The Run Down

For this week's guide we're adding another edition to our Known/Unknown series where we pair a classic, essential landmark with an overlooked place nearby. We start off at our "Known" location, the Museum of Contemporary Art where we'll be touring 4 floors of galleries and a new outdoor courtyard that doubles as a nice picnic spot. We then grab lunch inside a place that's housed in what basically looks like a giant mansion. Finally, we head to our "Unknown" location, a museum dedicated to the history of medicine and science. Here are the details.

1. Visit @ Museum of Contemporary Art (The "Known")

2. Lunch @ Restoration Hardware

3. Higher Learning @ International Museum of Surgical Science (The "Unknown")

1. Museum of Contemporary Art (The “Known”)

We start the day at one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world, and one that attracts over 300,000 visitors each year (compared to 1.8 million for Shedd Aquarium). The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is right in the heart of Magnificent Mile, a mega tourist attraction itself, which makes MCA a prime spot if you’re doing this guide with guests from out of town.

Even if you’ve already been here once, you may be surprised at what you see in a repeat visit. During 2017, they’ve undertaken a multi-million dollar face lift in order to incorporate more class room spaces, a public restaurant and cafe, and more lounge areas. It’s slowly taking shape to be more of a community center than just a series of galleries. Here are some notes to get you going.

– Admission is $15 (adults); $8 (students, teachers, and seniors)
– Free on Tuesdays and open late (10am – 9pm)
– Closed Mondays (Hours for the rest of the week)

One of MCA’s latest renovations is an upscale restaurant and cafe at the lower level of the museum. The entrance is to the left of the steps that take you to the main museum doors. The cafe is open to the public and makes for a good work/study spot (no museum admission is necessary).

Second Floor

The main lobby and admissions are located on the second floor. You’ll also find two large gallery spaces with oversized contemporary art pieces and interactive exhibits on display.

Third Floor and Fourth Floor

Head up the museum’s famous staircase, which many consider an architectural work of art in itself, and visit the smaller gallery spaces on the Third and Fourth Floor.

Here you’ll find works from local and international artists, and new classroom/meeting spaces used by MCA to host an increasing number of public events (artist talks, concerts, and special presentations) during the year. If you can, try to time your visit with one of these events.

First Floor and Outdoor Courtyard

When you’re done touring the gallery spaces, head to the bottom floor and check out the museum’s new public space. Here is where you can grab a coffee and make your way out to the courtyard and relax in the quiet green space that sits underneath towering skyscrapers that surround the complex.

2. Restoration Hardware

Before we head to our “Unknown” location, we’re making a pit stop to grab lunch at high-end furniture retail store. This isn’t your normal furniture shop, but rather this is a place that blurs the line between a restaurant/cafe and show room. Think of this place as a massive residential home with a fancy restaurant in the center.Here’s a fun fact. This building was built in 1912 and was the former home for  the “Three Arts Club of Chicago,” a club for women involved in the three arts of music, painting, and drama.  It was later abandoned, but in 2007 was renovated and turned into Restoration Hardware. As you enter the Restoration Hardware, you’ll walk into a huge lobby. On one side will be a small coffee shop, and in the middle will be a large formal restaurant called the 3 Arts Club (a throwback to the former occupants of the building).  If you’re grabbing lunch here, expect to wait 30 or so minutes during prime lunch hours.  The wait isn’t bad, because you can grab a coffee or glass or wine and explore the rest of the four story space.

The first three floors have model bedrooms and living spaces, and what’s fun about this experience is you can bring your wine or coffee with you, and lounge in these rooms as if you were hanging out at your mega rich friend’s home. As you walk around, you’ll see folks using these spaces like one big coffee shop lounge — reading a book or doing work on their laptop.

On the top floor is a rooftop lounge with display patio furniture overlooking the neighborhood. You’ll constantly hear a lot of “ooohhhs” and “ahhhs” as people step off the elevator and into this rooftop space. The formal restaurant sits at the center of the building. Above is one large glass ceiling that makes this indoor courtyard feel like you’re dining outdoors. 

As for the food, you’ll find a decent sized menu of American and Mediterranean inspired cuisine. Our food pics feature their smoked salmon and the prime rib french dip sandwich. A little bit of surf and turf made for a delectable lunch. We tried to snap a nice shot of pouring milk into our iced coffee, but most of it was on the table.

3. International Museum of Surgical Science

Our last stop is a short walk from Restoration Hardware, and we’re headed to our “Unknown” spot.We’re visiting the International Museum of Surgical Science, which is home to four floors of historical medical artifacts, history, and artwork. Here are some notes to help plan your visit.

–  Open 10am – 4pm (Tuesday – Friday); 10am – 5pm (Sat – Sun)
– Free for Illinois residents on Tuesday
– Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for students, seniors, educators, and military members

Here’s a fun fact: The museum is right next to the Polish Embassy, which is why you see the Polish flag flying out in front. This is what greets you as you step into the lobby. To your right is a small administrative office where you can purchase tickets.

The museum has exhibits covering a lot of different medical fields, including dentistry and early pharmacies. Here’s an interesting tidbit we learned. In 20th century America, pharmacists actually formulated their own brand of medicines in their shops. In fact, Coca-Cola was founded by a pharmacist who was originally attempting to make a painkiller that could be used as an alternative to the highly addictive morphine.

Imagine these tools being used to extract a tooth.

The second floor contains a library of historical medical text books.

Also on the second floor is a section dedicated to optometry and historical eye wear. A few of these specs are coming back in style.

Early surgical equipment that looks more like a handyman’s tool box.

These early x-ray gas tubes look more like ray guns.On the top floor is a section dedicated to the nursing profession. Shout out to all the nurses out there, and a nice reminder at the end of our tour of all the special people keeping us healthy.