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Insider Guides

An Insider Guide To Chicago With Catherine Sarr Of ALMASIKA

Paris-born, Chicago-based jewellery designer Catherine Sarr, of ALMASIKA, shares her insider guide to Chicago.

Known for sculptural and softly curved shapes, ALMASIKA jewels echo the lines of the body. Inspired by the timeless, understated Parisian style Sarr grew up with fused with universal symbols, art, and culture, each piece is designed from her base in Chicago. Pieces are composed of 18-karat gold with natural, sustainably sourced diamonds.

Here, Catherine Sarr shares her insider guide to the city she calls home, taking readers off the city’s tourist trail.


Essential items to pack?

Depending on the time of the year, a mid-season jacket is a must because the weather changes so much throughout the day. I would also suggest a silk blouse to help navigate the city’s different styles and an ALMASIKA Le Cauri Endiamanté necklace to take you seamlessly from day-to-night.

The best time to visit Chicago is…,

Chicago is great all year round, but, maybe for those who dislike the cold, I would suggest coming during the spring and summer months. Known as ‘Summertime Chi’, the warmest months in Chicago are unmatched.

Our first pitstop should be…

The Skydeck at Willis Tower. It will give you a great bird’s eye view of the city before you delve deeper into its nuances. Chicago is renowned for its architecture, so seeing its tallest building is a must to get a great perspective on the city.

Your favourite hotel to check-in at is…

The Hoxton is a vibrant place, whether you want breakfast by the pool, or to start your day with a yoga class. You also really can’t get more Chicago than a hotel housed in a former industrial building.

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For an early morning workout head to…

Chicago is a great city to walk long distances, so I would use the city as your gym studio. Put on a pair of trainers and pick a neighbourhood to explore or run along the lakefront.

Where should we go for breakfast?

Head to Little Goat Diner in the West Loop, it’s the hotspot of this vibrant neighbourhood for coffee with friends and breakfast all day. You can enjoy creative versions of all-American morning classics.

How about for a long, lazy lunch?

Le Colonial in the Gold Coast is a high-end French-Vietnamese restaurant. The menu is extensive and the food is delicious.

And for dinner with friends?

Giant in Logan Square; it’s a laid-back affair that’s ideal for a long dinner with friends with plenty of sharing plates.

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A must-try spot for date night?

Virtue in Hyde Park makes for a great date night. It combines the comfort of southern food with an incredible wine list to get the conversation flowing. Walk a couple blocks east after dinner and you’ll find the Obama Kissing Rock. It may not seem like the most romantic place, but it’s where President Barack Obama first kissed Michelle.

Your favourite restaurant in town?

Michelin-starred French restaurant, Les Nomades is my favourite restaurant. It’s located in a two-storey townhouse in the centre of Streeterville. The atmosphere is cosy and the food is exceptional.

Where should we head post-dinner?

Lazy Bird; it’s open late in the basement of The Hoxton in the West Loop. It’s part cocktail bar and part music lounge with a baby grand piano – a great place to end the night.

The drink to order at the bar…

Dealer’s Choice: the bartender will ask for your preferred liquor and through a series of questions will craft the perfect cocktail for you. A complete surprise.

The best place for people watching…

The River Walk. It’s a bit of treasured respite from the city. People from all walks of life will convene here to catch their breath.

The culture spot to rave about…

Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in West Town, Stony Island Arts Bank, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

The best place to treat yourself is… 

I head to BIÂN to relax, it really is a sanctuary. It’s a private members’ club centred around holistic health and social wellbeing. You can spend the whole day there, starting off with a healthy breakfast, meeting up with friends for lunch, taking an exercise class, and finishing the night with cocktails.

For great shopping head to…

SPACE 519 and ikram. Every piece has been personally chosen by the owners who have unique sensibilities and the story they tell through their selection is singular to them and this city.

Your favourite neighbourhood(s)…

Lincoln Park. It’s a beautiful, lush tree-lined neighbourhood on the north side of Chicago.

For the best views head to…

I’d head to Cindy’s on the rooftop of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. You get the best view of Millennium Park and the lake paired with some really great cocktails.

For a change of pace try…

I am fortunate to live in a city like Chicago where you get both city and beach, so whenever I need a change of pace I head to the lake. I particularly love the sand beaches you find all along Chicago’s shoreline. It’s like taking a beach vacation for the afternoon.

Great day trips include…

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a hidden treasure to explore during all seasons.

A book to read before we go (or while we’re there)?

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by renowned Chicagoan writer, Imani Perry.

How should we spend the final day of our trip?

The beach for one last swim. The beaches on the North Shore make you feel far away from the sometimes chaotic urban landscape of the city.

What’s your Chicago secret?

Most people don’t know there are places in Chicago where you can shore dive. North Avenue Beach – though not a locals-only spot – is the only beach in the city you can dive off of.

In a word, Chicago is…

Civil.

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