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Chicago Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


Allen
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We will be staying at the Sofitel Water Tower (downtown), but don't mind driving or taking a taxi to other neighborhoods if it is worth it.  We just LOVE to eat!  I have not been to Frontera Grill or Topolobampo yet?  Any comparisons?

Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are sister restaurants, long-time favorites founded and run by award-winning Chef Rick Bayless, who is still usually on the premises. They offer very creative Mexican food, not your standard "enchiladas and beans". I like them; generally most people like them too, although in all fairness, I've also heard a few people report they were disappointed. Frontera Grill is less expensive than Topo, although the prices are rather similar at lunchtime. Topo takes reservations; Frontera doesn't, except for a handful of reservations first thing in the morning for that day only, and you may need to wait to be seated. (Hence Nancy's advice on arriving before they open.) You can check out their menus (including prices) on their website at http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants. They are walking distance from your hotel. Either is an excellent choice for lunch (one of many).

For breakfast, either location of Bongo Room is far enough away (a couple of miles) that you will want to take a cab (or bus or el). Another place specializing in breakfast that's slightly under a mile west of your hotel is Kitsch'n (River North location). Closer and walkable (and to the north) is the Bellevue Place location of the Original Pancake House, same franchise as Walker Brothers (with the puffed-up apple pancake). The upscale restaurants in the luxury hotels in the immediate vicinity also serve excellent breakfast, although they are generally expensive - NoMI in the Park Hyatt, the Cafe in the Ritz-Carlton, and Seasons in the Four Seasons. If you happen to be going into the Loop (about a mile south of your hotel), perhaps to visit Millennium Park or the Art Institute, two places that serve interesting breakfasts are Atwood Cafe (American comfort food, in the Hotel Burnham) and Heaven on Seven (Wabash location, for Cajun food).

As a final possibility, for breakfast, lunch, or otherwise, about half a mile from your hotel (to the southeast) is Fox and Obel, which is our premier gourmet grocery store, with the finest in ingredients (meats, fish, produce, cheese, etc) as well as prepared foods. Not only is it fun to check out, but they also have a cafe in the rear of the store where they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and light snacks. No fancy decor - basic coffeehouse - but excellent food at reasonable prices. If you enjoy breakfast pastries, I strongly recommend their cinnamon swirl rolls; they also have the best bran muffins, too.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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I think I must be pretty lowbrow, because I wouldn't call TAC Quick a dump at all (the neighborhood maybe, the interior no). I thought I was in the wrong place last weekend because it looked too fancy for a place serving good Thai food. I would give them a B-. The khanom jiin was a total disappointment. The yam kraphao plaa (fish maw salad) was decent and the thwat man (fish cakes) equaled what I ate in the night markets in Thailand.

Depending on your tastes, you may enjoy going to Mysore Woodland, the dosai are good, the sadarava dosai not something you see in every South Indian restaurant and you can buy some very tasty snacks at Kamdar Plaza (I have a weakness for the chuklis). I also think you can't go wrong at a taxicab driver place, I still lament the loss of the one that occupied Sport Dog (now that was a dump!).

In my eight years in Chicago I never appreciated the deep dish nor the beef, but I did and do love the sandwiches at Fontano Foods (best made by Mary Fontano) and the Conte Di Savoia (because they're open on Sunday!). The giardiniera with 4 kinds of pork cold cuts is a thing of beauty. My views may be colored by the fond memories I have when I worked near-by at UIC but they seem very Chicago only type of places to me.

regards,

trillium

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Regarding TAC Quick, I suspect most of us don't worry as much about decor as about food, right? FWIW, it appears to be a typical neighborhood storefront from the outside; the inside is semi-stylish but isn't exactly luxurious by any means. For example, the chairs are not upholstered, and are the stackable kind you'd find in your typical community center. But the use of colors and art on the walls make it a bit more attractive than your average neighborhood ethnic place. Bottom line, it's more dumpy looking from the outside than the inside.

As for the food, I think it's pretty good, although not what I would call great. Some people like it for its authenticity and for the unusual dishes on their Thai language menu. I generally prefer the more conventional Thai dishes, and theirs are okay, but there are other places around here that do a better job. If there is one dish that I judge Thai restaurants by, it's tom kha gai, and theirs is tomatoey, which that soup should not be. One additional plus is that they are very convenient to the el's Sheridan Road stop on the red line.

I ate at Mysore Woodlands for lunch a few months ago, and I was disappointed. For one thing, most Indian restaurants along Devon Avenue have an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, which is a great value and a nice way to try a multitude of foods. MW doesn't have a buffet. And while I had a lunch with an assortment of dishes on it, none of them really struck me as good, let alone great. My go-to Indian place on Devon Avenue has been Tiffin, but I went there for lunch last year and it seemed to have gone down a notch or two - still okay, but not as good as it had been in past visits. Next time I'm in the area, I'll try something new (someplace I haven't been).

I love Chicago deep-dish pizza, both kinds - double-crust "stuffed" pizza (e.g. Giordano's) and single-crust "pan" pizza (Lou Malnati's). However, I generally eat it for dinner, rather than lunch, because it (either style) is very filling.

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I second nsxtasy's recommendation of Fox & Obel. However, it's a little over a mile from your hotel, not half a mile.

If you're in the mood for just coffee and pastry for breakfast, right in your neighborhood is Sarah's Pastries and Candies. Good stuff.

"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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Regarding TAC Quick . . .  Bottom line, it's more dumpy looking from the outside than the inside.

That's what I meant by my description of it - when we walked up to it, I thought "what a dump" - but once inside - nsxtasty's description is pretty accurate.

I loved the food there.

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

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Regarding TAC Quick . . .  Bottom line, it's more dumpy looking from the outside than the inside.

That's what I meant by my description of it - when we walked up to it, I thought "what a dump" - but once inside - nsxtasty's description is pretty accurate.

I loved the food there.

Me too. I've never been to Thailand but TAC is my very favorite Thai in Chicago, though there are several others I really enjoy, too . . . Spoon, Sticky Rice, Elephant Thai among them.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Have you considered Silver Spoon? I've never been there, but their other restaurant, Spoon, in Lincoln Square, is among the city's best Thai places. The fact that Silver Spoon is next door to the Thai consulate may or may not make a difference to you ...

Silver Spoon

710 N. Rush St.

Chicago

(312) 944-7100

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Have you considered Silver Spoon? I've never been there, but their other restaurant, Spoon, in Lincoln Square, is among the city's best Thai places. The fact that Silver Spoon is next door to the Thai consulate may or may not make a difference to you ...

Silver Spoon

710 N. Rush St.

Chicago

(312) 944-7100

I work around the corner from Thai Spoon. Its not that great. I go there for lunch occasionally when a colleague suggests it, but I always walk out disappointed.

I would consider one of the other options nearby.

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We're headed up to Chicago this weekend and I'm wondering if there are any recommendations for a Thai place that is closer to the Mag. Mile?  Tac Quick is my backup plan.  What about Star of Siam or Singha Thai?

I've enjoyed the food at Vong's Thai Kitchen. The primary downside is that it's an upscale place so the prices are substantially higher than at neighborhood-type Thai restaurants.

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We ended up having our first lunch at Nuevo Leon on 18th St., which was mentioned in another thread and we absolutely loved it. It was cheap, good, and authentic. We were some of the few non-hispanics in the place and I always figure that's a good sign.

For the lunch I asked about above, we ended up at Star of Siam because it was convenient. I think it fit the bill for that purpose - don't go out of your way to make it a special meal but if you want reasonably-priced Thai within a reasonable walking distance from Michigan Ave., it was pretty good. The atmosphere is nice too.

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  • 2 weeks later...

TAC Quick is worth the train/taxi ride for the Thai language menu. The fried chicken w/ tamarind dipping sauce is great and the crispy on choy salad will stop you in your tracks. Other highlights are the star anise dish with a hard boiled egg and tofu, Thai beef jerky, Suki, and the Issan sausages. If you go, your in for a real treat.

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  • 1 month later...

in short, now that this response is loooong overdue, she (madisonite) and i did go to TAC and it was great. definitely worth a little trip out of the way from downtown. and there's this little bakery almost across the street, can't recall the name, but it was all cookies, puff pastry and bread and it smelled great. the cookies were pretty good too.

i'm putting together a spot about our dinner at alinea as well, which is singularly the best dining experience i've ever had. i can still remember the tastes 2 months later...

Encased Meats!!!

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Since Fox and Obel has shown up here I'm curious if anyone else has eaten in the cafe recently. It had been 5 or 6 months since my last visit and the menu seemed " dumbed" down for lack of a better term and the food that came out was over cooked and bland. Has something changed?

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Hey, what's with this merged topic?

"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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Bump!

Hey guys,

While I have read the thread, I am a NYC egulleter checking in with one of the obligatory where to eat posts..

I have a res at Alinea (really excited) and am curious about brunch/lunch dining options near Hotel Burnham where we will be staying.

Having read the thread, I am thinking of checking out Onesixtyblue and/or North Pond at some point (e.g., lunch or dinner) and hopefully one of the Bayless restaurants as well.

Thanks in advance for any recos, and if there are any new places that are worth checking out that havent been mentioned recently please post em up :)

Thanks in advance!

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I haven't been to Onesixtyblue in awhile, but I was just at North Pond and it was really really good.

If you want to stay really close to your hotel Custom House, Powerhouse and Blackbird are all good spots.

Not sure when your trip is, but if it's far enough out you should definitely try for a reservation at Schwa.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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I haven't been to Onesixtyblue in awhile, but I was just at North Pond and it was really really good.

If you want to stay really close to your hotel Custom House, Powerhouse and Blackbird are all good spots.

Not sure when your trip is, but if it's far enough out you should definitely try for a reservation at Schwa.

Thanks for your reply.

The trip will be end of May. What's the story with Schwa?

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I have a res at Alinea (really excited) and am curious about brunch/lunch dining options near Hotel Burnham where we will be staying.

Atwood Cafe is right in the hotel, and it's very good indeed. There are lots of other good places in the area, including Vivere and Trattoria No. 10 for Italian food, and Pizano's on Madison for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

Having read the thread, I am thinking of checking out Onesixtyblue and/or North Pond at some point (e.g., lunch or dinner) and hopefully one of the Bayless restaurants as well.

Neither one sixtyblue nor North Pond is open for lunch (although North Pond is open for Sunday brunch). Both of the Bayless restaurants are open for lunch during the week, and Frontera Grill is open for Saturday brunch. If you're looking for a contemporary American restaurant near downtown open for lunch during the week, in addition to Atwood Cafe in the hotel, I suggest Blackbird.

Incidentally, I have eaten at both one sixtyblue and North Pond within the past six months. Both were excellent, my two favorite casual fine dining restaurants in the city. If I had to describe them, one sixtyblue continues to serve the very best food of any such restaurant, in a classy contemporary setting; North Pond serves excellent food in an exquisite, unique setting in the middle of Lincoln Park.

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I have a res at Alinea (really excited) and am curious about brunch/lunch dining options near Hotel Burnham where we will be staying.

Atwood Cafe is right in the hotel, and it's very good indeed. There are lots of other good places in the area, including Vivere and Trattoria No. 10 for Italian food, and Pizano's on Madison for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

Having read the thread, I am thinking of checking out Onesixtyblue and/or North Pond at some point (e.g., lunch or dinner) and hopefully one of the Bayless restaurants as well.

Neither one sixtyblue nor North Pond is open for lunch (although North Pond is open for Sunday brunch). Both of the Bayless restaurants are open for lunch during the week, and Frontera Grill is open for Saturday brunch. If you're looking for a contemporary American restaurant near downtown open for lunch during the week, in addition to Atwood Cafe in the hotel, I suggest Blackbird.

Incidentally, I have eaten at both one sixtyblue and North Pond within the past six months. Both were excellent, my two favorite casual fine dining restaurants in the city. If I had to describe them, one sixtyblue continues to serve the very best food of any such restaurant, in a classy contemporary setting; North Pond serves excellent food in an exquisite, unique setting in the middle of Lincoln Park.

Thanks for the tips! I will try to work some in for lunch.

I now have reservations at Nort Pond and at the soon to open L2o which I couldnt pass up.

Laurent Gras is an AMAZING chef. His work at Peacock Alley in NYC was seriously some of the best cooking going on in NYC, and the restaurant was a sleeper. Many didnt know about him or how good it was.

I am only going to be in Chicago from Thursday night through Monday morning...looks like it is going to be a jam packed food fest :biggrin:

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  • 2 months later...

Hi all,

we will be in Chicago in mid-september for 4 days.

3 nights are reserved for some of the great restaurants this city has to offer - the question is: which ones?

Our shortlist so far consists of (if possible in that order):

-Schwa

-Alinea

-Moto (even though I read terrible things about the service there...)

What do you think?

Any other ideas?

And are the "Food Planet Food Tours" a good thing to do as "sightseeing"?

Thanks

Best

kai

Edited by kai-m (log)
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Hi all,

we will be in Chicago in mid-september for 4 days.

3 nights are reserved for some of the great restaurants this city has to offer - the question is: which ones?

Our shortlist so far consists of (if possible in that order):

-Schwa

-Alinea

-Moto (even though I read terrible things about the service there...)

What do you think?

Any other ideas?

And are the "Food Planet Food Tours" a good thing to do as "sightseeing"?

Thanks

Best

kai

As much as I like Moto, you might want to do L2O instead. If you want something a little less "molecular" I would suggest either Blackbird or North Pond (btw, I had an absolutely incredible meal at North Pond last weekend, easily the best of the 3 meals I've had there).

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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