Gone fishin’

Don’t expect much out of QB this month. I’m celebrating my 30th birthday (15 October) by heading to Chicago for a week’s vacation, starting the 22nd, and so I’ll be slammed at work and too tired to do much besides eat and drink (and drink, and drink) until I step onto the train. There might be an essay or two; there will certainly be an edition of “Out and About,” and a few commonplace items. Beyond that, Lord only knows.

So, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is threefold: 1. Read from the fine sites to your left. 2. Recommend essential places to see, and things to do, and food to eat, in Chicago.

And, finally, 3.

Last year, you kind folks recommended a book for me to take on my October vacation (sensing a pattern?) to Seattle, a work of prose (fiction or nonfiction) that embodies the city I was about to visit. This time, please do the same for Chicago. I’m filled up on Studs Terkel and Saul Bellow, thanks, but anything else is more than welcome. As with the Seattle poll, I’ll choose the book that gets the most votes; if there’s a tie or no book gets more than one vote, I’ll choose the one that most intrigues me. In any case, I’ll write about the book and post some of the more interesting comments.

Thanks in advance.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. He is the co-author (with Daniel Couch) of Bob Mould's Workbook (Bloomsbury, 2017). His work has been published in The Quarterly Conversation, RogerEbert.com, Bookslut (RIP), The Comics Journal, The Baseball Chronicle, and other periodicals. Twitter: @walter_biggins.
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10 Responses to Gone fishin’

  1. brian says:

    FYI: on 10/22 the Dave Holland Quintet will be closing out a run of dates at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. (I’m seeing them here in MI on the 14th)

  2. winter says:

    Books? Not my thing. But food in Chicago? You bet:
    * Billy Goat’s Tavern. The greasy burger joint on Lower Wacker Drive right by the Tribune building and Michigan Ave. bridge, as immortalized by the SNL “Cheezborger” skit and the legendary columnist and alcoholic Mike Royko, God bless his soul. Great trash food, unforgettable ambiance. A must.
    * Gino’s East Pizzeria. Best Chicago deep dish.
    * Billy Goat’s, a second or third time.
    As for sights, they’re all pretty well-known. I prefer the Nazi submarine at the Museum of Industry & Science, and the new reflective “jelly bean” sculpture in Grant Park is worth a separate trip.
    Ahhhh, Chicago. Were you not so cold and fat, you would be the perfect city.

  3. A. Horbal says:

    Vegetarian Soul on 75th St. in the South Side. And it’s conveniently located only a few blocks away from the University of Chicago where you can visit a monument marking the site of the first sustained nuclear chain reaction!

  4. A. Horbal says:

    Oh, and happy birthday!

  5. QB, Happy birthday! I don’t have a Chicago book recommendation, but I do recommend you check out musical sensation Short Punks in Love at Gunther Murphy’s (along with headliners Ten Hundred) on October 28. Tell ’em I said hi!
    And speaking of books connected to cities, have you gotten around to reading Jujitsu for Christ yet? Come on, man. Required reading for any Jacksonian.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I know this isn’t much help, but the last time I went to Chicago I ate at a Cuban restaurant, and it was INCREDIBLE. So… check out a Cuban restaurant somewhere in Chicago?
    Happy birthday.

  7. Walter says:

    Thanks, everyone, and keep the suggestions comin’. Brian, thanks GREATLY for the DHQ tip–it’s among my favorite combos, but I’ve never seen ’em live. I’ll get to Chicago on the 22nd in time to catch both their 8pm and 10pm sets!

  8. Chris Reisor says:

    Chicago. It’s an almost perfect city. The cold is just there to keep out the weak and the posers. But for my money, to qualify as perfect, you have to be within 3-5 hours of good skiing, and it would help to have some mountain or at least hills. Something like San Francisco, which is, of course, prohibitively expensive for an honest person to afford.
    As for restaurants, here are some recommendations from my 7 years of living there. Most of these recommendations are very expensive, so you’ll probably have to choose just one. But if you’re willing to lay down some bones, some of this food will leave marks on your soul (get your reservations in NOW).
    Also, most of these are not downtown or the more touristy areas, so you’ll be able to get out and explore.
    * Topolobampo – 445 North Clark Street – Chicago, IL 60610, Phone: 312-661-1434, http://www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/ – the fancy Rick Bayless restaurant adjacent to Frontera Grill, it’s gourmet Mexican food, and if you, like me, didn’t know such a thing existed, don’t hesitate to try it
    * Le Bouchon – 1958 North Damen Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60647 773-862-6600 http://lebouchonofchicago.com/ – a classic French bistro worthy of Paris, and they probably scoff at Chicago’s embarrassing and stupid fois gras ban
    …and speaking of fois gras, Eric Aubriot made one that almost brought tears to my eyes
    * Aubriot – 1962 North Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614-5009, 773.281.4211 – yes, another French bistro, but with a more modern flavor, and an award-winning, young chef. When words fail, “holy crap!” says it best.
    * Emilios – 444 W. Fullerton Chicago, IL 60614, 773.327.5100,, http://www.emiliostapas.com/lincolnpark.htm (there are other locations, but the one in Lincoln Park is the one we always went to) – great Spanish tapas, you can get a lot of amazing food here for a good price (especially compared to the aforementioned places). I’ve eaten a good portion of this menu, and never been disappointed, and it’s all very authentic (except the actual dining experience, of course — why don’t we have real tapas bars here in the states?).
    As for books, you’ve already mentioned the obvious authors. Here’s another obvious one you could probably down in the security line at the airport: “Boss,” by Mike Royko. It’s about Richard J. Daley, his political machine, well written by the well-loved journalist. It’s non-fiction, but the good kind.
    There’s also Nelson Algren, who is generally a little bleak for my taste, but there’s a few great short stories by him. “He Swung and He Missed” is my favorite.

  9. Chris Reisor says:

    My wife reminded me of a couple other more casual, less expensive places we used to love:
    Atheneian Room – 807 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614-3628 – Greek food – either the gyros or the charburgers (with a big, fat hunk of feta on it), the fries are smothered in some sort of beautiful, tangy, soggy, vinegar-and-herbs crack.
    Bourgois Pig – 807 W Webster Ave Chicago, IL 60614 – sort of a De Paul student hangout, it has some great sandwiches, and a cool space in which to eat them (a converted house). Take your books here, have some coffee and read for a few hours, have a sandwich, then kick around Lincoln Park (check out the free zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory, the North Pond, the nice old houses, the lake), get nice and chilly, and then go to Emelios for dinner. A perfect Lincoln Park day.

  10. Chris Reisor says:

    Me again. I realized I put the wrong address for the Bourgeois Pig (in addition to misspelling it): 735 W. Fullerton, Chicago 60614

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