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Chicago’s hidden gems, from the people who know best

Chicago locals used dscout to recommend hidden gems and hotspots where MidwestUX conference attendees can eat, drink, see and explore.  

Words by Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Delaney Gibbons

User experience pros know that perspective is everything. It builds empathy and allows for a more complete picture of whatever is being investigated or explored.

This tenet can apply to travel, too! That's why dscout partnered with the MidwestUX 2018 committee to bring you the hidden gems of Chicago, just in time for the conference.

Channeling the conference’s theme of curiosity, we recruited 35 local Chicago “scouts” to take us around the city and capture their must-see hidden gems using the dscout mobile app. This allowed us to co-experience the gems, something that's just not afforded by other travel recommendation sources.

Think of this as 35 of your best friends, who ALL happen to live in Chicago, giving you the rundown on what's not to be missed.

In the spirit of the other conference themes—integrity and collaboration—we’ve opened up this “mission” in dscout, so you can see all of the entries, peruse the hidden gems for yourself, and discover your own insights. Just enter your email address below and we’ll add you to this project in the platform!

What to Eat and Drink

Chicago has a much-lauded foodie culture and no shortage of great libations—with more than 40 food and drink recommendations in the project, we’ve grouped favorites into a few categories that will be easily accessible for conference-goers.

Best beverages | Loop

Hero Coffee Bar
22 E. Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604

A literal hidden gem, this nestled-away coffee bar is a perfect photo op. Can you keep a secret? Get the low-down on how to find it in this entry from Gus F.

    Gus F.

    Northman Beer & Cider Garden
    On the Chicago Riverwalk at Columbus and Wacker

    People-watch over drinks at this recently opened beer garden on Chicago’s Riverwalk. Featuring great views and ideal for groups, Eric C. recommends it as an under the radar after-work or weekend hangout!

    Eric C.

    Local bites | Lakeview

    Chicago Diner
    3411 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60657

    Meat-free since ‘83, carnivores won’t miss meat throughout the diner’s tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes. In Lisa G.’s on-location entry, you can hear a random passerby call it delicious.

    Coda di Volpe
    3335 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

    “Amazing Neopolitan-style pizza, amazing pasta, drinks are phenomenal, the space is phenomenal.”
    — David A.

    Dining and drinks on foot | West Loop

    Randolph Street | Elske, Ogden
    800 W Randolph, Chicago, IL, then go west

    The trendiest neighborhood for food and drinks in town, you’re near the heart of daytime eats and nightlife between Halsted and Ada St. Michelin-starred Elske is a worthy stop with a tasting menu. Venture slightly farther west to see another scout recommendation, a lower-key, food-forward sports bar called The Ogden.

      Judy W.

      French Market
      131 N. Clinton St, Chicago, IL 60661

      Tucked under Ogilvie Transportation Center, the year-round indoor market puts rotating and permanent vendors under one roof, with a happy hour to boot.

      “I usually come here for lunch because there are so many different options and something that pleases everyone.” 
      — Erica O., MidwestUX Committee Member

      What to See

      Various neighborhoods, most prominent in Pilsen

        Chicago's architecture is renowned and worth seeing… but lesser known is its mural game, with many scouts sharing street art across the city that reflects the spirit of a neighborhood and its cultural roots. The Pilsen neighborhood is best known for its murals, but access the project for several recommendations across neighborhoods!

        Wrigley Field 
        1060 W. Addison, Chicago, IL 60613 | Lakeview/Wrigleyville

        Staying in the conference’s Lakeview neighborhood? Meander over to Wrigley, and maybe you’ll catch the Cubs playing at the classic park into October (Well, there's always next year!). Scout Fabian H. explains the historical significance inside the park on a sold-out September night.

        Fabian H.

        "Bucktown #529"
        2155 W. Wabansia, Chicago, IL 60647 | Bucktown

        This recommendation from your MWUX organizers introduces you to one of their favorite secluded places—plus, as they point out, it’s right by Small Cheval, a great way to try one of Chicago’s most buzzed-about burgers (Au Cheval) without the hours-long wait.

        Anja H.

        What to Explore

        Lakefront Trail [South of Navy Pier]
        Enter near Lake Shore Drive and Monroe Street

          Near Lake Michigan and featuring pedestrian and biking paths, this strip of urban green space is far less crowded than its more northern extension. Eric C. explains, and showcases the seclusion with skyscrapers behind him:

          Eric C.

          Japanese Gardens
          S Cornell Dr, Chicago, IL 60637

          Multiple participants recommended venturing well down the Lakefront Trail to to see gardens that remain from Chicago’s World Fair. Just behind the Museum of Science and Industry, the highlight is the Garden of the Phoenix.

          “Something that shouldn't be missed by a tourist. It’s a real gem, it's breathtaking."
          — Jill G.

          Richland Center
          2002 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

            Use this underground and under-the-radar food court as a launchpad for exploring Chicago’s Chinatown. Janet L. recommends getting inexpensive bites from stalls manned by excellent chefs.

            Janet L.

            Whether you’re exploring the Windy City before, during or after the conference—or saving these gems for later dates—there’s plenty to see that makes Chicago a special place. If you’re still not sated by these pro tips and want to explore the research yourself, let us know below and we’ll get you in on the action. Find us at MidwestUX to talk Chicago hotspots and remote research!

            Explore the research yourself!

            Just enter the email address you use (or want to use) with dscout and we'll add you to the project shortly.

            Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.

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