photo: Courtesy of Cityscape
Collect that inner mettle: As you exit the train, do not be swayed by the food court to your right, hawking Arby's roast beef sandwiches, or be tempted into getting a quick fix at the Jamba Juice to your left. Too many worthwhile stops lie within short walking distance of the Mart, in a pleasantly tourist-quiet part of River North. Burgers, beers, falafel and calzones await, so keep those feet a-walkin'.
Best of the nightlife
Consider any Holiday Inn bar you may have been to. You're probably not picturing a destination spot, are ya? Well, this place is a destination for one simple reason: the view. Situated beside the Chicago River, the 15th floor bar boasts a nearly unmatched view of the skyline, from the Hancock Center to the Sears Tower. The selection of organic beers, specialty martinis and upscale apps (like crab cakes and beef carpaccio) doesn't hurt, either.
Good for groups
Dark-stained oak furniture, slate-covered tables, beautiful tin ceilings, exposed brick walls and focused halogen lamps make this one of the best-designed, most contemporary-feeling (read: least cheesy) Irish bars in Chicago. There is a theme to the decor, but instead of shamrocks, it's churches. The original Pepper Canister is St. Stephen's, a church in Dublin whose steeple resembles said spice dispenser. In tribute to its namesake, the Chicago Pepper Canister has a large medieval window, rafters over the bar, and steeple-shaped decorative arches. Also, the menu has a distinctly ecclesiastical air: "Burgers of Biblical Proportions," "Sanctimonious Sides," and "Devil's Calamari" (for the not-so-saintly, we assume) are some examples.
The menu here proclaims "Taza means Fresh!," and you'll see little to convince you otherwise. All items are made to order: Chickpea balls are dropped into hot oil at the request of a falafel sandwich; parsley-flecked baba ghanoug boasts plenty of seeds and chunks of eggplant; and a hulking turkey covered in spices is carved for the purpose of loading your sandwich. Falafel by the piece rings in at .40 cents each, but smart penny-pinchers upgrade to the $5.95 plate: six pieces served with hummus, a garden salad, pita and really, really tasty tahini sauce. You'll also find standards like dolmeh, kifta kabab, gyro sandwiches, chicken shawarma fresh off the rotisserie and a vegetarian plate.
Where to chill
A few visits here and you're sure to know the bartenders' names. With any luck, they'll know yours as well. The drinks won't completely empty your wallet, and if all goes well you'll be sharing shots with the employees in no time. The service is top-notch, erasing any worries of moping at the bar with an empty glass. The come-as-you-are ambiance makes it downtown's choice for beer and jeans, a welcome change from the many posh watering holes in the area. Fittingly, there's a great, classics-filled jukebox to liven up the background and killer burgers for anyone with an appetite for more.
No reason to get a warmed-over slice of pizza for lunch when you can hoof it a few blocks to this Italian emporium and get something fresh from the oven. Though you can go for a full pie (in individual, small, medium and large), a chalkboard above the extremely open kitchen displays that day's ready-on-demand calzone, deep-dish and thin crust offerings, which run from Canadian bacon and onion calzones to delectable deep-dish mushroom. A number of specials will save you a buck or two. Sandwiches, pasta, chicken and salads round out the menu. The warm interior, decked out in lots of yellow, can get literally warm as well, as the pizza oven tends to heat up the tiny space quite quickly.
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