With the thousands of restaurants in Chicago, it's natural that some are overlooked. The Gold Coast spot Juniper Spirits & Oysters ( in the Claridge House hotel at 1244 N. Dearborn St.; juniperspiritsandoysters.com/ ) should not be.
One of the things people might assume, from the name, is that the spot specializes in, well, spirits and oysters. However, Juniper has much more to offer ( including music that were altered versions of popular songswhich turned into a guessing game between my dining companion and myself ).
Now, the restaurant definitely has its share of spirits, with cocktails and mocktails that are mostly named after celebrities with Chicago connections. Examples include the Harold Ramis ( with botran reserva rum, demerara sugar, Warre's ruby port and lemon ); the Don Cornelius ( named after the Soul Train host, and containing a heady mix of coffee-infused courvoisier cognac, maple simple syrup, orange and housemade coffee, with pecan bitters ); and the fantastic Orpah Winfrey ( NOT "Oprah," but her actual birth name, and containing pear juice, ginger shrub, rosemary, nutmeg and honey ).
And Juniper certainly has oysters, with variations including sauced, fried and Rockefeller. However, the place also has several salads ( like beet and heirloom-tomato concoctions ) and sandwiches ( with the filet sliders with quail egg being standouts ). The next time I'm there, I'll have to try the lobster roll and/or the Claridge cheeseburger ( with a sinful topping mix of arugula, burnt onion jam, garlic aioli, and white cheddar ).
In addition, there are tantalizing large plates, including 14-ounce New York strip, honey-glazed salmon and duck breast ( expertly prepared ).
One other note: Juniper is very pet-friendly, even hosting events where people can take photos with their dog or cat ( or rabbit or ball python or whatever ).
Pizza, pizza, pizza
Given how Chicago feels about pizza, it's natural that the city has the U.S. Pizza Museum ( 1146 S. Delano Ct.; uspizzamuseum.com/ ).
Housed in the Roosevelt Collection, the South Loop shopping center, the museum is open on Fridays at 5-8 p.m. as well as Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m.-6 p.m. through the end of October ( although it may extend beyond then ), and the pop-up is the brainchild of Kendall Bruns.
The 3,000-square-foot space has plenty of pizza-related items to gawk and ponder about, including pizza-related records, boxes and gadgets. People can even see a ( very long ) pizza scarf and a pie-festooned version of Chicago's Divvy bike. Also, patrons can purchase items such as a notepads, buttons and even pepperoni jerky. And there are special upcoming events, including a Sept. 29 demo courtesy of master instructor Leo Spizzirri.
However, don't expect to see the museum handing out actual pizza. As my companion said, "They don't give out art at an art museum, do they?"
Admission is free.
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.