By day, Shuhei Yamamoto is a marketing guru, managing social media for the national education non-profit Teach For America. By night, he lets loose playing shows across Chicago with his indie rock band Pet Lions. His perfect summer day in the city touches upon all the best things in life: bacon, the beach and karaoke.
Photo: All rights reserved Chicago Magazine
12:00PM: Three words: Country Fried Bacon
I’m actually cheating a little bit by starting in Evanston, the first suburb north of Chicago. Home to Northwestern University, Evanston is a picturesque town with plenty to explore, but the true gem here is amazingly named Wiener and Still Champion. I was introduced to this greasy hot dog joint by our band’s drummer while we were recording at a nearby studio, and—don’t get me wrong —the hot dogs are delicious, but the highlight is the country fried bacon. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Bacon that’s breaded and fried, which is literally the only thing that can be done to improve bacon. And of course, to ensure that it’s the least healthy food you’ve ever consumed, it’s served with hot sauce.
Photo: All rights reserved Wiener and Still Champion
1:30PM: Recover at the beach
Drag your now-comatose body to the train station and take it south into Chicago to get to the vast Montrose Beach in the Uptown neighborhood. You’ll still be in country-fried-bacon-recovery mode, so depending on the type of person you are, you’ll either 1) attempt to work off the three million calories you just ate at one of the public volleyball courts or soccer fields, or 2) just lay there for a while. I would choose option #2 and I would recommend doing so at the Montrose Dog Beach, where you can watch a bunch of pups splashing around in the water and having the time of their lives.
Photo: Montrose Beach Wikimedia
4:00PM: A bike store/coffee shop
Bring a book to Heritage Bicycles General Store in Lakeview, a super cool handcrafted bicycle store that doubles as a neighborhood coffee shop. Reenergize with some caffeine to get ready for the evening. I live nearby so I occasionally bring my laptop over and work from Heritage, trying my best to fit in with the actual coffee-drinking bicyclists there (I am a tea-drinking public-commuter).
Photo: All rights reserved Melissa Salvatore, The Architect’s Newspaper
6:00PM: A 19th century bar
Take the Ashland bus all the way down to the Noble Square neighborhood. Tucked into the corner of a residential street you’ll find the Chipp Inn, a cozy tavern that opened back in 1897. It’s still pretty old-fashioned—it doesn’t even have a website. Grab a cheap beer and play some pool until you’re ready for dinner.
Photo: All rights reserved David Murray, Huffington Post
7:30PM: Chef’s choice sushi
Just a quick ride away is Kai Zan, a sushi restaurant in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Opened last year, Kai Zan started as a tiny 22-seat hole-in-the-wall but has recently expanded to triple its original size, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a seat. There is technically a menu, but it’d be a mistake to not order the chef’s choice course menu, or omakase. It’s not just the best sushi in Chicago—it’s probably the best meal I’ve had in my six years living here. Don’t forget to buy some alcohol on the way here—it’s a BYOB restaurant.
Photo: All rights reserved Time Out Chicago
10:00PM: Dive bar karaoke
Now that you’ve got some liquid courage, it’s time to call a cab and head back north to Alice’s Lounge in the Avondale neighborhood for karaoke. The first time I walked in here, there were literally two people there, excluding the bartender and the old man setting up the karaoke machine. Two hours later, the place was packed while some dude belted out Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta.” The three best things about Alice’s:
1) There are no MC’s who perform in between every song, which means you aren’t waiting three hours after you sign up to sing.
2) The song list is relatively up-to-date. Brand new radio hits might not be on there, but unlike most karaoke bars where the most recent song on the list is “Baby One More Time,” Alice’s actually has songs from the past year.
3) Since Avondale is not known for its nightlife, if someone is at Alice’s, then they’re there to sing karaoke. Most of the crowd is an active participant in the festivities.
Now excuse me while I perform “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” to a room full of strangers.
Photo: Shuhei Yamamoto