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Oct 1, 1998 12:00 AM

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More than 8 million people call the Chicagoland area home--including the editorial staff of American Printer. We're proud our city is hosting Graph Expo--during the show, you'll find us at booth 1014. After the show, we hope you'll explore our hometown. As you may know, the city's official motto is Urbs in Horto which means "City in a Garden." The reason this particular slogan was selected was because nobody could remember the Latin for "City with Not Much Street Parking, But Really Good Restaurants, Shopping and Entertainment." Why is Chicago the City in a Garden? Probably because it just keeps growing on you. . . Here's our exclusive insider's guide to maximizing your stay in the Second City.

SHOPPING--If you want to test the bonds of a partnership, friendship or marriage, come to Chicago. Specifically, march yourself over to that stretch of North Michigan Avenue known as the Magnificent Mile. You will find literally hundreds of shopping opportunities, plus many enticing eateries and even some dollops of history, culture and architecture. Without careful preparation, however, you and your traveling companions may find yourselves with sore feet and frazzled nerves. We are therefore pleased to present our guide to recognizing and avoiding the Top Ten Mag Mile Pitfalls:

Pitfall #1: Unable to decide among the charms of Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, Marshall Field's, Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue (not to mention Water Tower Place, Chicago Place, etc.), your shopping-mad spouse experiences sensory overload.

Solution: Take a deep breath of Windy City air and make a quick stop at the Chicago Visitor's Center in the Historic Water Tower (806 N. Michigan Ave.). You can collect all kinds of useful free maps, brochures and guides. There's a coffeeshop here, too, plus a "classy" Chicago souvenir shop with Frank Lloyd Wright coasters, Picasso T-shirts and more.

Pitfall #2: You want to go sightseeing; your companion, however, is suffering from severe food deprivation and a hissy fit appears imminent.

Solution: Pop into the Signature Room (875 N. Michigan Ave.). Located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building, it offers fine dining with a magnificent view of Chicago (sorry, the restaurant does not revolve). For less formal tastes, admire the view from the all-new Hancock Observatory (open daily 9:00 am to midnight). It will cost you $8, but you will be whisked to the top (almost) of Big John in four minutes where you can enjoy a view of the city spanning 80 miles, four states and 360 degrees. What if it's cloudy? You can still trace Chicago's rise from onion field to world-class city via a giant 80-foot historical display or opt for a virtual tour of more than 80 favorite Chicago attractions using the Windows on Chicago kiosks.

Still hungry? Stop by the Cheesecake Factory as you exit the Hancock Plaza or head a little further up the street to the Garrett Popcorn Shop (670 N. Michigan). Starting at $5 for a small bag, it's not on the cheap eats list. But one whiff of the house specialty--caramel, butter and cheese popcorn all mixed together--and you'll gladly fork over the fiver.

Pitfall #3: Your feet are killing you. Solution: The employees of Salvatore Ferragamo (645 N. Michigan), Cole-Haan (673 N. Michigan), Hanig's Footwear (660 N. Michigan) and, of course, Niketown (669 N. Michigan) will be happy to serve you. You could also detour to the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine (1001 N. Dearborn St.). Hands-on exhibits and colorful displays offer visitors "insight into the human foot and its relationship to the rest of the body as well as Dr. William Scholl's pioneering efforts in the international foot comfort industry."

A more elegant option is a carriage ride. Dobbin and silk-hatted driver await you near the intersection of Michigan and Chicago avenues --for about $30 you can clip-clop through the Gold Coast in high style.

Pitfall #4: Attracted by the huge Nick-at-Nite window display, the younger folks are itching to go to the Viacom Entertainment Store (600 N. Michigan Ave.).

Solution: Take a firm stance. Explain that there is little to see here but three stories of Beavis and Butthead T-shirts, Rugrats T-shirts and old television show tripe. Remind the kids that nobody loves Lucy that much, not even Mr. Mooney. A better choice is FAO Schwarz (840 N. Michigan Ave.). Admittedly, the incessant "Welcome to Our World" jingle will make "It's a Small World After All" sound like the "Moonlight Sonata." But if you want to see all your old favorites from Hello Kitty to GI Joe and many, many toys you never knew existed, this is the place to go.

Pitfall #5: Your fellow Graph Expo attendees are raving about the Chicago blues scene. Unfortunately, you are embarrassed to admit you occasionally confuse James Taylor with Koko Taylor.

Solution: Browse at Borders Books & Music (830 N. Michigan Ave.). You'll find more newspapers, books, magazines, CDs and videos than you can shake your tailfeather at.

Pitfall #6: Your partner is mesmerized by the wares in the windows at Tiffany & Co. (730 N. Michigan).

Solution: Don't panic. Try a diversionary tactic by recalling the "Seinfeld" episode where George desperately tries to rent "Breakfast at Tiffany's" rather than read the novel. Then suggest that it's time for a little something at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and Soda Fountain (830 N. Michigan).

Pitfall #7: You're having such a good time you begin to plan your next trip. A fierce argument breaks out, however, as to whether it would be better to visit the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala or tour the bat caves on the island of Bolama.

Solution: Just about anything the adventure or business traveler could ever need can be found at the Rand McNally Map & Travel Store (444 N. Michigan). A perfect place to pick up that traveling clothesline you forgot to pack. Pitfall #8: Your traveling companion is pouting because he or she is missing some "Must-See TV."

Solution: Drop by the Sony Gallery of Consumer Electronics (663 N. Michigan Ave.) or everyone's favorite gadget emporium--Hammacher Schlemmer & Co. (445 N. Michigan). Also, you've seen it on "ER" and "Early Edition," so make sure you see the Michigan Avenue Bridge in person!

Pitfall #9: One of you wants to go dancing, the other wants to go shopping. Solution: Bring a large boom box with you. Your companion can admire all the styles of khaki pants as you enthusiastically swing dance with happy strangers to the strains of Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive an' Wail" at the Gap (679 N. Michigan Ave.).

Pitfall #10: You start looking at price tags and darkly mutter that you didn't put that much money down on your first house and who ever heard of building equity through a better wardrobe. . .

Solution: Try Marshall's (600 N. Michigan Ave.) or Filene's Basement (830 N. Michigan) and remember, if you really, really look, there's a bargain out there somewhere. Happy hunting!

DINING--Since neither man nor woman can live on trade show food alone, we've gathered together some of best choices for good eats that Chicago has to offer. Whether you are looking for hot spots, haute cuisine or hidden gems, there is a dining experience just waiting for you in the Windy City.

After wending your way through the crowds at McCormick Place, when your feet can't face another minute of concrete and your stomach feels like the great abyss, try digging into one of Chicago's well-known steak joints. This is the midwest, after all, and no where else will you find fresher or bigger charred meat to satisfy the primitive in us all.

There are so many great steak places to choose from, it's hard to pick a place to start. For those with a huge apetite (and a hefty credit card balance), try Gibson's Steakhouse (1028 N. Rush). Beef eaters will swoon at the garantuan steaks, massive veal and lamb chops. Order a mountain of spicy onion rings and a cheese-topped baked potato to round out the meal. And don't forget about the gigantic martinis. Bigger is better at Gibson's.

You also can find first-rate steaks and prime rib at the Chicago Chop House (60 W. Ontario), which is housed in a victorian brownstone. A Chicago landmark is Gene and Georgetti (500 N. Franklin St.), which has been serving prime steaks for 55 years.

Of course, steak isn't the only beef you'll find in Chicago. Check out Carsons--The Place for Ribs (612 N. Wells) to gnaw on "bones," glazed with a tangy sauce. These are baby beef back ribs, not pork, so dig in and chow down. Carsons serves large potions at reasonable prices in a relaxed, if noisy, atmosphere.

For a neighborhood favorite (and Chicago's neighborhoods are well worth visiting), try Fireplace Inn (1448 N. Wells St.) in Old Town. This casual restaurant is known for its baby-back ribs and the average dinner price per person, without drinks, is under $20.

Although steak will fill your stomach, it will leave a hole in your wallet. If you're on a budget, try out a few other neighborhood places. Potbelly Sandwich Works delivers yummy hot subs, milkshakes and malts in a casual environment either downtown (303 W. Madison, but the door is on Franklin) or in Lincoln Park (2264 N. Lincoln). Don't forget the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

For an all-you-can-eat, make-it-yourself treat for only $10, go slightly north to Flat Top Grill (319 W. North Ave.). Here's the drill: throw whatever looks good to you in a bowl and start eating. Fans say it turns out great. Want "affordably priced" Italian? Check out Rudi Fazuli (2442 N. Clark) in the heart of Lincoln Park. Choose from a big variety of menu creations or do-it-yourself by customizing sauce, paste and extras.

Among the fun spots to enjoy on a budget is Wishbone (1001 W. Washington). With emphasis on Southern cooking, you can chow down on corn muffins, shrimp and cheese grits, seafood gumbo or crawfish cakes, not to mention pan-fried chicken and blackened catfish.

And if you want some distinctive brew to go with your food, move on down to Goose Island Brewing Co. (1800 N. Clybourn) where they make their own beer (experts claim it is goooood!).

If, on the other hand, you are looking for the dining experience of your life and the quality of the food means more than the price, the Windy City has some outstanding choices. In the "superlative" category, are Charlie Trotter's (816 W. Armitage) and Everest (440 S. LaSalle). These two restaurants are not for everyone, but they both deliver the creative and unexpected. If you are an adventurous diner who isn't on a budget, make reservations as soon as possible to enjoy ever-changing international menus and comprehensive and imaginative wine selections.

Considering the industry, we couldn't forget to recommend Printer's Row (550 S. Dearborn). With its clubby atmosphere, lovely presentations, excellent food and attentive service, this "printer" delivers top quality and service at a fair price.

Need a place to take a special client or prospect for a business dinner? Three classy and unique choices include Les Nomades (222 E. Ontario), featuring creative French cooking and impeccable service; Spiaggia (980 N. Michigan Ave.), offering up delectable food and a view of the Magnificent Mile; or Topolobampo (445 N. Clark), specializing in authentic regional Mexican fare in colorful surroundings. Toplobampo shares its premises with the more casual Frontera Grill.

Other outstanding Mexican spots include Salpicon (1252 N. Wells). This Old Town restaurant serves up authentic Mexican cuisine with the emphasis on simple dishes with the freshest ingredients.

Or give tapas a try. One of our favorites is Cafe Iberico (739 N. LaSalle). Order a pitcher of sangria and start grazing on hot or cold tapas (Spanish appetizers). A little further north is Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! (2024 N. Halstead), where the decor, as you might expect, is anything but subtle. Go with a large group and order a big assortment of tapas dishes from the wide-ranging menu.

Like the idea of grazing on appetizers but don't want Spanish? Try Papagus Greek Taverna (620 N. State St.), which features a large choice of hot and cold mezedes. Or for a more traditional Greek meal, move on down the road to Greek Town. This area offers a wide range of restaurants (maybe even some belly dancers), but check out Greek Islands (200 S. Halsted St.) for Greek specialties such as grilled octopus, red snapper and sea bass, and creative lamb entrees.

If its all Greek to you, try Italian. Trattoria No. 10 (10 N. Dearborn) is ideal for business luncheons and dinners. Unique raviolis are the specialty of the house, along with risottos and a variety of fresh fish. For "red sauce Italian," travel back in time to Nick & Tony's (1 E. Wacker Dr.), a 1940's-style place that specializes in big portions of home-style food at moderate prices.

Moderate pricing also applies to French bistro food, which Chicago offers in abundance. Try the stylish Brasserie Jo (59 W. Hubbard) for French comfort food such as onion tarts, rack of lamb or steak frites (steak and fries). No fancy sauces or haute cuisine here, just good food. For a slightly different experience, try Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar (546 N. Wells), featuring a neighborhood feel, irresitible fries or mushroom soup.

But let's not forget the Far East. In the Gold Coast, try Tsunami (1160 N. Dearborn St.), featuring all types of sushi plus teriyaki dishes. Or Chicago's only kushi-sushi bar, Cocoro (668 N. Wells). A cozy bar serves both well-executed sushi and kushi--grilled skewered delicacies seasoned with salt.

For adventurous souls looking for something different, here's a few suggestions for you. For minimalists, try Con Fusion (1616 N. Damen). Or try a dramatic supper club like Madam B (3341 N. Halsted). Look for great appetizers, wasabi mashed potatoes and a wide range of fusion cuisine.

Bored with cozy, try a different beat. Check out the rhythms of Brazil at Rhumba (3631 N. Halsted). Everything about this place is flamboyant, from the food to the shifting lights and South American cocktails. Don't be shy now!

ENTERTAINMENT--For many frontier folk traveling westward in search of fortunes of gold, Chicago was considered the last stop before "No Man's Land." No wonder the town also became known for its watering holes.

In the interest of helping Graph Expo attendees narrow downtown's array of options, here is a guide to some of the more popular destinations:

To see and be seen, Rush right up: With the reinvigoration of the Rush Street area comes a number of chic, celebrity-frequented bars reminiscent of the strip's original glory. At the crowded-to-capacity Tavern on Rush (1031 N. Rush St.) there is no shortage of Beautiful People to occupy the eyes while the hand closely guards a fine cigar and the mouth gingerly sips from a filled-to-the-rim Cosmopolitan. A few blocks away is the equally jumpin' Jilly's Bistro (1007 Rush St.), an upscale piano bar named after the late Jilly Rizzo, long-time best friend of Frank Sinatra. Expect to hear Ol' Blue Eyes endlessly between sets. Across the way is the swanky Hunt Club (1100 N. State St.), featuring a long, diametrical bar for the fashionable to sneak in long glances at one another. Fourteen TV monitors make for perfect sports-viewing, too.

Lookin' for love in all the right places: Known for its turn-of-the-century bar, P.J. Clarke's Pub (1204 N. State St.), the Midwest replica of the New York tavern by the same name, has an even bigger reputation for its casual "meat-market" aspect. So does the ever-popular Butch McGuire's (20 W. Division St.), opened in 1961 by Robert Emmett "Butch" McGuire (inventor of the Harvey Wallbanger) as the world's first singles bar. Management estimates at least 5,000 couples have met at Butch's Irish barroom over the years. For unattached folk who've started graying and don't mind keeping a suit on, there's the piano bar at Gibson's Steakhouse (1028 N. Rush St.) and The Redhead Piano Bar (16 W. Ontario St.).

A touch of the old sod: Serving the city's perfect pint of Guinness is Celtic Crossings (751 N. Clark St.), a truly authentic-looking Irish pub with no televisions and a jukebox loaded with the likes of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. For the theme-park version, try Fado (100 W. Grand Ave.), which means "long ago" in Gaelic. Garish as it may be, the attempt is to recreate an old Irish village atmosphere. Closer to the convention center is Kitty O'Shea's (720 S. Michigan Ave.) inside the Hilton and Towers Hotel. Traditional Irish duos lull the guests with flute and fiddle before beddy-time. The soothing accents of the native Dubliner bartenders help, too.

Paying homage at the shrines: Every night at 7:30, patrons and barkeeps alike at Harry Caray's (33 W. Kinzie St.) sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" as their way of remembering the late "Bud Man, Cubs Fan." Check out all the baseball uniforms, helmets and bats and order what weatherman Willard Scott considers "the best steak in the country." For those who lean more toward pigskin, there's Iron Mike's (100 E. Chestnut St.), showcasing murals of the Da Coach, Mike Ditka, to bring fond memories of the Bears' winning days. Probably the city's most famous sports bar/restaurant is now Michael Jordan's (500 N. LaSalle Drive), which lures tourists from hundreds of miles away who proudly report it's their only motive for visiting the Windy City.

Go ahead, take in a few more tourist traps: While natives wouldn't be caught dead here, Baja Beach Club (219 W. Erie St.) is a haven for tourists, conventioneers, suburbanites and their kids. The "beach" scene, complete with tacky palm trees and girls in bikinis hawking tropical drinks, provides raucous fun into the wee hours. For similar obnoxious frivolity inside the North Pier shopping mall, there's Dick's Last Resort 435 E. Illinois St.. The waitstaff is known to throw things and be generally nasty to the delight of patrons, who throw things back as they indulge in the sloppy finger-grub, including ribs and wings (the bones are perfect weapons).

Everybody has a right to the blues: Making all the headlines of late is the cavernous House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn), but there are several famous non-chain blues bars for those who need their fix when in Chicago. For top national gigs and a large collection of rare blues memorabilia, check out Buddy Guy's Legends (754 S. Wabash Ave.), owned by the Grammy Award-winning Guy, who pops in and plays an impromptu set when you least expect it. He also is known to occasionally get behind the kitchen grill. Another can't-go-wrong downtown blues spot with a more lounge-laden, intimate atmosphere is the 1940s-style Blue Chicago (536 N. Clark St.).

Character is everything: Even with its ever-changing landscape of bars and night clubs, Chicago still has plenty classic representatives of bygone eras that, thankfully, haven't been remodeled to death. Family operated since 1898, The Berghoff (17 W. Adams St.) was the first saloon in the city to get a liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition. The high-ceiling, dark, oak-paneled bar, replete with original murals, oozes old world ambiance. For a cozier German feel with similarly crusty old bartenders, go to Miller's Pub (134 S. Wabash Ave.), a 1930s-era bar chock full of beautifully framed oil paintings and photographs of local and national celebrities who have saddled up to the bar at one time or another. Perhaps the biggest must-see of the old-time joints is the 64-year-old Billy Goat Tavern (430 N. Michigan Ave., lower level), made world famous by the "Cheezborger, cheezborger," skit on "Saturday Night Live." Trips to the divey, underground bar by Chicago natives Bill Murray and John Belushi inspired the segment that satirized the way food orders were called out. Look for neat old Chicago headlines and candid photographs of legendary columnist, Mike Royko, who was a regular at this long-time hangout for hard-core, hard-drinking newspapermen who popped in after the putting the paper to bed.