The Run Down

We've got another guide to add to our Known/Unknown series where we pair an essential Chicago landmark with overlooked places nearby. Today we're on an early morning trek to one of the most recognizable landmarks in downtown Chicago, then head across the street to visit a century old free museum, and finally eat breakfast at an old school diner. Here are the highlights.

1. Visit @ The Bean

2. Art Appreciation @ Chicago Cultural Center

3. Breakfast @ Pittsfield Cafe

1. The Bean

The first stop is the most known of all known places in Chicago, and when you have friends or family in town, it almost feels mandatory to visit.  Well, if you’re in that situation again or even if this is your first time at the Bean, here are some general tips and interesting facts that might be worth remembering.

– Start early to avoid the crowds. The pics below were around 7:45 AM and we basically had the place to ourselves.  This is a totally different experience without the crowds.  You can actually take your time going around the Bean, and not feel like your in the way of everyone’s photos.

-The Bean was designed by British designer, Anish Kapoor, and unveiled to the public in 2006.

– The actual name of this public art piece is called “Cloud Gate.” It was nicknamed the Bean by the media. The designer thought the nickname was “completely stupid.” Whoops. 

2. Chicago Cultural Center

Now that you’ve got the Bean crossed off the checklist, our next stop is just across the street to the Chicago Cultural Center. This place has been a Chicago institution for over 100 years, first starting as a public library in 1897, and then finally getting a $2 million renovation in the 90’s that transformed it into a free museum and cultural center.

The Cultural Center has several art exhibits on display, but the building itself is an architectural treasure to behold. As you enter the building, one of the first things you’ll see are grand marble staircases that lead to four floors of exhibits and performance spaces. When the building first opened in 1897, it was dubbed the people’s palace, and the building indeed live’s up to that name.

On the top floor of the Cultural Center is the Sidney Yates Gallery, which use to be the main reading room when the building was used as a public library. This room is a jaw dropper. I’ll let the pics below tell the story.

Here’s a fun fact. If you ever go to Italy, you can also see this room in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy.

The last thing we wanted to highlight at the Cultural Center is the StoryCorps organization which is located on the first floor. Their mission is simply to preserve and share people’s stories. There’s a giant recording booth located in the StoryCorps offices where people can record meaningful conversations with friends and loved ones that are archived at the Library of Congress.

– You can reserve a recording session here
– Here are some other logistical notes on what to expect

3. Pittsfield Cafe

If you’re following this guide closely, you’ve probably had an early start to the day, and are probably in need of a hearty breakfast. We’re going right around the corner to the Pittsfield Building, a 1920’s art deco style skyscraper.

Hidden inside this building is an old-school diner — the type where you’d sit at the counter, order a cup of coffee and pie, and read the morning paper. They also have a your classic breakfast and diner fare. I had a hankering for biscuits and gravy, and this place did a damn fine job of satisfying that craving.  It’s no surprise that this place has been around for over 30 years.