NFT Chicago South Loop / Printers Row / Dearborn Park

South Loop / Printers Row / Dearborn Park

With all the student-friendly dining near the Columbia College campus, the upscale Mercat a la Planxa is a welcome addition, offering elegant tapas and lovely wines. Meanwhile, Epic Burger offers trendy organic burgers for about double the price of Micky D's but exactly none of whatever else goes into a Big Mac. As to be expected in a 'hood with such a dense student population, undergrads, grads, and profs alike frequent local watering holes George's, Kasey's and the South Loop Club.

Start your morning with a bar breakfast at See more.

>Blackie's, the oldest and most racially mixed watering hole in the neighborhood. In the evening, get a taste of soul food with a soundtrack from some of Chicago's finest blues players at Buddy Guy's Legends.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Singin' in the Pain: Where to Find True Blue Chicago

By Douglas DuBrin
Ah, the blues. Nothing like the gruff, dejected drawn-out wail of misery. It came from the South. It takes up residence in the fields of the fertile Midwest. Douglas DuBrin callously categorizes his city's jazz joints by geography and calibre. Determine the rightfulness of his delineations in the article which follows.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Jamie Smith

Loopy Yarns
Many a time I've tried to stump the staff at Loopy Yarns. Most recently I went in and asked them to help me find a charcoal gray superwash heavy worsted weight yarn. (For those who aren't knitting nerds, this is like walking into a shoe store and asking for a pair of burgundy snakeskin pumps with a heel that is exactly three inches high.) Their knowledge of their inventory and what yarn will be best for your project is incredible--they offered me three great options without a moment's hesitation. If you don't walk in the door knowing exactly what you want, the staff is content to let you wander through the store and fondle all the beautiful things that you see. And if you have no idea what you're doing, they offer classes and free group knitting sessions with experts. The only thing they won't do is make it for you, though they've made themselves easy to find: Loopy is located in Dearborn Station right off the Harrison red line stop. Yarn shopping just don't get no easier.

Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Jamie Smith

Pancakes, you know how we're always talking about spicing up our love lives and trying new things? And how important it is to be respectful of each other's desires? I was thinking that maybe, you know, if you're into it, we could bring someone else into breakfast with us. Like, maybe four someones. There's this place that I heard about, Orange, and every week they have a different theme. You show up around brunch time and they set you up with four pancakes dressed up like something related to that theme. I just think that sounds really... exciting. And it's totally safe! If you don't like one, well, then you have three others. And they get that it's not supposed to be a long-term thing--the pancakes are just there for a week and then something new comes along. I think this would really help us break out of that hot butter and syrup rut we’ve been in. I don’t want to pressure you, but if you really love me you’ll do this.

Posted By:  Max Minor
Photo:  Max Minor

Kasey's Tavern
As the South Loop's population continues to explode, with condo after new condo breaking the tired monotony of blue sky and sunshine, a low key neighborhood bar's importance grows exponentially. Kasey's Tavern, a locally-owned, well-established joint on Dearborn expertly fills the bill. Recent renovations have helped relieve the label of "dive" from any description of Kasey's, and although there was a certain charm to earlier incarnations, a clean working bathroom with functional sink is a hard amenity to begrudge. A huge beer selection, both on tap and in bottles, rivals that of any North Side hall, and the over-abundance of televisions should appease sports junkies. Featuring some of the best prices on booze near downtown, Kasey's is a great place to load up before making an ass of yourself at the many events occurring at neighboring Grant Park. So sit, drink beer, eat microwave popcorn, watch sports, but for God sakes, as Kasey's slogan says: "Absolutely No Dancing."

Posted By:  Max Minor
Photo:  Max Minor

Hackney's has long been a suburban staple, their huge burgers and far-famed (and infamed) onion loaf making them the perfect place for family get-togethers and sports banquets. Their reasonably-recent-in-restaurant-years Chicago location boasts the same great beef on great rye bread that define Hackney's legacy. A truly impressive beer selection, a reasonably off-the-beaten path location and a friendly, diverse wait staff give the Printer's Row spot an identity all it's own, while simultaneously staying true to its roots. Stuffed specialty burgers like the chorizo and cheese California burger and the bacon and cheddar Inside Out burger will appease all aspects of carnivore, and a strong mixed selection of vegetarian options will silence even the most vocal of hippies. Hackney's have been around for over 50 years, and for good reason. Live a little; eat at Hackney's.

Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Sometimes it's just too early to appreciate how balsamic reduction brings depth to your eggs. When the trendy breakfast lemmings line around the blocks of new hip fusion spots, you can just head to Blackie's for a quick simple morning meal at half the price, and a quarter of the time. No, Blackie's doesn't have a juice bar, or a seasonal pancake flight, or a single custom aioli, but everyone knows even the most ill-equipped bachelor can't screw up breakfast! Blackie's has had the same menu, the same deliciously greasy sausage patties, the same silver dollar pancakes, and even the same Sunday morning waitress for years, and there's no reason for change. And as a bonus, their Pacman machine is still working.

Posted By:  Annie Anderson
Photo:  Annie Anderson

The wood floors creak. The air is thick with the words of Updike, Messud, Munro and McEwan. You feel as though you could browse for hours on end, stumbling across books you’ve never heard of and revisiting old stand-bys. In Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, you feel like a reader, and the lack of tacky carpeting allows you to hear yourself moving in and among the paperbacks and hard covers. I’ve made some of my best book purchases at Sandmeyer’s—from Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis to Zadie Smith’s On Beauty—though whether the space had anything to do with my good decisions is, I suppose, debatable. Nevertheless, Sandmeyer’s ambience and floor plan is exceptionally conducive to perusing, with a fine display of design and coffee table-style books up front. Children’s books get a surprising amount of space, poetry gets a full rack, new releases are lined up one or two deep near the Dearborn Street windows, and literary legends live on in the extensive fiction section. Housed in the architecturally significant Rowe Building, Sandmeyer’s is quintessential Printer’s Row: a quiet, timber, loft space housing the relics of a bygone era.

Posted By:  Paul Barile
Photo:  Paul Barile

I’ve always wanted to experience the egg crèmes and the phosphates at a proper soda fountain the way my parents did in their youth. I would sit in front of towering, impeccably clean mirrors scrutinizing every move the soda jerk makes as he sprays Green River over my vanilla ice cream. The dream is over and the reality is—well it’s better than the dream. Tucked away in the south loop is the Eleven City Diner with its towering mirrors and decadent deserts on display under glass domes on the highly polished wooden bar. The prices are not as old school as the vibe of the place—but the service is definitely rooted in old-fashioned with a wink toward a quieter, more careful time. There are huge Godfather-like booths along one wall giving the illusion that James Dean and Natalie Wood might pull up any minute and slide into one for some alone time away from Sal Mineo. There is also a full delicatessen on premises which features soups, pastrami, corn beef, and a big ol’ barrel of pickles. Eleven City Diner is a nostalgic oasis in an area of the city that seems bent on bringing in the new at the expense of the old.

Posted By:  Josannah Birman
Photo:  Josannah Birman

Eleven City Diner
A latke, pronounced (lot-key), is a pancake/hash brown hybrid eaten on Hanukkah and whenever a Jewish mama feels like cooking. Brad Rubin, owner of Eleven City Diner, hosts high latke teas allowing customers to create this addictive dish. Rubin bursts with Jewish charm as he gives guests a five-minute Hanukkah for dummies spiel. Klezmer music, a lively mixture of violins and flutes, fills the air and Rubin passes out cheat sheets of common Yiddish words. On the way to the kitchen, he explains the black and white photos that make up his family tree. Then his chefs take over and guests make their own batch of potato pancakes. The sizzle of hot oil and the aroma of frying potatoes get stomachs rumbling as diners sculpt star or smiley-face latkes. After the demo, sip tea and dig into an Amazonian-sized potato pancake served with apple sauce and sour cream. Before you leave, stock up on bagels from New York Bagel Co. which are the most authentic outside of the boroughs. You can arrange your own high latke tea by contacting Brad Rubin at the restaurant. L’chaim.

Posted By:  William Moy
Photo:  William Moy

Most locals and travelers are familiar with the iconic Marina City project, featuring its twin concrete “corncob” high-rises designed by noted architect Bertrand Goldberg. However, he also designed River City, stationed in the South Loop along the Chicago River. Completed in 1987, this rhythmic structure was originally designed to be a megacomplex with five potential phases and anchored by a trio of cylindrical towers joined at midlevel with a communal skybridge. As completed, it is only a fraction of Goldberg’s grand vision of idealistic urban living. While Marina City looks like two stacks of Salerno cookies, River City is like a large serpentine gummi worm. Two parallel processions of curving condominium units sandwich the “River Road,” a full-height skylit interior atrium walkway that meanders through the length of the building and was designed as a communal space for the residents. A health club, mini-mart, offices, and marina facilities are shoehorned into the base of the compound. The dynamic design of River City still leaps out at you amongst its staid architectural neighbors in this still-gentrifying neighborhood.

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