The Perfect Day: Second City’s Andrew Alexander shows us around Chicago

Born in London, England, Andrew Alexander is well known for leading The Second City theatre company and for his work on the legendary television show SCTV. In 1974, he became the head of The Second City Toronto, and 11 years later became the co-owner The Second City’s Chicago outpost. If you’re headed to the Windy City, his guide to the perfect day in Chicago will keep you active, well-fed and well entertained.

Wake and walk
“A Chicago morning best starts with a sunrise stroll along Lake Michigan. Sure, you could bike it, but walking is a little more peaceful, and I would never live down being spotted in Spandex shorts. There’s a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline as you round the lakefront trail near North Avenue, and it’s always nice to chat with the gents outside playing chess.”

Bipartisan breakfast
“For breakfast, you can’t really get more Chicago than Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli. Just about everyone and their mother goes here, and you’ll be in line with your tray right alongside the likes of Chicago’s mayors and governors past and present. They serve their famous potato pancakes in the morning, a Barack Obama favourite.”

Culture break
“For a little culture, head to the Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibits are ever-changing, but always sure to be provocative. It’s an inspiring respite from all the frenetic energy of Michigan Avenue shoppers.”

Italian for lunch
Topo Gigio is my go-to place for lunch. It’s right down the street from Second City in the Old Town neighbourhood, and I’ve been coming here for decades. It’s old-school Italian, and I’m a pretty old-school kind of guy, at least when it comes to scaloppini.”

And afternoon gone to the animals
“Just to the north of Second City is Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest in the country. Speaking of the oldest in the country, Fred Willard has been known to wander among his kind in the reptile house when he’s in town.”

Storied dinner
“Dinner at the Pump Room, located inside PUBLIC Hotel Chicago, always feels special. The restaurant has a long, storied history that invokes a lot of old Hollywood spirits. If it was good enough for Bogart, Bacall and Sinatra back in the day, it’s safe to say you can’t go wrong dining in the recently revamped space. I actually bought the infamous 1940s-era Booth One off eBay when they were renovating, and it now lives in UP Comedy Club.” 

Laughter as digestif
“Obviously, I have to insist you catch a show at The Second City. Between our Mainstage, e.t.c. Stage and UP Comedy Club shows, there’s live comedy seven nights a week. I’m immensely proud of the work going up in our theatres night after night and am continually in awe of the creativity that hums throughout the building. Make sure you stick around for the improv set after the show. Tell them I sent you, and you’ll get in for free. (Actually, the improv sets are always free.)”

Late-night libations
“For an after-hours drink that reeks of stale beer and the Ghosts of Comedy Past, head across North Avenue to the Old Town Ale House. It’s the dive bar where you might just find Aykroyd, Colbert or Murray bellied up to the bar, as well as all of our up-and-comers. I can only assume that many of Second City’s best bits were drunkenly dreamed up on those barstools.”

One final stop
“And if you’re still hard-pressed for something to do, stop by any Chicago Fire Department station and say give my regards. After the bravery and fastidiousness displayed by the firefighters who saved our theatre from total destruction last year, I just can’t say thank you to those heroes enough.” 

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