A glass of cold sangria in one hand, a plate of food balanced in the other. The only reason to disrupt such a perfect combination might be to dance to the live band performing just a few feet away. That's the basic Midsommarfest formula, and every summer, nearly 50,000 people flock to Andersonville for this celebration of all things local. Going strong for the past half century, the fest takes over Clark Street from Foster to Catalpa with booths for food and crafts as well as five different stages. These showcase eclectic entertainments that truly reflect the neighborhood's charm: not just cover bands (though there are those, too), but a pet parade, Swedish music, dance troupes, and sets from blues, roots, and funk bands. All the fun also helps the neighborhood, and not just because stoplights are powered by laughter; proceeds go to benefit community causes.
Chicago Elevated, run by effusive improv veteran Margaret Hicks, leads curious charges on eclectic group, private, and custom tours of the city. Jaunts lead natives and tourists alike through the city’s oft-overlooked nooks and crannies as Hicks’s jovial voice narrates every step, shedding light on secret areas and easily overlooked historic sites. Her pedway tour sojourns into Chicago’s tiled subterranean antecity, where retailers, restaurants, and mole people mingle. Tours explore sites of famous disasters, visit the ghostly red-light district that once stretched below what is now Printer’s Row, and gaze at downtown’s ornate architecture from the riverwalk.
Stationed in Wrigleyville after college, Hicks accrued the healthy sense of humor and comedic timing that pepper each tour at Second City, iO, and other theaters. Though she attempted a move to New York City, Hicks soon discovered she couldn’t stay away from Chicago’s majestic skyline or the skyscrapers’ subtly receding hairlines. A stint in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s docent program, as well as acting as a tour guide for six years, arm her with insider’s knowledge that soon transfers to listeners’ brains.
Walking is one of the best ways to get to know a city. It forces you to move slowly, taking in every weathered brick, intriguing alleyway, and door marked with the sign "Do Not Look At This Door." There's also a good chance it will lead to adventure. At least, that's the belief at the heart of Stinky Onion Tours' walking excursions. With a love of walking rivaled only by local pride??as evidenced by the company's name, a nod to the legendary mistranslation that gave Chicago its name??the company uncovers forgotten moments in Chicago's past through a combination of food and historical fact. Tours include Truckin' Along, which introduces the history of the city's food trucks and makes stops for a bite at several. Hobohemia explores the city's long-ago hobo and bohemian culture, and the Old Town tour winds through the historic venues and restaurants of the neighborhood of the same name.
Food Tank, which is a registered 501c3, commits itself to nurturing a public understanding and appreciation for food?whether it's organizing symposiums to educate the public on the benefits of farm-to-table dining, or hosting webinars about keeping your diet diverse without resorting to eating whatever you find in the mystery section of your freezer. Their ambitions are global, but the organization also promotes awareness and change on the local level. Food tours spotlight upscale restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients. Some tours even stop off at urban growers that practice sustainable farming and eco-friendly methods of food disposal. In the end, Food Tank strives to eliminate hunger, obesity, and poverty through all that it does.
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Average Duration of Services: 1?2 hours
Pro Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.
Handicap Accessible: No
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Chicago's architecture, 1880s thru today
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
What is the one feature of your business that you're most proud of?
The quality of my tours. I know from several years of experience, being told by [hundreds] of people (meeting thousands of people each season), that my way of organizing and delivering information is not only very engaging, entertaining, and interesting, but also -- and this is important for me as a former teacher -- very graspable and memorable for all ages. I'm very good at making information interesting to any "students," young to old.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
[I have a] passion for this subject and for teaching about this subject, and entertaining people in the process. People should learn, but enjoy it so much, the learning happens almost subconsciously.
Helmed by husband-and-wife team Al and Sima Bovali, Corner 41 Bar and Grill welcomes diners with a stylish, homespun ambiance. From an open kitchen, wafts of gourmet American fare escape pans to greet guests at their tables, where menus harbor the tasty details of elegant entrees, burgers, and sandwiches. Exposed-brick walls unify with dark hardwood floors to augment the restaurant's intimate airs, and high ceilings create an acoustically sound backdrop for rustic ducts and yodeling chandeliers. Diners can also enjoy sips from a favorite wine, draft beer, or martini, and midnight closing times on the weekends accommodate late-evening munchers.