Goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, currently plays in Major League Soccer (MLS) for the Chicago Fire and is also a member of the US Men’s National Team. Go on the road with Johnson this year as he gives you a player’s view into each MLS city, as only he can do.
Two cities down and well, a lot more to go. Portland and Orlando proved to be very different in many aspects but also similar in the fact that they have had amazing support for soccer in their cities. With a bye weekend coming up, I figured it would be the best time to give a guide to my city, Chicago.
After having some of my soccer buddies give the low down on their cities, I thought to myself… “Who would be best suited to give an in-depth guide to Chicago?” This was a tough question given that there have been a lot of new faces at the Chicago Fire. Then it clicked! I have been living in the city for six years now, going on seven, and no one on the team has experienced the city for as long as I have, so here’s what happened when I sat down with Chi-town guru, me, Sean Johnson.
SJ: What’s the vibe of Chicago?
SJ: Chicago is one of the friendliest cities that I have ever traveled to or lived in. The people are more than willing to be social and have a conversation and it’s a big city so don't hesitate to ask a stranger for directions as I'm sure they’ll be more than willing to help out. There are so many different cultures which are apparent in different towns like Greek town, Little Italy and China Town. Everyone is welcomed so make yourself at home and make some new friends!
SJ: What are my top-three restaurants in Chicago?
SJ: The food scene in Chicago has spoiled me with so many amazing options but I’ll give it my best shot to narrow it to three. First I’ll go with one of my favorite restaurants called, Sunda. This is an Asian fusion restaurant that has some of the best food coupled with an equally amazing atmosphere. The tiger shrimp tempura and coconut sea bass are a must but you can’t go wrong with any item. Second is a restaurant called, Summer House Santa Monica, located in Lincoln Park. Truly my go to, they have a calamari appetizer that’s to-die-for and don't even get me started on the biscuits…no words can describe. I’ll leave the rest for your taste buds to decide but the options are endless. Lastly, but certainly not at the bottom of the list, is Giordano's. You can’t make a food list without the one thing people talk about this city for and that’s the deep dish pizza. This place will leave you stuffed but totally worth it.
SJ: What are three places you must see when in the city?
SJ: Chicago has so many things to do and sights to see. First, you have to go visit the Bean and take a picture with the Bean. No one really knows why the Bean is such an attraction, in fact it is just a giant silver bean but it is an amazing piece of architecture and you can't show friends pictures of your trip without it. Second, the Willis Tower lookout is definitely a place where you have to visit. The view of Chicago is unparalleled and you won’t find a better place to take a cool photo. Lastly, Second City Comedy Club. I know you didn’t expect this place on my list but it’s a remarkable place to have a laugh and enjoy a night out. Plenty of famous comedians got their start here and it’s definitely a must do!
SJ: What are the types of public transportation?
SJ: There are plenty different types of public transportation to get you around the city. The “L” or train transit is the most popular that gives you access to just about all places with a Chicago zip code. The “CTA” or the Cities Bus System is very similar to the convenience of the “L” but may take a bit more time to plan to get to your final destination. Another form of transportation that I love in the “DIVVY” biking option. These are blue bikes you’ll see in abundance around the city and you can rent one at just about every block for just shy of $10.
SJ: The best time of year to visit?
SJ: This one is a no brainer! Summer time baby! Everyone uses the term “Summertime Chi” and you’ll only know the true meaning once you visit during this season. Endless outdoor festivals take over the streets of Chicago during the summer. One famous festival that the city is known for is, Taste of Chicago. So many good eats. Let’s not forget about Lollapalooza for all you music lovers! Come check out the buzz in the city that the summertime brings.
And because this is my Q&A, I’m going to give you a couple bonus questions. Here we go:
SJ: What makes Toyota Park such a special experience?
SJ: Chicago Fire has been a club with rich tradition over the past couple decades and that’s apparent when you arrive to the stadium pre-match. The parking lot starts to fill with tons of tailgates, fun games, and just a gathering of social fans who are ready to cheer on the Fire. Once in the stadium Section 8, our main supporters group, brings to life everything our club stands for. Rain, snow or shine they stand behind us as we go to battle. Hands down the best fans in MLS!
SJ: Best place to grab a brew and watch a game in the city?
SJ: The Globe Pub- It’s been our main soccer supporters bar since I have been a part of this team. Located just north of downtown, I’m sure you won’t struggle to find some men in red!
Fado- an Irish bar located in the heart of downtown is perfect for watching any soccer game. You think of the matchup and they probably have it. And if you decide to go with a beer, you have to try a Goose Island! The craft beer native to Chicago that has plenty of options but will not disappoint. Give it a try!
My 10 second sales pitch on the Windy City:
I’ll keep it simple. I was always a suburban kid and never knew what a big city would be like. After living here for six years and traveling to most major cities in the United States, I can honestly say Chicago is my favorite city I’ve ever experienced. Coming from a Georgia-boy…that should tell you a lot. Plus, you have to come so you can give me feedback on recommendations (insert wink emoji here).