(Above photo cred: ME! This Chicago aerial shot was taken with an iPhone right before landing from QuiltCon, Savannah. I swear my beloved Rifle phone case gets me better photos.)
The Windy City. The Second City. The City of Broad Shoulders. Also, the city of Suzy Quilts. It’s my hometown, people! Welcome to Chicago – where the beautiful summers almost make you forget about the terrible winters.
Chicago is known for many things, but the aspect I love most about my fair city is….the food. Die-hard West Coasters will disagree with me and Lord knows New Yorkers will definitely disagree with me, but I stand firmly in my conviction that Chicago has the best food in the US. PERIOD.
Since I’m all about the food, we’ll start there.
(Photo cred Starcevic/ThinkStock)
Where to Eat in Chicago...
I almost want to say “anywhere,” but I’ll get a little more specific for you guys, since I love you and all.
I’m not going to weigh in on the whole geographic pizza debate but… okay maybe I am. Chicago does pizza right. Spacca Napoli does pizza PERFECTLY. You can either sit inside and enjoy the coziest of all atmospheres, or people-watch on the picturesque patio. This beloved pizza parlor even has a custom-built pizza oven! You can’t go wrong with a classic Margherita.
Not only is Spacca Napoli yummy, it's also smack dab in the middle of the walkable AND adorable neighborhood of Ravenswood. Walkable, you say? Yep! Only a mile (be sure to keep that fitbit on) from two fabric shops (more on that below).
Location: 1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
Hours: Tue - Thu 11:30am - 9:00pm, Fri - Sat 11:30am - 10:00pm, Sun noon - 9:00pm
Are you ready to brunch so hard?? Lula was farm-to-table before farm-to-table was a trendy foodie "thing." This Logan Square staple is just as creative at cooking as we are at quilting, and all of their menu items are locally sourced. On a warm summer day the outdoor patio is where it's at. Get the Lemon Brioche French Toast or seasonal pancakes and simply savor how delicious your life is for an hour.
Location: 2537 N Kedzie Blvd Chicago, IL 60647
Hours: Mon 9:00am - 10:00pm, Wed - Thu 9:00am - 10:00pm, Fri - Sat 9:00am - 11:00pm, Sun 9:00am - 10:00pm
Price: $$ - $$$
The counter-style interior of Dove’s Luncheonette is straight out of the ‘60s, and their food is straight out of the most delicious heart of the American South. From buttermilk pancakes to burnt-ends hash, Dove’s will make you feel warm and fuzzy and full of everything good.
Rumor has it that their chicken-fried chicken is the best lunch Chicago has to offer. ALSO, it's a quick walk from my house, so another major perk is that there is a high chance you'll run into me while there. 🙂
Location: 1545 N Damen Ave Chicago, IL 60622
Hours: Mon - Thu 9:00am - 9:00pm, Fri - Sat 8:00am - 10:00pm, Sun 8:00am - 9:00pm
Now that we’re feeling fed and happy, let’s get into the real reason we’re all here…
The Best Chicago Fabric Shops
Since I’m a Chi-Town native, you can trust me on these two. They’re definitely the best shops for any quilter visiting the Windy City. And better yet, they are within walking distance of each other. Get your shop on!
Oak Fabrics (formerly The Needle Shop)
Oak Fabrics is my jam. Sometimes, I consider moving in and sleeping underneath the cutting table just so I can forever be surrounded by all the beautiful things. ahhhhhh....
Oak specializes in natural fiber fabrics, bold prints, and everything you want to hoard in your sewing studio. Even though Rachel, the owner, prefers garment sewing, enough sassy quilters (*cough* me *cough*) walk in demanding quilt-weight cotton that a little over half the store is dedicated just to quilt stuff. To satisfy said sassy quilters, Rachel fully stocks a wide assortment of Kona Solids, Liberty of London lawns as well as a range of substrates – so you’ll be able to find much more than just quilting fabric on these multi-colored shelves.
If you check out the website, the first words you’ll see are “Indulge Your Obsession.” Trust me. You’re going to want to. There’s also one additional super-special thing about Oak Fabrics… they’re the only shop ON EARTH who carries an exclusive kit of my Sew Mojo #1 mini quilt pattern! It basically earns this shop celebrity status.
When you stop by, tell Rachel that Suzy sent you and she needs to give you a discount. I circled her face above so you know who she is. (Rachel, I thought it best to tell people about the discount and then ask your permission later. xo)
Location: 3738 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
Hours: Tue - Fri 11:00am - 6:00pm, Sat 11:00am - 5:00pm
If you’re looking for somewhere a little smaller and a little bit more traditional than Oak, you are going to love Second City Quilt Co. It’s kind of like a quilters-only club in the middle of Chicago.
Second City is packed full with top-knotch pre-cuts, patterns, notions, kits and everything you could ever need for quilting… and then all of those cute accessories that you don’t really need but really, really want for living the quilting life.
It's a lucky day if you catch Becky, the owner, in the shop – she stays very busy when she's not quilting by serving the Chicago community as a police officer. She is literally saving lives by day and sewing by night – i.e. my hero. Someone needs to make her a cape.
Location: 2153 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60618
Hours: Tue - Fri 10:00am - 5:00pm, Sat noon - 4:00pm
Amazing Places in Chicago that Aren’t Fabric Shops
This is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the entire country, and it’s here in Chicago. There is a lot to see so it's not a bad idea to look at a map first, form a game plan and be sure to wear your Fitbit because after wandering through the many hallways of this museum you will definitely get those precious 10,000 steps.
My husband and I are members of the AIC and try to go at least once a month. Even at that frequency, we still miss special exhibits and lectures. What I'm saying is, don't beat yourself up if you can't see it all, just enjoy what you can.
My perfect day includes a couple hours here and then a quick hop across the street for a cocktail at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Go through the main doors, up the stairs and into Hogwarts where you won't ever want to leave. Also, let me know when you go cause I'm always looking for a reason to visit.
Location: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
Hours: 10:30am - 5:00pm everyday
(Photo cred: Upout.com)
Take a cab or get there early enough to find street parking in the popular neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Jam packed with family-friendly activities, you could visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, Conservatory and Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool – all at no cost. After waving at the monkeys, take a quick 10 minute walk to Lake Michigan and stroll along the boardwalk. Be careful though, on a warm Saturday afternoon, that boardwalk is buzzing with power-walkers, runners, bikers and rollerbladers.
(Photo cred: Expedia)
Even if you’re not a baseball fan, don’t count yourself out if the fam wants to get tickets to a Cubs game. I’m not a sports person, but I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy a hot dog and a beer at Wrigley Field. The people watching and snacking is so great, you don’t really even need to watch the game!
(Photo cred: travelchannel.com)
If my voice didn’t sound like a screeching crow and if I had an OUNCE of stage presence I would have thrown myself into the theater! If you can’t act, the next best thing is to go to the theater and WOW, does Chicago have a lot of them. There is so much acting talent here that you don’t have to stick with the Broadway shows to be impressed.
Chicago is a great mix of urban excitement and Midwest hospitality. Like most big cities, though, there are some dodgy areas and basic common sense safety rules to live by so stay safe, have fun and report back with all of the exciting things you do!