It's the most wonderful time of the year in Chicago.... particularly if you're anything like me, which is to say, hungry. One of the best things about Chicago is the incredible diversity of culture and nowhere is that more apparent than on the menus around town, tinsel season or otherwise. If you're planning a holiday visit to the Windy City, these stops will warm you right up to the rich shared history in Chicago's kitchens:
The Walnut Room (111 N. State Street)
The unofficial capitol of Chicago's Christmas season can be found on the seventh floor of the State Street Macy's-welcome to the Walnut Room, established in 1905. Home to actual sugar plum fairies and an impressive tree, the Walnut Room provides a convenient and festive place to rest up in the midst of holiday shopping. And, baby, it's cold outside. Fortify yourself for further adventuring with Mrs. Hering's classic chicken pot pie. Reservations are a good idea if you're planning a weekend trip.
It's Glogg Time (Andersonville Neighborhood)
If you're holiday style is a little less glitz and a little more glögg, follow the red line north to enjoy a cup of warm spiced wine in Andersonville, home to Chicago's smorgasbord of Scandinavian cultures. Simon's Tavern has a great recipe and locals line up starting in November for cup of good cheer. And no need to glögg on an empty stomach! That part of Clark Street is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great food. A few favorites include Big Jones, the Hopleaf, and, if you're looking to stick with the Swedes, Ann Sather knows a thing or two about cinnamon rolls.
Christkindlmarket (Daley Plaza)
Christkindlmarket is a must-stop for anyone who has a small town heart and happens to find themselves at the heart of a big, beautiful city. Every year this Bavarian village sets up right on Daley Plaza. If you don't have time to make the trek up to Andersonville, have no fear: Christkindlmarket has gluwein and bier (and bratwurst and warm pretzels and hot cocoa). Your intrepid reporter sampled several of the goods available among stalls of holiday vendors and if you snack on nothing else, do not miss the warm strudel from Helmut's. I attempted to document the warm, flaky cherry variety we sampled. Alas, sampling starts quickly when there's warm strudel involved.
Enjoy your Chicago holiday and, if you can't make it everywhere in 2012, start planning for 2013. All of our top spots are part of long-standing traditions. It's safe to say that they'll still be around next year.