The Quincy stop was restored in 1999, but the original canopy and railing from 1897 are still intact. Designed by A.M. Hedley, it's one of the more classic-looking stops in the Loop. The Corinthian pilasters and window surrounds done in the Baroque style probably go unnoticed by the hundreds of busy commuters that file in and out of the station on their way to work. And with all kinds of crazy commerce in the area, shoe-gazers and tourists would do well to use some degree of caution when moving along the intrepid sidewalks.
Best of the nightlife
Elephant and Castle
Something about this restaurant/pub makes it very cozy on freezing windy days. It is always warm, which helps, but the allure extends beyond the balmy temperature. The stained glass is inviting, as is the huge beer selection. Plus, though it's usually very crowded, the seating arrangement gives the tables a distinct intimacy. What's perhaps less inviting is that it's a franchise owned and operated by the same company responsible for Canada's Rainforest Cafes. Depressing, indeed, but Elephant and Castle has a quasi-authentic feel and some pretty good food: a stew made with Guinness-braised beef, for instance. There is a bright-red, British-style phone booth in front that hides behind a wind door in the winter.
Good for groups
Chicago Sports Bar and Grill
Walking down the stairs of the 223 W. Jackson building into the muted, low-lit Chicago Sports Bar & Grill is a welcome reprieve from the smog and bustle of downtown. Drawing in a business lunch crowd during the day and a post-work cocktail coterie after five, Sports is a decidedly professional gathering place, although its warm, laid-back atmosphere offers a pleasant change from the cookie-cutter downtown sandwich shops where seating is near-impossible to find at peak hours. The space is large, if not sprawling, with two huge rooms replete with plenty of tables and stools, as well as cozy spots in the nook of the bar, where your favorite beer is sure to be on tap.
Luke's Italian Homemade Beef
An interior wall at Luke's boasts one of the most frightening 3-D murals ever created: a black bull with a Luke's tattoo on his bicep, eating a plate of spaghetti off of a lounging cow's belly. Truly terrifying, but in Chicago, every conceivable oddity is overlooked in the name of a good Italian beef. There is a much less frightening mural of a giant Chicago dog, plausibly a reminder that Luke's serves those as well. Luke's Italian beef is the product of a famous recipe. The restaurant did win the Silver Platter award in 2000; if you can find out what that means exactly, then let me know. Luke's also serves pizza in pies or by the slice. Hot tip: On Friday only, you can treat yourself to a "Pepper and Egg Sandwich."
Where to chill
Sears Tower Skydeck
On the north end of downtown, you can take a free ride to the 96th floor of the Hancock building and spend your ten dollars on a fancy martini, but at 1,353 feet up, the Skydeck of Chicago's signature tower has the better view of the city. On a clear day you can supposedly see Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. There are interactive learning exhibits, high-powered telescopes and binoculars and multi-lingual interactive kiosks. The Sears Tower was built in the "mega-module" system, so with its multiple tiers, it looks like a few buildings smelted into one. It weighs more than 200,000 tons and has almost 4 million square feet of rent-able space. This is scary, but the average sway of the Sears Tower is 6 inches. The building blows in the wind!
As a general rule, liquor stores with bars attached to them are seedy places. Such hovels usually stock the cheapest booze for a rough clientele, grizzled drunks who lurk from sun-up to closing time and then stagger out with a six-pack. This general rule does not apply to Cal's, a warm and inviting liquor store/bar. Cal, a gruff looking fellow with a thick, gray, old-timey moustache will likely be there, should you stop by. He seems to have quite a harem of regular customers, too. One out-of-breath guy burst in and gasped, "Cal, you wouldn't happen to have any plastic shot glasses, would ya?" Cal let out an ambiguous grunt. The small bar to the rear of the place boasts live music and, perplexingly, wireless Internet access. The liquor store is open 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. The bar's hours are subject to change, so a quick call ahead is advised.
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