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Rounding out my Chicago Itinerary


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My friend and I are flying in a couple days early prior to a work conference in late February. We will have half of Saturday, all Day Sunday and Monday morning to see the sights and eat our way through Chicago and we will have a car. I think I've come up with a pretty good itinerary, but I'm looking to fill in a few gaps. My biggest challenge is not really having an idea of where some things are in relation to others, although I've put together a Google Map to help navigate. We don't have the budget to do a super expensive dinner, but we'd like to hit some of the highlights.


Fly into Midway. Check into hotel in Burr Ridge

1pm Lunch at Hot Doug's

Head to Chicago French Market for browsing

Grant's Park for fresh (bracing) air & to see the Bean

6pm Dinner at Frontera Grill - can go a little earlier if needs be

8pm show at Second City

10:30pm Dessert / Nightcap??? Need a suggestion here, preferably in the area of Second City


10am Brunch at The Publican

Check out Maxwell St Market - snack at Taco Stands

Possible bus or boat tour - recommendations?

Check out Art Institute of Chicago

7pm Dinner at The Girl and The Goat scratch that, no reservations available!! Need suggestions here. Blackbird has availability, but is beyond the budget.


Conference starts at 1pm at Toyota Park, which is near Midway. Need a good breakfast option, probably preferably out near the hotel in Burr Ridge

Edited by LizD518 (log)
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For breakfast near midway, Birrieria Zaragoza is a can't miss (assuming you like goat for breakfast, and who doesn't).

For Sunday dinner, could do Purple Pig - no reservations, might have to wait a bit depending on when you turn up.

Don't know if you've ever seen LTHforums, but they are a great Chicago resource as well.

ETA: The Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tours are excellent, but don't think they run in February - anything boat is probably going to be pretty chilly.

Edited by bmdaniel (log)
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Don't know how big your group is, but Frontera doesn't take reservations for parties of 4 or less. If you don't have a reservation, you could be waiting some time before you get a table.

The French Market isn't all that interesting.

I'd also recommend the Architectural boat tour, but boat tours are going to be limited in February. I know nothing of the bus tours.

Sunday dinner options: If you're looking for something along the lines of Girl & Goat, I'd recommend Avec. I'd even say Avec is the (far) better restaurant. If you absolutely must go to G&G, just walk in and sit at the bar, though your success in doing this will depend on how many people are in your party. Also in the area are Maude's Liquor Bar, Au Cheval, and Nellcote. Closer to the AI is The Gage.

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Regarding G&TG - try turning up before the doors open, around 4.30 pm, wait, and get yourself in to the front desk the moment the doors open. The wait will likely be quite decent then. Depends on how many of you there are, a party of two or so is best.

Frontera Grill - ditto, turn up just before the doors open if you have no reservations (they do take a VERY LIMITED number with larger groups and at this date they must be gone). If you sit at the bar you can ord er from both the Frontera Grill menu and the Topolobampo menu.

Are you really sure you want to do Hot Doug's? At 1 pm you could be waiting quite, quite a while in line down the block, for stuff that isn't all that earth-shaking. It's also about 25 miles from Burr Ridge to Hot Doug's, taking Interstate 55 and Interstate 94 along the way, not two of the fastest flowing roads especially on a Saturday afternoon. I'm not sure if there are any major games in town too on whichever Saturday you arrive...

There's a bar opposite Second City but I have no opinion on that one. Not really that much around that area for good dessert & drinks, that I know of anyway. One option might be to head on down to Division, walking down Wells, sampling or eyeing the bars along the way and hitting the Division melee of pubs/bars/general scene (can be a mob around some places) (depends on what sort of clientele you want, too). Or, head on down a little more to Sable in the Hotel Palomar for fabulous inventive cocktails, one of the largest selections of single malts and whiskeys around, and sample "small plates" (quite good "bar food" IMO although some folks consider the food/desserts from Heather Terhune to be utterly superb [i disagree]). But the drinks and bar atmosphere is bright (can be a little loud), more "upscale", with a pretty nice long bar. The cocktail menu is pages long - plus the listing of the scotches etc, it's a small book!

An alternative is the Violet Hour (in Wicker Park) on Damen just south of North Ave, 2.3 miles from Second City going west on North Ave. Great cocktails, but no real desserts, there's a selection of cheeses available, also some munchies.

Another option is to wander around Rush & State, just a mile down from Second City (via Clark or Wells) - there are bars and places to grab some dessert around there, loiter around the Viagra Triangle there if you want (heh) and maybe walk down State or Rush (the area can be quite lively) - maybe down to Sable? (Then cab it back to wherever you were parked) :-)

Yet alternatively, you could try out/try for entrance at the Aviary close by G&TG on Sunday night (if you try for an early dinner) - try emailing them NOW, or just try your luck. They have some of the most inventive drinks around. One of a kind of place. There's not really the same sort of place in NYC (or SF or LA, as far as I know), unless the quality of their concoctions have gone down since I was last there (before their Master Cocktail Maker got kicked out).

p.s. G&TG is Girl & The Goat.

Edited by huiray (log)
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Great suggestions, thanks. There will probably be only two of us, unless we pick up some other strays who arrive early, lol.

And we're both pretty flexible on plans, so the itinerary is loose. So far,I did make a brunch reservation at the Publican, but I may also just make a map with places we are interested in and then see where the days take us...

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Try the little goat diner. I went a couple of weeks back, Izard was very much on the line, and it's a fascinating concept.

Drinks: second violet hour. Alts: aviary, sable.

Frontera alt: Mexique.

Blackbird alt: Avec (next door, also Kahn. Have the dates)

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What huiray said.

Get to GATG and Frontera Grill EARLY. Be there right when they open and be prepared to grab seats . (NB: I've gotten a Frontera reservation for 2 before, but I called 3 months in advance.)

For Girl and the Goat, both the actual bar area with bar stools as well as the lounge tables with couches are considered first come, first served, and they serve the full menu at both. So you might be OK if a lounge table opens up and you don't mind eating on low tables. Love the food, and it's very reasonably priced.

Maybe for Saturday lunch, skip Hot Doug's, and try Purple Pig then, as they are open continuously all day. Even if your flight or check in is delayed, it's not like you're missing a reservation or something, or worrying about Doug closing the line at a certain time (which they do).

The Violet Hour is excellent (craft cocktails in a speakeasy setting) but they don't allow standing inside, and it's rather popular. And I'm afraid of what the line will be like on a weekend night. Many people choose to wait while eating tacos and drinking bourbon across the street, at Big Star (IMO the tacos are good, but they used to be better).

Also the Aviary is CLOSED Sundays and Mondays. Your only shot would be on Saturday and if I recall correctly, the reservation time slots are only for 6, 8, and 10pm. They might be willing to make an exception if you ask nicely? The new head bartender is great.

There's not really the same sort of place in NYC (or SF or LA, as far as I know), unless the quality of their concoctions have gone down since I was last there (before their Master Cocktail Maker got kicked out).

The quality still seemed quite high to me in late October when I was there last (for the Kyoto Next menu).

Booker & Dax in NYC or Rogue24 in DC are in a similar vein but not exactly.

Edited by kathryn (log)
"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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The art institute does some great architectural walking tours of the city. One of the highlights of our trip to Chicago (which included dinner at alinea) and a good way to burn off some calories. I don't know much about architecture but enjoyed the Art Deco tour quite a bit. You can reserve online and they are small groups - maybe ten people in ours

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eternal - I'll have to check out the Art Institute's tours. That sounds like what I'm looking for.

I feel like I should clarify that for drinks, only one of us drinks, so that is why I'm also interested in a place that serves good dessert or late-night snacks.

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Man, go old-school on the hot dogs.

I recommend Weiner Circle on N. Clark. Char hot with everything, including sport peppers.

(Place gets written up for the late night fratboy antics with the counter staff, but go during lunchtime, no line at all, and the dogs are superlative.)

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Hot Doug"s = Yes

French Market = not a chance

See "The Bean" = totally and across the street The Gage is worth small bites, but not full plates

Second City = across the street on North Ave is Old Town Ale House, a legendary pub....Bordain was just there filming

Boat tour = only the Architecture Foundation, the boat should be green, not blue.

Skip Blackbird and head straight to Avec next door.

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  • 1 month later...

So sorry I haven't had a chance to post - we were in Chicago for 5 days about a month ago. Izard's restaurants are both winners. We loved our lunch at The Gage (the Elk Poutine was "best bite of trip" for us). Purple Pig and Slurping Turtle were both terrific. The only under-performer we experienced was lunch at Mercat a la Planxa. Lou Mitchell's is solid for breakfast or lunch.


Elk Poutine


Pork Secreto with Roasted Red Pepper, Leeks & Pickled Watermelon Rind, from Purple Pig

I did a six part blog series chronicling all of our eats on my blog, beginning here.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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So...the best laid plans...

We arrived Saturday, and it turns out that we did not rent a car after all. After checking in to our hotel, which was in Burr Ridge, about a half hour southwest of the city, we met up with a colleague for lunch in the area at a chain restaurant Wok & Fire. Authentic, no, but not bad either. Afterwards we headed for the nearby train station at Hinsdale, intending to catch the train into the city, but the next one wasn't for two hours. Instead we wandered around the shops nearby and treated ourselves to mani-pedis before heading back to the hotel. We ended up ordering deep dish pizza from Giordano's for dinner, which was pretty good. My feeling on deep dish is that it is nice for a change once in a great while, but I definitely prefer New York style for every day.

Sunday we did take the train in and I had made reservations for brunch at the Publican. It was great. We shared the banana bread with ricotta & honey; the bucatini a la carbonara with pork belly; the tartine with Russian dressing & grilled sirloin, topped with a fried egg & garnished with fried oysters; and a "side of bacon" - a thick strip of pork belly that had been braised in maple syrup & chicken stock...swoon! After that, we popped next door into Glazed & Infused and picked up a half dozen donuts to share with friends. The blood orange glazed one was my favorite. Thankfully we walked from Union Station to the Publican, and then over to the Art Institute.

Dinner was a local fast-food (I guess that is what you'd call it) place suggested by friends we met up with - Portillos - it was...fine.

I knew when planning this trip that we probably wouldn't do most of what I hoped, but getting to the Publican was definitely worth it, and hopefully I'll have reason to go back soon and try to make a few more of the places on my list.

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NancyH, sorry about whatever happened at trial in Chicago - but glad to hear you got to eat some nice stuff.

LizD518, thanks for the report. Oh well, next time. :-) I must suppose the postprandial stroll was beneficial to the digestion (heh). :-D

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Another visit to Chicago.

I thought I would include my request in this thread since all of you Chicago-centric members are already involved. My dates are Thurs, March 21 - Sun, March 24th. I've obviously left this too late. G&TG rez's are for mid April now. Alinea is all booked up, of course. I was devasted to see that Spring is gone. One of my top 5 meals of a lifetime there several years ago. I'll try all of the no-rez spots mentioned above at the times suggested but I've got a 50th birthday to celebrate and don't want to risk a complete disaster. Doesn't matter which night. Staying at the Felix.

Any brilliant suggestions for a resto that takes rez's and isn't booked into next month? Money/style not an issue.

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I snagged my G&TG reservation the day before- keep checking Opentable as you get closer as there may be cancellations. I can heartily recommend The Gage, based on our lunch there.

Other places highly recommended to me were Sable Kitchen & Bar, 505 N State St Chicago, IL 60654‎, Avec, Publican (I've eaten at Publican once and it is outstanding), and Acadia, 1639 S Wabash Ave Chicago, IL 60616‎.

Takehashi also takes reservations: 1952 N. Damen Avenue 773 772 6170 HOURS

Tuesday - Thursday 5:30pm - 10pm
Friday 5:30pm - 10:30pm
Saturday 5pm - 10:30pm
Sunday (Kaiseki Menu Only)
Dinner 5pm - 9:00pm
Monday closed

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Gayot has Everest and Prosecco as up there. Comments?

Everest is quite splendid IMO. I've had great experiences there, although there have been some who had "bad" experiences. However, the "bad"-ness were really less-than-perfect service issues which were thought to be "bad" because of the very high level/standards the place was held to (and also considering the cost - it WON'T be a cheap meal) The food IMO has been very good, although I haven't been back there in a little while. They also have probably the largest selection of French/Alsatian wines around on this side of the Atlantic, if that matters to you. I presume you have not been there - FYI the view (40th floor of the Chicago Exchange) is WESTWARDS over the city spreading to the suburbs, NOT over the Loop/Downtown/Lake Michigan; but is still very nice, especially if you get there just before sunset and have your meal while experiencing sunset then dusk then nightfall. Request a window table for this - you may not get it but they do try to be accommodating. Grand decor, JACKETS REQUIRED.

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