The Run Down

This guide is all about to getting cultured. We start in the Loop at a Russian tea house to talk current events while sipping tea and snacking on a literal tower of savory snacks. Afterwards, we'll walk down the street to tour an historic artist enclave that houses 10 floors of art studios, music halls, and a handful of shops. Here are the details.

1. Tea @ Russian Tea Time

2. Tour @ Fine Arts Building

1. Russian Tea Time

We’re kicking things off with a late afternoon tea service at a restaurant called Russian Tea Time. This place is a classic Chicago institution that opened its doors nearly 25 years by a mother and son team who originally came to Chicago from Uzbekistan with a dream of opening a restaurant with Russian roots.

Every day from 11 am – 7:30 pm,  they offer tea service for $35, where you drink all the tea you want (30 teas available to choose from) and have your tea accompanied by a tower of savory and sweet finger foods such as pozharski mini sandwiches, potato piroshki, and rugalach. It’s a wonderful way to set the tone for an evening of art and cultural experiences.

2. Fine Arts Building

Our next stop is the Fine Arts Building, just a few blocks from Russian Tea Time. This building along Michigan Avenue has been a sanctuary for artists since 1898, and lucky for us, during the second Friday of every month, they host an open house where you can wander the halls and meet artists. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your visit.

– The open house usually lasts from 5 pm – 9 pm on the second Friday of every month

– There is a security guard at the desk up front. Could you check in with the guard who will give you a list of open studios that night?

– Even when there isn’t an open house, a few shops in the building are open to the public. We talk more about them below.

The 10th Floor

If you’re here during the 2nd Friday open house, you should first go to the first-floor elevator bank. Now this isn’t your regular elevator. Ring the bell, and a manually operated elevator will be summoned to the ground floor.  When it opens up, an elevator operator will work a lever to take you from floor to floor. Take it to the 10th floor and begin your tour.

Work your way down each floor, and not only will you find art studios, but you’ll come across small shops like Performers Music on the 9th floor. It’s probably one of the last remaining places in the city to find actual sheet music and other music books. It’s also open to the public during the week if you want to stop by.

Depending on the open house you go to, a different set of artists will have their studios open to the public. Each floor had at least two or three studios open to the public.

The Dial Bookshop

As you work your way downstairs, one of the last places you’ll encounter is The Dial Bookshop. It’s on the second floor of the building, and we probably spent most of our time at the open house browsing through their collection of new and used books. There’s just something about scanning through a shelf full of books that feels soothing.

The shop is open to the public, so even if you can’t attend the building’s 2nd Friday event, you can peruse the shop any day of the week (closed on Sunday).