(Illustration: Irwin Krieger)
Sam Telzer loves Chicago. That’s saying a lot, coming from a fourth-generation New Yorker (as in NYC) who’s lived in Chicago, Puerto Rico and Los Angeles and whose job as a partner in a major accounting firm often takes him to Europe and the Far East. Wherever this Marriott Insider lands, he seeks a unique sense of place. In Chicago, that means heading to the lakefront, catching a Cubs game or exploring the diverse neighborhoods. Because of his Marriott Rewards Insider status, we asked Telzer to give us the inside scoop on the Windy City.
What’s most distinctive about Chicago?
When you go to Chicago, you go to Lake Michigan. The lakefront is incredible, and it’s a stone’s throw from downtown. You have miles of biking and jogging paths, sandy beaches, marinas and parks. When it’s warm out, my first stop is Oak Street Beach, where I take off my shoes, walk in the sand and wade in the water.
I also like sports in Chicago. Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play, is one of my favorite ballparks anywhere. The first time I went to a Cubs game I sat next to a local and we bonded over baseball and restaurant recommendations. [Thirty years later,] we’re still friends.
Where do you go outside of downtown?
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and each one has a special flavor. First time visitors could head to Lincoln Park for an upscale night out or to Wrigleyville for a Cubs game.
For architecture, I recommend Oak Park – a near western suburb – because it’s ground zero for Frank Lloyd Wright fans like me. Visit his home and studio and then take a self-guided walking tour for the restored Prairie School houses nearby.
Where are you most likely to meet a local?
Chicagoans are friendly, so it’s not hard. If you like sports, go to a sports bar near Wrigley Field, or get a cheap “bleacher” seat for the game. It’s always a party there. At the Art Institute, chat with people doing sketches. Or if you’re into food, try the very social Taste of Chicago in July. Andy’s Jazz Club is a good place to meet locals because the tables are so close together.
What are you favorite places to eat?
The best thing I ever ate in Chicago was prime rib at Lawry’s. But I also love to go to Rodity’s in Greektown for the spanakopita, or Lou Malnati’s for deep-dish pizza. Deep-dish pizza is a serious thing in Chicago.
Best place to appreciate the beauty of the city?
Millennium Park is just terrific because you have the city skyline views from there, especially at night during a summer concert at the Pritzker Pavilion. The skyline is also great from Navy Pier. There’s a nice view from the Marriott Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. Or, you can go up the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor. It’s the tallest building in the Western hemisphere.
What’s your best tip for getting around the city?
Chicago is a walkable city, and very easy to navigate on foot or by public transportation. The city is laid out on a grid. All addresses in the city start at the corner of State and Madison and street numbers fan out west, east, north and south from there. North of the Congress Expressway, you have “president” streets like Monroe and Madison. Then you have the “tree” streets like Oak and Walnut, then streets named for people who built Chicago and so on. South of Congress Expressway, the streets are generally numbered. The “El”(elevated subway) has branches that all directions from the Loop downtown business district.