For years, Chicago's biggest hometown celebrity was Oprah Winfrey (despite the fact that she's rarely seen out and about, preferring to spend her free time at her sprawling California estate). These days, she's been replaced by another big O -- President Barack Obama. Though his primary residence is now a certain White House in Washington, D.C., the First Couple still own a home here and maintain strong local ties.
Tourists from around the world make pilgrimages to the Obamas' house at 5046 S. Greenwood Ave. on the city's South Side. You can get a glimpse of the home from a distance, but you won't see much; the whole block is closed to passersby for security reasons. However, the surrounding neighborhood of Kenwood -- with its lovingly restored historic mansions -- as well as adjacent Hyde Park, are well worth a stroll. After visiting the campus of the University of Chicago -- where President Obama once taught constitutional law -- you can browse the stacks at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore (pictured at right), where he was a regular.
Chicago-based fashion maven Ikram Goldman helped cultivate Michelle Obama's sense of style. For a first-lady-worthy makeover, head to her boutique, Ikram, which stocks pieces by up-and-coming and off-the-radar designers.
For dinners out, the Obamas have often eaten at the upscale Mexican restaurant Topolobampo. Another favorite for special occasions is Spiaggia, one of the best Italian restaurants in the country -- and among the most expensive. To celebrate their first Valentine's Day as first couple, the Obamas chose Table Fifty-Two, an unassuming spot that gives classic Southern dishes an upscale twist. Not only is the restaurant's owner, Art Smith, a friend and former South Side neighbor, but he also happens to be Oprah's former personal chef.
For more casual meals in Hyde Park, the Obamas were regulars at Italian Fiesta Pizzeria, 1400 E. 47th St. (tel. 773/684-2222; italianfiestapizzeria.com), a family-owned restaurant that was also a favorite of Michelle and her parents when she was growing up. Barack has also mentioned the Valois Cafeteria, 1518 E. 53rd St. (tel. 773/667-0647; www.valoisrestaurant.com), a no-frills, old-school neighborhood landmark, as his top breakfast spot in the city. For family outings on the North Side, the Obamas liked to stop in at R. J. Grunts, 2056 N. Lincoln Park West (tel. 773/929-5363; www.rjgruntschicago.com), known for its all-American lineup of burgers and Tex-Mex specialties, as well as its enormous salad bar. An added bonus for kids: It's right across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo.
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