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Roland Martin dishes on Chicago

  • Chicago is in the adopted hometown of CNN political analyst Roland Martin
  • Martin recommends Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue for people watching
  • Martin is a "fanatical golfer" and likes to play at courses such as Cog Hill and Water's Edge
  • Martin recommends restaurants that satisfy his fondness for chocolate desserts

(CNN) -- Chicago, Illinois, is "stunningly amazing five months out of the year" and feels like a bona fide city to CNN political analyst Roland Martin.

"You know some places you go, Los Angeles and others, where if you go downtown, you're like, 'OK, I don't really understand what's going on,' but Chicago has an attraction that a lot of other places don't because you have this major city, you have this vibrant downtown, but also you have Lake Michigan and the beachfront," Martin said.

Martin, author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and the new book "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House," has lived in the Windy City since 2004.

Martin spoke with about some of his favorite spots in his adopted hometown.

Where's your favorite place to spend a night out on the town?

The area around State and Rush streets is a fun place to go out, Martin said. "Lots of different restaurants and clubs and bars. I mean it is always, always a crazy jam-packed place that's always poppin'."

Tavern on Rush is an "awesome, awesome steakhouse," Martin said, although generally he doesn't get excited about steakhouses in Chicago. "I'm from Texas. I know great steakhouses."

Roland Martin is a CNN contributor based in Chicago.
Roland Martin is a CNN contributor based in Chicago.

Another fun spot for nightlife? The Blues District in Bronzeville.

"It's very nice, especially the spot there at 47th and Kings Drive [the 47th Street Blues District]. That's a great spot. At Harold Washington Cultural Center, they've got multiple events that go on there."

Which restaurant would you take your loved one to for an anniversary or other special occasion?


Martin, who is a big fan of chocolate desserts, offered these recommendations:

"I like the restaurant Wildfire. They have this phenomenal dessert -- this very warm, hot cookie that comes in this metal pan with the cream and everything on top," Martin said.

"There are so many different, unique options, but I really like that restaurant."

He added, "Although it is not unique to Chicago, the most phenomenal piece of chocolate cake around is at The Palm restaurant. I mean it is an obese piece of cake, and trust me literally three or four people can eat this piece of cake."

Where is the best place to people watch?

Millennium Park, home of the popular reflective sculpture "Cloud Gate" -- fondly referred to as The Bean, offers plenty of people-watching opportunities.

"Folks are always there, there are summer concerts there, and they have sort of a waterfall thing where kids run in and out of the water right there as well," Martin said.

"Michigan Avenue is greatly entertaining because you have street performers, folks who are dancing, people who are miming, folks who are beating drums, you got people out there with violins. ... It's very eclectic having all of that while you're shopping on the Magnificent Mile."

Where can you get the best view of the city?

Martin recommends the John Hancock Center and what used to be Sears Tower, now known as the Willis Tower. "Those two are two major attractions where people are able to get a view," he said.

How do tourists stick out, and what's the best way to blend in?

"I don't necessarily think tourists stick out. If you're there for a convention and you've still got your name tag on, you might want to take that off."

Where do you go to relax?

Martin describes himself as a "fanatical golfer" who often drives out of the city to play at some of the suburban courses such as Cog Hill and Water's Edge.

Are there local specialty dishes or drinks that visitors must try?

"Everybody when you talk about Chicago, my wife is a ridiculous fan of Garrett's popcorn. It is extremely well-known, so people all over the country and the world have Garrett's popcorn sent to them," Martin said.

Then there's the Chicago dog and the city's famous deep-dish pizza.

"You've got Giordano's, you've got Uno's, you've got a lot of different choices there. A lot of folks really fall in love with Chicago's deep-dish pizza," Martin said.

And for a late-night meal, Tempo Cafe is the place to go.

"You can breakfast 24 hours a day, and I'm a breakfast fiend as well," Martin said.

"When I ran the Chicago Defender, I would always get off late and go there and eat, and I ran into Jerry Springer one night at the restaurant."