Lauren Viera

Correspondent

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

Lauren Viera is a correspondent who lives in Chicago and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. Viera contributes articles on spirits, travel and lifestyle to Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business, Imbibe, MensJournal.com and others. She was a senior editor on the launch staff of Time Out Chicago, and was a staff writer on the travel desk of the Chicago Tribune. A native Californian, Viera has lived in Chicago for a decade and chronicles her love of horticulture and cocktail culture on her blog, The Glass & Garden.

  • On March 4, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What is nightlife like in Chicago?

    Chicago's nightlife buzzes loudest in the River North neighborhood, where trendy restaurants and late-night clubs mingle just west of Michigan Avenue. Several restaurants, such as Mercadito, sit atop intimate lounges (Mercadito's is Double A), perfect for slipping underground after a meal for a late-night cocktail, while other venues, like Untitled, are massive party-vibe drinking and nibbling headquarters all their own, accessible just below street level.

    The long-running king of Chicago's nightlife is Billy Dec, whose Rockit Ranch Productions owns multiple properties in the River North area. The company's namesake, Rockit Bar & Grill, is a burger joint gone wild, while Dec's sleek Sunda offers new Asian cuisine by day, and shifts to a club atmosphere after nightfall.

    One of the biggest club openings of the past few years is Studio Paris atop Paris Club, managed by Chicago's Lettuce Entertain You, a powerhouse of dining and drinking properties. The rooftop boasts top DJs and drinks, the restaurant below offers a full dinner menu of French-tinged dishes, and the dual nightlife property is still hot two years in.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best places for brunch in Chicago?

    Chicagoans love brunch, and in every neighborhood there's at least one go-to at which locals will wait in line to get their fix. But the brunch elite know there's a shortlist of outstanding spots worth traveling to, no matter what neighborhood -- or suburb -- you're coming from, and no matter how long the line at the door.

    At the top of my list is Lula Cafe, a Logan Square institution which, after 14 years, still draws crowds from 9am onward every day of the week. Beautiful, organic farm-to-table egg, pantry and vegetarian specials change daily, and there is always a selection of house-made sweets to nibble on. Lula's sister restaurant, Nightwood in the Pilsen neighborhood, offers meals of the same caliber, plus one incredibly popular addition: bespoke donuts.

    For sweet brunches, the best in town is Mindy's HotChocolate in Bucktown. Chef Mindy Segal, who puts desserts on a pedestal, finally won the 2012 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry after being nominated every single year from 2007 through 2011. Her brunch entrees are epic displays of sweet pantry staples (french toast, buttermilk pancakes, warm donuts), and the savory items don't disappoint.

    The airy, sunny Kingsbury Street Cafe recently opened as the permanent location for Work of Art catering, whose staff fed Oprah's for five years before the show aired its final segment. Situated on its namesake street near Chicago's largest Whole Foods, the full-serve restaurant thrives on its baked goods and thoughtful details.

    Chicago's old guard brunch is represented by Ann Sather, a Swedish diner with a handful of locations scattered throughout the city. Now a catering empire as well, Ann Sather's cozy atmosphere was made famous by one particular item: the cinnamon roll.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What restaurants have the best views in Chicago?

    Some of the best views in the city are from the top of the John Hancock Center, at The Signature Room at the 95th. Perched atop one of the highest floors in the iconic building, the restaurant boasts a lofty, two-level dining room with wall-to-wall (and floor-to-ceiling) windows, with unparalleled views of the city.

    Just a few blocks north of John Hancock Center is the Park Hyatt, whose restaurant, NoMI, boasts a diptych of city views. From its lush terrace, open seasonally, the entire western half of the city is in plain sight, while its dining room, facing east, has a panoramic view of Michigan Avenue and beyond, toward Lake Michigan.

    Located on the sixteenth floor of Trump Hotel Chicago, which was recently named among the 2013 Forbes Travel Guide's Five Star Award winners, the aptly named Sixteen (also rated Five Stars) sits in the center of a sea of skyscrapers, all of whose spires and ornaments look as if they are within reach from a seat at this upscale restaurant. Down below, just west along the Chicago River, Bridge House Tavern has stunning boat-level views, its dining room accessible via a special elevator from street-level.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What is Chicago’s dining scene like?

    Chicago once had a food reputation limited to pizza, ballpark dogs and steakhouses. But the past decade and beyond has seen the city emerge as a leader in the nation's farm-to-table trend, in part because of the its proximity to some of the nation's best farmland. More than anything else, casual, farm-to-table fare is a through-line among Chicago's eateries.

    One of the most popular restaurants to open in recent years is Girl and The Goat, with Top Chef Stephanie Izard at the helm. Specializing in rustic American food with a handful of regional specialties, Girl and the Goat is a quintessential Chicago restaurant in terms of its emphasis on local products and produce, a casual but styled environment, and a menu designed around small, shared plates.

    Girl and the Goat sits on Chicago's popular Restaurant Row on Randolph Street in the West Loop, which is the epicenter of classic Chicago restaurants such as Blackbird and Avec, two of local chef Paul Kahan's first venues. Other giants of the local dining scene include Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, one of the Obamas' go-tos; Chef Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next), Chef Curtis Duffy (Grace), Chef Chef Matthew Kirkley (L20), Chef Anothony Martin (Tru), and restaurateur Scott Harris (Mia Francesca, The Purple Pig).
  • On March 4, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best fine-dining restaurants in Chicago?

    There is no shortage of fine dining in Chicago, a city whose permanent residents enjoy upscale meals out as often as its many visitors. At the top of the list is a restaurant fit for the President: Spiaggia, with a menu designed by James Beard award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano.

    Quite high on the list is also one of the most fun dining experiences in town, if you're fortunate enough to score tickets. Michelin-starred Chef Grant Achatz's Next restaurant changes menus every three months, so you could be on the "Hunt" from winter through spring (wild game, meats and woodland accoutrements), or find yourself eating "Vegan" in the months leading up to summer. Achatz's first restaurant, Alinea, recently included in the 2013 Forbes Travel Guide as a Five Star restaurant, remains one of the best restaurants in the nation, and is a bit easier for reservations -- but only a bit.

    The newest addition to the fine dining scene is Grace, the debut restaurant for Chef Curtis Duffy, who previously worked in the kitchens of both Achatz and renown, retired Chicago dining star Charlie Trotter. Two more established restaurants, Sixteen and L20, were both included in the 2013 Forbes Travel Guide as Five Star restaurants, and remain hot destinations.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What restaurants have the best views in Chicago?

    Some of the best views in the city are from the top of the John Hancock Center, at The Signature Room at the 95th. Perched atop one of the highest floors in the iconic building, the restaurant boasts a lofty, two-level dining room with wall-to-wall (and floor-to-ceiling) windows, with unparalleled views of the city.

    Just a few blocks north of John Hancock Center is the Park Hyatt, whose restaurant, NoMI, boasts a diptych of city views. From its lush terrace, open seasonally, the entire western half of the city is in plain sight, while its dining room, facing east, has a panoramic view of Michigan Avenue and beyond, toward Lake Michigan.

    Located on the sixteenth floor of Trump Hotel Chicago, which was recently named among Forbes Travel Guide's 2013 Star Award winners, the aptly named Sixteen (also rated Five Stars) sits in the center of a sea of skyscrapers, all of whose spires and ornaments look as if they are within reach from a seat at this upscale restaurant. Down below, just west along the Chicago River, Bridge House Tavern has stunning boat-level views, its dining room accessible via a special elevator from street-level.
  • On March 4, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What is Chicago’s dining scene like?

    Chicago once had a food reputation limited to pizza, ballpark dogs and steakhouses. But the past decade and beyond has seen the city emerge as a leader in the nation's farm-to-table trend, in part because of the its proximity to some of the nation's best farmland. More than anything else, casual, farm-to-table fare is a through-line among Chicago's eateries.

    One of the most popular restaurants to open in recent years is Girl and The Goat, with Top Chef Stephanie Izard at the helm. Specializing in rustic American food with a handful of regional specialties, Girl and the Goat is a quintessential Chicago restaurant in terms of its emphasis on local products and produce, a casual but styled environment, and a menu designed around small, shared plates.

    Girl and the Goat sits on Chicago's popular Restaurant Row on Randolph Street in the West Loop, which is the epicenter of classic Chicago restaurants such as Blackbird and Avec, two of local chef Paul Kahan's first venues. Other giants of the local dining scene include Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, one of the Obamas' go-tos; Chef Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next), Chef Curtis Duffy (Grace), Chef Anothony Martin (Tru), and restaurateur Scott Harris (Mia Francesca, The Purple Pig).
  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    Where is the best pizza in Chicago?

    It all depends -- namely on whether you're in search of the best Chicago-style pizza, or the best pizza, period.

    For Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, there are three main contenders, each passionately defended by their followers. Giordano's, Pizzeria Uno and Lou Malnati's are the widely regarded frontrunners, and each has its own story claiming invention of deep-dish pizza, Chicago's quintessential pan-roasted pizza layered with marinara sauce, toppings and a thick layer of deliciously stringy cheese.

    Established in the early 1940s, Pizzeria Uno is the eldest of Chicago's three pizza powerhouses. Lou Malnati's namesake founders worked at Uno before starting their own brand of pizza in the early 1970s. The youngest of the bunch, Giordano's, was established in 1974 by a pair of Italian brothers paying homage to their mother's recipe.

    All three pizzerias now have multiple locations throughout Chicago. Each offers a thin-crust version, as well, but when in Rome...


  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best fine-dining restaurants in Chicago?

    There is no shortage of fine dining in Chicago, a city whose permanent residents enjoy upscale meals out as often as its wealth of visitors. At the top of the list is a restaurant fit for the President: Spiaggia, Chicago's only four-star restaurant, with a menu designed by James Beard award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano.

    Quite high on the list of top fine dining is also one of the most fun dining experiences in town, if you're fortunate enough to score tickets. Michelin-starred Chef Grant Achatz's Next restaurant changes menus every three months, so you could be on the "Hunt" from winter through spring (heavy on wild game, meats and woodland accoutrements), or find yourself eating "Vegan" in the months leading up to summer. Achatz's first restaurant, Alinea, remains one of the best fine dining restaurants in town, and is a bit easier for reservations -- but only a bit.

    The newest addition to the fine dining scene is Grace, the debut restaurant for Chef Curtis Duffy, who previously worked in the kitchens of both Achatz and renown, retired Chicago dining star Charlie Trotter.
  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What restaurants have the best views in Chicago?

    Some of the best views in the city can be had from the top of the John Hancock Center, at The Signature Room at the 95th. Perched atop one of the highest floors in the iconic building, the restaurant boasts a lofty, two-level dining room with wall-to-wall (and floor-to-ceiling) windows, with unparalleled views of the city.

    Just a few blocks north of John Hancock Center is the Park Hyatt, whose restaurant, NoMI, boasts a diptych of city views. From its lush terrace, open seasonally, the entire western half of the city is in plain view, while its dining room, facing east toward Lake Michigan, has a panoramic view of Michigan Avenue and beyond toward the lake.

    Located on the sixteenth floor of Trump Hotel Chicago, the aptly named Sixteen sits in the center of a sea of skyscrapers, all of whose spires and ornaments look as if they are within plain reach from a seat at this upscale restaurant. And down below, just west along the Chicago River, Bridge House Tavern has stunning boat-level views, its dining room accessible via a special elevator from street-level.
  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What restaurants have the best views in Chicago?

    Some of the best views in the city can be had from the top of the John Hancock Center, at The Signature Room at the 95th. Perched atop one of the highest floors in the iconic building, the restaurant boasts a lofty, two-level dining room with wall-to-wall (and floor-to-ceiling) windows, with unparalleled views of the city.

    Just a few blocks north of John Hancock Center is the Park Hyatt, whose restaurant, NoMI, boasts a dyptich of city views. From its lush terrace, open seasonally, the entire western half of the city is in plain view, while its dining room, facing east toward Lake Michigan, has a panoramic view of Michigan Avenue and beyond toward the lake.

    Located on the sixteenth floor of Trump Hotel Chicago, the aptly named Sixteen sits in the center of a sea of skyscrapers, all of whose spires and ornaments look as if they are within plain reach from a seat at this upscale restaurant. And down below, just west along the Chicago River, Bridge House Tavern has stunning boat-level views, its dining room accessible via a special elevator from street-level.
  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What is Chicago’s dining scene like?

    Chicago once had a food reputation limited to pizza, ballpark dogs and steakhouses. But the past decade and beyond has seen the city emerge as a leader in the nation's farm-to-table trend, in part because of the its proximity to some of the nation's best farmland. More than anything else, casual, farm-to-table fare is a through-line among Chicago's eateries.

    One of the most popular restaurants to open in recent years is Girl and The Goat, with Top Chef Stephanie Izard at the helm. Specializing in rustic American food with a handful of regional specialties, Girl and the Goat is a quintessential Chicago restaurant in terms of its emphasis on local products and produce, a casual but styled environment, and a menu designed around small, shared plates.

    Girl and the Goat sits on Chicago's popular Restaurant Row on Randolph Street in the West Loop, which is the epicenter of classic Chicago restaurants such as Blackbird and Avec, two of local chef Paul Kahan's first venues. Other kings and queens of the local dining scene include Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, one of the Obamas' go-tos; Chef Rick Tramonto (Tru), Chef Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next), and restaurateur Scott Harris (Mia Francesca, The Purple Pig).
  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What is Chicago’s dining scene like?

    Chicago once had a food reputation limited to pizza, ballpark dogs and steakhouses. But the past decade and beyond has seen the city emerge as a leader in the nation's farm-to-table trend, in part because of the its proximity to some of the nation's best farmland. More than anything else, casual, farm-to-table fare is a through-line among Chicago's eateries.

    One of the most popular restaurants to open in recent years is Girl and The Goat, with Top Chef Stephanie Izard at the helm. Specializing in rustic American food with a handful of regional specialties, Girl and the Goat is a quintessential Chicago restaurant in terms of its emphasis on local products and produce, a casual but styled environment, and a menu designed around small, shared plates.

    Girl and the Goat sits on Chicago's popular Restaurant Row on Randolph Street in the West Loop, which is the epicenter of classic Chicago restaurants such as Blackbird and Avec, two of local chef Paul Kahan's first venues. Other kings and queens of the local dining scene include Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, one of the Obamas' go-tos; Chef Rick Tramonto (Tru), Chef Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next), and restaurateur Scott Harris (Mia Francesca, The Purple Pig).
  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What are the best stores for designer clothes in Chicago?

    One of the best stores for women's designer clothes is Ikram in the Gold Coast, whose eclectic collection ranges from pieces by Chanel, Comme des Garçons, Givenchy, Proenza Schouler and others. In addition to pieces from current and upcoming collections, there are a half-dozen well stocked cases of jewelry, and rows of shoes lining the walls.

    Chicago is also home to several eponymous designer clothing shops, most of which are located along Oak Street in the Gold Coast. Prada, Hermes, Tod's, Jil Sander, Paul Stewart, Lanvin and Furla all have addresses in and around this upscale neighborhood just off Michigan Avenue.
  • On March 3, 2013
    Lauren Viera is now following the question: