The Run Down

Did you know that just half a mile away from the bustling Magnificent Mile you can step back in time to an age of double-decker, decadent diners? That's where you'll spend a pleasurable afternoon. But before you do, you'll begin your outing with top-notch coffee and walk through a serene European-feeling garden.

1. Coffee Fix @ Necessary & Sufficient Coffee

2. Walk @ Logan Garden

3. Dine @ Eleven City Diner

1. Necessary & Sufficient Coffee

Welcome to Dearborn Street in the impeccable Printer’s Row. A narrow, tree-lined street full of restaurants, pleasant bookstores, contemporary grocery markets, and of course, coffee shops. Spot the iconic red-bricked Dearborn Station with its lofty clock tower overlooking this eclectic street, and you’ll know you’ve made it to your first stop for a “necessary” caffeine fix at Necessary & Sufficient Coffee.

You might know Necessary & Sufficient Coffee as the Logan Square cafe with only a charming walk-up window. The grab-and-go-style window was so successful that owners expanded to Printer’s Row, bringing its vast selection of coffee and teas to the fast-paced patrons of the South Loop. Upon entering, a line of customers usually lines up around a few tables displaying coffee knick-knacks and goodies.

A colorful mural graces the wall behind the seating area, where one customer sits clacking away at a laptop while two others yap about their weekends. The energy is akin to your average coffee shop on steroids with a sizable and more-than “sufficient” staff.

The selection at Necessary & Sufficient is extensive. It’s hard to say no to their coffee tonic, made with rose-infused tonic, soda and espresso. If you’re looking for that extra boost, their nitro cold brew will both charge and satisfy you. If coffee isn’t your thing, a matcha latte or chai is the move. For food, they offer classic options such as their avocado toast or a brioche breakfast sandwich, as well as sweeter options such as their delectable banana or pumpkin bread. This time around, skip the food when ordering to save room for a hearty diner lunch later on.

After receiving your beverage, grab an available table or window seat, or better yet, take your order to go because it’s going to pair perfectly with your next activity.

2. Logan Garden

Coffee in hand, you’ll head two blocks east toward Grant Park. Your walk will begin at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Balbo Street. Welcome to Logan Garden, a portion of the 319-acre park where you’ll experience a gentler side of the South Loop among chirping birds and blooming flowers and trees.

Although you’ll be directly parallel to one of Chicago’s busiest streets, this is a place for tranquility. Here, someone enjoys a book on one of the numerous benches scattered throughout the gardens while a couple walks their dog, basking in the summer weather and scenery. You might even spot a group of friends having a picnic in the luscious grass areas. Don’t be afraid to follow suit with your Necessary & Sufficient order.

For all of you photographers: Get your camera out because you’re going to be enchanted by the nearly symmetrical flower patterns, not to mention eclectic architecture as far as the eye can see, the historic Hilton Towers Hotel among standouts. If you look south enough, you’ll spot The Grant Luxury Condos overlooking the entire park.

As an added bonus, this walk includes one of Chicago’s premiere statues. After passing the Eighth Street fountain, you’ll see a man on a horse on top of a hill overlooking the entire garden. This is the John Alexander Logan Monument. Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Alexander Phimister Proctor and installed in 1897, the artwork pays tribute to John A. Logan, a decorated Civil War hero and later a United States senator.

At this point, your stomach should be rumbling from all the sightseeing and coffee drinking, so it’s time for your scrumptious, final stop.

3. Eleven City Diner

About two blocks southwest of Logan Garden is a wonderful sight for sore eyes. “Breakfast All Day,” “Smoked Fish,” “Brisket After 4 p.m.” Those are only a few of the many neon signs greeting you as you arrive at Eleven City Diner. First impressions are important, and this one evokes a classical diner from your hometown mixed with a traditional New York Delicatessen.

In the lobby of Eleven City, you’ll find it hard to remember you’re there to reserve a table. Maybe it’s the immediate vintage, lit-up signs and decor you’ll see littered throughout the walls. It might be the magical vintage candy counter sitting directly across from the fresh-cut deli counter. Or even the warm and helpful staff that greet you with infectious smiles upon entering. Whatever it is, it’s easy to get lost in the magic of this place.

As owner Bradley Rubin, who founded the place in 2007, put it, the staff here are trying to provide customers with a memorable experience.

Magical places tend to have a wait. The good thing is if you find yourself having to wait longer than expected for a seat, make your way back outside with the other anxiously waiting patrons and order yourself a cocktail. That’s right — Eleven City offers cocktails such as a bloody mary or mimosas, and they’ll bring one out to you on a silver platter to enjoy while you wait.

The decor — reminiscent of the 1940s — and the menu of Eleven City have deliberately remained frozen in time, and for good reason: People search for comfort from those red neon lights and stacked deli sandwiches.

The term “comfort food” gets thrown around pretty loosely nowadays; however, Eleven City Diner deserves the “comfort crown” in all respects thanks to the staff that makes you feel like family, the generally portioned meals that will leave you more than satisfied, and of course, the decor that’ll transport you back in time for a meal.

Once your name is called, you’ll be led into the heart of this soothing establishment. You’ll be sat at a booth or the counter area directly across their famous root beer barrels. To start, feel like a kid again and order yourself a root beer float or a chocolate milkshake.

To eat, you can’t go wrong with a traditional Reuben or corned beef sandwich, with the meat piled high below sauerkraut and creamy dressing. If you’re feeling like a more traditional breakfast, opt for one of the many omelets, scrambles or breakfast platters. If you have room, grab yourself a slice of Eli’s cheesecake or ask your server about their many ice cream selections. Or even more simply, buy a piece of retro candy at the candy stand on your way out.