For EXPO Chicago 2016, we heard from a small batch of handpicked insiders—a selective group of Chicago professionals that give us their tips on how to navigate the city during the art fair. Next up, we have Michael Renaud, creative director of Pitchfork Media, who shares his top spots to eat, drink, network, and relax at surrounding the busy art-filled week.
Where to eat
One of the last smokehouses left in Illinois, Calumet Fisheries is one of my favorite places to eat. The James Beard Award-winning/Anthony Bourdain-approved Chicago staple has been around for over 65 years. It’s basically a little counter-service shack on the edge of the city, but it’s worth the trip. Get the smoked smelt, salmon, shrimp, and chubs, and then go eat them on the curb that’s next to the bridge The Blues Brothers improbably leaped.
Where to sip
Go down to Bridgeport for Maria’s Packaged Goods, one of the best bars in the city. You can make your way up towards Pilsen for Skylark, maybe our best dive bar, and The Punch House, a basement that serves big bowls of punch. You also might find yourself in Wicker Park, in which case stick to Danny’s, The Charleston, and Rainbo Club.
Where to network
Honestly in this scenario, probably EXPO. We have the world’s best/least douchey Soho House if that’s your thing. The West Loop is full of galleries, start-ups, and many of Chicago’s most successful creative class.
Where to see art
The Graham Foundation is housed in a gorgeous little Prairie-style turn of the century mansion in the Gold Coast. The space is elegant yet approachable, there’s no entry fee, has really well done exhibitions, and one of the best curated art bookshops in the city.
Where to have fun
I’d navigate the city with my bike. I’d probably start by checking out the 606, a 3-mile elevated park connecting similar to the High Line in New York. Once the sun goes down and all of the people who work downtown have cleared out, this—THIS—is a great time to see downtown, on your bike of course. Stop at the Chicago Athletic Association across from Millennium Park when you’re done for a cocktail at Cindy’s or The Game Room.
Where to relax
King Spa way up north for massages, pools, and salt rooms. Otherwise just go sit by the lake with a brown bag and your beverage of choice.