The western 'burb brims with bars, shops, a theater and a spa-and all on one street.
On a clear day, the Sears Tower is in constant view as you walk east on Madison Street in Forest Park. It’s a nice reminder that even though you’re in a suburb, the city isn’t too far away—only ten miles, in fact. Although, between the sweets, grub, brews and boutiques you’ll enjoy, you won’t miss being outside of the city limits for an afternoon.
Take the Blue Line to the Harlem stop and head about four blocks north to Madison Street. (Parking is easy if you drive: There are plenty of spots and meters, which only cost a quarter per hour.) Kick off your adventure with a sweet treat at Brown Cow Ice Cream (7314 W Madison St, 708-366-7970). Those feeling really indulgent—and fearless— should order the namesake dish, which is three scoops of chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter and chocolate sprinkles served in a milk pail. (A sugar coma should soon follow.) If you head there before the end of April, you’ll be one of the final customers to visit its original location. The parlor will move down the street sometime in May.
After finishing your scoop, head across the street and get to shopping. It might not be tea time just yet, but you can stock up on elegant pots and other tea accessories at Todd & Holland Tea Merchants (7311 W Madison St, 708-488-1136). The charming shop also hosts events and seminars; the next one, an oolong tea seminar on April 12 at 11am, will include tastings of light, amber and dark versions of the tea. (The class costs $15, which includes 15% off of merchandise for the day, and reservations are suggested.)
Other shops on the street worth visiting include M. Santana (7247 W Madison St, 708-488-1882) for its selection of high-end denim. Boutique shoppers could easily walk right by the Army-Navy Surplus store (7351 W Madison St, 708-366-9711), but it’s worth checking out even though you might not be in the market for a camouflage shirt or replicas of army guns. The no-frills storefront offers a nod to Forest Park’s blue-collar side, and the personal photographs of employees and customers dressed in their gear serve as a mini armed-forces exhibit.
Foodies and aspiring chefs will find kitchen tools and lessons to be learned at Flavour Cooking School (7401 W Madison St, 708-488-0808, flavourcookingschool.com). As the name implies, Flavour offers cooking lessons and supplies for wannabe top chefs. Topics planned for this weekend’s classes include knife skills and pork 101. Neighboring art shop TwoFish Art Glass (7401 W Madison St, 708-366-6800, twofishartglass.com) not only sells decorative lamps and art glass (most merch in the shop is 20% off through April 5), it also offers classes on mastering the arts of stained glass and beadmaking, which you can register for online. You’ll be tempted by the antique stores sprinkled throughout the street (like At Home with Antiques and Little Treasures), but your next must-visit venue is a record store called The Old School Records (7446 W Madison St, 708-366-7588). This corner music shop is straight out of movies like High Fidelity and Pretty in Pink. The used record selection is impressive, as are the CD and DVD choices. We saw seasons of The Sopranos in mint condition going for about $30.
To finish your afternoon in Forest Park, grab a bite and some brews at one of the many Irish bars along Madison Street. If you’re not into the bar scene but still want a drink, stroll into wine shop House Red (7403 W Madison St, 708-771-7733), which hosts vino tastings every Friday (6–9pm) and Saturday (1–5pm). You also could end the day with a service at Spa Skin Care Company (7249 W Madison St, 708-366-8264). In March, you’ll get a free manicure with the purchase of a lavender spa pedicure ($60). Still want more? Catch a performance of Can-Can, which is playing at the Circle Theatre (7300 W Madison St, 708-771-0700) through April 6.