Lee From America's Guide to Chicago / by lee tilghman

 A bean in front of a bean. 

A bean in front of a bean. 

Last month, I headed to Chicago to teach my Matcha Mornings Workshops.

It was magnificent to immerse myself in Chicago through my work and experience a place that I had been fairly unfamiliar with until that point. I encountered some of the sweetest, most genuine people during my time there. I also ate, drank, and shopped at some of the most memorable restaurants, cafes, and independently owned stores. Most people assume that all the happening cities are near the coasts: NYC, SF, LA, but Chicago really proved herself to be a buzzing, beautiful, clean, and cultured place.

I even snuck in some nature. I heard from a lot of locals that it’s impossible to find a good hike in Chicago, but I had a really beautiful walk along the Chicago Riverfront with my friend Ryan on evening that I will never forget.

 The self care goodies at Scratch Goods. Palo Santo, dry brushes, poetry, and foot scrubs. YAS.

The self care goodies at Scratch Goods. Palo Santo, dry brushes, poetry, and foot scrubs. YAS.

Where to Stay

The West Loop! I LOVED this neighborhood. Virtually everything is within walking distance: sweetgreen, Whole Foods, trendy cafes, healthy eateries, public transportation. I felt safe and I loved the structure and easy layout of the neighborhood. It was buzzing with other young professionals and has a good nightlife scene. Highly recommend.

Getting Around

I found the public transportation to be reliable, fairly easy to navigate, and safe. Mostly, I walked places and used Ubers for longer destinations, given I didn’t have much time.

The Guide

$: least expensive

$$$: most expensive 

Cafes

Hi-Vibe $$ - Hi-Vibe is a superfood smoothie bar located in the River North district of Chicago. It’s a far walk from the West Loop (more of an Uber or train ride), but I knew I had to come here because they don’t put sweeteners in their matcha blends or nut milks, which is a rarity these days! FYI, there are virtually no places to sit, it’s a ‘grab and go’ type place. Their menu is extensive and quite impressive. The staff is also super knowledgeable and they were more than happy to accommodate my substitutions. I got the Vanilla Matcha Vatte without xylitol, so it was matcha, brain octane MCT, coconut cream, lucuma, and vanilla bean powder. It made me feel energized AF!

 The beautiful insta-friendly Sawada matcha latte (with soy milk)...and no, I didn't drink this one. I got an almond milk one to drink and just took photos of this one. :) 

The beautiful insta-friendly Sawada matcha latte (with soy milk)...and no, I didn't drink this one. I got an almond milk one to drink and just took photos of this one. :) 

Sawada $$ - Sawada is a must visit in Chicago. It’s located in the heart of the West Loop. They are best known for their Military Latte, a matcha latte with a shot of espresso and their vanilla simple syrup (a form of cane sugar, which you can order it without). But beware, it’s still high in sugar even if you order it without the vanilla simple syrup. I came here in December 2017 and got the military latte, but have since removed processed sugar from my diet. When I came here on this April 2018 visit, I got a regular matcha latte with almond milk. I asked if the regular lattes were sweetened, and they said no. I took a sip and my tastebuds said otherwise! The nut milks they use must be high in sugar. I’ve cut out all processed sugar from my diet, so I could REALLY taste it. Additionally, if you want the nice latte art, you have to order your drink with soy milk. That said, I’d still recommend coming to this place if you are in town. The atmosphere is great, the people are nice, and the drinks are amazing. Just don’t be fooled- these lattes are treats!

Harvest Juicery $$ - Hot hint, this is the place where you can find Coconut Cult in the city. It’s a juice and smoothie bar with bone broth and other healthy snacks.

Restaurants

 The falafel at ema. 

The falafel at ema. 

ēma $$ - Go for the falafel! The falafels were definitely the highlight, crispy on the outside but soft and moist in the center. The staff was friendly, and most of the menu is or can be made gluten free. The chef was accommodating to my food sensitivities, and I enjoyed every bite.

 My custom salad at Bad Hunter

My custom salad at Bad Hunter

Bad Hunter $$$- Recognized as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, I couldn’t wait to try Bad Hunter, and it did not disappoint. It was probably my favorite meal in Chicago. Their herbal teas were a nice touch and tasted delicious. However, once I disclosed my food allergies (gluten, dairy, soy) to my server, the menu shrank to about two items. They were very accommodating for me, but just beware that most of the stuff that everyone says to get (e.g. their burgers) contain gluten or soy.

 Herby cauliflower steak with grilled ramps from The Allis

Herby cauliflower steak with grilled ramps from The Allis

The Allis $$ - The Allis was one of my most memorable meals in Chicago! Because of the on point service, divine food, lofty feel, smooth ambiance and stellar location, it's where I chose to have my private VIP dinner with the workshop students! I’m still dreaming about their cauliflower steak with herby cashew “ricotta”.  I could sit and people watch here for hours. I ate here for both dinner and breakfast and loved it all the same. I am already looking forward to my next meal here. 

Shops

Scratch Goods  $ - Think of this place as your self care epicenter! Scratch Goods is located in the West Loop and has all things self love. They carry dry brushes, jade rollers, palo santo, house made body butters, books of wisdom from Nayyirah Waheed and Rupi Kaur, and they even have a DIY face mask bar (such a good idea for bachelorette and birthday parties). I got a stick of palo santo here. I highly recommend checking it out, and it’s fairly price friendly for what it is. I believe they are moving locations, so make sure to double-check address.

 Alllll the feminist home decor and crystal nightlights at Humboldt House. Humboldt House is one of those places where you will walk in innocent and leave feeling like, "I really really need a $40 sage candle".

Alllll the feminist home decor and crystal nightlights at Humboldt House. Humboldt House is one of those places where you will walk in innocent and leave feeling like, "I really really need a $40 sage candle".

Humboldt House $$$ - This spot was *GOALS AF*. A bunch of you recommended I check this spot out and now I see why: it sells crystals, ceramics, feminist art, rugs, pillows, home decor, and more. I spent a good two hours inside this store; there is just so much goodness! It’s a female owned business and everything is made from local female artists. It’s a specialty store, as their price point is fairly high, but I recommend popping in for a gift or just some inspiration if this spot is out of your price range. A visit to Chicago is not complete with a stop at Humboldt House.

 My favorite mug from Humboldt House by Molly Anne Bishop.

My favorite mug from Humboldt House by Molly Anne Bishop.

Lost Girls Vintage $$ - This is a carefully selected vintage store in the back of Humboldt House, they’ve got beautiful bags, dresses, and shoes. I highly recommend popping into the back to check it out if vintage is your thing. 

Rider for Life $$$ - Another goals AF concept store, this one is located right in the West Loop. They carry lots of clean European beauty brands, candles, vintage jewelry, and designers.

Hotels

SoHo House Chicago $$$ - This hotel was everything! The rooms were incredible (look at this chandelier), with extra touches all around. The bathtub was the real star of the show for me, though. I highly, highly recommend checking it out if you are in town and need a romantic place to stay or want to treat yourself to a night of luxury.

 Luxin' it up at Soho House Chicago for a night. 

Luxin' it up at Soho House Chicago for a night. 

Parks

Humboldt Park (free) - Gorgeous park to check out if you are in area and want to get some fresh air. There’s a beautiful boat house and water. It makes you feel like you’re in Europe. 

The Bean (free) - You cannot go to Chicago without stopping by the Bean. It’s a beautiful piece of art, and there are tons of stellar people watching opportunities here. Afterwards, you can walk to the Chicago Riverfront and take a nice sunset stroll.

Chicago Riverfront (free) - Head here for a beautiful walk at dusk. You won’t regret it.

Workouts

Barefeet Yoga $$ - I didn’t have much time for exercise on this trip, but luckily I got to catch a class here. It’s a studio in the West Loop. I went to a heated morning vinyasa class taught by Maggie Umberger. I loved her teaching style, and everyone was very friendly.

 Soakin' up every second at ema.

Soakin' up every second at ema.

I hope you find this guide helpful, and I can’t wait to go back! Until next time, Chicago.Where are some of your favorite spots in Chicago? Comment below so we can help each other out!