Steve McDonagh loves Chicago and has spent the past 20 years there in the food industry. Currently, he is the co-owner of SpritzBurger, where he crafts sodas and playful takes on cocktails. During his time in the city, he’s discovered some great places to eat, hang out, and, of course, drink. Lucky for us, he’s happy to share them.
“I’m originally a New Yorker, so Chicago pizza has been an adjustment, but there’s a place called Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. that makes a great pizza pot pie. It’s cheesy and filling, and the restaurant is warm and cozy. It’s all very comforting.
North Pond Restaurant in Lincoln Park is a Chicago standard in a classic Arts and Crafts setting. I love everything about it. It’s got a terrific reputation for local and seasonal food, and it’s sitting right on the pond in the park, so it feels like you’re a world away from the city. Go for wonderful fish and pheasant.
There’s a lot of great Mexican food in town. My go-to for burritos and tacos is a tiny storefront under the el tracks called El Burrito Mexicano. I never leave without ordering guacamole because it’s amazing. They make it fresh right in front of you, cutting avocados and mixing everything in some random recycled plastic container. It’s such a Chicago place.”
Where to eat
Where to drink
“My go-to is the Scofflaw. It’s a really comfortable place. Their drinks are interesting and affordable, but also historic—which is important to me—with less common classic cocktails, like the namesake Scofflaw. I also like to drink at places that take a really different approach to cocktails than I do. I love Three Dots and a Dash for the tiki bar vibe and elaborate, fruity cocktails, which is such a fun way to drink. They get really inventive with the garnishes and glassware. The Aviary is another one. Its cocktail menu is always changing, but you can count on them for very complex (and strong) drinks with esoteric spirits and elaborate presentation.”
Get the recipe: Cora Sue Collins Cocktail
Learn to cook like a Chicagoan
“The Chopping Block has a huge variety of classes, plus a little market, in two locations: There’s one in Lincoln Park and one in the Merchandise Mart.”
“I don’t think there’s anyplace in the country like Wrigley Field. It’s a baseball field right in the middle of a neighborhood with all this history and a great atmosphere. I think that’s why people love the Cubs.”
Where to play
“I’m an actor (although I don’t do it much), so I know all of the Chicago theaters. Chicago Shakespeare Theater does great Shakespeare, a big musical every summer, and terrific children’s theater. It’s near Navy Pier, so I bring my son, and we ride the Ferris wheel and make a day of it.
I love going to the Music Box Theatre, an old movie house with a courtyard and an organ. They don’t do first-run movies, but they have great events and sing-alongs.”
Where to shop
“I’m really into vintage and antique housewares and accessories, and there are a few spots where I always find great stuff. I go to Broadway Antique Market on the North Side for tie clips and barware (both of which I use for work). It’s about two blocks from Edgewater Antique Mall, which has a lot of vendors who specialize in mid-century décor.
Architectural Artifacts Inc. is another great one. It’s the go-to place in Chicago for period furnishings from around the world. When we opened SpritzBurger, I went there for my host stand (an old phone booth) and all my blue glass antique seltzer bottles.”
Where to stay
“You have to stay downtown; it’s where all the great hotels are, and it gives you easy access to everything. Hotel Palomar is a boutique hotel that has a high-end, kind of funky feel. It also has a terrific gastropub called Sable, with a wonderful bar run by one of my former staffers. TheWit Hotel is another downtown hotel with a great location, and I covet its rooftop lounge.”
• Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. 2121 N. Clark St., chicagopizzaandovengrinder.com, 773-248-2570
• North Pond Restaurant 2610 N. Cannon Dr., northpondrestaurant.com, 773-477-5845
• El Burrito Mexicano 936 W. Addison St., 773-327-6991
• Scofflaw 3201 W. Armitage Ave., scofflawchicago.com, 773-252-9700
• Three Dots and a Dash 435 N. Clark St., threedotschicago.com, 312-610-4220
• The Aviary 955 W. Fulton Market, theaviary.com, 312-226-0868
• Chopping Block, thechoppingblock.net, 4747 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-6700; Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 107, 312-644-6360
• Wrigley Field 1060 W. Addison St. chicago.cubs.mlb.com 773-404-2827
• Broadway Antique Market, 6130 N. Broadway, bamchicago.com, 773-743-5444
• Edgewater Antique Mall, 6314 N. Broadway, edgewaterantiquemall.com, 773-262-2525
• Architectural Artifacts Inc., 4325 N. Ravenswood Ave., architecturalartifacts.com, 773-348-0622
• Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., chicagoshakes.com, 312-595-5600
• Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., navypier.com, 312-595-5019
• Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., musicboxtheatre.com, 773-871-6607
• Hotel Palomar, 505 N. State St., hotelpalomar-chicago.com, 312-755-9703
• theWit Hotel, 201 N. State St., thewithotel.com, 312-467-0200
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