The Run Down

Work sucks. Alright, maybe not always, but you know what we mean. So, after one of those weeks, it’s only fitting to indulge a bit. After you’ve put your time in for the day and successfully launched your laptop into Lake Michigan, it’s time to treat yourself to a few spots just a hop, skip, and jump from your office amid the bustling rush hours of the Loop. Once you’re clocked out of meetings that probably should’ve been emails, we’ll take a quick stroll out of the office for aptly priced drinks, greasy Chicago delicacies and historic storefronts all within a few blocks of each other.

1. Drinks @ Ceres Cafe

2. Italian Beef @ Luke's Italian Beef

3. Dive @ Sky Ride Tap

1.  Ceres Cafe

Down the street from the Willis Tower, tucked away at the resolution of LaSalle Street, lies the Art Deco behemoth that is the Chicago Board of Trade building. For your “you time” this evening, you’ll be heading inside its lobby and into a rather inconspicuous, nonchalantly placed restaurant. Nothing crazy about it: It looks just like you’d expect a restaurant in the Board of Trade building to look.

When you enter, there’s a great chance the place will be packed with gaggles of suit-adorned finance bros chit-chatting about Excel files, or whatever it is they talk about. Blaze past those folk, through the cafe’s glossy, almost hotel-bar-like interior, and head to the bar in the back that’ll be lined with regulars talking up Ceres’ tenured bartenders.

Ignore any drink menu they provide because you’re just here for a rudimentary mixed drink, like a gin and tonic, whiskey and coke, vodka and soda, that kind of thing. There’s a reason everyone else alongside you is drinking one of those. Starting at $9, you’ll receive a full (can’t emphasize how important the word “full” is here) rocks glass of the booze of your choosing. Upon first sip, you might find your eyes bugging out in surprise and think, “There’s no soda in here.” Indeed, the bartender only put a splash of mixer in your drink. If you want the mixed drink to be more “mixed,” ask for a soda on the side.

For first-timers of the deal, there’s a great chance your bartender will chirp you with a quick “Want me to take some out?” or “This ain’t no Lincoln Park kinda kiddy drink.” It’s all out of love, though. Be sure to make conversation with your bartender if you can, as a 25-year-long tenure behind the bar is considered rookie status, and there’s a chance you can hear their side of the story behind the episode of “The Bear” with Ceres’ namesake.

Stumble your way out of Ceres and back into the hustle and bustle of the Loop because you should probably get some food in you after your “mixed” drink.


2. Luke’s Italian Beef

In the best way possible, you’ll smell Luke’s before you even step inside.

It’s as if the scent of fries, grease and cured meat walked down Jackson Street swayed you from your stupor at Ceres and into what a Disney Channel show from 2005 would imagine a classic beef spot would look like. Giant ketchup and mustard bottles fly overhead, a huge, incredibly detailed art plaster of an Italian beef sandwich  and cartoon bulls eating spaghetti off each other looms over you – kitschy doesn’t even begin to describe the interior design of this spot.

Obviously, a classic Italian beef is the dish to get at Luke’s (and get it prepared the “Luke’s Way”), but don’t let that deter you if you find your eyes wandering over to the other side of the menu featuring sandwiches, personal pan pizza, burgers, calzones and do-it-yourself pasta.

Anyways, once you’ve successfully lost yourself in the allure of Luke’s (and maybe a food coma), you’ll head over to one last spot for a quick drink underneath the rumblings of the “L.”


3. Sky Ride Tap

Named after an attraction from Chicago’s 1933 World Fair, your rollercoaster (get it?) of an evening will end south on Wells Street, and east one block over on Van Buren Street at Sky Ride Tap.

A dive bar enthusiast’s heaven, Sky Ride checks off every box. Its storied interior is bright, cash-only, ATM-less, has been around for over 50 years, closes at 8 p.m., and is guarded by the nicest bartenders you could imagine (and maybe a few baseball bats).

There’s a pretty good chance they’ve never heard of whatever your go-to mixed drink is, so play it safe and snag an Old Style. Sky Ride is one of those spots with so much character and memorabilia on the walls, you could get lost in it for hours. Get comfortable, hang out for a while, and try to catch owner Kyriakos “Carl” Damianides behind the bar when you visit. He has 50 years’ worth of stories to share about running this place.

Commuters, rejoice: You’ll have time for that second beer you’re considering (and deserve). Once you’re ready to pack it in, you’ll be just a few feet away from the Metra LaSalle station, and the Brown, Orange, Purple and Pink lines at the LaSalle/Van Buren CTA stop. Or stick around and hear more about Chicago in the ’70s.