Sustainable City Guide: 9 Places To Stay, Eat, And Shop In Chicago, Illinois
The Sustainable Traveler’s Guide to the USA’s Third Largest City!
Just behind New York City and Los Angeles, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States and the perfect destination for your next domestic getaway. With much more to see than hotdog stands, Wrigley Field, and the always trending “Bean” (the official name is The Cloud Gate Sculpture), this quintessential American city is bursting with vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and delicious food. Yes, there is more to eat in Chicago than deep-dish pizza!
Moreover, Chicago is a city of makers, and the residents are impassioned about supporting local and social causes. It’s not hard to find restaurants and shops that have been passed down through generations, and many of the businesses in our guide are committed to giving back to their communities.
Whether you’re a frequent visitor to this lakefront city or this is your first trip to the Midwest, make sure to visit some of our favorite local and sustainable accommodations, eateries, and shops!
// Where To Stay //
Why We Love It | Take in 180-degree views of Chicago’s skyline while staying at The Robey hotel—a 203-feet tall historic skyscraper that towers over Damen Avenue, formerly called Robey Street. Designed by Belgian architects and interior designers, The Robey’s early life was as two separate buildings: a 1905 warehouse and 1929 office space. Retaining many of the original elements, as well as the modern ambiance, the design team created what is now an art deco masterpiece. The hotel is one of the most unique accommodation spaces in the Midwest.
Conscious travelers will love staying at The Robey, not only because of the historic preservation but also because of the emphasis on ethical products and handcrafted furniture. The 109 boutique rooms and loft spaces are stocked with Le Labo’s plant-based, genderless, and cruelty-free bath products, and custom furniture by DELORDINAIRE is featured throughout the hotel.
For amenities, The Robey features onsite dining and libations, bike rentals, workspace, and a rooftop bar and lounge. Whether you are traveling for work or play, you’ll love experiencing the storied spirit and historic essence of Chicago apparent at this timeless and sustainable hotel.
Where To Find It | 2018 West North Avenue
The Guesthouse Hotel
Why We Love It | Experience the comforts of home (with a few touches of luxury, of course) when staying at The Guesthouse Hotel—a family operated boutique accommodation situated in Chicago’s charming Andersonville neighborhood. Boasting 25 rooms, a spacious kitchen and living area, rooftop patio and more, the space caters to single travelers and families alike, including dogs! The staff even provides baby essentials like cribs and monitors so travelers can stick to minimal packing.
Founded by husband and wife team Dave and Simona Krug in 2008, we especially love The Guesthouse Hotel’s focus on supporting local businesses, as well as their involvement with social causes in Chicago. Just recently, the hotel hosted a pop-up for Sabah artisan shoes, and the hotel is a proud member of the Chicago Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Where To Find It | 4872 North Clark Street
// Where To Eat //
Why We Love It | Lula Cafe, a farm-to-table restaurant that stretches across three storefronts in Logan Square, continues to stand out amidst the renowned culinary scene in Chicago. Claiming its growth is a humble maturing of sorts—the cafe began in 1999 with dented pots from the thrift store and a four-burner home stove—the self-taught chefs at Lula are always challenging the status quo when it comes to food. They are also incredibly passionate about sustainability and sourcing ingredients from local purveyors.
Stop by Lula Cafe while in Chicago, either for 3-course farm meal (every Monday night at 5:30 pm), or for single plates (breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served every day of the week except Tuesdays).
Where To Find It | 2537 North Kedzie Blvd
Alice & Friends Vegan Kitchen
Why We Love It | Step inside vegan wonderland and celebrate the flavors of plant-based cuisine at Chicago’s beloved Alice & Friends Vegan Kitchen. Founded in 2001 by Alice Lee with a mission to minimize the negative impact non-sustainable foods can have on the environment, all of the dishes at this darling plant-based eatery are made with the earth in mind. Further, many of the recipes are free from gluten, soy, oil, and nuts.
Alice & Friends is also passionate about animal rights and giving back to the Chicago community. During past winters, they have helped collect coats and winter gear for refugees in the city, and they also help to fundraise for animal rights organizations, like Have a Heart Farm.
We encourage conscious travelers to visit on the weekend for brunch or during weekdays for a healthy and sustainable dinner. Try the Heavenly Curry or Roasted Sesame Miso Ramen—made with the in-house dashi.
Where To Find It | 5812 North Broadway Street
Why We Love It | More than a just bright and airy cafe for one of Chicago’s most sustainable and unique cups of joe, Metric Coffee is also an independent wholesale company for ethical coffee beans, as well as a workshop space for others to learn about roasting and home brewing. Using a refurbished 1960s German Probat roaster, the company values quality, exceptionally balanced coffee, and ethical production. We love that, throughout the year, the staff will visit its coffee farms to meet and collaborate with the growers.
Located in the historic industrial corridor of West Fulton Market, start your day with a latte or espresso from Metric Coffee while visiting Chicago!
Where To Find It | 2021 West Fulton
First Slice Pie
Why We Love It | Beginning as a self-funded charity to feed those in need of a healthy meal, First Slice Pie was founded over a decade ago by Chef Mary Ellen Diaz. The mission was simple: serve others nutritious, organic meals (the “first slice of pie”), and help to create positive change in their life. Today, the organization feeds more than 300 people a week and is funded through a shareholder program where Chicago residents can subscribe for home-cooked, restaurant-quality meals. They also run job training programs and are involved with various social service organizations around the city.
Stop by one of the cafe locations during your stay in Chicago for a healthy and hearty vegetarian lunch. Just make sure to finish with a piece of the pie!
Where To Find It | 5357 North Ashland Avenue; 4664 North Manor; 4401 N Ravenswood Avenue
// Where To Shop //
Women & Children First
Why We Love It | Located only a few blocks from The Guest House Hotel in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, Women & Children First is one of the largest and most significant feminist bookshops in the United States. With more than 30,000 books by women and about women, as well as an extensive LGBTQ and children’s literature collection, the bookstore is must-visit for conscious travelers in Chicago. Be sure to also check the events calendar during your trip as Women & Children First host numerous readings and book launch events throughout the year!
Where To Find It | 5233 North Clark Street
Why We Love It | Whether you’re shopping for a souvenir or a gift for your loved ones, Penelope’s in Wicker Park is the perfect place to find local products and ethical brands from the USA and Europe. Founded in 2002 by a husband and wife team, the airy Chicago boutique stocks sustainable fashion for men, women, and children, as well as artisan home goods and natural apothecary, including Herbivore—one of our favorite organic skin care collections!
Where To Find It | 1913 West Division Street
Stock Mfg. Co.
Why We Love It | A Chicago-based fashion label with a keen appreciation for the details, Stock Mfg. Co.’s mission is simple: make affordable, quality men’s clothing in the USA. Owned and operated by three men who pride themselves in having created menswear staples with a modern spin, this sustainable brand is creating quality clothing, right in the heart of the Midwest.
Visit the retail store in West Town to shop, browse, and learn more about the founders’ commitment to sustainability and helping revitalize American manufacturing.
Where To Find It | 2136 West Fulton Street
Kayti Christian, a staff writer for The Good Trade, is a storyteller, creator, activist, and avid traveler hailing from Colorado, now living in London. With 30+ stamps in her passport, she is passionate about responsible tourism and is always looking for new ways to be a more conscious traveler. She is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at City, University of London.