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Dukeofyork
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I'm going to be in Chicago in early May, staying at the Hilton (at 198 East Delaware Place). Never been before but really looking forward to the experience. I know these questions have been asked a million times before, but I thought I might get some new and location-specific advice:

1. Where's the best place near the Mile to get Chicago pizza? Hot dogs? Italian beef? I know these are stereotypical but I don't think I could leave without sampling them.

2. What's the weather going to be like? Roasting hot already?

3. What's the/a typical Chicago breakfast item? E.g. in Montreal, a bagel. If there is such an item, where would I procure it? If not, what's a good place to visit? Hotel breakfasts are uniformly boring.

4. Likewise for my morning coffee. (Are there lunch counter type places still in Chicago, like in Toronto? If so, one with good coffee would be a bonus, as I love the long counter and the stools...)

I think that's it. Feel free to add useful advice or suggestions which, in my ignorance or negligence, I have failed to ask about!

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1. Where's the best place near the Mile to get Chicago pizza?  Hot dogs?  Italian beef?  I know these are stereotypical but I don't think I could leave without sampling them.

2. What's the weather going to be like?  Roasting hot already?

3. What's the/a typical Chicago breakfast item?  E.g. in Montreal, a bagel.  If there is such an item, where would I procure it?  If not, what's a good place to visit?  Hotel breakfasts are uniformly boring.

4. Likewise for my morning coffee.  (Are there lunch counter type places still in Chicago, like in Toronto?  If so, one with good coffee would be a bonus, as I love the long counter and the stools...)

Having been a Chicagoan born and bred for 60+ years, most of those in the food field, here are my thoughts. Best Chicago pizza: Lou Malnati's. One of the best Lou Malnati's stores is near your hotel, on North Wells St. My favorite in the Chicago genre: Deep-dish sausage and onion. (If you want the full Monty, order it with their "butter crust.") Weather's fine. Can't say re: breakfast; nothing extraordinary, though Chicagoans are fond of Walker Bros., local franchisees of Original Pancake House, which consistently uses top-quality ingredients and cooks them well. Best known for their oven-finished, caramelized cinnamon-apple pancakes which weigh in at more than 2000 calories apiece! (I prefer their Dutch Baby, a baked suet-free variation on Yorkshire pudding, served with powdered sugar and lemon wedges; or their Forty-niners — large, thin sourdough flapjacks with maple syrup.) A favorite morning spot is Lou Mitchell's, worth a visit though not earth-shaking. They make their own marmalade from the orange rinds left over from juicing. Coffee's good. Women get freebie Milk Duds, a tradition in this cheek-by-jowl place that bakes its own bread and — if I recall correctly — uses double-yolk eggs exclusively. Decent coffee (they make a big deal over filtering their water). And they have a serpentine counter and a long communal table. Located near the Loop and Union Station.

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I'm going to be in Chicago in early May, staying at the Hilton (at 198 East Delaware Place).  Never been before but really looking forward to the experience.  I know these questions have been asked a million times before, but I thought I might get some new and location-specific advice:

1. Where's the best place near the Mile to get Chicago pizza?  Hot dogs?  Italian beef?  I know these are stereotypical but I don't think I could leave without sampling them.

2. What's the weather going to be like?  Roasting hot already?

3. What's the/a typical Chicago breakfast item?  E.g. in Montreal, a bagel.  If there is such an item, where would I procure it?  If not, what's a good place to visit?  Hotel breakfasts are uniformly boring.

4. Likewise for my morning coffee.  (Are there lunch counter type places still in Chicago, like in Toronto?  If so, one with good coffee would be a bonus, as I love the long counter and the stools...)

I think that's it.  Feel free to add useful advice or suggestions which, in my ignorance or negligence, I have failed to ask about!

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods - your best bet is get out of downtown, for interesting, non-expense account places. Try this list as a start:

http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=226392#p226392

For specific recommendations, try Pizzeria Uno or Pizzeria Due for quintessential deep-dish pizza - both are close to Michigan Avenue.

On Sunday morning, don't miss the Maxwell Street Market at Des Plaines and Roosevelt. Some say the regional Mexican street food there is better than you'll get in Mexico.

Really, no traditional breakfast item, but if you see a place offering Intelligentsia, Metropolis or Casteel Coffee, you'll be well-served.

We hope you'll have a great time here!

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1)

-dogs:

--Hot Doug’s (not downtown)

--Weiner’s Circle (be sure to go around midnight)

-Pizza:

--I’m not a fan of the stuff, but Uno, Due, Giordano's or Lou Malnatti’s will all provide adequate examples.

-Beefs:

--Portillo’s (also has dogs, but they’re not as good as the one’s listed above)

--Al’s #1

--both of these have multiple locations

2) It’ll be mild. Actually, probably the best time to visit.

3) No standard breakfast. Pancake houses are popular, but there is no stereotypical Chicago breakfast. With that said, I’ll recommend Orange or Ann Sather for breakfast.

4) The aforementioned Lou Mitchell's has a long counter. I personally don’t think it’s all that great of a place, but considering you’ll be waiting in line to get a seat, it is clear many people disagree.

If you’re interested in any of these, just google them. You’ll get a much better idea of the location than I could write in this blurb. Some of these are within walking distance, but you’ll need to cab it to some of the other places (and I suggest you do, because if you limit yourself to the Loop and River North, you’ll be limiting yourself greatly)

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Lots of good suggestions above, but some of them not conveniently located near your hotel. Here's the "location-specific advice" you're looking for, noting approximate distances from your hotel. I'll also include a couple of unique suggestions that aren't quite as geographically friendly. Click on restaurant names in this post for links to their websites.

1. Where's the best place near the Mile to get Chicago pizza?

Deep-dish Chicago-style pizza comes in two varieties: the single-crust "pizza in the pan" served by Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, Gino's East, and the original Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due; and the double-crust "stuffed pizza" served by Giordano's, Bacino's, and Edwardo's. Both types are delicious, and all of these places are excellent representations!

The closest location to your hotel for pizza in the pan is Pizano's on State. Like Lou Malnati's, Pizano's was founded by a son of Rudy Malnati Sr., who played a lead role at the original Uno and Due in their early decades. Gino's East on East Superior is also quite close. The closest location for stuffed pizza is Giordano's on Rush. All three of these places are about a five minute walk from your hotel.

Hot dogs?  Italian beef?

Florida's recommendation of Portillo's and Al's was right on point. You can get Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches at either place. Both have a location (about a block apart from each other) in River North, on West Ontario a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue and a 10-15 minute walk from your hotel.

2. What's the weather going to be like?  Roasting hot already?

Normal highs are in the mid sixties, lows in the mid forties. Rain is a possibility, but most days in May are sunny and delightful. In the area around your hotel, it can be windy/gusty and is sometimes significantly cooler than elsewhere. The good news is, the chances of snow are unlikely. :biggrin:

3. What's the/a typical Chicago breakfast item?  E.g. in Montreal, a bagel.  If there is such an item, where would I procure it?  If not, what's a good place to visit?

We have bagels too. I hear they also sell them in New York City. :biggrin: But there's nothing so stereotypical that it is "THE" Chicago breakfast item.

allenkelson's recommendation of the Original Pancake House was right on; there is a location on East Bellevue Place within a five minute walk of your hotel. Note that Walker Brothers, which he mentioned, is a local franchisee of that chain and has six locations in the Chicago-area suburbs, but the city locations (and some others in the suburbs) are not part of the Walker Brothers operation.

For something unique to Chicago, you can go to Bongo Room, which is unfortunately not as convenient to the Mag Mile. Bongo Room is a breakfast-focused restaurant with two locations, one in the South Loop 2.5 miles south of your hotel, the other in the Wicker Park neighborhood about the same distance west of you. Bongo Room's specialty is creative pancakes and they also have good egg dishes and lunch items. My two favorite pancakes recently have been the blueberry pancakes covered with almond panna cotta cream, and pretzel pancakes with white chocolate sauce. The pancakes are huge and a standard serving size is three of them; it doesn't say on the menu but you can get a one-third or two-thirds portion size at reduced cost, perfect for the smaller appetite or if you want to try more than one dish there. Bongo Room is a unique local treasure! IMHO it's better and more unique than Orange or Ann Sather, both of which are even further from your hotel. Beware long waits for seating on Sundays.

Lou Mitchell's is a local institution that has been around for ages, serving commuters arriving at the nearby train stations. That being said, the food is conventional breakfast fare you can find anywhere. It's at the far end of the Loop, about two miles from your hotel.

About a fifteen minute walk southeast of your hotel is Fox & Obel, our premier gourmet food store, with the finest fresh meats, seafoods, prepared foods, etc. Of particular note for breakfast, they have the best selection of outstanding breads and pastries in the city, including the world's best cinnamon swirl rolls and bran muffins, excellent croissants and brioche, and a lot of other things that are just wonderful. They also have a cafe in the rear of the store where you can get anything from a cup of coffee to a complete meal, cooked to order.

4. Likewise for my morning coffee.  (Are there lunch counter type places still in Chicago, like in Toronto?  If so, one with good coffee would be a bonus, as I love the long counter and the stools...)

Our best local brew is Intelligentsia, which has several locations but none close to your hotel. A block from your hotel, Lavazza has a location on East Walton.

There are several other kinds of foods in which Chicago excels, and unique places, both of which you can't readily find elsewhere, and I suggest considering them for your itinerary as well.

One is creative provincial Mexican food. Rick Bayless started the trend 20+ years ago at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, both of which are still excellent and a nice 15-minute walk from your hotel; there are many others throughout the city.

Another place worth mentioning for "casual fine dining" is North Pond, which features excellent contemporary American cuisine from James Beard Award nominated Chef Bruce Sherman. What makes North Pond unique is its exquisite location (two miles north of your hotel) in Lincoln Park - the park itself, not just the adjacent neighborhood of the same name. It faces its namesake pond, with the city skyline towering over the opposite shore; the renovated building formerly served as a warming shelter for wintertime ice skaters on the pond.

At the high end, Alinea, this week named one of the ten best restaurants in the world, provides an experience that's unique and different from most other temples of haute cuisine. About two miles northwest of your hotel.

For a snack, don't miss Garrett's for their caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn; they have several locations in the Loop, Chicago's historical and commercial central business district, just over a mile southwest of your hotel.

Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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nsxtasy's recommendations are generally right on the mark. He elaborates a bit more on another food board that will remain anon (chowbound?)

As far as breakfast goes, I'm surprised that nobody has chimed in about Ina Pinkney's place (http://www.breakfastqueen.com/). She is rightfully known as the breakfast queen and we are lucky that her heavenly hots have not, yet, been nationally discovered. For vegetarians, or at least those trying to cut back on meat eating, there is a place around the corner from where I live that I will only refer to as Victory!--it's already too hard to get a seat there.

Hot Doug's is certainly worth the trip as are Rick Bayless' places.

Fox & Obel would be a great place to pick up snacks & souvenirs to take home.

If the weather is as fine as it should be take a stroll to North Pond and have a sunset beverage (I don't care for their food, in spite of all it's political correctiveness) before heading west a few block to L2O for some real gourmet.

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Lonely at home

Call any vegetable

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Most all of the above recommendations will give you a taste (pun somewhat intended) of Chicago BUT you've now found yourself in the midst of the great Italian Beef controversy. Generally speaking, you'll find three beef stands with devoted camps of followers: Mr. Beef on Orleans (just under 1 mile west of your hotel; Al's #1 Beef (1 block from Mr. Beef; and Johnny's (in Elmwood Park - about 10 miles west. I'm a proponent of Mr. Beef on Orleans. Order it hot (hot giardinara) and juicy (dipped). The beef gravy is my favorite. I'd add Orange as a potential breakfast venue. They have a location in the south loop. But many Greek-owned coffee shops can make you a Greek-style omlette with spinach, feta and possibly bacon and tomato bits. While not uniquely Chicago, I happen to love it.

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I have nothing much to add to the above posts except that for excellent coffee (Intelligentsia) and pastries, Sarah's Pastries & Candies is just a few blocks from your hotel, at 70 East Oak. If you get any chocolate cravings, I recommend their Dark Chocolate Delights.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I have nothing much to add to the above posts except that for excellent coffee (Intelligentsia) and pastries, Sarah's Pastries & Candies is just a few blocks from your hotel, at 70 East Oak. If you get any chocolate cravings, I recommend their Dark Chocolate Delights.

I'd love to hear what you think if you check out Sarah's. I've been there, and also to their adjunct store in Marshall... I mean, in Macy's in the Loop, and I've been sorely disappointed. I've tried a bunch of different things there, pastries and candies, and the only thing I really liked was a savory item (a ham and cheese brioche). (And FWIW, it doesn't bother me that the shop is tiny; Vanille Patisserie, on the Clybourn corridor a couple miles northwest of your hotel, is also very small, but everything they have at Vanille - entremets, French macaroons, croissants - is outstanding. As is true of Fox & Obel, which is much larger, of course.) But it's definitely close to your hotel, and convenience is always a big consideration!

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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I just recently got back from Chicago and I can tell you the best pizza I had was Giordano's. That's because I'm a huge fan of cheese and they do it right there. Gino's East was also very good if you like really good sauce. Both will make you happy as can be.

"A woman once drove me to drink and I never had the decency to thank her" - W.C. Fields

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http://thehopry.com/

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I'd love to hear what you think if you check out Sarah's.  I've been there, and also to their adjunct store in Marshall... I mean, in Macy's in the Loop, and I've been sorely disappointed.  I've tried a bunch of different things there, pastries and candies, and the only thing I really liked was a savory item (a ham and cheese brioche). 

I was at Sarah's last summer, and didn't think their stuff was anything to write home about. It was good, but just good, not spectacular or even special. There was something, however, that I really enjoyed, if only I could remember what it was. I think it might have been the pecan square, but I could be wrong. Now that I think about it, I must not have enjoyed it that much, if I can't even remember what it was.

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Well this thread left me without any questions, might be arriving in Chicago by oh...I dont know Monday - Tuesday....maybe

Road Trip

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The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, I'm back.

I must admit first of all that I was rather lazy. I didn't feel up to walking all the way to Lou Mitchell's in the mornings, as I tend to be rather grumpy before I get my breakfast.

I did venture down to Lou Malnati's, where I sat at the bar and generally enjoyed the long wait for the pizza. I had attempted once to make 'deep dish' pizza at home, but this failure bore no resemblance to what I received at Lou's. Very nice, crisp crust, lots of filling. My only complaint was the illogical sizing: I was told that the individual size would be too small, the small too large, ... hence I erred on the side of frugality and ended up with too little pizza!

I did go to Al's for an Italian Beef sandwich. Got it with hot peppers, but I gave no other special instructions. It was wonderful - juicy, chewy, spicy. Why has this sandwich not spread beyond Chicago? Then again, I hate to think what I would get if I asked for one in London.

I popped into Fox & Obel: very nice, though it seemed rather empty - how do they make money?

Finally, I found a non-descript Chicago hotdog at some point, which was okay, in fact nice, but $4+ is a lot for what I thought to be rather a small hotdog!

I hope to go back some day, as I really enjoyed myself in Chicago. The city had a much more interesting vibe than either Toronto or London (both places I've lived).

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