Weekly Editorial

Your Guide to Chicago Begins

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • May 28, 2024

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Depending on who you are and how you fit into this industry, the following statement might elicit joy, excitement, anxiety or downright terror: NeoCon starts less than two weeks from today. I’m here to explain why you should be excited, no matter your place in the industry.

I had a chance to visit THE MART last week in Chicago. I do an annual walk-through of the building with Byron Morton. Byron is kind enough to walk me through THE MART prior to the event each year to outline all the changes to the building and the industry’s most important show.

I wrote a story about my visit to THE MART that will be in the June 3 issue of officeinsight magazine so I don’t want to give any big stuff away, but I think you are going to like what you see. The building looks fantastic, Chicago is buzzing in a way I haven’t felt since before the pandemic and there are amazing events planned not only at NeoCon, but Design Days at Fulton Market as well.

I spend a lot of time throughout the year in Chicago and I follow NeoCon and Design Days very closely. I’ve also attended more than 25 NeoCons, so over the next two columns, I’m going to give you some must-not-miss showrooms, speakers, events and fun. Let’s begin with fun stuff to do in Chicago that isn’t NeoCon or Design Days. These are just some fun things to consider during your free time.

Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox. Yes, a trip to Wrigley Field to see the Chicago Cubs is what all the tourists would do, but you are going to the Southside to see the White Sox on Sunday. I would argue that seeing a White Sox is far easier (and cheaper) than a Cubs game and it is closer to the city and the ballpark is easier to reach.

If you are not into sports, grab some friends and head over to Millennium Park Sunday for the final day of the 2024 Chicago Blues Festival. If you arrive in Chicago earlier the weekend prior to NeoCon, you can hit the Blues Festival starting on Friday. There’s nothing like catching some world class Blues at this free event that brings hundreds of thousands to one of the most spectacular parks in the country.

Grab lunch at Mr. Beef on Orleans Street. Everybody loves a good Italian beef sandwich while in Chicago, right? While many swear by Portillo’s, head out the door of THE MART and grab a combo sandwich (an Italian beef with a piece of Italian sausage, dipped in aus jus and served on French Bread) at Mr. Beef, a short stroll down Orleans Street from the show. This isn’t some fancy, overbloated steakhouse. It is a greasy joint that serves some of the finest beef sandwiches in the city (or anywhere). And you can say you ate at the restaurant that inspired the hit television show, “The Bear.”

Take in a Chicago River architecture tour. It took me years to get on one of the architecture boat tours in Chicago, despite numerous recommendations from friends in and outside Chicago, but I wish I would have done it sooner. It is the perfect way to see the city’s fantastic architecture. The tour guides are incredibly knowledgable and it is a great way to get photos of the city.

Grab a Mexican hot chocolate at XOCO. XOCO is the relatively inexpensive (by Topolobampo standards) chef Rick Bayless restaurant that specializes in Mexican street food at the corner of Clark and Illinois. Go in and order a “bean to cup” chocolate. The Aztec is my favorite, a blend of fresh ground chocolate, chili and allspice.

Now that you are entertained and well-fed, next week we will get down to business with some must-attend showrooms, events and speakers at NeoCon and Design Days. I can’t wait to see all of you in Chicago!

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