Street food and haute cuisine, museums and lakeshore trails, Chicago has it all. Maybe that’s why Chicago now ranks as the second-best city not just in the U.S. but in the world, according to TimeOut.
Before you come to Chicago for AAO 2022, check out what three local young ophthalmologists reveal about what their city offers. Our YO insiders universally recommend a bracing walk along the shore of Lake Michigan, a selfie at “The Bean” (aka Cloud Gate) or a breathtaking view from at Cindy’s Rooftop bar. This and more are all here in the Windy City.
Elizabeth Bolton, MD
Welcome to Chicago! There are lots of fun places to visit while you are here. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the weather will be nice and that you have an opportunity to explore Chicago beyond meeting events. Here are my suggestions.
Baseball: Check out Wrigley Field. The Chicago Cubs will be playing the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field (Sept. 30-Oct. 2). Sneak away and enjoy the national pastime.
Comedy: Second City Chicago has been home to many comedians that went on to star in “Saturday Night Live.” If you’re looking for a good laugh, Second City is just what the doctor ordered.
Architectural Boat Tour: Arguably one of the best and most popular things to do in Chicago, the architectural tour offers a tour of all of the historic architecture in Chicago-by boat of course. Make sure to buy a ticket ahead of time (after you check the weather!)
Museums: Chicago has many great museums to visit including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Adler Planetarium. Explore your artistic side and learn about something other than medicine!
Shedd Aquarium: The Shedd Aquarium is a great place to go if you’re coming to Chicago with kids (but as someone who has been there as an adult, it’s a great time for everyone).
The lakefront: Self-explanatory. Lake Michigan is a beautiful place to go for a nice walk or run and enjoy the outdoors. The path is 18 miles long.
Woodwind: Sitting on top of one of Northwestern’s buildings, Woodwind offers a great happy hour with snacks and a beautiful view.
The Violet Hour: A speakeasy bar in Wicker Park, if you’re looking to get a little dressed up at the end of the day — the cocktails are great, and although you don’t need a password to get in, it’s hard to find the door, which is painted over. Very fun and unique.
Deep-dish pizza: You’ll be in a city known for its deep-dish pizza. Favorites include Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s.
Classic Chicago hot dog: Looking for something fast, fun, and easy after a day at AAO 2022? Portillo’s offers the classic Chicago hot dog (in addition to cheese fries and chocolate cake shakes)
Tanta: A nice Peruvian restaurant with a fun outdoor bar and delicious tapas.
Big Star: A great place for tacos and margaritas in Wicker Park — a very fun vibe and very reasonable.
Chinatown: A train ride away, Chinatown is a great place to visit. After eating some great authentic Chinese food, be sure to save some time to go window shopping. One of the most popular restaurants is Szechuan JMC.
Eataly: You almost feel like you’ve taken a trip to Italy, even though Eataly is in downtown Chicago. Eataly is a combination restaurant and store. You can buy just-out-of-the-oven bread and olive oil to go or sit at a bar for wine and pasta.
Handlebar: My go-to vegetarian restaurant for any vegan visitors. It serves made-from-scratch comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week!
For the record, I have no financial interest in any of the aforementioned places or events. It’s just a list of the many things that I have enjoyed in Chicago while here as a resident. I hope you have a wonderful time in Chicago during AAO 2022!
Katherine Chen, MD
University of Illinois College of Medicine Chicago
Fall is one of the best times to visit Chicago — the weather starts to cool down from the hot humid days of summer but not as cold as the below-freezing temperatures of winter. It does start to get chilly though, so definitely bring a jacket for the evenings!
There are many things to see and do, but in my opinion Chicago has one of the most amazing food scenes in the country! There is so much more to Chicago than just deep-dish pizza and garden dogs. Here are some of my favorites and additional recommendations listed by cuisine:
Au Cheval: One of the best burgers in America, listed on Bon Appetit, Thrillist and so many more. If you decide to brave the long line, be prepared for a two- to three-hour wait! They will text you when your table is ready, so you can roam the streets nearby while you wait. The single burger is actually two patties, and a double is three patties. Don’t forget to add the thick-cut bacon and order the root beer on tap! Its sister restaurant Small Cheval also features a delicious dressed-down burger if you’re not up for the wait.
Kasama : Known for its Filipino cuisine and delicious pastries! Kasama opened during the pandemic by a husband and wife who previously worked at Michelin-starred Oriole. The breakfast longanisa sandwich and Filipino breakfast are delicious and it’s also one of my favorite pastry spots. My favorites include the ube and huckleberry Basque cake! You can also order online ahead of time to skip the long weekend lines.
Girl and the Goat: A Chicago essential along with Au Cheval. Stephanie Izard’s flagship restaurant is located on Randolph and the crispy short rib was one of my favorite dishes. Make reservations in advance!
Food Recommendations by Cuisine
The Loyalist: Known for its Dirty Burg
Mott St: The Asian-inspired Mott burger was listed as one of the best burgers in Chicago by Thrillist.
Pizza Friendly Pizza: Opened by Michelin-starred chef Noah Sandoval, this unsuspecting outdoor spot in Ukrainian village features Sicilian pizza by the slice.
Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s, Pequod’s: Although this is a hotly contested debate, all three of these restaurants will satisfy your craving for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
Monteverde: A popular spot for pastas in West Loop. I highly recommend the cacio whey pepe.
Alla Vita: A solid spot for both pasta and pizza, with beautiful interior décor
Piccolo Sogno: Features a gorgeous outdoor courtyard
Nonnina: A less-expensive sister restaurant to Piccolo Sogno, located in River North
Cai: A great place for dim sum on a weekend morning! Other places to get dim sum include Phoenix and Triple Crown, both of which are also delicious.
Hello Jasmine: Boba, popcorn chicken and Taiwanese bentos
Ken Kee: Cantonese restaurant with décor that transports you to the streets of Hong Kong
Minghin: Good Chinese cuisine with multiple locations throughout Chicago
3 Little Pigs: A takeout spot with great salt and pepper chicken, BBQ pork and fried rice/lo mein
Ramen Takeya: Located in Fulton Market and is also Halal friendly!
Momotaro/Izakaya at Momotaro: Get high-quality sushi in an upscale setting upstairs or head downstairs to the Izakaya for cheaper eats and great cocktails.
Tengoku Aburiya: A sleepy spot next to Michelin-starred Omakase Yume, featuring an a la carte menu and no crowds
Other Asian cuisine
HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen: Located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Pilsen. The Vietnamese chicken wings are a must!
Cho Sun Ok: Traditional Korean BBQ with short ribs like you’ve never seen before!
Krung Thep Thai: My go-to Thai restaurant in the city. Stop by a local liquor store to BYOB.
The Publican: One of my favorite brunch spots in Chicago
Little Goat Diner: Another Stephanie Izard restaurant with fun brunch items. Next door, Sugargoat has grab-and-go coffee and a variety of cupcakes.
Aba: Delicious short rib hummus
Cabra: Yet another Stephanie Izard restaurant, with tapas-style dining and a beautiful rooftop
Rose Mary: Casual restaurant by Top Chef’s Joe Flamm featuring a fusion of Italian and Croatian cuisine
Coffee and Tea
Sawada Coffee: Known for its military latte (matcha espresso), but my personal favorite is the vanilla latte. They also sell Doughnut Vault doughnuts!
Hello Jasmine: Great boba spot with free parking in the lot at the Chinatown location
Pure Tea: Another newer boba spot located in the recently opened 88 Marketplace
Kumiko: Mixologist Julia Momose’s cocktail restaurant with Japanese cocktails and small eats
The Aviary: Chef Grant Achatz’s cocktail restaurant
Three Dots and a Dash: Cute speakeasy-style tiki bar in River North
Aya Pastry: The only Michelin-starred pastry shop in Chicago
Dan the Baker: Exclusive pastries only available by online preorder for pickup in the Soho House, Friday to Sunday
Black Dog Gelato
Kurimu: A fun repertoire of rotating Asian-inspired soft serve and ice cream. Also has boba drinks!
Scooter’s: Delicious frozen custard and milk shakes
Things to Do
Aside from all the food, there are also many sights to see and places to explore in the city of Chicago. The Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and nearby Art Institute of Chicago are all great places to visit. However, here are a few places that you can visit for no admission fee!
Millenium Park and Maggie Daley Park
Northerly Island, a 91-acre park with views of the city
Lincoln Park Zoo
Garfield Park Conservatory
If you want to venture farther out from the city, one of the best day trips is to Indiana Dunes National Park. It is only a one-hour drive away and is one of the newest national parks in the United States.
Roya Garakani, DO
Cook County Health
Hello and welcome to Chicago!
Whether you are new to Chicago or are making a return trip, there is tons to do in the city between meeting events. I’ve surveyed my co-residents at Cook County Hospital and compiled some of our favorites.
Where to Eat
The West Loop district has some fantastic options, such as Girl and the Goat, Cabra, Monteverde and Au Cheval.
Le Colonial near the Gold Coast district has a great atmosphere with excellent cocktails.
Sapori Trattoria further north in Lincoln Park serves some delicious Italian food.
There are tons of great low-key options in the Pilsen district, S.K.Y. is one of my favorites in the neighborhood
Check out Portillo’s for fast food Chicago dogs, or venture up to Jimmy’s Red Hots if you want a more authentic hot dog stand experience.
Where to Drink
Signature Lounge for beautiful panoramic views of the Chicago skyline
Londonhouse or Cerise for views of the Chicago River
The Aviary for exciting and innovative coursed drink menus
Where to Visit
The Chicago Architecture Boat Tour is the best and probably the most popular tour of the city, for good reason.
The Skydeck at Willis Tower and 360 Chicago are two observation deck options for skyline views and photo ops.
Millennium Park (with the famous Cloud Gate sculpture), Grant Park and the Lakefront trails are all central to the city and are very walkable depending on the weather.
The Art Institute of Chicago or the Museum of Contemporary Art are both excellent museum choices depending on your art taste.
Where to Take the Family
The Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium in Museum District are great kid-friendly daytime activities.
Navy Pier is a cultural hub with rides, games, restaurants, and shopping venues.
Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the few remaining free admission zoos in the United States.
Honestly, there is so much to do in Chicago. Just ask any of the residents or attendings that are local to the area for their favorites!
I hope you all enjoy your time at AAO 2022 in the Windy City!