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Chicago Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


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I'm usually loathe to make recs outside of my home (or at least oft-visited) turf but I stumbled onto Star of Siam last week and had a delightful lunch there. They have an extensive menu, wine and cocktails and I really liked the dining room, service and 'vibe'. I was alone so I didn't try a vast array of foods but what I had was spot-on.

I'd love to hear what some of the locals think of it (having only Arun's as a Chicago comparison - and it's apples and oranges). Oh, and it's in River North so probably walkable depending on where exactly they're staying.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Lots of really good suggestions, but many of these places aren't downtown, so it could be something of a hassle (and added expense) if they're staying in Mag Mile, River North, or Loop.

I second Star of Siam. It's pretty good and super cheap for being in the high-rent district. My only criticism is that the preparation of the dishes isn't always consistent. It great about 80% of the time and really "off" other times. The low prices and generally excellent food make it worth the (minor) risk, however. I've eaten there many, many times.

Quartino (an enoteca at State and Ontario) would be a great choice, too. The most I've ever spent on food for two is about $45 and often much less. The wine is cheap and decent and the menu has an extensive selection of small plates. It is really noisy at dinner time, so I usually go there for lunch (about once a week...today, in fact).

The Morton's of Chicago on Wacker Drive (east of Michigan Ave) has really good happy hour food specials in the bar (weeknights only). Good-quality stuff for way less than normal appetizer prices. Their desserts, although very traditional, are quite good too (perfect creme brulee and chocolate cake).

Kan Zaman, a Lebanese place in River North on Wells Street is also decent and not too expensive.

If they'll be in Chicago during the week, several high-end places offer mid-week specials for tremendous deals (usually on Tuesdays or Wednesdays). Opera (high-style Chinese) has a $25 three-course deal and Le Lan (Vietnamese/French) has a prix-fixe 3-course for about $10 more.

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If you're looking for Thai cheap, star of Siam is way, way in the distance compared to the glorious and absurdly cheap Mr. Thai. It's not close to downtown - North ashland, but it's ridiculously cheap, amazingly good, and BYOB to boot. It's by far the best non-Arun's thai place in Chicago.

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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  • 4 months later...

On a recent trip to Chicago just a few days ago I was fortunate to make it back to Alinea. Naturally, I enjoyed myself thoroughly but was unable to eat anywhere else due to the very short nature of my trip.

I will be going back to Chicago this weekend and will likely be staying at the Park Hyatt. Although I will be in the city for a few days (Fri-Sun) I am not sure if I will have much time for myself. With that in mind, I'd love to hear about some good eats in the Park Hyatt area (800 North Michigan Ave.). Walking distance or a short cab ride is preferred. Ideally I'm looking for quintessentially Chicagoan food items that are easily grabbed if I have an hour or two to spare in the afternoon or early evening. My dinners are already taken care of, so I'm looking for "all-day" places. Price isn't so much of a concern but given the nature of my request I guess I'm looking for inexpensive, local-y items. Bars are less interesting for me because I can't drink.

I'm pretty sure that the area I'm staying in isn't really a true Chicago neighborhood but would love any guidance I can get.

Thanks so much for the help.

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Although I will be in the city for a few days (Fri-Sun) I am not sure if I will have much time for myself.  With that in mind, I'd love to hear about some good eats in the Park Hyatt area (800 North Michigan Ave.).  Walking distance or a short cab ride is preferred.  Ideally I'm looking for quintessentially Chicagoan food items that are easily grabbed if I have an hour or two to spare in the afternoon or early evening.  My dinners are already taken care of, so I'm looking for "all-day" places.  Price isn't so much of a concern but given the nature of my request I guess I'm looking for inexpensive, local-y items.  Bars are less interesting for me because I can't drink.

Frontera Grill lunch or brunch not inexpensive but excellent on clark st

Mr. Beef on Orleans - IMO, best Italian Beef in your area...Ronnie S. may argue that Al's on Ontario is better but he is WRONG :wink:

Billy Goat Taven - the original under Michigan Av just south of ohio on the west side of Michigan there are stairs that will lead you down to the spot made famous by the old school Saturday Night Live gang...double cheese

if you are looking for cheap late night Hot Dogs, I suppose the show at Wiener Circle on Clark is the not to be missed...burgers, dogs, cheese fries

in the Park Hyatt the bar iat Nomi is cool and serves that tasty iberian pig product

L'Appetito - ground floor of the John Handcock building...Italian Deli...carries some Salumeria Biellese products- Culatello...there grinders are great, you should sub what ever meats you like

Pizza...everyone has there own favorite...thick, thin...I go with Pizzeria Due (pan thick) on Ontario, the pans that the pizzas are baked in have many years of seasoning

If you pass by a Potbelly's Sub, a Chicago spot...hot roast beef extra cheese with everything

Sarah's Pastries and Candy on Oak...

You are near plenty of higher end stuff but that was not your request.

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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If you go for Chicago pizza - I wouldn't, because it's filling and you have plans for dinner, but if you do - then I recommend Giordano's (for stuffed double-crust pizza; 730 N. Rush St., 312-951-0747) or Gino's East (for single-crust pan pizza; 162 E. Superior St, 312-266-3337) because both are closer to your hotel than Due. Call ahead so you don't have to wait 30-45 minutes for your pizza to bake.

A couple of good nearby lunch places that are nicer sitdown places but won't break the bank are Bistro 110 and Cafe Spiaggia, the downscale cousin of the fine dining Spaggia. Websites for both are here.

If I've got dinner plans, I prefer to eat breakfast or brunch rather than lunch. One good place for that, not far from your hotel is Kitsch'n River North. They get busy on weekends, especially Sunday. For a more sumptuous breakfast or Sunday brunch, NoMi, the upscale restaurant in the Park Hyatt, serves both, and you can peruse their menus on their website.

But if you REALLY want to do the quintessential everyday Chicago breakfast, nowhere is more famous than Lou Mitchell's (565 W. Jackson Blvd., 312-939-3111). It's on the west side of the Loop near Union Station, so you'll need to take a cab. This place is a big commuter hangout, with more crowds on weekdays than on the weekend.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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Hey Bryan

Maybe I will bump into you. We will be there also, hitting Alinea as our splurge dinner. Otherwise, I am seriously looking forward to some shots at Intelligentsia and overloading on local pizza.

Evan

Dough can sense fear.

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It's funny how the world works. From SK to a random weekend in Chicago. I'd love to get your thoughts on Alinea, either in person or via eG. If you make any Chicago food discoveries, please let me know. I do hope our paths cross.

And thanks everyone for the suggestions so far. They're right on target. I'm in Chicago for a recruitment event so large chunks of my day (and, unfortunately, most of my meals) are planned and am really just looking for ways to get a more food-cultured Chicago experience.

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What everyone else said. If you want to pick up some sweets to get you through your long meetings, Sarah's, as Eliot mentioned, is very, very good. I also wouldn't pass up an opportunity to load up on truffles at Vosges, just a few blocks down Michigan. Also very close to you is the Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses a Wolfgang Puck Café. I've not been to the café, but folks seem to like it and the setting is very cool.

"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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Will getting into Frontera Grill this Saturday lunch be really impossible. I'll be a single diner and have no problem eating at the bar, so when should I go? Exactly at opening, try to get in after the first turn?

What should I order? I can't find a dedicated Frontera Grill thread.

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Will getting into Frontera Grill this Saturday lunch be really impossible.  I'll be a single diner and have no problem eating at the bar, so when should I go?  Exactly at opening, try to get in after the first turn?

What should I order?  I can't find a dedicated Frontera Grill thread.

I think you can make a reservation...I always order the Mexico City quesadillas(Quesadillas Capitalinas), tacos al carbon , if the stuffed rellenos are ready at lunch then grab one because those sell out daily,Tostaditas de Ceviche, all the breakfast / dishes look great but I have not eaten off that part of the menu Margaritas are good...

I think Doc posted some pictures that he took at Brunch last June so that thread has to be somewhere. He could also suggest some dishes as he is a Bayless fan.

Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Yes, Doc's pictures are in the Topolo thread. Kind of confusing, but I found them. Apparently they take same-day reservations starting at 8:30 AM. I don't know, seems kind of foolish. I guess I'll try that or, if not, just show up when brunch starts.

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Yes, Doc's pictures are in the Topolo thread.  Kind of confusing, but I found them.  Apparently they take same-day reservations starting at 8:30 AM.  I don't know, seems kind of foolish.  I guess I'll try that or, if not, just show up when brunch starts.

I thought Doc made his reservations a few days before...call them.

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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I'm headed to Chicago as well this weekend for my best friends 30th B-day bash. I lobbied 3 months sraight for Alinea, but several of my friends within the group refused. All is well. :sad: OK, maybe not. But I'm dealing with it. I guess we are going for a more causual evening and have reservations at Fronterra Grill. No complaints. I've never been to FG and have heard some fantastic praise regarding the same.

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The best fix would be to get new best friends by this weekend.  It'd be worth it to go to Alinea if you haven't been.  Or you could just blow off your friends--probably what I'd do--and go alone.  Only 1/4 kidding.

:biggrin:

Honestly, my wife and I were seriously thinking that we should blow them off for an evening. BUT I just found out I will be in Chicago in early June. No worries - ALINEA HERE I COME.

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If you show up a few minutes before opening, there should be no problem in getting a seat at Frontera Grill. There's usually a line of at least 20 by the opening bell most days (even more if the weather is nice). As far as I know, they take a limited number of same day reservations starting around 8/8:30am for parties of any size, but only take advance reservations for larger parties. The bar is a nice place to sit as a solo diner as the bartenders are typically both friendly and knowledgeable of the menu. On Saturday mornings they serve brunch, with many Mexican egg dishes as well as a few standard lunch items such as tacos.

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  • 4 months later...

OK, I apologize in advance for adding yet another post asking the same ole "I will be in chicago and where should I eat" question...but I am doing it anyway. Here's my story - I am coming in for a conference and will be there for 8 evenings. I've got evening events already planned for some of the nights. So...I need to know where to eat on other nights. I am staying at the Sheraton Chicago, don't have a vehicle.

I feel that I am a bit of a restaurant snob. Not meaning I have to do fine dining all the time, but I don't want to waste my time on going to an average place. I love local places, hidden gems, and all kinds of cuisine. Two other things - I have a one-year-old so I very, very, very rarely get to go out to dinner and I live in DC...not exactly the kind of restaurant town Chicago is.

so what are your not-to-be missed places? Also...are there some places that serve food late? I have a feeling that after some of these receptions I will still be hungry and need to go out to eat at 10pm or later!

Thanks in advance!

ann

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OK, I apologize in advance for adding yet another post asking the same ole "I will be in chicago and where should I eat" question...but I am doing it anyway.  Here's my story - I am coming in for a conference and will be there for 8 evenings.  I've got evening events already planned for some of the nights.  So...I need to know where to eat on other nights.  I am staying at the Sheraton Chicago, don't have a vehicle. 

I feel that I am a bit of a restaurant snob.  Not meaning I have to do fine dining all the time, but I don't want to waste my time on going to an average place.  I love local places, hidden gems, and all kinds of cuisine.  Two other things - I have a one-year-old so I very, very, very rarely get to go out to dinner and I live in DC...not exactly the kind of restaurant town Chicago is. 

so what are your not-to-be missed places?  Also...are there some places that serve food late?  I have a feeling that after some of these receptions I will still be hungry and need to go out to eat at 10pm or later!

Thanks in advance!

ann

Ann, one place to start is to read the existing thread called "one month in chicago," started by babern38. Your hotel is quite close to his/hers, and so many of the same recommendations apply.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=105326

You might also check out the thread started by babern38 at LTH Forum:

http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=14567

Note that many of the very best restaurants that are close to the hotel area were suggested in Babern38's original post (Avec, Avenues, Frontera). I think these three would be near the top of most local's list of recommendations.

I'd suggest perusing those threads and then letting us know what types of cuisines and/or price points you are most interested in hearing additional recommendations about. As you'll see, it would also be helpful to know how willing your are to travel beyond walking distance.

Edited by Darren72 (log)
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Also...are there some places that serve food late?  I have a feeling that after some of these receptions I will still be hungry and need to go out to eat at 10pm or later!

Chicago's not a great late-night town. However, both Greektown and Chinatown offer many options for dining after 10 p.m. Greektown places serve until 11:30 or so, typically; Chinatown has a number of restaurants open till the wee hours. Both are short cab rides away. (I would not recommend that a lone female tourist attempt public transit late at night.)

Outside of those areas, Quartino, an excellent enoteca with house-cured meats, Italian small plates and more, is open daily till 1 a.m. For omelets and diner fare, Tempo is above average as 24-hour diners go.

Quartino

312/698-5000

http://www.quartinochicago.com

626 N. State St.

Tempo Cafe

312/943-4373

6 E. Chestnut St.

LAZ

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Also...are there some places that serve food late?  I have a feeling that after some of these receptions I will still be hungry and need to go out to eat at 10pm or later!

When researching late-night places, opentable can be extremely helpful. Many of Chicago's better restaurants accept reservations on this internet service. With a few clicks of your keyboard, it's easy to see what's open at any particular time of day.

For example, I just checked to see which places would accept a 10:30 pm reservation for next Wednesday, and roughly 50 of the 191 restaurants in the city show availability. Okay, not all of them are necessarily great or eGullet-worthy, but some of them are, including (in addition to the previously-mentioned Quartino):

Le Colonial (upscale Vietnamese)

Fulton's on the River (seafood)

The Gage (gastropub)

Hugo's Frog Bar (seafood)

The Lobby (new American)

Morton's (steakhouse)

Shanghai Terrace (upscale Chinese)

Smith and Wollensky (steakhouse)

Sullivan's (steakhouse)

Gibson's (steakhouse) is open late, too, but just doesn't happen to have openings for next Wednesday, a day I chose at random.

All of these are within a mile or so of your hotel.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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