By Molly Page. $16; Reedy Books; 144 pages
Chicago is brimming with opportunity, and it's nice to have a little guidance about where to go, what to do and most, importantly, what to eat. Perhaps the "before you die" in the title is a little dramatic, but still this is a solid, slim look at some things to do all around the citynot bad for a tourist and even thought-provoking for a local.
A notable thing about this guide is that it shows all sides of Chicago. It hits Calumet Fisheries, a walk in Bronzeville, Rosa's Lounge on the West Side, El Milagro Tortilleria in Little Village, and both the 16th Street murals and the Mexican Museum of Art in Pilsen. It also provides info on long and short as well as free and expensive experiencesfor example, staring at the Picasso at Daley Plaza ( trying to figure out what it is ) versus seeing a show at Ravinia. Some of the suggestions, like checking out the Monadnock Building, are truly inspired: A Chicagoan might wonder about it, but few ever go in unless they have a reason. ( It really is a vintage pleasure. )
There are a few obvious omissions: The list of independent bookstores is by no means comprehensive. A queer audience would note the omission of Women and Children First and Unabridged, and South Siders would probably want Powell's and Seminary Co-op properly repped. ( OKthe author of this review might be fans of all of these, but still. ) The Legacy Walk down Halsted would have been a good, free and quirky adventure to include, although much credit goes to recommending Howard Brown and Belmont Army as shopping optionsthe former because of the community benefit, the latter because good products and great service.
In general, the blurbs for each attraction run a little short, and while they make each experience sound intriguing, a slightly longer description could have often upped the wow factor. An easily includable idea could have been to point out that Chicago's museums have free days, and while those days are often inconsistent, it's worth checking out if cash is an issue. ( For instance, the Art Institute almost always has free Thursday evenings. ) But Page's wide experience and genuine love of Chicago is obvious, and what she missed just might inspire readers to think about their own favorite adventures to share.