After roasting coffee beans with his family in Pakistan, Arshad "Sony" Javid—founder of Café Descartes—indulged his love for the caffeinated drink by making pilgrimages to coffee houses in Asia, Europe, and South and Central America. In 1991, after a stint as a Starbucks barista, Sony opened his first shop, an espresso cart on the UIC campus, where he poured his decadent drinks to quench the thirst of students, professors, and dry textbooks. Today, the aficionado’s dream has expanded across six Chicago cafés, where warm, earth-toned walls, cushy armchairs, and the smell of fresh-roasted beans beckon customers to stick around for a latte, mexican mocha, or sweet pastry.
Pannenkoeken Cafe's specialty Dutch-style pancakes draw breakfast and brunch eaters to the teeny, brightly lit eatery lined with wooden tulips. Thinner than a buttermilk pancake but still slightly thicker than a standard crepe and abundantly thicker than an unwritten novel about crepes, the café's namesake cakes come in a mix of savory and sweet varieties, such as grilled salami and havarti cheese or apple and ginger marmalade. Freshly squeezed juice and espresso-fueled beverages pair with any of the dozen pannenkoeken options, omelets, and other breakfast fare on the menu.
At Olly Olly Play Café, pirates bury treasure, knights rescue princesses from dragons, and parents watch as little ones develop social skills through creative play. The interior space looks like a storybook spilled over into reality, with troves of costumes and toys spread beneath a ceiling painted to resemble a cloud-filled sky. A castle stands at the entrance, serving as the junction between different rooms where roads wind through town houses and a kid-size pirate ship lets little ones imagine attacking all-you-can-eat cruise buffets.
Aside from open play, Olly Olly Play Café educates kids during music classes that range from Baby Signing to preteens belting out Broadway songs. Elsewhere, a menu of locally sourced salads and sandwiches fuels visitors and their health-conscious imaginary friends.
The Knickerbocker rises at the northern end of the Magnificent Mile, amid luxury high-rises, award-winning restaurants, and high-end boutiques. "It's a shopping mecca, obviously," says hotel concierge Sheryl Walerski. Designer brands such as Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, and Giorgio Armani all have stores within walking distance. Architectural landmarks along the route document the city's history. The castle-like Chicago Water Tower, for instance, is one of the few buildings to have survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 as well as the Mothra state visit of 1962. While nearby Rush Street bustles with nightclubs and bars, a plethora of cultural institutions offers an artsier experience. The Tony Award–winning Lookingglass Theatre Company stages eye-popping original work, and several centuries' worth of visual art, ranging from ancient China to present-day America, are on display at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Sassy City Chicks events draw crowds with a rare commodity: complimentary mini-cure. In fact, the events lavish ladies in a whole host of complimentary spa treatments, including massages and hairstyling. Though the spa perks are lucrative, Sassy City Chicks' main attraction is shopping. The events feature shopping specials from local designers and boutiques, who come boasting a variety of on-trend jewelry, handbags, clothing, and more. As shoppers peruse the many sparkling and silky wares, they can sip on complimentary cocktails or try their luck at evening-ending giveaways. Since 2001, The Sassy City Chicks brand hosts shopping events catering to a cosmopolitan female audience of 21?45 years in search of a ladies' night out experience through beauty, fashion and style.