24 Hours in Obama’s Chicago


CHICAGO—Before this junior senator from Illinois embarked on a bid for the presidency, Barack Obama he spent most of his time in Chicago’s South Side Kenwood neighborhood with wife Michelle and daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

Here’s how to get a taste of Obama’s Chicago favorites, in 24-hours or less.

Bike Like Obama
No matter how packed his schedule, Obama is dedicated to his workout regime. Forego $4 per gallon gas, hop on a bicycle and start riding at 31st street and Lake Shore Drive. (Obama can set off from his nearby home, but you might need to park your car: There’s free parking at 31st street.) Peddle down the south shore of the lakeside path and meander through the Hyde Park neighborhood.

Stop for a bite and refuel with a stack of fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon, omelettes and hash browns (everything under $9) at Valois Cafeteria (1518 E. 53rd St. in Hyde Park) where Obama is a known regular. Breakfast is served till 4 p.m., so you don’t need to maintain Obama’s rigorous schedule to get a taste of his morning meal. But leave your credit cards in your wallet, opened in 1921, this institution is cash only.

Once your bellies are full, cruise through the University of Chicago (enter at 55th street off Lakeshore drive) where Obama was a constitutional law professor from 1992 to 2004. On September 8, the presidential nominee was spotted on the east side of campus, dropping his daughters off at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (east 59th and south Dorcester) where it was the first day of fifth grade and second grade for Malia and Sasha, respectively. The fifth grader didn't really want me to go up to the classroom, but I went," Obama remarked later that day at an event in Flint, Mich.

Chow Down
In The Audacity of Hope, Obama calls MacArthur's "one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago." He loves turkey legs and dressing ($6.99 with two sides), a Sunday restaurant special. For a dose of kitsch, Obama is known to frequent RJ Grunts, where onion rings come stacked on a stick for $4.95, perfect to accompany a Grunt Burger ($8.95).

Potential first lady Michelle Obama is known for more sophisticated tastes. She's been spotted at Sepia in the West Loop, where signature flat breads ($6) with rich combinations of mushrooms and garlic or crab, potatoes and pesto are perfect to share before digging into a free range veal chop ($31) or a more delicate skate wing with raisin caper sauce ($23).

But inside Chicagoans say when Obama is home, is favorite is the sparse Italian Fiesta Pizzeria (1400 E 47th St.) near his home. Unfortunately, calls to the pizzeria inquiring as to Obama’s favorite toppings were immediately hung up on.

Visit the Courts

Clearly to eat like Obama, you’ve got to work out like him too!

Obama makes sure to pump iron when in the Windy City, and he hits the East Bank Club (500 North Kingsbury St.) on the North Side to break a sweat. The club is members only and comes at a premium, memberships run at $300 a month. For a cheaper alternative, play some hoops at Jackson Park, just south of where the newlywed Obama’s purchased a condo at 5450 South East View Park (they sold in 2005 for $415,000).

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