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Chicago Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


Allen
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Thanks so much - I looked at those other threads and they are helpful. A cab ride is totally fine as far as distance goes.

I guess I would love a great Greek place (there are practically no Greek restaurants in DC), an American place, sushi, bistros, and just your faves. As for price points, I'd say around $25/entree would be the cap.

Regarding Frontera - do they take reservations? What's the wait for two on a Thursday night? I know you can eat at the bar...how long would that be? And...if we couldn't get into Frontera, where would you go instead?

That probably didn't help narrow it down at all!

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I guess I would love a great Greek place (there are practically no Greek restaurants in DC)

The best Greek places are all in Greek Town, up and down Halsted Street just west of the Loop:

Artopolis Bakery Cafe & Agora

306 S. Halsted St.

312-559-9000

Athena Greek Restaurant

212 S. Halsted St.

312-655-0000

Costa's

340 S. Halsted St.

312-263-9700

Greek Islands

200 S. Halsted St.

312-782-9855

Nine Muses

315 S. Halsted St.

312-902-9922

Parthenon

314 S. Halsted St.

312-726-2407

Pegasus Restaurant and Taverna

130 S. Halsted St.

312-226-3377

Roditys

222 S. Halsted St.

312-454-0800

Santorini

800 W. Adams St.

312-829-8820

Venus

820 W Jackson Blvd

Chicago, 60607

(312) 714-1001

All of these are good. Which is best? Everyone has his or her favorite, and there is no consensus. If I had to guess, I would say the most popular ones among foodies might be Santorini, the Parthenon, and Greek Islands.

an American place

There are lots of great "contemporary American" restaurants in town. My favorites in and around downtown are:

one sixtyblue

Aigre Doux (see my report here)

Blackbird

bistros

Bistro 110

Kiki's Bistro

You didn't mention Italian (I'm not talking about cheap Italian now - and there's always our wondeful pizza, don't forget - but rather, nicer Italian places) but we have a few of those that are worthwhile, and within your price range, notably Cafe Spiaggia, Coco Pazzo, and its slightly less expensive sibling, Coco Pazzo Cafe.

As for price points, I'd say around $25/entree would be the cap.

Some of the places above are only slightly more, like around $30 for entrees, while others are in the low to mid twenties. Check out their websites; most of them have sample menus with prices.

Regarding Frontera - do they take reservations?  What's the wait for two on a Thursday night?  I know you can eat at the bar...how long would that be?  And...if we couldn't get into Frontera, where would you go instead? 

Frontera Grill doesn't take reservations in advance. They take a few reservations over the phone when they first open at 8:30 am for that day only. Otherwise, you take your chances on waiting. The obvious choice if you want to make a reservation is Topolobampo, its sister restaurant next door. Both of these are open for lunch, when they are less expensive than dinner, so that's worth considering if you're concerned about the cost. Other creative Mexican places in or near downtown include Salpicon and both locations of Adobo Grill.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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Thanks so much - I looked at those other threads and they are helpful.  A cab ride is totally fine as far as distance goes.

I guess I would love a great Greek place (there are practically no Greek restaurants in DC), an American place, sushi, bistros, and just your faves.  As for price points, I'd say around $25/entree would be the cap. 

Regarding Frontera - do they take reservations?  What's the wait for two on a Thursday night?  I know you can eat at the bar...how long would that be?  And...if we couldn't get into Frontera, where would you go instead? 

That probably didn't help narrow it down at all!

Bistros...I would throw Mon Ami Gabi and Brasserie Jo into the mix...out of the ones mentioned, I have consistently had great meals at Mon Ami Gabi

Mexican...I would take a swing at Frontera, but Salpicon down the street is a fine choice and the chef worked with Bayless and recently hired one of the best sommeliers out there

American...what does that mean to you? I would second Blackbird

Favorites...For a dessert only experience - Hot Chocolate...Avec for small plates (serves semi-late)...

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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One of my favorite places to go when I would visit friends in Chicago was an Argentinian steakhouse called Tango Sur. It was always really good quality meat at a very reasonable price (once had a special of 12 oz. of fillet for $16). When I was there last it was BYOB which wasn't a big deal because there was a small wine shop just down the street.

It's on Southport (3763 N. Southport Ave.) within a short walk to the north of the Southport station on the Brown line. Oh yeah, the empanadas were great too. Enjoy your trip!

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One of my favorite places to go when I would visit friends in Chicago was an Argentinian steakhouse called Tango Sur.  It was always really good quality meat at a very reasonable price (once had a special of 12 oz. of fillet for $16).  When I was there last it was BYOB which wasn't a big deal because there was a small wine shop just down the street.

It's on Southport (3763 N. Southport Ave.) within a short walk to the north of the Southport station on the Brown line.  Oh yeah, the empanadas were great too.  Enjoy your trip!

The wine shop is Que Syrah.

3726 N Southport Ave

Chicago, IL 60613

(773) 871-8888

http://www.quesyrahwine.com/

To my recollection, Tango Sur is still BYOB and there is no corkage fee.

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I am hosting a 2-day business meeting on August 22 and 23 at the O'Hare Hilton (location is based on convenience as everyone is flying in from somewhere in North America). Because we are eating all our other meals in the hotel I would like to take the group off-site for dinner. I thought we could take the train/CTA downtown to a restaurant close to the transit line.

What can you recommend that is really good, without being too over the top price-wise. While I am expensing the meals, I don't want to be too extravagant. $60 - $75/pp with wine is what I was thinking for price but if that seems low I don't mind going higher. A varied and reasonable priced wine list is another requirement. There will be about 8 of us in total. Your help is really appreciated.

Cheers,

Karole

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I am hosting a 2-day business meeting on August 22 and 23 at the O'Hare Hilton (location is based on convenience as everyone is flying in from somewhere in North America). Because we are eating all our other meals in the hotel I would like to take the group off-site for dinner. I thought we could take the train/CTA downtown to a restaurant close to the transit line.

What can you recommend that is really good, without being too over the top price-wise. While I am expensing the meals, I don't want to be too extravagant. $60 - $75/pp with wine is what I was thinking for price but if that seems low I don't mind going higher. A varied and reasonable priced wine list is another requirement. There will be about 8 of us in total. Your help is really appreciated.

Blackbird is right downtown and is probably perfect for what you're looking for. Great wine list, great food, reasonably priced (i.e., expensive but not insanely so.) and relatively casual.

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

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Check with you concierge and I mean before you even get here. If you are all staying at the Hilton I imagine they would probably spring for a limo or courtesy van for a night out. 8 people, yeah I'm sure they could arrange dropping you off and picking you up.

They should also have a little pull with restaurants when it comes to last minute reservations.

Blackbird does sound perfect.

If your group is not really the "bistro" crowd you could do worse not going to Harry Caray's while it may seem like so much of a tourist trap they really do earn their money here.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Here's something else for you to consider. Under the best of circumstances it takes ~45 minutes from O'Hare to downtown. When you figure in the time to walk from the hotel to the CTA, then add some extra time because of ongoing construction projects on the Blue Line, and then possibly a short walk from your destination station to your restaurant, you're looking at a good 1¼-1½ hours door-to-door each way. For about the same price (your hotel doesn't offer a courtesy van) you can take a couple of cabs or one van to a good restaurant in the vicinity of the airport, say, Rosemont.

Here's a thread from earlier this year that briefly address this topic. (And here's the web site for Carlucci, mentioned in that thread but without a link.) As SundaySous mentioned, Harry Carry's is pretty good; there's one in Rosemont in addition to the one in River North.

"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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A few notes...

If the hotel provides a shuttle bus, then proximity to the el is no longer a priority. But ask in advance, as many hotels don't simply provide a shuttle bus on demand for no charge (even for eight guests).

Blackbird is excellent, but it's not exactly close to the Blue Line, the el line that runs from O'Hare. You could walk the ~8 blocks from the Clark and Lake stop on the Blue Line, or you could transfer to the Pink Line or Green Line to the Clinton stop, which makes it more like ~2 blocks. Also, you can expect to spend $80-110 per person there including wine and tax/tip (even more, if you go crazy with the wine).

If you are taking the el, I would consider Lula, which is within a block of the Logan Square stop on the Blue Line, or Spring or Feast, both of which are within a block or so of the Damen stop on the Blue Line. (Feast's website is under construction; their Metromix listing is here. Note that they have moved and their current address is 1616 N. Damen Ave.) Spring is a bit more expensive than Blackbird and may be more than you are willing to spend; Lula and Feast are both closer to your stated budget than Blackbird is.

The O'Hare Hilton is directly over the O'Hare el station, so the amount of time it takes to walk from the lobby of the O'Hare Hilton to the el station is perhaps one minute - not exactly a major impediment. As I mentioned, Blackbird is not that convenient to the Blue Line. But the other three places I mentioned are much, much closer in terms of time. Both the stops mentioned above - the Logan Square stop and the Damen stop - are before you would get to downtown on the el, if you kept going. Your door-to-door travel times to any of the three places I mentioned, including walking at both ends, are probably 30-40 minutes by el. Granted, you could take a cab to the Black Ram and be there in 10 minutes. Anyway, those are the travel times.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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When I read the orignal post, my thoughts echoed those of nsxtasy ... Lula Cafe is close to the Logan Square El stop, features locally-grown foods, and would be perfect - especially if your co-workers appreciate an out-of-the-way place that feels like a "find" - as opposed to the obvious downtown tourist places (some of which can be very good), or the equally obvious expense account places near O'Hare.

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Thanks very much for all your suggestions. My first choice was Lula but they don't take reservations and in discussions with the staff at lula they didn't think it was likely we would get a table for 8. I looked into the options close to O'Hare and used the hotel concierge as suggested. The recommendations were for steak, Carlucci's, Cafe la Cave or Nick's fish house. None of these fit the bill for fresh, innovative and local.

So, back to the orignal plan of heading downtown with the hope that getting there isn't too much fun! I was able to make reservations at Bin 36. Please let me know if you think this isn't a good solution. And again, thanks for your help. If you are ever in Vancouver, please let me know. There are some wonderful restaurants here that I wouldn't want you to miss. We take fresh, local and innovative seriously!

Cheers,

Karole

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I was able to make reservations at Bin 36. Please let me know if you think this isn't a good solution.

Bin 36 is fine. They're known as emphasizing wine more so than food, although obviously they do both. They're just a couple blocks walk from the Clark Street stop on the el's Blue Line, if you end up taking that. You can read more on their website.

What's funny is that their sister restaurant, Bin Wine Cafe, is located even closer to the Blue Line; it's right AT the Damen stop.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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Thanks very much for all your suggestions. My first choice was Lula but they don't take reservations and in discussions with the staff at lula they didn't think it was likely we would get a table for 8. I looked into the options close to O'Hare and used the hotel concierge as suggested. The recommendations were for steak, Carlucci's, Cafe la Cave or Nick's fish house. None of these fit the bill for fresh, innovative and local.

So, back to the orignal plan of heading downtown with the hope that getting there isn't too much fun! I was able to make reservations at Bin 36. Please let me know if you think this isn't a good solution. And again, thanks for your help. If you are ever in Vancouver, please let me know. There are some wonderful restaurants here that I wouldn't want you to miss. We take fresh, local and innovative seriously!

Some folks put it down, but I happen to like Bin 36 a lot. I think I've dined there as much as, if not more than, any other restaurant in Chicago, and have never had a bad meal. (I haven't been to Bin Wine Cafe, but I know it's much smaller than Bin 36.) The only drawback is that it can get really loud, but you'll be going mid-week, so that should help. It's just a few blocks from the Clark station, so that's a good thing. To keep yourself apprised of the latest Blue Line construction, though, you might want to check the CTA website just before you fly in.

Thanks for the invitation. Of course, I've heard and read wonderful things about Vancouver. I might not take you up on it, though, because if I visit I'll probably just wind up staying there, which might cause a problem with my wife and my school, not to mention Immigration.

"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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To keep yourself apprised of the latest Blue Line construction, though, you might want to check the CTA website just before you fly in.

Funny, I was thinking about exactly this when reading the following transit information in today's Trib; fortunately, the days you're planning are right before the construction they're talking about, so you should be okay:

Blue Line service will be suspended between the Western/Milwaukee and Clark/Lake stations Aug. 24-27 and Sept. 7-10.
Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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To keep yourself apprised of the latest Blue Line construction, though, you might want to check the CTA website just before you fly in.

Funny, I was thinking about exactly this when reading the following transit information in today's Trib; fortunately, the days you're planning are right before the construction they're talking about, so you should be okay:

Blue Line service will be suspended between the Western/Milwaukee and Clark/Lake stations Aug. 24-27 and Sept. 7-10.

Yeah, Ms. Alex got caught up in a Blue Line closure between Western and Jackson when she headed out for dinner at West Town Tavern (Chicago station) last Saturday night. There was a shuttle bus that followed the same route, but it was kind of a pain.

"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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  • 3 weeks later...

I'll be in Chicago (the Hilton downtown) December 3-5 (Monday-Wednesday). I've got a few questions:

1. Will we need reservations for Frontera Grill for lunch (3 people)?

2. Is it worth eating at Frontera Grill for both lunch and dinner (are the menus sufficiently different)? My GF's boss says he loves the place and he's pretty discriminating. It's also not super expensive so I don't have a problem eating there twice although I do if it's all the same stuff.

3. I'll be on my own for two lunches. Any must eats (Chicago dogs or Italian beef)? Can you suggest a place walking distance from the Hilton (720 S. Michigan Avenue)?

4. Any other suggestions for moderate (~$50 pp not including alcohol) dinners? My GF is German so we'd be interested in a German place or some place with local flavor. Again, walking distance from the Hilton preferred. She is not a big fan of Asian food but anything else will fly.

Thanks so much.

Edited to correct/clarify location

Edited by mojoman (log)
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I'll be in Chicago (the Hilton downtown) December 3-5 (Monday-Wednesday).  I've got a few questions:

1.  Will we need reservations for Frontera Grill for lunch (3 people)?

2.  Is it worth eating at Frontera Grill for both lunch and dinner (are the menus sufficiently different)?  My GF's boss says he loves the place and he's pretty discriminating.  It's also not super expensive so I don't have a problem eating there twice although I do if it's all the same stuff.

3.  I'll be on my own for two lunches.  Any must eats (Chicago dogs or Italian beef)?  Can you suggest a place walking distance from the Miracle Mile?

4.  Any other suggestions for moderate (~$50 pp not including alcohol) dinners?  My GF is German so we'd be interested in a German place or some place with local flavor.  Again, walking distance from the Hilton preferred.  She is not a big fan of Asian food but anything else will fly.

Thanks so much.

I don't think you can make resos for Frontera, but yes, it's worth going! Go early, if you can. Superb chile rellenos, which run out early. For dinner, try the other side, Topolobampo for more imaginative dishes in an upscale but "genuine" idiom. Or try Nacional 27, a pan-Hispanic place with great fresh food and creative mixology.

Though it's big and commercial as all getout, excellent Chicago dogs can be had at any of the Portillo's; downtown there's one on Ontario & Clark or Dearborn. (Remember: NO KETCHUP. I prefer mustard, relish, onions, tomato, peppers, pickle.)

My favorite Italian beef is at Al's on Orleans Street; get it "soaked" with "both peppers" (bell and giardiniera). It's as good as it gets and very consistent.

For great deep dish pizza in the same locale, hit Lou Malnati's on Wells Street (a block or two from Frontera). I like the deep dish sausage and onion. (Thin crust is also good.)

There are a bazillion downtown Hiltons--or several, anyhow. No good German places I know of near any of them. But you won't have any difficulty eating very well at under $50 a head, sans booze.

Edited by allenkelson (log)
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I'll be in Chicago (the Hilton downtown) December 3-5 (Monday-Wednesday).  I've got a few questions:

1.  Will we need reservations for Frontera Grill for lunch (3 people)?

FG definitely doesn't take reservations for groups of 3. Lunch can be busy there, but you can often get into Topolobampo without reservations; in fact, the only time i have eaten at T. was when we couldn't get seated at FG for lunch.

I like FG, but I think you're better off using the second meal for something else, whether Topolobampo, one of Chicago's numerous other "upscale mexican" restaurants, or something else entirely. I'd probably say "something else entirely."

Though it's big and commercial as all getout, excellent Chicago dogs can be had at any of the Portillo's; downtown there's one on Ontario & Clark or Dearborn. (Remember: NO KETCHUP. I prefer mustard, relish, onions, tomato, peppers, pickle.) 

My favorite Italian beef is at Al's on Orleans Street; get it "soaked" with "both peppers" (bell and giardiniera). It's as good as it gets and very consistent.

Do you mean Al's Beef at Wells and Ontario? Or Mr. Beef at 666 N. Orleans? Scandalous as it may sound, I've found Portillo's to have a better beef than either, although note that Al's locations are franchises and many people who rave about the original Taylor St. location discount the River North location. (In light of our Chicago compatriots' research [1][2], I defer on any absolute judgments.)

720 S. Michigan isn't really "near the Magnificent mile," in downtown terms. The "Magnificent mile" is generally considered the stretch of Michigan north of the river (~400 N.) up to where it feeds into Lake Shore Drive (~1200 N.) At 800 address numbers to the mile (a reliable metric citywide), you'd have about a 1.5 mile walk to the Mag Mile. Obviously, it's just a short cab ride.

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This could definitely get my post deleted because it's not food-related but I'll try anyway because the eGullet crowd, being highly sophisticated, would probably be able to advise me.

I'm thinking about buying a nice, stylish, heavy winter coat while I'm there (first week of December). Is there likely to still be a good selection or is that too late? I live in a semi-cold weather city (Washington, DC) but I figure the coats will be heavier with a better selection there.

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Here are a few good places within a half mile of the Hilton.

Russian Tea Time

77 E Adams St

(312) 360-0000

Very good Russian cuisine.

Custom House

500 S Dearborn St

(312) 523-0200

Highly regarded upscale American. Reservations required.

Edwardo's Natural Pizza

521 S Dearborn St

(312) 939-3366

Chicago's best stuffed pizza, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli

1141 S Jefferson St, Chicago, IL

(312) 939-2855

The city's best deli, in most people's opinion. Open for breakfast and lunch only.

The first week of December should still find plenty of coats for sale, though not as much selection as a little earlier. You will find prices downtown to be quite high, though.

Edited by LAZ (log)

LAZ

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Be aware that Chicago city blocks are loooong. Each 100 of the address represents a block. It is a long hike from the Hilton on 720S Michigan to Frontera Grill and all the restaurants on Upper Michigan.

As far as clothing goes, the winters have become much milder and I wouldn't purchase anything that you don't already have for DC winters for the beginning of December in Chicago. Besides the prices are steep on Upper Michigan avenue.

Be sure you discuss with someone familiar with the City about where you want to walk and time of day.-Dick

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Each block is 1/8 of a mile. From 720 S Mich you'll be closeish to the South Loop location of the Bongo Room, a place I that I surprisingly like quite a bit for brunch. Manny's is worth a trip if you're from anywhere but NYC. You're also not terribly far from the original Al's Beef on Taylor. The place is dirty but mad tasty. You can also stop at Mario's for an Italian ice. It's famous if not particularly amazing. Chinatown is also worth checking out, but that's a bus or a cab south. I really liked Lao Sze Chuan. Over in the West loop I was all about Avec. You could even stop there for some late night eats. Frontera is fine and you "have" to go there, but I've never been completely blown away. It can be very good though.

Interestingly, one of my bosses this summer was a German ex-pat and I repeatedly grilled him for good German restaurants. He refused to give me one, calling them all substandard. You can take that as you will.

And, of course, get to Alinea if there's any possible way. That's, like, a given.

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This could definitely get my post deleted because it's not food-related but I'll try anyway because the eGullet crowd, being highly sophisticated, would probably be able to advise me.

I'm thinking about buying a nice, stylish, heavy winter coat while I'm there (first week of December).  Is there likely to still be a good selection or is that too late?  I live in a semi-cold weather city (Washington, DC) but I figure the coats will be heavier with a better selection there.

But it is food related because you'd probably want to wear that coat to one of your dinners at Frontera Grill, right?

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There's a terrific Tuesday night special at Opera -- $28.95 prix fixe for three courses, any items on their menu. It's at Wabash and 13th, which is very close to your hotel.

There still should be a good coat selection; you may even catch the tail end of post-Thanksgiving sales. Sometimes there's a bargain to be found at Filene's Basement, on State at Madison, iirc.

"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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