Wells Street, Chicago
Written by Karen Martin Illustration by Marion Vitus
Kathy McClanathan, chef concierge of The Talbott Hotel, leads us through the lesser-known gems of Wells Street in Chicago.
“Chicago is a huge sprawling city, covering many miles and home to millions of people,” says Kathy. “When people think of Chicago they immediately think downtown, Willis Tower, John Hancock Building, Michigan Avenue shopping, and sports teams. We are more than just downtown, we are home to many different neighbourhoods just waiting for people to explore and experience our great city.
“One of the best places to shop and eat is in a neighbourhood known as Old Town, and the street for shopping and eating is Wells Street,” she advises. “Guests who are looking to go shopping can walk in the neighbourhood and see historic mansions, as well as walk along the famous Astor Street on their way to Wells Street.
“I love to cook and bake, and so one of my favourite places is The Spice House, where you can get every spice imaginable, as well as spices that have been blended with Chicago names,” she says. “Right next door to the Spice House, you will find Old Town Oil, a unique shop with various flavours of oil and vinegar that they bottle right on the premises for you to either take with or they will send it home for you.”
Shopping for brand-name designers can also be found on Wells Street. Nicole Miller has a shop located in the heart of Old Town, and for men there’s Haberdash. “This store offers everything from cologne to suits and is a must-see,” says Kathy.
“Shopping makes everyone hungry, so if you are in the mood for a pastry you might want to try The Twisted Baker, a pastry shop that serves fresh sandwiches, drinks, and pastries. It’s a hidden gem for sure.” If sweets are more your thing, Kathy recommends The Fudge Pot, a candy store not to be missed. “I’m partial to their maple-walnut fudge as well as their English toffee,” she says.
After catching a quick snack, relax with a massage and a healthy drink at Element Wellness, “a spa that treats your entire body to good things and offers a juice bar that is out of this world,” says Kathy.
“For dinner you should experience Chicago ribs, and for that you should go to Fireplace Inn, a rib restaurant that has been around for 80 years,” she adds.
Kathy McClanathan is a resident expert on Chicago, having recently received the Donald J. DePorter Lifetime Achievement Award for concierge of the year, and was elected to the Concierge Hall of Fame in January this year. She is currently chef concierge of The Talbott Hotel on East Delaware Place, where she has been going above and beyond for its guests for the past three years. “Right up the street from our hotel is Oak Street, which is home to many upscale boutiques, but Wells Street is a hidden gem in a great neighbourhood,” says Kathy.