Vintage Treasure at Randolph Street Market

by morgansnallen on September 29, 2012

What: Randolph Street Market

Where: 1350 West Randolph Street, Chicago, Illinois 60607

Phone: (312) 666-1200

When: Saturday, September 29, 2012  - 10am to 6pm and Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 10am to 5pm

Price: $10 to enter, $5 student discount

The lowdown: Come rub shoulders with Chicago’s most fabulous fashionistas and interior decorators to find unique, vintage treasures at very reasonable prices. If you are in the market for some furniture or decor for your home, skip a trip to the overpriced chain store and head to this market tomorrow or if you are visiting this weekend and want to shop Chicago, skip Top Shop and come rummage through the shirts, coats, sunglasses, hats to find some real gems. You’ll also find some great food (falafels, crepes, fresh smoothies) and live music.




A Search for the Best Tacos, Chicago

by morgansnallen on September 14, 2012

Like many Americans, I enjoy my Mexican food. Some like a burrito or tamale but I remain true to the taco. As a recent transplant to Chicago, I was surprised to find that this city knows good Mexican cuisine. In fact, I’d say Chicago rivals the likes of Los Angeles when it comes to a mean taco in the States.

I guess it’s not that surprising, since Chicago does have the second largest Mexican population (after L.A.) and if you look at the U.S. Census data, the Mexican population rose by about 35 percent in the past ten years which has certainly influenced the food scene in Chicago, leaving this little gringa searching high and low for the best tacos in town.

Whether you live here or you’re just stopping through, don’t leave without trying the tacos at some of my top choices:

Big Star Patio

What: Big Star 

Where: 1531 N Damen Chicago, IL 60622

Phone: 773.235.4039

When: Sunday – Friday 11:30am – 2am, Saturday 11:30am – 3am

Price: $3 – $5 tacos

The lowdown: Head to this Wicker Park taco and beer joint to hang with some of the coolest hipsters in town. Anticipate a long line outside on the weekend (yes, it’s like trying to get into a night club) just to talk to the host, but you’ll soon forget the wait as you’re blown away by these delectable tacos. Far from ordinary are the lamb tacos, taco de panza (pork belly), taco al pastor, or maybe the best-I’ve-ever-tasted taco de pescado. The patio is great, the service is quick and the margaritas are fresh (but lethal). If tequila isn’t your thing, there is also an extensive beer and whiskey selection. Or if you’re just looking for a quick bite to eat, they also offer the less crowded take-away option.

Big Star, Al Pastor and Shlitz


Bottom Line: I’ve heard people say this spot is overrated, but I couldn’t disagree more. Maybe I’ve been on the East coast for too long, but these are some of the best tacos I’ve tasted north of the border.

At Rubi's Making Fresh Tortillas

What: Rubi’s

Where: At the Maxwell Street Market on Des Plaines Street, between Roosevelt Road and Harrison Street.

When: Every Sunday of the month 7:00 am – 3:00 pm

Price: $4 tacos

The Lowdown: The Maxwell Street market is not a farmer’s market, nor is it a typical flea market. It’s a weird mix of vendors, selling just about anything you can think of. I saw a lot of power tools, t-shirts, tires, and all the other random junk you’d find at a garage sale. There are several food vendors here as well, mostly serving Mexican food. Rubi’s is by far the most popular and it’s no surprise because this is where everyone comes for an authentic experience. The tortillas are made from scratch and pressed onsite, the ingredients are traditional and fresh. Try the Al Pastor with cheese or the steak quesadilla.


Bottom Line: This market is a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon and rub shoulders with the locals who know a thing or two about authentic Mexican.

What: Antique Taco

Where: 1360 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Phone: 773.687.8697

When: Tuesday – Thursday noon – 10:00 pm, Friday noon – 11:00 pm, Sunday Noon – 8 pm, Closed on Mondays

Price: $8 – $10 for two tacos

The lowdown: Antique Taco is another noteworthy Mexican joint in the ever-evolving Wicker Park neighborhood.  These tacos are modern served up with non-traditional toppings and unique flavors. The sweet & spicy chicken was my favorite with chunks of chili-rubbed chicken topped with cucumber and jalapeno pickle, honey yogurt, and topped-off with purple onion or the tempura battered fish tacos with smoked cabbage and sriracha tartar sauce. Also try the house guacamole which has big chucks of velvety and smooth avocado throughout every bite. The beer and cocktail selection is spot on. You probably shouldn’t leave without trying the refreshing Rosemary’s Margarita with tequila, fresh lime juice, fresh orange juice, and rosemary simple syrup.

Bottom Line: This low-key restaurant from husband-and-wife duo Rick (chef) and Ashley (designer) Ortiz does a great job of cooking up delicious, modern tacos while also creating a lovely low-key ambience by incorporating  reclaimed vintage pieces throughout (a few of which are for sale).




Get Inspired: Art Institute of Chicago

by morgansnallen on August 23, 2012

"Human Nature/Life Death" by Bruce Nauman

What: Art Institute of Chicago

Where: 111 South Michigan Avenue (where it meets Adams st.)

Phone: (877)-307-4242

When: Open daily 10:30 – 5:00 Thursday until 8:00

Price: Adult – $18.00 (discount for locals), Student – $12.00, University of Chicago Students – Free

The lowdown: The Art Institute of Chicago is huge. With about a million square feet of sublime spaces to explore art, it’s the second largest museum in the country.  Not only that, but as you turn each corner you become increasingly star-struck. Edward Hopper’s lonely Nighthawks? Check. Mary Cassatt’s tame The Child’s Bath? Yep. Grant Wood’s severe American Gothic? Here. Vincent Van Gogh’s vibrant Bedroom in Arles? Saw it.

In addition to the permanent collections, I was lucky enough to catch the “Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective” before it departs from the museum in two weeks. Fifteen years after the Pop artist’s death, you are able to see more than 150 paintings, sculptures, drawings and collages that showcase the diversity of his works and their relationship to art historical sources. If you’re in town, it’s worth a quick trip to the museum before its gone September 3rd.


Another highlight would be the spacious and airy Modern Wing.  Opened in 2009, it makes splendid use of design, technology, and green architecture, maximizing natural sources of energy and minimizing waste. The natural light allows for pieces from Picasso, Salvador Dali, Miro and the like to shine, as well as providing opportunities to view new multimedia work. The wing also connects to Millennium Park via the pedestrian-only Nichols Bridgeway.


Modern Wing

Modern Wing

A walk through the modern wing

Bottom line: One of Chicago’s most inspiring spots. Don’t miss the Lichtenstein exhibit; see it before it’s too late!

A tip for locals: Admission to the museum is free to Illinois residents the first and second Wednesday of every month.