Day Trips

Looking for a nice B&B in Chicago with a terrific porch? Try the Benedictine Bed & Breakfast.

Father Ignatius
Father Ignatius (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

The Benedictine Bed & Breakfast in Chicago has a terrific back porch. When I'm on the road, few things are more appreciated in a hotel room than the added touch of having a nice place outside to sit. Sitting outdoors, enjoying a cup of coffee in the mornings or a glass of wine in the evenings gives me a sense of my surroundings that I don't get any other way.

From the deck off of the kitchen at the Benedictine Bed & Breakfast, the steeple and Gothic architecture of the Monastery of the Holy Cross are framed by the second-story porch of the brick row house. In the distance, the constant roar of the city hums at a whisper, but here everything is peaceful.

This may be the only bed & breakfast operated by monks in the U.S., says Father Ignatius, our seldom-seen host. Operated by the monks, the bed & breakfast accommodations help financially support the monastery. The guest quarters are so popular that it is often difficult to find an open date on the reservation calendar.

One of only a few licensed bed & breakfasts near downtown Chicago, the monks actually offer two different accommodations. Both provide complete privacy and a spacious living space. The rooms are comfortable but modestly furnished, very much like visiting a friend's apartment without the overcrowding.

The St. Joseph Loft is in the back of what was once the parish priests' living quarters. It has two bedrooms, a living room with a gas fireplace, and a kitchenette. Breakfast is prepared by a monk chef. "His French toast is wonderful," Father Ignatius says with a big smile.

The Bethany Garden House across the alley from the church is a favorite, partially because of a deck that looks over the monks' vegetable garden. "Guests are welcome to help themselves to whatever is in the garden," Father Ignatius says.

The Garden House sleeps up to four in the six rooms, but it only has one small bedroom. Several years older than the 97-year-old church, the house is a remodeled row house that was a gift from a benefactor who also did much of the restoration work.

If you're in the mood to do the cooking, the monks stock the kitchen with coffee, muffins, and the makings for a full breakfast. If you're not into cooking, there is a coffee shop around the corner and a neighborhood full of ethnic restaurants.

The monastery was the parish church for what was once the largest congregation of Polish Catholics outside of Warsaw. The only Polish church in the U.S. older than this one is in Panna Maria, Texas.

The church was closed for several years when the Chicago diocese consolidated parish churches. A contemplative order, the Benedictine monks do not serve a congregation. The church is open to the public, but most of the religious adornments were removed when the parish moved. It is still a beautiful sanctuary with a painted ceiling and ornate altar.

The Benedictine Bed & Breakfast is at 31st and Aberdeen streets on the south side of Chicago. On a good night, you can hear the roar of the crowds at the White Sox game from the back porch. The apartments are a short walk from the bus and train lines and close to major freeways and South Lakeshore Drive. For information or reservations, call 888/539-4261 or 773/927-7424, or visit

Fickle Pickles are now available in Gruene. Carousel Antiques of Boerne has expanded their distribution of the homemade pickle slices that are a little spicy and a little sweet to the historic district on the north side of New Braunfels. Despite offers from several grocery chains to carry the pickles, Billie Shaw (the Pickle Lady) has only sold the pickles from her antique shop in Boerne since 1992. The operation is now run by her two daughters. Fickle Pickles Antiques is just north of Gruene Dance Hall at 1720 Hunter. The shop opens Tuesday through Sunday, 11am-5:30pm, 830/627-8999. The original location on Main Street in Boerne is still open seven days a week to satisfy your Fickle Pickle urges.

790th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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The Benedictine Bed & Breakfast, Monastery of the Holy Cross, Father Ignatius, The St. Joseph Loft, The Bethany Garden House, Fickle Pickles, Gruene, Carousel Antiques, Boerne

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