One of Chicago’s most photogenic attractions is right outside the Union Station door --- our cleaned-up and revitalized river. Use either the Adams or Jackson St. exits; between them, on the east bank, you’ll see the water taxi dock. Between early April and late fall, you can ride inexpensively to North Michigan Ave. or even, for extra fare, on to Navy Pier.
Some of the city’s most impressive architecture is in the Financial District along La Salle St. from Adams south to the Board of Trade Building, once Chicago’s tallest. Try to visit the interior lobby and climb the magnificent wrought-iron stairways of The Rookery, on the east side of LaSalle north of Jackson Blvd.
Two blocks east and two blocks south, there’s the Harold Washington Public Library. The building has won architectural acclaim but also its share of criticism. Seeing the gargoyles perched atop it. I imagine creatures dispatched by the Wicked Witch of the West, come to carry it off to the Land of Oz.
The stretch of river from Merchandise Mart east to the Outer Drive features many appealing riverbank restaurants. I’m especially partial to Blandino’s Sorriso, with classical Italian food at moderate (for Chicago) prices and great opportunities for people- and boat-watching. This is an iDine restaurant, giving you five frequent-flier miles per dollar on American, United, Delta or Continental. Their Atkins-inspired "Lo-Carb Lunch," at $10.95 for Caesar Salad, choice of lean, herbed pork chop or salmon plus a green vegetable, is a serious bargain for a riverside location downtown.
Though it’s lost some its cachet after being taken over by a succession of retail chain operators, the State Street Marshall Field’s is still a must-visit for many out-of-town travelers. "Meet me Under the Clock" is still a Chicago byword, and the Walnut Room is still considered a prestige place for lunch.
That said, however, most of my visiting railfan friends still walk east to 17 West Adams for The Berghoff -- a classic German establishment and one of The Loop’s oldest dining institutions. If you want ONE memorable noon meal during a short visit to Chicago, you can’t go wrong with any of those three.