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Road Trip Tips: Chicago

Oct 4, 2012, 7:35 PM EDT

Between Notre Dame football on Saturday and the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, the Windy City is going to be a great place to be this weekend. As the site of this year’s Shamrock Series game, the university has planned several great events that will keep you entertained and busy over the next few days.

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, there are countless places to eat, bars to check out and sights to see before the Irish and Hurricanes clash at Soldier Field on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET on NBC). This week, we caught up with four Chicago young alums who provided a few suggestions for those who will be visiting their “sweet home.”

Tom Longo (’06):
Racine Plumbing (2642 N. Lincoln) is a Notre Dame-friendly bar in Lincoln Park that coordinates bus trips to all Notre Dame home games. Goose Island Brew Pub is named for the only island on the Chicago River and features its own craft beer. Check out the original location in Lincoln Park (1800 N. Clybourn) or Wrigleyville (3535 N. Clark).

You can follow up a show at Second City or Zanies Comedy Club with a trip around the corner to Old Town Ale House (219 W. North), “Chicago’s Premier Dive Bar” with walls covered in the owner’s paintings of celebrities – some leaving little to the imagination, if you get my drift.

Joe’s Bar in Old Town (940 W. Weed) will be ready for the Shamrock Series. Stop by Friday night between 6-11 for a Pig Tostal 25th anniversary pig roast, held to raise money for the Patrick R. McManus ’88 memorial scholarship fund. Patrick was captain of the swim team at Notre Dame; he died from injuries he suffered when he was struck by a car as he got out of a taxi in Chicago, just a few months after graduating in 1988. Visit this website for more information and to purchase tickets:

Finally, for those not from the Chicago area – Lou Malnati’s is just one example of the quintessential Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Italian restaurants might be backlogged this weekend with runners carbo-loading for Sunday’s marathon, but it’s worth the effort to get a true taste of Chicago. There are locations in Gold Coast (State & Rush), Lincoln Park (Sheffield & Lincoln), River North (439 N. Wells), and the South Loop (805 S. State), among others.

Megan Tommer (’07):
Lou Malnati’s – A trip to Chicago isn’t complete without pizza, and Lou Malnati’s is the place to go. Their deep dish pizza is known for its buttery, cornmeal crust. It’s worth the wait!

Jake Melnick’s – Some of the best BBQ in the city! It’s close to Holy Name Cathedral, so head there for lunch after mass on Saturday. You can watch all the early games, check out their extensive beer selection, and enjoy BBQ. Though I can’t vouch for it, they have brunch and Bloody Marys on Sunday mornings, so you can nurse your hangover there too.”

Molly Oelerich (’11):
Portillo’s Hot Dogs – Do yourself a favor and go to Portillo’s. Sure, Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza (and if you are so inclined, Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s, or Giordano’s are all great places to try), but I would say that nothing beats a Chicago dog, crinkle fries, and a milkshake from this wonderful institution of fine American dining.

Butch McGuire’s – I’m sure many Irish fans will be looking for a good Irish pub to visit before, during, or after the game this weekend. Look no further than Butch McGuire’s on Division St. Established in 1961, you can instantly feel that the place is steeped in Irish-American history. After all, this was the first bar in the US to serve Guinness on tap! If you don’t make it there on Saturday, they also serve a fabulous Sunday brunch.

Twin Anchors – Nestled in the Old Town Neighborhood is this hidden gem of Chicago cuisine, particularly for those searching for the best ribs they will ever have! A favorite hangout of Frank Sinatra in the 1950’s, this intimate restaurant is known for their signature barbecue sauces that cannot be topped anywhere else. A few movies have been filmed at the restaurant over the last couple decades, as well, most notably in 2008 for the film The Dark Knight.

Navy Pier – Easily one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, Navy Pier is a must-do for those making their first trip to Chicago. Nearly one hundred years old, the pier has been used for a variety of purposes over the years: from a commercial freight pier, to a World War II Naval training base, and now to the bustling entertainment hub it has become today. The walk along the lake path alone is worth the trip, so make sure you incorporate that in your outing to the pier. There’s something for everyone at Navy Pier, so it should be a crowd pleaser: the iconic Ferris wheel, Shakespeare Theatre, river/lake cruises and architectural tours, Children’s Museum, Harry Caray’s restaurant, and more ensure a great day for everyone involved!

Michigan Ave – Often times when people think Chicago, they think of Michigan Ave. While shopping up and down the magnificent mile, you can get an appreciation for the city that invented the skyscraper. The John Hancock, Water Tower, Wrigley Building, Chicago River, Chicago Art Museum, and even a Notre Dame Bookstore are just some of the great sights you will encounter on this street as you make your way to Soldier Field!

Dan Jacobs (’11):
For those spending some time at the establishments of Wrigleyville, Irish Oak (3511 North Clark Street) is a welcome refuge from the mainstream tourist fare. A supporter of the Fighting Irish, you can’t beat the higher energy pub atmosphere with a well poured pint of Guinness, topped off with some great food and drink specials as well (including fishbowls!).

The Alumni Club will be hosting a Young Alumni Party at John Barleycorn in Lincoln Park (658 West Belden Avenue) on Friday evening from 8-11, with a $25 open bar for the duration. While in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Halligan (2274 North Lincoln Avenue) across the street for some great people, music and the best drink specials in town.

Well, you heard it from the experts. If you’re in the mood for pizza, it looks like Lou Malnati’s is the consensus favorite (I can attest. It’s delicious). Otherwise, it sounds like you can’t go wrong with any of these suggestions. Whatever you decide, soak it all in. I was fortunate to be in New York and Washington for the past two Shamrock Series weekends. It’s a special event, and I can only imagine it will be even better in Chi-town.

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