ESCAPE THE CITY...KIND OF The Best Downtowns in the Chicago Suburbs
Chicago’s downtown region is one of the world’s best, comprised of world-famous architecture, a sea of multi-award-winning restaurants, bars, museums, a massive lakefront, parks, music and more. But did you know that many of the suburbs offer unique main-street-esque downtowns too? The quaint, but lively, downtown regions are marked by brick roads and tree-lined streets and include wine cellars, breweries, bars, shops, live music and concerts, art and a throngs of fine dining choices.
The tranquility rendered by the Fox River, which flows through the town, provides a pleasant diversion from urban-jungle chaos. One can enjoy Geneva's combination of modern quaintness and Old West architecture by resting in its many parks or taking a stroll through the tree-lined streets of downtown Geneva.
The downtown area is noted for its numerous shops, bars and restaurants. Beer and wine lovers can also head over to Penrose Brewing (and its excellent portfolio of sours), Galena Cellars or Geneva Wine Cellars & Tasting Room. During the summer, many choose to leave the immediate downtown area and head over to watch a Kane County Cougars game.
The former home of Ernest Hemingway and Frank Lloyd Wright is located a mere seven miles from Downtown Chicago. The town offers museums and tours that enlighten guests on its two most famous residents, or you can celebrate it with an Oak Park Brewing Frank Lloyd Rye American IPA!
Speaking of beer, two speak-easy style establishments exist in two distinct parts of Oak Park. Kinslahger, found on Roosevelt Road, brews excellent lagers including a unique "Chicago Common" brew. The Beer Shop can be found amidst the brick roads and fountains of Downtown Oak Park and serves as both a taproom and bottle shop, while occasionally delighting guests by spinning vinyl records.
But what's beer without food? The downtown sector and vicinity offer people numerous dining choices, including a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant (Sen Sushi Bar), French street food, Italian, Asian, pizza, BBQ and wine and food at Cooper's Hawk. Many times, notably during the warmer months, one can find musicians playing on the streets.
Though known as a home to Northwestern University, it's also the home to numerous restaurants and four different type of breweries: the art-inspired Sketchbook Brewing, the dynamic Temperance Beer Co., and the two brewpubs, Peckish Pig and Smylie Brothers.
A true haven for gastronomes, the restaurant-filled downtown region feels partly like an extension of Chicago's northside, a bit like a college town and akin to a small Midwestern town. One can find Sushi, Mexican, Indian, American, pub-grub, and pizza—you name it, Evanston has it. There's also plenty of bars, too. The tough part is choosing what and where to eat (and drink).
Nearly 150,000 people call Naperville home, and with Aurora next door it's a metro area unto itself. Hence, its downtown region can appear utterly crowded (in a good way) on weekend nights, filled with shoppers and those enjoying the nightlife. Still, with a spacious park adjacent to the downtown region, a historical neighborhood and Naper settlement, the river walk and North Central College, the entire community manages to maintain its former small-town charm.
Its most notorious brewery (for several good, tasty reasons), Solemn Oath, lies a bit outside the downtown region, but you can also find it in any one of the numerous bars. The downtown, three-story Two Brothers Brewing Craftsman location offers Two Brothers Coffee, pastries, farm-to-table, chef-driven food, mixology and spirits, a rooftop patio, and of course Two Brothers beer. There's also Old Town Pour House, Jimmy's, Quigley’s Irish Pub and a host of other bars and gastropubs often with live music. And don’t forget Ribfest in the summer, Winter Ale Fest and the concert hall.
One of the first things constructed in Flossmoor was Flossmoor Station; the train stop that brought Chicagoans southward to play a bit of golf. Today, the old railway stop has been converted into Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery, which possesses an abundance of brewing medals and serves terrific food. There's even a caboose in the back that serves as its ice cream joint on the patio.
The town reminds one of an old European community filled with shops and small businesses. Golf courses remain a big part of Flossmoor. However, the town's most striking feature involves its abundance of flowers, bushes and world-class works of art, notably in the aptly named Flossmoor Sculpture Garden.
The expansive downtown region hosts 275 merchants, forty restaurants and quite a few bars including the craft-centric Beerhead Bar & Eatery. Then again, you may want to head over to Terra & Vine for its extensive wine selection and Mediterranean-Italian food.
The town is one of the more bike-friendly downtown locations, which makes getting around really fun for fitness enthusiasts or people who just want to enjoy a relaxing ride. You’ll definitely need to bike around and burn some calories as the chef-driven food is everywhere and certainly enticing. During the warmer months, it's not uncommon to see several patios filled with hungry guests.