Chicago/St. Louis Bound
May 25, 2011 11:17 PM   Subscribe

Going to Chicago/St. Louis for the first time during the second week of June. Tell me the hot spots.

I will be flying in O'Hare on the 14th and flying out on the 21st.

Most of my time will be in the Chicago. I am also going to drive to St. Louis and stay there for a day or two

My plan is to see Adlai Stevenson’s home, the Climatron in St Louis, Bucky Fuller’s home in Carbondale and another geodesic dome in Wood River, Illinois. Yankees play Cubs while I am there and it looks impossible to get tickets. Are there tours of Wrigley?

So, in both cities, I'll be looking for good food (both restaurants and iconic local hangouts) , coffeehouses that have spirit, cool independent bookstores (full of codrescu, anti-walker texts, bucky fuller and sexual comics)- interesting museums, neighborhoods and other have to see spots. Also architecture, lots of architecture.

I am also looking for good places to stay.
posted by goalyeehah to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
-Tango Sur for steaks
-Harold's Fried Chicken
-Crisp for more fried chicken
-Pizzeria Due for deep dish
-The Chicago Diner for vegetarian food
-Rose Angelis for Italian
-Girl and the Goat for just awesome though you'll probably need to reserve this one a bit in advance
-Los Comales in Pilsen for super Mexican food
-Maxwell Street Market for Sunday morning/early afternoon--Good Mexican street food in addition to being a flea market that sells everything and anything.
-Revolution Brewery
-Molly's Cupcakes
posted by astapasta24 at 11:38 PM on May 25, 2011

I forgot to mention that my list is for Chicago.
posted by astapasta24 at 11:39 PM on May 25, 2011

In St. Louis, check out the Loop and the Central West End. In the latter is a book shop, Left Bank Books, one of the few local hold-outs, located a few blocks from the boyhood homes of T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, and William Burroughs.

Read up a bit on the 1904 World's Fair as well. It was the city's apex and people still take the date seriously.
posted by vecchio at 11:59 PM on May 25, 2011

This is mentioned in every Ask Metafilter question about what to do in St. Louis, but only because it is an absoute must-visit, no matter who you are: the City Museum (not actually a museum)!
posted by zsazsa at 12:20 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go see the Frank Lloyd Wright house in one of Chicago's near west suburbs, and absolutely take the tour. Then, get the map and walk the neighborhoods nearby, with plenty of Wright stuff to see. Well worth the time, says this non-architecture-buff.

My favorite restaurant in Chicago is The Publican, and a good cheap night of live blues can be found at Rosa's Lounge in Logan Square, but get a cab home after dark. Neighborhood is a little sketchy.
posted by GamblingBlues at 1:11 AM on May 26, 2011

St. Louis:

Blueberry Hill is an iconic local bar/burger joint in the Loop. Down the street from it is Riddle's penultimate, a nice restaurant with a good wine and beer list, locally sourced food, and free music ion the evenings.

Coffee Cartel in the CWE is the big coffeehouse.

Since you are going to see the Climatron, you will probably want to see the Missouri Botanical Gardens (where it is located). I was just there last weekend, and it is very lovel right now.

In Forest Park you will find the zoo and the art museum. Both have free admission, and the art museum, The Jewel Box (a small greenhouse) and the bird cage at the zoo are leftover buildings from the 1904 World's Fair. It might be worth your time to give them a look.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:52 AM on May 26, 2011

bookshop: Quimby's although I haven't lived in Chicago for years, I'm guessing it's still just as good as it was.

Also, yes, Publican is very good. And if you want a hot dog, go to Hot Doug's.

Chicago is the best. Have fun!
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 4:44 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

St Louis food: Ted Drewes, Pappy's.
Don't forget to visit the Cahokia Mounds on the way down to STL. It's the nearest thing that North America has to Stonehenge.
posted by scruss at 4:57 AM on May 26, 2011

If you are going all the way down to Carbondale, you might as well drive another half hour and see Metropolis.
posted by gjc at 5:19 AM on May 26, 2011

If you're going to Left Bank Books in the Central West End (which I second - it's a great neighborhood), the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica is only a few blocks down the street and it is amazing. I used to live a couple of blocks from there and we'd walk over pretty frequently just sit and look around inside. (I am not Catholic.)
posted by something something at 5:43 AM on May 26, 2011

If you're at all interested in architecture, you really owe it to yourself to take one of the Chicago Architecture Foundation Boat Tours.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:49 AM on May 26, 2011

If you're into geodesic domes, the chapel at SIUE is one, too (and not far out of the way of your travels). And National Geographic had an article on Cahokia, if you're into history at all.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:24 AM on May 26, 2011

If you're into geodesic domes, the chapel at SIUE is one, too

They also kept a live cougar named Chimega in it in the 70s as their mascot.
posted by rabbitsnake at 6:52 AM on May 26, 2011

Have you planned out your travel times yet? Driving to St. Louis is going to consume a good chunk of your day (5+ hours normally, plus add time - an hour? - for eternal construction on I-55 south of I-80). Side trips to Carbondale and elsewhere will obviously tack on extra time. Make sure you know when visiting hours are for the places you'd like to see.

That said, as long as you're going to be passing through Springfield, IL, on your way, stop at the Abraham Lincoln Museum. Heck, you could spend an entire day in Springfield itself. There are the Capitol buildings (new and old), Lincoln's tomb, house and law office (not near each other, and the house and tomb tours will take some time), some Route 66 stuff, etc.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:18 AM on May 26, 2011

In Chicago:
-Take the purple line up to the Davis stop and eat the best burger you've ever had in your life at Edzo's (open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:30 am to 4pm).
-If your stomach is strong and you have an interest, the International Museum of Surgical Sciences is fun.
-Frank Lloyd Wright tours.

In St. Louis:
-The St. Louis Zoo (free and wonderful) and Forest Park in general. The Old Bird House at the zoo, and the Art Museum (much of which is also free and wonderful) are the only remaining structures from the 1904 World's Fair.
-Ted Drewes is the famous frozen custard place, and worth going to, but there are lots of neighborhood places that are just as awesome.
-Wander around Old Town St. Charles, eat at Trailhead.
-City Museum should not be missed.
-Walk through the arch grounds, but skip the ride up in the arch - it takes too long. See the Old Courthouse.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:45 AM on May 26, 2011

These are the places I'm recommending out-of-town guests consider visiting over Memorial Day weekend:

The Delmar Loop. Within walking distance of us in University City, it has great food, music, microbrews, comics, cult films, vintage clothing...

Forest Park. Home to the Boathouse, Saint Louis Zoo (free), Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum (free), and more.

City Museum. Like a cross between an art museum, a playground, and a carnival sideshow—with a bar. Open 'til 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Rib America Festival. This will be going on all weekend at Soldiers Memorial downtown, with barbecue and live music.

South Grand. Go for the food. Highlights include Pho Grand (Vietnamese), the King and I (Thai), Meskerem (Ethiopian), City Diner, and dive bar CBGB.

Grand Center. This district is home to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Sheldon Art Galleries and Concert Hall, Jazz at the Bistro, the St. Louis Symphony, Fox Theatre, great food options, and more.

Busch Stadium. The Cards return home to play the San Francisco Giants at 3:15 p.m. on Memorial Day.

Crown Candy Kitchen. Go to this Old North staple for the grilled cheese, the giant BLT, the malteds, the ice cream, the chocolate...
posted by limeonaire at 7:51 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

For Chicago, Seconding Quimby's. If you like ice cream, go to Margie's Candies (the original one on Western near Armitage) one of the evenings you're there. You'll have to stand in line for about 30 minutes to get in, but it's worth it, both for the ice cream and for the people watching. If you like tacos and whiskey, head to Big Star in Wicker Park; get the pork belly tacos and the guacamole.
posted by smich at 8:13 AM on May 26, 2011

Since basically all of the St. Louis highlights have been mentioned, I'm just going to provide commentary on which things mentioned are actually worth it and those that are well-known without actually being very good. For mapping reference, the Loop is a stretch on Delmar Boulevard that runs roughly from Kingsland Ave on the west side to Rosedale Ave on the east side.

Things That Are Totally Actually Worth It:
- City Museum (!!!)
- Forest Park and the attendant museums/zoo (the Missouri History Museum is more compelling than it sounds, though I doubt it's very high up on your list)
- Cahokia Mounds (really a fascinating place, its status as the most populous pre-Columbian city in North America is surprisingly not well-known)
- Crown Candy Kitchen
- Botanical Gardens (which contain the Climatron, and which I think you'll actually spend most of your time in if you go there)

Things I Don't Like But Other People Really Do, and That I Can Appreciate on Some Level Why They Feel That Way Even if I Don't Share the Sentiment, and Which I Therefore Vicariously Recommend, I Guess
- Ted Drewes

Things I Think Are Actually Bad and Would Recommend Against
- Left Bank Books in the CWE (I haven't been to the one downtown, and goodness knows the people are nice, but the selection is beyond disappointing. Subterranean Books on the Loop, for being much smaller, seems to do a much better job of stocking a wider array of more interesting stuff.)
- Blueberry Hill (the burgers are pretty good, but everything else... see below for a place that is good in every respect)
- Coffee Cartel (the coffee's bad, the place is ugly, and there's always loud dance music playing. Its draw is mostly due to its 24/7 schedule. Again, see below for coffee recommendations.)
- the Boathouse in Forest Park (everyone I've known who's eaten there has reported slow service, dissatisfying food, and high prices.)
- ST. LOUIS STYLE PIZZA!!! DON'T GO TO IMOS, CECIL WHITTAKERS, OR ANY OF THAT NONSENSE!!! Plenty of people have talked about it on mefi, search if you're interested to see what you're not missing.

Things Not Yet Mentioned That I Heartily Recommend
- Dressel's Pub, which has surprisingly inexpensive food for how good it is (including a good burger; price range for entrees is $11-17 for most things), probably the biggest scotch selection in St. Louis, a good selection of everything else, and an actual atmosphere (dark wood, a fireplace, stained glass...) Oh, and their fresh-cooked potato chips + beer cheese appetizer is too much for words.
- Meshuggah coffeeshop on the Loop, if you like strong bitter coffee and a comfortable divey feel. One of the few places left anywhere where it's culturally appropriate to join in the conversation of a total stranger. I very well might be there. Good beer selection, too.
- Mississippi Mudhouse coffeeshop, on Cherokee Street, if you're more into local food and fancy stuff like that. Very good food and coffee, but a little bit expensive for your average coffeeshop (some type of espresso drink + sandwich or entree will probably run you $12-15). The music there can be loud, which may excite you or turn you off. Kind of a trendy place, but I've seen all types of people frequent it.
- Pi Pizza (has two locations that will probably be relevant to you, one in the Loop and one in the Central West End), a St. Louis original that does a weird variation of Chicago style pizza (and thin crust too). Really tasty, maybe not expensive depending on how much you eat (I eat like a monster and usually end up consuming half a pie when I go there, which at about $12 for the privilege doesn't always seem worth it. Normal people usually eat 2-3 slices (they're big), which makes it a better deal), also kind of loud inside. The relentless hipness of it may annoy you.

Finally, Riddles was mentioned above, and it was a great restaurant that has unfortunately closed. A place called Three Kings has opened in its stead, run by the nice people who used to work at Riddles and staffed by many of the same, but it's very different now -- there are TVs at the bar, the food is more bar-oriented fare, and there's no longer the pages-long beer/wine/liquor list delimited by country (!). None of this is bad, per se, but it's definitely catering to a different crowd than it did previously.
posted by invitapriore at 8:48 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hot Doug's is the quintessential Chicago restaurant of our time. But beware the long lines.
posted by naju at 8:55 AM on May 26, 2011

If you find yourself hungry in Carbondale, Quatro's Pizza and the Longbranch Coffee House are not bad, both within a mile or two of Buckminster Fuller's house. I drove by the house a couple weeks back and it was covered by a large tarp, so you may not see much from the outside. Another thing to consider is that the dome in Woodriver is located in kind of a gritty industrial area (an oil refinery makes up a good portion of the city).
posted by Mr Mister at 9:41 AM on May 26, 2011

Seconding the St. Louis Cathedral. It's one of the most extraordinary spaces you'll ever see. My family are atheists and we've been taking houseguests there for years, just to look.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:46 PM on May 26, 2011

If you go to a museum in Chicago, make it the Museum of Science & Industry and skip the Field Museum. There's also Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:06 AM on May 27, 2011

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