Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Lunch hour spots in the Loop

There was a period of time when I didn't understand what the big fuss was about when it comes to the Chicago Loop. When I thought of the Loop, I thought of handsome but improperly maintained older skyscrapers, the unfortunte CNA Building and Mies van der Rohe monstrosities such as the one that I work in. Working in the Loop this summer however, has given me an appreciation for how nice an area Chicago's downtown is and how well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing a good portion of the buildings are.

One of my favorite exercises in Loop exploration is finding a nice place outside in which to sit and eat lunch. I will list some of my favorites below (I'm sure there are places I have not unearthed, so any additional suggestions are welcome!):
  • Garden just south of the Art Institute, Northeast corner of Jackson and Michigan Ave: This is my favorite place to spend a lunch hour, because it is filled with shady trees, fountains, and flowers; is nice for people watching; and feels very distant from the urban life all around it.
  • Plaza next to the Bank One building, Northwest corner of Madison and Dearborn: Lots of people congregate around this plaza's giant fountain to eat, read, and sunbathe. If you are sitting facing towards the Bank One building, look up and prepare to be overwhelmed by the skyscraper.
  • Millenium Park lawn around Pritzker Pavillion or benches just west, East of Monroe and Michigan: It doesn't take me to tell you that Millenium Park exists, nor does it take me to tell you that it's a fine destination point. Although it is not my favorite for lunch hour because of distance and crowds, if you're far enough east, a jaunt to Millenium Park can be more of a stroll, and it's fun to see the kids playing in the fountains (ahh, my youth).
  • The small park just east of the Chicago Symphony Center's Rhapsody restaurant, Southeast corner of Adams and Wabash: Depsite it's proximity to the "El" tracks and its small size, this park is a peaceful area with nice flowers and plants all around. There are several benches for your sitting convenience.
  • Along the Chicago River in the West Loop, walk west on any central Loop street until you hit the river (unless you are already west of the river): Good for West Loopers, people-watching, and boat and bridge-watching. Some restaurants have nice outdoor seating along the river.
  • Small plaza in front of the new Barnes and Noble, southeast corner of Jackson and State: This is a nice spot for people-watching in an area filled with nothing if not interesting people.

1 comment:

Chris said...

With the exception of Millenium Park (because I haven't been there) I agree with you wholeheartedly on the pleasantness of these spots. Back in the day when I worked downtown, I never really minded taking a walk for lunch because it was really quite nice.

I have an especial fondness for the Loop since working in DC is really kind of gross no matter how pleasant a prospect may seem because the weather makes everything dusty and dirty. And, aside from certain government buildings, the architecture in DC is mundane at best, disgusting at worst.