Chicago O’Hare: where to shop and dine
Chicago O’Hare may have lost the title of the world’s busiest airport to Atlanta many years ago, but it consistently outscores its rival in terms of customer satisfaction.Over the past decade the US’ second largest hub, which is named after a famous ace World II fighter pilot, Butch O’Hare, has regularly been voted as the ‘Best Airport in North America’ by titles such as Business Traveler Magazine and Global Traveler Magazine.O’Hare is too small for the 80m people who use it each year and is often plagued by flight delays and cancellations at peak times. Nonetheless, O’Hare gets marked up by frequent flyers for its clean facilities, high-tech visitor information centres, world-renowned art exhibitions, and excellent facilities for travelling families. How many other airports can boast a children’s museum, for example?
The selection of shops, bars and restaurants in O’Hare’s four terminals has also greatly improved in recent years, although it has to be said the number of outlets in the international terminal (T5) is pretty limited given the airport’s size. Here are some of the highlights of this giant airport’s shopping and dining offer.
Chicago O’Hare Terminal 1
Mainly serving as a base for United Airlines flights, Terminal 1 is famous for its underground tunnel of lights and music, which connects Concourses B and C. If you are inspired by the neon lights and eerie music, you might enjoy looking around the terminal’s Hoypoloi gallery. With a definite New Age feel, Hoypoloi showcases (rather pricey) artwork from modern artists from all the US• items include wall art, clocks, jewellery, wind chimes. Just make sure you don’t knock into anything• breakages have to be paid for.
If you are searching for a last-minute gift for a sweet-toothed loved one, we recommend the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory outlet. Established in Durango, Colorado, but now trading in over 40 US states, Rocky Mountain sells a great range of handmade clusters, creams, caramels, jellies, nougats, and even ice cream and toffee apples.
If you have more cash to splash, the Vosges Haut-Chocolat store offers a superb range of luxury chocolate, with flavours inspired from every corner of the globe. Exotic truffle flavours include Mexican vanilla bean, Australian macadamia nut, and sweet Indian curry powder. The store also sells vegan chocolates, pancake mixes, cocoa powders, ice creams and even chocolate scents.Those in need of a sugar hit with a more local flavour, should try Garrett’s Popcorn, a Chicago institution since 1949. The range of flavours both sweet and savoury is an eye opener to the uninitiated, but would probably turn your dentist’s hair prematurely grey.Although the vast majority of flights leaving Terminal 1 are bound for domestic destinations, there are some international services, ensuring the terminal does boast a duty-free store, Liberty Duty Free (also located in Terminals 2 and 3). Operated by Swiss duty-free giant Nuance, the shop stocks a full range with plenty of top beauty and spirit brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Patrón, Johhnie Walker and Crown Royal.
Other stores found in Terminal 1 include the gadget store Brookstone; the Field Museum Store, which sells a wide range of merchandise from the famous Chicago museum of the same name; Native American jewellery shop Spirit of the Red Horse, and DVD store In-Motion. High-end brands that have stores here include Swiss pen specialist Montblanc, and eyewear brand Oakley.Decent dining options are arguably thin on the ground in Terminal 1. Try the Goose Island Brewing Company pub for some excellent locally produced craft brews. The Berghoff Café (Concourse C, Gate 26), named after a famous downtown restaurant, does a nice line in hearty breakfasts, pizzas, large meaty sandwiches and root beer.
Chicago O’Hare Terminal 2
Travelling families are the poor relations of the airport world. Too many airports try too hard to empty the wallets of wealthy business travellers, while leaving parents to fend for themselves. Thankfully, Chicago O’Hare is the exception to the rule. The Kids on the Fly area/museum in Terminal 2 is a definite must for young families with time on their hands.
This award-winning facility is an aviation-themed play area, where the little ones can while away their time flying an aeroplane, piloting a helicopter, of even pretending to be an aircraft controller. If this doesn’t do the trick, take your little angels to see a full, life-sized replica of Butch O’Hare’s fighter plane, which hangs from the ceiling of the terminal’s main departure hall.Besides the duty-free store, the line up of shops in Terminal 2 is a little lacklustre• a selection of familiar names you will see at many other US airports (Hudson News and Gifts, Sunglass Hut and Techshowcase). It is nice to see at least one local firm doing business there, however. Award-winning Chicago bookseller, Barbara’s Bookstore is a relaxed place to while away the time, and regularly stages celebrity signings and in-store promotions.It’s fair to say the choice of restaurants in Terminal 2 is also less than thrilling. So head to Chili’s for filling Tex-Mex favourites such as fajitas, burgers, ribs and quesadillas. However, if you are rushed for time and need something lighter to eat on the plane, we recommend Ciao Gourmet Market, which serves healthy salads, sandwiches, fruit and wraps to go.
Chicago O’Hare Terminal 3The shopping is a little better in Terminal 3, another of O’Hare’s terminals largely dedicated to domestic traffic. For example, you will find stylish, but affordable jewellery from Landau, a national US chain with over 95 store locations across the country, while at the Chicago Museum Store, you will discover a great range of Chicago-themed gifts such as books, clothing, posters, jazz and blues CD’s, stationery, games and toys. We particularly like the quirky Chicago Manhole Cover Floormats priced at $29.95.We have already mentioned a number of the outlets in Terminal 3, which have other branches at O’Hare, such as Montblanc, Spirit of the Red Horse, Hudson News, Liberty Duty Free and the Field Museum store to name but a few. One place you won’t find elsewhere, however, is the Back Rub Hub, which as the name suggests, offers harried travellers a brief chance to de-stress (treatments start at $15, open 09.00-21.00hrs).
Chinese food lovers should seek out the Manchu Wok, while those wanting to sample one of Chicago’s famous deep pan pizzas can try their luck at Reggio’s. Anybody wanting more upmarket Italian cuisine should head for Wolfgang Puck, but don’t expect prices to be cheap. Prairie Tap does nice beers and decent sandwiches, burgers and salads.
Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5Terminal 5 handles the vast majority of O’Hare’s international flights. Located apart from the airport’s other functioning terminals and connected by a shuttle train, O’Hare could certainly offer international travellers with a better choice of shops and restaurants than those currently on offer.The best of an admittedly poor bunch is the Mindworks store, where parents might find some travel games to amuse the kids on the flight. At least there is a duty-free store, operated by a large US firm, Duty Free Americas. Open from 07.00-21.00 hours, the shop offers a good range of fragrances, cosmetics, spirits, confectionery, tobacco, leather goods and accessories. To browse the full offer and even pre-order your purchase, log on to www.dutyfreeexpress.com.
For information on US Customs rules please see our quick guide: United States Customs Allowance and Exemptions
Chicago Duty Free (Terminal 5)