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Best food neighborhoods in Chicago


orenlund
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eGullet Chicago,

I will probably be moving to Chicago this summer and wanted to know more about the food scenes of the different neighborhoods. I am more interested in neighborhood places, ethnic restaurants, and dives than the destination restaurants like Alinea and Butter (I am more than happy to travel a distance the few times a year that I am able to justify visiting these places).

Please, let me know where the sandwich places are, or where I would be able to wake up and walk to a great noodle or falafel shop... I would prefer to stay near-ish to the gold coast, as that is where I'll be going to school, but don't hold back on the neighborhoods further away if you feel those neighborhoods should be recognized.

Of course, links to past discussions are welcome as well.

Thank you,

Oren

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Tough to answer - there are so many great neighborhoods. But I'll take a quick stab at it. For better places, there's the Randolph street corridor, for great Mexican there's Pilsen and Little Village, Devon for Indian, Greektown, Wicker Park/Bucktown for nouveau riche hipsters, Lincoln Square, Andersonville (both of them newly hot in the last 5 - 10 years), Chinatown, Little Saigon (aka Argyle Street), Rogers Park/North Clark Street, Western between Armitage and Fullerton, Middle Eastern on North Kedzie, Koreatown, Edison Park, Little italy ... I'm sure I'm missing a few. Gold Coast has places to eat, too .... mostly the kinds of places you'd expect from an area called the Gold Coast.

For a great list of individual places, many of which meet your small, ethnic criterion, try this:

http://lthforum.com/bb/viewforum.php?f=28&...4017470624ce3b8

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Yeah, that is a tough one, there's great food all over the city. Depends on what you want to eat or drink. Definitely check out the rest of this forum and LTH Forum for tons of places you might not find on your own. Also the Chicago Reader, metromix.com, and the PBS show "Check Please" are useful for information, though you might not find as many small or out-of-the-way places. I guess you'll be staying in the gold coast but, I think, as far as food goes the lakeview/wrigleyville area where I currently live is probably one of the most disappointing.

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I expect you'll get a ton of replies. Chicago is the self-proclaimed "city of neighborhoods" -- and rightly so.

One of the easiest ways to begin is to discuss ethnic orientation. You'll find wonderful asian selections in Chinatown (22nd Street just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway) or on Argyle Street (in the Uptown area near Arglye east of Broadway); great Italian food in Little Italy (centered on Taylor Street east of Ashland Ave) or the near-northwest side area along Grand Avenue both sides of Halsted; Greek and middle-eastern food in Greektown (Halsted north of Jackson); Hispanic in the near-southwest side neighborhood of Pilsen (roughly west of the Dan Ryan Expressway and north of Cermak Rd) and along the Archer Avenue corridor.

There is a huge selection of (mostly) mid- and higher-end restaurants along Randolph Street just west of the Loop (west of the Kennedy Expressway); a great range of trendy restaurants in the Bucktown (near northwest side roughly along Milwaukee Ave between Ashland & Damen) -- and (I'm sure) many, many others that will be recommended.

You'll never run out of interesting neighborhoods to explore.

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I am more interested in neighborhood places, ethnic restaurants, and dives than the destination restaurants like Alinea and Butter (I am more than happy to travel a distance the few times a year that I am able to justify visiting these places). 

...

I would prefer to stay near-ish to the gold coast, as that is where I'll be going to school

Just to be blunt, those are pretty much totally at odds. The Gold Coast is packed with a lot of quality upscale places (plus a lot of places that are probably not worth their prices) but it's not where you'll find "neighborhood places, ethnic restaurants, and dives."

Albany Park (the North Kedzie nr706 mentioned) may be the neighborhood you want, except it's not very convenient to the Gold Coast via public transit. It has a high density of mexican and middle eastern, is near a lot of Korean (or maybe includes Korean depending on how you read the neighborhood boundaries) I know someone who moved to that neighborhood substantially based upon the food options.

I think my neighborhood, Rogers Park, has a pretty impressive collection of little places, particularly along Clark Street (last fall a group of us spent an afternoon exploring some of them and we're going to try to finish up the ones we didn't make it to in a couple of weeks. ) RP is not generally considered a food destination, but it's not a bad place for neighborhood options.

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Please, let me know where the sandwich places are, or where I would be able to wake up and walk to a great noodle or falafel shop...  I would prefer to stay near-ish to the gold coast, as that is where I'll be going to school, but don't hold back on the neighborhoods further away if you feel those neighborhoods should be recognized.

I don't know where you are now, but one thing you have to recognize is that in Chicago, commuting can be a major time sink, especially if the place where you live and the place you need to go every day aren't directly connected by public transit. It's really far better to live near where you work/study and be prepared to travel for your dining and recreational needs.

As others have mentioned, there's great stuff all over the city and suburbs and you'll want to explore all of it. If you're too tired, because it takes you an hour or more to get home at the end of the day and you have to be up early because you have a long commute, having a few great places to eat in your immediate neighborhood aren't going to compensate.

If you don't want to live on the Gold Coast -- which is, of course, one of the city's most expensive neighborhoods -- you probably want to look at somewhere along the Red Line.

LAZ

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:biggrin:

For sheer crazed blazing culinary variety, you may want to seriously consider the Andersonville neighborhood, whose restaurant heaven centers around the intersection of Clark Street and Foster Avenue: 5200 North at 1500 West or so on the city's street grid. Within a very few blocks of each other, you'll find the vegetarian place Reza's, the yuppie brunch haven Andie's, the superb bierstube (and neighborhood pub) Hopleaf, plus Swedish Bakery for sybaritic breakfast components and a better-than-decent sushi place whose name escapes me at the moment (on the east side of Clark, at the north end of the strip), and a new Korean joint I haven't had time to try yet, plus an Assyrian place (ditto) and the impressive bistro La Tache on Balmoral just east of Clark. About 15 minutes west of that intersection on Foster (via the No. 92 bus; more like 10 minutes by car) is Tre Kronor, home of some very dependable Swedish home cooking -- not exciting in terms of cuisine, maybe, but exceptionally fresh and exceptionally kind to the budget too.

The rents aren't cheap, but they're a damn sight easier on the wallet than those you'd find on the Gold Coast. The location is about 45 minutes away from the Gold Coast by car, more like an hour to an hour and a half by public transit.

:biggrin:

Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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The location is about 45 minutes away from the Gold Coast by car, more like an hour to an hour and a half by public transit.

You can drive from Andersonville to the Gold Coast in 15 minutes if it's not rush hour.

The ride from the Berwyn el stop to the Chicago/State el stop is normally around 30-40 minutes. However, it's worth adding that for the next three years, CTA trains on the Red Line will be taking a lot longer due to a construction project, as noted here. If it weren't for that, I would agree with LAZ's suggestion of looking anywhere along the Red Line, including Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Rogers Park, etc., as well as Evanston on the Purple Line, with its extraordinarily diverse dining options.

BTW, I'm surprised you didn't mention M. Henry in Andersonville, for brunch...

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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You've gotten some good suggestions. For ideas about the ethnic neighborhoods you might want to pick up a copy of Marilyn Pocius' "A Cook's Guide to Chicago" It's a little dated, originally published in 2002, but still full of good information on the food markets etc.

I've lived on the gold coast, basically, for the past 26 years, when I moved here as a student. It's a great and convenient place to live but it ain't cheap :blink: ! It has great restaurants and variety but not too many dives or cheap eats. One of my best friends from school and I had a tradition until she got married of spending our Sundays in a different ethnic part of the city. We did Sundays in Poland Sundays in Thailand, China, India, Italy etc. which is a great way to get to know the city and enjoy the relatively inexpensive and diverse offerings available in the city and burbs.

If you can afford to live near north it's wonderful. If you're a relatively poor student (my school was on the gold coast and I worked in the loop) you might be living on mac and cheese and Mr Jays Dawg & Burgers for a few years :unsure:. I know that I did!

Kate

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You've gotten some good suggestions.  For ideas about the ethnic neighborhoods you might want to pick up a copy of Marilyn Pocius' "A Cook's Guide to Chicago"  It's a little dated, originally published in 2002, but still full of good information on the food markets etc.

I've got an extra copy of the book. If you want it PM me with your address.

I like cows, too. I hold buns against them. -- Bucky Cat.

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...

and a better-than-decent sushi place whose name escapes me at the moment (on the east side of Clark, at the north end of the strip), and a new Korean joint I haven't had time to try yet

...

Tanoshii and Jin Ju, respectively? Get the "omakase special" at Tansoshii when "Sushi Mike" is there. Not exactly omakase, and pretty different than regular sushi (super-white tuna with vinagrette maki, deep-fried inside-out maki with Sricha, etc. etc.)

Ian

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You can drive from Andersonville to the Gold Coast in 15 minutes if it's not rush hour.

Of course, rush "hour" lasts from 6 to 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 to 8 p.m. Other than that, driving around the city is a breeze. Unless, of course, there's a Cubs game. Or a festival. :biggrin:

And then, there's parking.... The cost of parking your car for a couple of hours out in a neighborhood that has ethnic restaurants while you go to dinner is going to be much cheaper than parking on the Gold Coast all day.

Anyway, orenlund, do yourself a favor, and time the trip from any prospective home to school during the periods you're likely to need to travel before you sign a lease. And check out parking availability and cost near your school before you commit to digs that will force you to commute by car.

It's possible to eat well no matter where in Chicagoland you live, especially if you're willing to go to a little trouble, but rush-hour transportation can be a huge hassle.

LAZ

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You can drive from Andersonville to the Gold Coast in 15 minutes if it's not rush hour.

Of course, rush "hour" lasts from 6 to 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 to 8 p.m.

:angry:

You can drive from Andersonville to the Gold Coast in 15 minutes, outside the two hours from 6:45 to 8:45 a.m., on 95+ percent of the days of the year.

do yourself a favor, and time the trip from any prospective home to school during the periods you're likely to need to travel before you sign a lease. And check out parking availability and cost near your school before you commit to digs that will force you to commute by car.

It's possible to eat well no matter where in Chicagoland you live, especially if you're willing to go to a little trouble, but rush-hour transportation can be a huge hassle.

This is all excellent advice.

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Wow! This is all really helpful. I will be visiting in March so I'll try to take a look at all the suggestions. I'm not as sure about going to school in Chicago as before, but I'm still going to love visiting.

Thanks again for all the help!

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