Chicago wrap up and stray observations

Chicago Theater sign

Last night I arrived in Omaha for the weekend, but before delving into that here’s a few parts of the Chicago trip that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Yes, the Chicago Theater sign above is a landmark, and no I wasn’t the only person taking photos of it. The best place to get a clear shot of the sign is unfortunately from a narrow staircase leading up to the State and Lake “L” stop.

Expansion joint in street

The biggest criticism I’ve heard of Chicago style pizza is that it’s more of a casserole than a pizza. It’s fitting then that the entire downtown area in Chicago is built like a casserole: on the bottom there’s a solid layer to insulate from the marsh the city’s built on; on the layer over that you have train and pedestrian subways and basements; next you have street level, and then finally you have buildings and the elevated “L” lines on top.

All of this is pretty obvious from certain locations along the Chicago river, but you also see expansion joints like in the photo above on what otherwise appear to be ground level streets. It seems odd until you realize you’re actually on a well hidden bridge.

No guns sign

In a lot of places in the world you’ll see “no smoking” signs on buildings; in Chicago, you see “no guns” signs instead.

I was especially surprised to see one of these signs on a Whole Foods. Who the hell brings a gun to a Whole Foods? Are they afraid of getting attacked by a bag of organic potatoes?

Unusual Metra entrance

For the most part Chicago’s Metra stations appear unremarkable, but there’s exactly one station entrance that seems… out of place? In fact it was a gift from one of Chicago’s sister cities: Paris. It’s a careful reproduction of the classic Paris Metro station entrances.

Secret Agent Supply Co.

I completely blew my cover by visiting the Secret Agent Supply Co. store. This is run by 826, the youth writing workshop founded by Dave Eggers, which is also behind the Pirate Store in San Francisco and the Time Travel Mart in Los Angeles.

They sell a variety of disguises and books, including books on writing and books from new Chicago authors. It’s a little out of the way and a very low key operation.


Parts of the Chicago River have a pedestrian walkway known as the Riverwalk. There’s a few restaurants and bars down there, and it’s a nice place to walk without ever having to encounter automobile traffic.

The Riverwalk isn’t complete yet though, some parts don’t connect and others are still under construction. It should be a lovely spot to take a walk or jog when it’s done but even the currently open segments are worth checking out.

The 606

The 606 is a pedestrian and bike path that’s partially elevated, built on a defunct rail line. I discovered this one completely by accident. It’s by far the most bicycle-friendly part of Chicago.

There is an irony of the 606 though: the defunct rail line used to serve the Schwinn Bicycle Company back when they still made bikes in Chicago.

Intelligentsia Coffee

Before heading to Union Station on my last day in Chicago I knew I had to try the espresso at Intelligentsia Coffee. I kept putting it off because the lines were intimidatingly long, but I’m happy to report it was worth the wait.

That’s it for Chicago! Next time I’ll have a post or two about my 48 hours in Omaha.