if i wake up on a saturday and it's beautiful out i have two thoughts: i should go for a bike ride and i should drink outside today. i am not in the minority. people in chicago love patios, and bars and restaurants make every effort to accommodate with sidewalk patios, rooftop bars, and outdoor space that is quite often bigger than the restaurant itself (looking at you, big star). a lot of times these patios are also dog friendly, which is huge for me and my family. we like to bring our dog kosar everywhere we possibly can (i even brought him to work with me) so a dog-friendly patio is that much more exciting.
5. BYOB restaurants
(please notice there are 8 bottles of wine visible.
there were 6 people at this dinner)
have you ever heard of this? before i moved to chicago i never knew restaurants where you could bring your own booze were a thing, but once i knew about them i didn't know how i could live without. do you have any idea how much money you can save on dinner out with the girls if you bring your own bottle of wine [each]? SO MUCH MONEY. especially when you're like me and never pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine. it is great. and i'm not saying there is a direct correlation, but i swear some of my all time favorite dinners have been in BYOB restaurants. things always seem to get a little crazy and ridiculous when everyone brings their own bottle of wine. some of my favorite chicago BYOBs are: tanuki sushi, sun wah, and briciola (RIP).
6. public transportation
this might set me apart from like, 90% of the population, but i love the CTA (chicago transit authority). not having to drive to work, to the store, to a friend's house is a great thing. not having to pay $10 for a cab every time you want to go to dinner is a great thing. being able to zone out and read a book on your commute to work is a great thing! sure, the CTA may be less than luxurious. sure, on my last train ride in the city i saw a seat full of pee, and sure, you can't always be SURE that bus is only 4 minutes away, but hey, it's under $3, it's widely accessible from a ton of different areas, and it makes you feel connected to the city. and there's almost always a few blocks to walk on either end of your trip, so you're getting a little exercise while you're at it.
7. new bars and restaurants, like all the time.
some people value having a "regular" dinner spot or being usuals at a local bar. i am not one of those people. i like going somewhere new every chance i get. sure, i have my favorite places that i like to go back to when the mood strikes. but having endless options and a constantly updating list of places to go really gets my blood pumping. what does that even mean? i don't know, i'm just saying i get a real thrill out of going to the newest place, eating the newest trendy food, drinking at the newest (hopefully outdoor) spot, and then telling people about it. am i obnoxious? yes! but it's one of the best things about living in chicago and i like to think i took advantage of the ever-changing restaurant scene as much as i could during my time in the city. and, i even have a list of places to go when i go back. (i may have an actual problem).
so there you have it. my super formal and official list of the things i love most about chicago. reflecting on these while sitting in my apartment in cleveland suburbia definitely gives me some FOMO but it feels good to remember how great we had it in chicago.