Confession: As a born and raised Midwesterner, I still have trouble with Old Man Winter. Every year, particularly when the time changes and the sun starts to wane at 2pm, I start my regimen: buy Vitamin D, read reviews on those special lights that help with Seasonal Affective Disorder (but never commit to buying one), scope out flight prices on Kayak to faraway tropical lands, buy loads of marshmallows and cocoa to help soothe my sorrow, and then count down the days until there’s greenery on the trees again.
Winter exists not so that we can all be tortured with bomb cyclones and frozen windshield wipers and ridiculous booties that we have to wrestle onto our dogs’ feet to go for a walk, but rather as the end of a cycle. The closing of one door in preparation for a new one to open. Tulips are planted in the fall for a reason. They require dormancy, just as many fruit trees do, to be able to bloom and produce in the spring. In fact, without a proper winter, these plants and trees could be harmed or their crop season severely shortened. I like to equate this with my life. I, too, require dormancy to fully blossom in the spring. I just need wine, cheese, meats, Scrabble, and a fireplace to feel content with this dormancy. Which leads me to winter two years ago, The Winter That Changed My Perspective, when I discovered hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). As a now self-proclaimed hygge master, I can conquer this troubling season with a little more luster. In the event you missed it, I gave the lowdown on hygge in another article at the start of this dismal season, in hopes that everyone else would want to join me in inviting this Danish concept of coziness into their lives. And celebrating the act of dormancy.
Hygge, to me, means finding joy in the simple pleasures of life. It means quiet, cozy nights by the fire with my cocoa. And it also means boisterous nights out with friends, where we can make memories and laugh and cheers with a big, bold red or chocolatey stout that is only appropriate in winter. More than any action, hygge is a feeling of togetherness, simplicity, comfort, contentment, and warmth. Every year, my husband and I go to Michigan for a long weekend away in a cabin. Whoever we go with shares in making delicious homemade meals, I bring my absolute coziest PJ’s and snuggly wool socks, a fireplace is a downright requirement, and a case of wine usually accompanies our dog in the backseat on the way there. That, to me, is the perfect hygge scene. As I’ve written before, however, your version of hygge may look different than mine. And that, as my favorite saying goes, is what makes horse racing. We are all different.
As we embark on the scariest part of winter, the time of year that plummets in a wayward spiral after the peak of Christmas, I invite you to find hygge with me. And to make it easier on you, so you don’t have to go book a cabin and all, I’ve found the most perfectly hygge-esque places for you to visit in Chicago and experience your own version of togetherness, simplicity, comfort, contentment, and warmth. So when the white-turned-black snow starts to rip at your soul, or the bleak, bare trees resemble a hollowness in the pit of your being, or the frigid temps feel like they’re freezer burning your heart (and you certainly can’t enjoy the one warm day in January as it’s tainted by the guilt of global warming), head to one of these joints to resuscitate your livelihood. And remember, just as the tulips do, you will bloom again.
Where to Hygge in Chicago this Winter
Garfield Park Conservatory – 300 N Central Park Ave // For the times your eyes can’t bear the site of grey cement, brown trees, or frozen water, catch some greenery and warmth on the west side of Chicago. Hop the green line or zip up Lake Street to this FREE gem, and pay close attention to the Palm House, people. Close your eyes and envision a margarita in your hand.
Beatnik – 1604 W Chicago Ave // Continuing with the plants theme, Beatnik is like a garden on steroids. Inside. There’s amazing Mediterranean food, chandeliers, candles whose wax drippings shows its age, all set in a bohemian-chic space. It’s amazing.
3 Arts Club Cafe – 1300 N Dearborn St // Because one can never have enough plants (last one, I promise) there are more chandeliers and greenery waiting for you here alongside a mean almond croissant. While here, mosey on up to the next few levels for cozy interior inspo via Restoration Hardware.
Spinning J – 1000 N California Ave // Not too far north from the conservatory is this sweet little bakery in Humboldt Park. There are spiked milkshakes. And that’s just about all I have to say.
Guthrie’s Tavern – 1300 W Addison // A true Chicago classic. All the board games you can imagine, no-frills drinks, no kitchen (though carryout menus litter the tables). Straight up good times all the way into the wee hours of the mornin’.
Aire Ancient Baths – 800 W Superior St // Hot, cold, saltwater-free, jets…pick your poison, friends. There are many baths and pools here to warm you up, then cool you down, and go right back again. Opt to lounge around, visit the steam room, or book a massage as well.
Colectivo Coffee – 2530 N Clark St and 2261 N Milwaukee Ave // I first discovered this comfy cafe up in Milwaukee. Nice ambiance, friendly staff, legit baked goods. With both coffee and beer here, you can stay all day…or all season until their massive patios open up.
The Allis – 113 N Green St // Located in Soho House, this ground-level restaurant has quiet corners, plush couches, dim lighting, a rustic aesthetic, and truly amazing food. The Avocado Toast (still a delight to my taste buds) is the best you’ll find in the city. The chocolate chip cookies are for real. And, oddly enough, for the sake of balance, they have a delicious and hearty kale caesar fit for winter. I’ve been known to stay for hours when one meal bleeds right into the next.
RM Champagne Salon – 116 N Green St // After a long, sufficient day at The Allis, throw back a shot of espresso and head to this charmer for a rip-roaring fire, spicy cocktails, and a DJ playing all the throwbacks on Friday night. It is lively and cozy. Trendy and approachable. And the rip-roaring fire is most definitely real. The flames will be so high it will almost be concerning. But the light that it emits will cast just the right glow so you continue to look stellar the whole night through, regardless of the fact that you’ve had champagne, tequila, and a shot of whiskey. NBD. (Pro tip: order the jalapeño-infused Seven Strangers cocktail. The real spiciness will practically force you to keep drinking water. Hydration will be key if you plan to hygge without the hangover on Saturday).
Yoga House on Moon Acres – Stevensville, Michigan // Now, if you were enticed by my weekend cabin getaway, don’t worry. I have a whole weekend already planned in Michigan Feb 16-19, just a 90-minute drive from Chicago. Join me: yoga, dune hiking, a private chef, wine, VIP tasting and tour of Haymarket Taproom, and more. It’s guaranteed to beat winter blues and help make the most of all this dormancy we’ve talked about.
Here’s hoping I’ll run into you at some point along this wild winter ride (donned in a flannel scarf with a glass of mulled wine in hand, of course). In the meantime, please comment below and share your favorite places to find hygge in Chicago! I’ll just be over here prepping my vases for a large bouquet of tulips come spring.