NFT Chicago Gold Coast / Mag Mile

Gold Coast / Mag Mile

Between the sticky bars on Division Street and the Viagra Triangle pick-up joints on Rush, it's easy for locals to find fun. But the Gold Coast/Mag Mile (actually only eight-tenths of a mile, but who's counting?) is also home to some of Chicago's most impressive architecture, libraries (including The Newberry), and beautiful beaches. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Lookingglass Theatre add to the cultural cache.

Gucci, Chanel, Barney's, See more.

>Prada; they don't call it the Gold Coast for nothing. But with Urban Outfitters and H&M, there's plenty for us regular folk as well. On Rush Street, Ikram is a favorite of FLOTUS Michelle Obama. Speaking of whom, the Obamas' favorite Chicago date place happens to be Spiaggia.

Bar Toma is Tony Mantuano's (Spiaggia) take on a classic Italian pizzeria. Speaking of Italian, Nico Osteria specializes in seafood. If you want something to take home, head over to Goddess and the Grocer. Speaking of being thrifty, dodge admission to the Hancock Observatory by getting a martini at The Signature Room at the 96th two floors above.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Drinking Guide to Chicago

By Jill Jaracz
Bottle Service? Old Style? But what does it all mean?! Wading through Chicago drinking lingo is a fate no novice NFTer should be subject to, right? Jill Jaracz cuts through the terminology, flies past the red tape and jumps headlong into a metaphorical tankard of beer. Come along!

Air Conditioned Chicago

By David Rosenstock
It's a hot and pitiless world out there. Nothing beats a cool, architecturally inspiring walk in the corridor to get you back to your pre-liquified self. Join David Rosenstock as he takes you on a verbally acuitous journey through the bowels of  downtown's lobbies, markets and secret passageways--all air-conditioned, all life-changing.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Lean green cuisine Lunch is a conundrum. You want something warm. You want something good. But you had a cheeseburger last night and you’re meeting up for Mexican later… You could get a salad… but not getting a salad sounds better… Freshii to the rescue. Tucked away in a sub-basement of Water Tower Place, down by where the taxi stand used to be, Freshii serves up wholesome food that's heavy on the green stuff from the garden and light on the green stuff from your wallet. The options - - burritos, wraps, bowls, salads, and soups - - are offered along a spectrum of healthiness from buffalo chicken to seven vegetable soup. The only downside is the lack of seating in the winter and an arcane ordering process that involves those stubby little pencils you find at bowling alleys and mini-golf. The friendly staff will walk you through it, though. There are two other Freshii locations in the Loop, and with big plans to expand, Freshii will soon be coming to a citii near you.

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Capital One 360 Cafe
Look, over on Wabash. It's a bank! It's a cafe! It's ING!...a bank cafe? With CNBC on the plasmas, free Internet, and baristas cum bankers, ING Cafe is a touch schizophrenic, but $1 coffee doesn't lie. And if you get one of their travel mugs, that coffee will cost you only 50 cents. That's a full mug o' joe for under a buck, everyday, always. Plus, the coffee is Peet's, so it isn't half bad. Cappuccinos and espressos will run you only $1.50. They've got an assortment of cheap food too: soups, salads, sandwiches, etc. A toasted bagel with cream cheese is only a buck as well, which means that in downtown Chicago, $1.50 will get you either an entire breakfast or 10 minutes of parking. It's your choice. The atmosphere is surprisingly pleasant, with plenty of seating, big windows, free newspapers, and even a clutch of mysterious regulars who camp out on the sofas. It's the best deal in downtown Chicago, and you can take that to the cafe...I mean bank.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Bistro 110
Amidst the Holiday shopping season, Bistro 110 is conveniently nestled in the Gold Coast right across from the Hershey's Chocolate Factory and within a few steps on Water Tower Mall. That being said- yes, it's definitely a tourist trap, and even though NFT shudders at the thought of subjecting you to anything touristy, popping in for even just the appetizers is well worth it for locals. Upon sitting down, you are handed a warm baguette accompanied by fresh roasted head of garlic and butter--absolutely phenomenal. If you don't get full from indulging in the bread, the French onion soup is hands down the best in the city. Cheese lovers flock here: Bistro 110 is far from stingy on the gooey goodness. Equally amazing: Bistro's signature artichoke stuffed with brie. Bustling and cozy, Bistro 110 is delicious Americanized French fare for locals and tourists alike.

Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Cafe des Architectes
This restaurant is located in the Sofitel Hotel, but don't let that scare you off. The space is absolutely beautiful with a subtle hint of elegance. The servers are incredibly nice and gracious and most importantly they seem to genuinely like their jobs. The ambiance is fantastic, but the food will blow your mind. Imagine savory flavors partying on your taste buds in every bite. There aren't many vegetarian options but if you call ahead they should be able to accommodate you. There is an extensive list of wine and interesting cocktails to choose from as well. If this restaurant seems pricy, that's because it is. This is a great place to go for dinner on a special occasion.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Mike Ditka's
The best way to sum up Ditka's is probably the most cliche: Ditka should stick to coaching football and leave good food up to the chefs. That being said, dinner at Ditka's fell very short of a touchdown. Since the waiter swore that you could "basically close your eyes, point to any item on the menu, and it will be amazing," eyes wide open and fingers a-pointing, a handful of appetizers and entrees were ordered. Unfortunately, the only entree that was halfway decent was the scallops, but everything else (salad, burger, crab cakes) was hugely disappointing. The biggest downer however, waits in the end zone in the form of dessert. When the monstrous piece of chocolate arrived, I had to make sure I ordered a piece rather than half of the pie. It's a size that immediately elicits guilt; a piece like that can easily feed a tribe of starving people in Africa; hell, perhaps even a few football players for a month. The final score: the guest team loses big time by eating here.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

More Cupcakes
You might not think this town needs another cupcake place, but More's got the famous Gale Gand, of Tru Restaurant, cookbook and Food Network fame, behind their line of sweet and savory cupcakes. Wait, did I just say 'savory' and 'cupcake?' Yep, only at More can you get the BLT cupcake, which has bacon in the cake, ranch frosting, and a tomato garnish. It's worth a try, but if you're like me, you might find the savory cupcake a little too much. However, the sweet cupcakes here are absolutely divine. If you order the salted caramel, you'll be treated to a moist cake with a mass of caramel oozing from the center. The black and white is topped with a huge dome of milk and white chocolate shavings. And the list goes on. At $3.50 to $4.25 a pop, these aren't exactly cheap, but they're worth splurging for.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

The Goddess and Grocer
No, this isn't the title of a steamy Danielle Steel novel, but rather a fusion gourmet deli and grocery that is the girl-next-door version of its conjoined twin, Cru. They have all sorts of exotic deli options available for lunch: sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, and a bunch of house-made favorites. Make sure you save room for dessert, particularly the adorable cupcakes, enormous cookies, or a slice of their luscious Creme de la Creme (chocolate and creme brulee) cake. Compulsive shoppers beware--no matter what you do, don't turn around as you wait for your food (and yes, you will be waiting)--behind you lie shelves taunting with temptation. They boast an impressive array of wines, cheeses, crackers, chocolate, and organic foods. The pricing is expensive as you would expect for gourmet, and the service is a bit on the slow side. To clarify: if you are looking for a cheap, feel-good deli--this is definitely not it. They now have two locations, one in the Gold Coast and one in Bucktown. Whether you grab food to go, indulge at the tables outside, or buy groceries to host a sophisticated soiree, this deli-store is absolutely divine.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Le Colonial
This quaint French/Vietnamese gem is distinguished by an old fashioned, two-story row house in the bustling gold coast. Like all precious jewels, this one is far from cheap, but even if all you can scrounge for is the pho or an appetizer, it will be well worth the experience. Absolutely everything on the menu is delicious, and I suggest you pay heed to the most likely snobby and disdainful waiter's recommendations. This place is definitely vegetarian friendly, but meat lovers, rest assured--there are plenty of dishes for you. Reserve a table upstairs for a romantic, dimly lit, sensual experience; it's a little hot and heavy for a first date, but ideal for special occasions, birthdays, and setting the mood. For a more conservative diner, the downstairs is simple and elegant, with a fabulous view of the trendsetters and their pooches on Rush Street.

Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

While this cozy little bistro lies in the fashionable gold coast, arriving fashionably late is absolutely out of the question. Tardy diners will enjoy a long wait at the handmade zinc bar (hence the name), complete with free frites and average drinks. The decor is charming in a country bumpkin kind of way, and the wait staff is tolerable if you can overlook their haughty, yet patient corrections as you butcher the pronunciations of the French entrees. They have signature dishes available year round, as well as a seasonal menu that changes monthly, giving veteran diners some well-deserved variety. The French onion soup is mediocre, but the desserts are delicious, particularly the berries with mascarpone cream, Crème Brule, and chocolate cake. This bistrot is perfect in the summer if you can squeeze into one of the rare tables by the open windows overlooking Rush Street, but nonetheless charmingly all year round.

Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

Bistrot Zinc
I'm generally anti-Gold Coast. I mean, it's so expensive, crowded, and mediocre. When family and friends visit Chicago, they all want to see the Magnificent Mile and eat somewhere very "seen and be seen." Instead of going to a sports bar, a steakhouse, or an overpriced Chicago "landmark," I take the fools to Bistrot Zinc. It's French fare and the food is sometimes slowly prepared, which just means you have more time for awesome cocktails and less time to loiter in the crowds of swarming tourists. The food is consistently good: Simple salads, fresh quiches, and crepes. You can have more elaborate octopus salads or meals I can't pronounce (like Vol au Vent en Croute) and it will come to your table with good service and, sometimes, complimentary chocolates. This restaurant makes the Gold Coast (and visiting family) bearable.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Table Fifty-Two
Maybe you don't like the fact that when Oprah says something is good, legions of women buy it. However, you've got to admit that Oprah probably knows a little something about food, so her seal of approval on Chef Art Smith's Southern-style restaurant does mean it's worth trying out. Your meal starts off with some heavenly goat cheese biscuits, and from there it only gets better. Smith uses top-notch ingredients in everything, from a delicious fried green tomato napoleon appetizer to some of the finest beef you'll ever taste. Food is served a la carte, so you'll have to shell out extra for a side, but the three-cheese macaroni that's still bubbling from its time in the wood-fire oven is worth the price. The Oprah buzz has made it difficult to get a reservation, but the six seats at the bar are set aside for walk-ins, so it's not impossible to get a seat at the table.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

You want to be environmentally friendly ands hip, but where do you go to get clothing that’s green? Head over to Skinstinct, a new boutique in Boystown that has clothes made from bamboo and organic cotton. They have both men’s and women’s clothing from casual clothes, office attire and sleepwear. You might think that this is another one of those stores that charges you a fortune just because the product is better for you. Think again—the best part about Skinstinct is that a lot of their clothes are quite affordable. Bamboo cap-sleeved shirts were on special for just $19 when I last shopped here. Premium laundry care and body care offerings round out this tiny store. The shop owners strive to make your shopping experience a pleasant one, from super personal service to offering you a beverage while you shop. You’ll wonder why wearing green wasn’t popular long ago!

Posted By:  Bathsheba Birman
Photo:  Joan Marcus

Drury Lane Theatre at Water Tower Place
Let’s talk deal breakers. Gun wielding libertarian? Fine. New-age transformational guru? Sure. Don’t like the Bee? To quote the immortal words of Princess Amidala, “You’re going down a path I cannot follow.” Haven’t seen it yet? The musical comedy about six geeky contenders for the spelldown crown extends its run with a limited summer engagement from April 18-Sept 2. What to expect: wicked zingers from Vice Principal Douglas Panch, plus some improv with audience volunteers recruited to participate as guest spellers. Compete with other word nerds during pre-show Wednesday evening game nights featuring Scrabble, Boggle, Taboo, and the first of its kind Hungry, Hungry Hippos Spelling Bee Championship ($29). The Bee also goes blue with special "parent/teacher" versions for mature audiences only on the first Friday of each month beginning June 1. Tickets are $59.50-$69.50; enter day of performance drawings to see the Bee for $25.

Posted By:  David Macey
Photo:  David Macey

I know there is a lot of pride in Chicago about our deep dish pizza traditions, but it is all a bunch of bullshit. Deep dish pizza is good, but it is about as authentically Chicago as that huge space ship looking thing on top of Soldier Field. That’s right Chicagoans, your beloved deep dish was created by a Texan named Ike Sewell as a novelty item to bring tourists into his restaurant off of Michigan Avenue. Now don’t get me wrong, I am as big a fan of deep dish as the next guy, but if you want real Italian pizza with fresh dough and fresh ingredients fired in a wood burning oven there is another Michigan Avenue restaurant you need to visit, Fornetto Mei. This Italian/Asian hybrid is in the Whitehall Hotel, the former stomping ground of rock stars like Mick Jagger, and has a small pizza bar overlooking Delaware Place that serves the best pizza in the city. My fiancée begged me not to write about this as it has been our secret spot for years, but the fresh arugula and prosciutto pizza drizzled with red chili infused olive oil and some fresh ground black pepper is just too good not to share. In this case a picture really is worth a thousand words or salivating taste buds.

Posted By:  Lisa Shames
Photo:  Lisa Shames

These days you’re a bit wary of the whole exercising-your-right-to-vote thing. With the state that our country is in—hey, don’t t look at me, I didn’t vote for him either—that’s no big surprise. Enter Bistro 110’s Sommelier for a Day program, which gives new meaning to the phrase “power to the people.” Four times a year, this popular French bistro—we’re big fans of their steak and pommes frites, French onion soup, and wood-roasted mushrooms—invites the public to help decide which new wines should be added to their list. Try more than 20 wines and mark on your ballot which ones you like best. Don’t know a Gewurztraminer from a Grenache? No worries, the staff can answer all your wine questions. And since man can’t live on wine alone—believe us, we tried—executive chef Dominique Tounge creates a tasty selection of passed hors d’oeuvres—quiche, tuna tartare, mini roast beef sandwiches, chocolate-covered strawberries—along with a sampling of domestic and imported cheeses. Votes are tallied with the highest-rated wines in each grape category earning a spot on the upcoming season’s wine list. Finally, a voting process we can understand.

Posted By:  Garin Pirnia
Photo:  Garin Pirnia

Finn McCool's
In Chicago, Irish pubs are a dime a dozen. Finn McCool’s may seem like another rowdy sports bar, but their daily food and drink specials are bar none. Located on Division Street next to numerous other like-minded bars, 14 televisions showcase basketball, football, and hockey games simultaneously. The barroom is filled with close together tables and high-chairs producing an intimate ambience. A popcorn machine churns out delicious free popcorn to nosh on while watching Sunday afternoon games. The specials are key to Finn’s existence. A free wing buffet sets the pace for Tuesdays and Fridays offering an assortment of flavors. Imbibe on $1 domestic drafts on Mondays and gorge on $2 burgers on Thursdays. Wednesday night is karaoke with half priced drinks. Besides from the specials, Finn McCool’s cooks up a variety of other appetizing food including salads, sandwiches, steak, and a shrimp ‘n’ chip platter. If a couple of cold ones during happy hour isn’t enough, and we all know it’s not, then dole out some cash for their table tapper, an enormous test tube looking thing overflowing with six beers. That should do the trick.

Posted By:  Rick Karlin
Photo:  Rick Karlin

There’s been more than a name change at this venerable Chicago institution. The former Chicago Historical Society has had a complete makeover. If you haven’t been since you were a kid, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. A nearly $30 million renovation has made the place light and airy with new high-tech exhibits. In addition to the old dioramas (which now look oddly quaint), five permanent collections now group memorabilia and hands-on displays by subject area; World’s Columbian Exposition, architecture, music, Fort Dearborn and, of course the Great Fire. For fashion mavens, a new exhibit entitled “Dior: The New Look” features original haute couture creations from the first designer to mass market as a brand name, as well as pret-a-porter creations from Marshall Field’s and Bes-Ben Milliners. A profile of the late home grown artistic genius, Ed Paschke, recreates his studio and showcases some of his seminal works. Special interest lectures and events are regularly scheduled; such as Chicago’s Gay & Lesbian history, the evolution of the music of Black America or Mexican American automobile clubs.

Posted By:  Eric Kroh
Photo:  Eric Kroh

IHOP is for sucka MCs. It’s all about the OPH, as in Original Pancake House. It was a good sign when I showed up one Sunday morning for brunch and there was a line to get in extending out the door and onto the sidewalk. Normally, such a line would be intimidating, but others waiting assured me that it would move fast, which it did. Twenty minutes later I was at the head of the line. Those twenty minutes allowed me a chance to hear House apostles proclaiming the virtues of the place and describe their favorite dishes. After eating a heavenly stack of bacon pancakes, I became one of them. Friends of mine had silver-dollar pancakes and buttermilk pancakes, and we got an apple pancake—a House specialty and really more like an apple pie with a pancake crust—for the table. Everything arrived punctually, and the coffee was free flowing. Upon leaving, I had my first chance to bear witness to the OPH, as a group of bleary-eyed teenagers asked if I knew a good breakfast place nearby. This, I thought, had to be a joke.

Posted By:  Rick Karlin
Photo:  Chesley Andrews

RA Sushi
The lighting and sound system at Sushi Ra (as well as the hipsters crowded around the bar) might lead you to believe that you’re in a trendy Rush Street club. However, make your way to the dining room and you’re in for a real treat in the form of spicy lobster rolls, mango ceviches, and Latin-Asian albacore. And, how can anyone resist something named the “Viva Las Vegas” roll? Starter dishes are equally unusual, such as the delightful blue claw crab cakes, served with ginger-infused mayonnaise and daikon sprout sunomono. Lobster spring rolls are a bit less successful. The wrapper is soft and pliable, not crispy, most likely from the mushy filling that tasted more fishy than lobster-like. On the other end of the spectrum, dengaki tofu, finished off with miso ginger sauce might just win over even those who swear that they hate tofu. Entrée choices include a variety of grilled fish, black pepper filet mignon, and the traditional chicken katsu, a breaded and fried cutlet. For a real deal, stop in at lunch and get a bento box, featuring a choice of entrees served with soup, rice, salad, a spinach dumpling, and vegetable spring roll for about $7.

Posted By:  Lisa Shames
Photo:  Ben Pavalon

Millenium Knickerbocker Hotel
At first glance, this cocktail looks harmless. In fact, with its bright cranberry color you could even call it beautiful. But be warned: The bartenders at this swanky hotel know how to make a proper martini—the lobby bar is named “The Martini Bar” after all—and with some 50 options to choose from, having just one is difficult. While the spicy and tasty complimentary nut mix does help ward off some tipsiness, after two French Martinis we found ourselves in no condition to wander around the 1927-era hotel. Too bad. We missed out on checking out the crystal chandelier, wood paneled ceilings, canopied brass medallions, and the Art Deco marble floor. Then there’s the rumored gambling haunts of Al Capone on the 14th floor with a secret passageway the gangster and his cronies used to escape the police. There’s live jazz, too, although all we remember hearing is a warm-and-fuzzy buzz in our brains and the bartender asking, “Another round?”

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Nightlife (16)
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