What should I check out in the South Loop?
February 12, 2008 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Chicago's South Loop neighborhood. What undiscovered gems should I check out? Ethnic eateries? Interesting social gatherings for 20-somethings? Groups to join? (I currently live way far north, near Roger's Park, which is lovely, but far from work.)
posted by melodykramer to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're an artist, or just like artistic types, you might check out the Columbia College of Chicago student paper, especially the "City Beat" section.
posted by homelystar at 8:22 PM on February 12, 2008

Well, what exactly do you mean by South Loop? The phrase is pretty amorphous these days and has more to do with how high up you are in a new high rise than how far south you are.

Depending upon your location there are several nice neighborhoody bars and restaurants still in the Printer's Row area. West of the South Loop is the Canal-Roosevelt corridor which is your gateway to ethnic restaurants and the Maxwell St. Market. It's also painfully gentrified (due to the South Loop build up) so that's where you'll find your Target and Whole Foods.
posted by wfrgms at 8:49 PM on February 12, 2008

When I find myself in the South Loop with time to spare, I usually visit the neighborhood book stores. The cavernous Burnham Park Powell's is always worth an evening's browse, while the Printer's Row stores on the 700 block of S. Dearborn (Sandmeyers, Printer's Row Fine Books) offer a more upscale selection.

In early June, Printer's Row also plays host to an enormous book fair. It's not to be missed.
posted by Iridic at 9:07 PM on February 12, 2008

I wouldn't say it's undiscovered, but I always liked going to Orange on Harrison for brunch.
posted by snafu at 9:14 PM on February 12, 2008

I work down there, on south state. There's a good deal of condo buildings and a few restaurants. Not much in the way of local ethnic eateries. Doesn't retain much of an Old Chicago feel unfortunately unless you go south a little more. Not extremely exciting.

That being said, you have Bongo Room on wabash and roosevelt, panozo's italian deli on Michigan and 13th. Down a bit on 20th and State you have Reggies, a rock bar (a little too over the top "rock" themed, but has an attached record store) Zapatista's (ok mexican food), the Wabash Tap (our work hangout, standard bar), Howie's (Bar food without the bar). The columbia college dance center is on 13th and wabash, they have performances every now and then. You are close to printer's row.

In the summer down the street on Canal street they have the modern-day maxwell street, that is great. You'll also be closer to things in the city that you can get involved in. It's a decent place to work since it's not in the loop. Good luck!
posted by Sreiny at 9:54 PM on February 12, 2008

The Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak is a bit south of "South Loop" but still very close to you and features some of the best jazz/improvised music 6 nights a week.
posted by thedanimal at 7:48 AM on February 13, 2008

Eleven City Diner at (approximately) 11th and Wabash is a pretty good upscale Jewish deli place. Great breakfast, too.

I belong to FFC gym (State just north of Roosevelt), which is REALLY nice. No pool, and can be crowded though.

This spring (or ealy summer by the looks of it), a brand new enormous gym called XSport Fitness is opening at 9th and State. They're still offering memberships with no contract for around $35 a month. You don't start paying until it opens, so it's a great deal. My brother goes to one, and he says it's great. My wife and I already joined the South Loop one, as it's several blocks closer to us, and the FFC contract is about to expire:

posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:12 AM on February 13, 2008

Oh, and stay away from the Bally's gym in River City (Wells and Polk). I was a member there for years, before anything better was in the area. It's dirty, dingy, hot and the equipment breaks down regularly. And they run out of towels all the time. Seriously avoid it at all costs, go with one of the others I mentioned above, even if it's a few bucks more a month.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:15 AM on February 13, 2008

Opera is an amazing South Loop restaurant. I'm also a huge fan of the brunch at the Bongo Room, particularly the Duck Benedict. You, obviously, will be really close to Chinatown, so check that out, as well as Bridgeport for excellent Italian food.

There's a newly-bustling art/music scene in Pilsen, which is nearby, and definitely worth checking out. Also, there is amazing Mexican food in that neighborhood.

On Sundays, check out the New Maxwell Street Market at Canal/Roosevelt. Lots of weird junk being sold in a street fair, along with crazy food (fish eye tacos!) that you can't find anywhere else.
posted by atomly at 11:04 AM on February 13, 2008

Seconding X Sport for a gym. They seem to be as straightforward as a gym is going to get. My company has a corporate "discount" rate of $39 a month, so I assume their prices are fungible. Sweet talk probably helps get a decent rate.
posted by gjc at 3:43 PM on February 13, 2008

Hey, melodykramer, hope you're still checking the thread! I'm not so familiar with the Printers Row part of the South Loop, but the Near South Side (south of Roosevelt) is a burgeoning area.

Sherwood Conservatory of Music and Columbia College Dance Center on Michigan just south of Roosevelt have what I can only call "boutique" music and dance concerts (small halls, Sherwood's seats just 125), as well as wonderful classes for all ages and levels of interest. Full disclosure-- I was the Director of Development at Sherwood from 1997 to 2002. It's just a great place.

And of course there's the Field Museum; go during the day and you'll miss the hideous crowds of children. When I worked down there I spent lots of time going through their exhibits. Don't miss Members Night-- it's worth joining just to see where they have the maggots eat the flesh off the specimens, and how to use a camera obscura. I got to talk to Mae Jamison at one of these, just her and me and my 7 and 10 year old (at the time) kids. We just happened into her office when no one else was there. Just an amazing experience.

There are some interesting walking tours, historic houses and galleries in the Prairie Avenue Historic District, although the city has never done what it could with this area.

Back up Michigan Avenue, be sure to look into the Fine Arts Building-- an amazing Belle Epoque edifice full stem to stern with working artists, art schools, voice studios and god knows what all. Take the original operator-run elevator all the way to the top floor and then walk back down as far as you can (I think you can walk down to the third floor before you have to take the elevator), and just check it out.

Be sure to go into the underground walkway connecting the Red Line subway to the Orange Line L at Roosevelt Road and check out the mosaic mural.

Have fun!
posted by nax at 5:41 PM on February 14, 2008

FYI, nax, in the Fine Arts Building you can walk all the way down to the bottom floor, no elevator necessary. I work in the building.
posted by thedanimal at 7:12 AM on March 12, 2008

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