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One of the things I love about Chicago is the sheer space. I see this in the openness of Lake Shore Drive or the way the South Side just seems to sprawl into forever, for instance. I know that's not a polite thing for me to say as I imagine it violates all sorts of important notions about density. But there really is something beautiful in the sheer openness of the city. And you don't just see this in the landscape but in the eateries.


In my younger years  an evening stop at The Violet Hour a pretty regular point on any itinerary. (Have I mentioned that Chicago is my favorite city to report from?) The speakeasies in New York tend to be pretty small and cramped. That has its appeal. But The Violet Hour has a breathability which I loved. I tried to make a stop out there on this go round. But the joint is a little too hot now.

Anyway, that same evening I was lucky enough to find myself in Nightwood. Better people than me can describe what they are doing food-wise. What I can tell you is that spit-roasted chicken was magic--almost as magic as the glazed carrots and char roe. Again, this was the sort of quasi-hipster spot that is just jammed with people in New York. I don't necessarily prefer one over the other. I've come to like the claustrophobia of New York. It forces contact and intimacy.

But sometimes another flavor is nice. Especially when it means your waitress bringing over free dessert courtesy of all "Atlantic readers in the house." Listen. Writers are not musicians or actors. Especially writers like me.  I don't do too much TV. And my ADHD style (Look it's X-Men! Look it's General Grant! Look it's Earl Campbell! Regarde-moi!) is, uhm, an acquired taste. 

So free desert made my evening. As did the person working the iPod. This is Beach House. I'd never heard them. Evidently, they do work.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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