HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >

Discussion

Please post your Chicago Chow Top 10 Lists!

  • m
  • mike Feb 13, 2004 01:54 PM
  • 30
  • Share

I think it would be great, if someone of the most active Chowhound's in Chicago, would post their "Top 10 must-visit chow destinations in Chicago" for purposes of educating us newbies. This would be similar to how on Amazon.com, you can find lists submitted by a user of books or products related to a single subject they are interested in. In this case, the subject is Chicago chow!

I don't want to start a big discussion of what should qualify to be on everyone's list. If it qualifies for discussion as chow on this board, it qualifies for your list. It is personal to you as far as your own choices. I just want to see a condensed version of some of the most often talked about places on this board.

Put it this way: Name for me the 10 places you would take me if you were to show me what you consider to be your very favorite chow places in Chicago. You are my shepherd and I am your grasshopper. Assume I am open to try anything you want to show me. It is your most perfect list of places. Maybe the 10 places you would personally go to if you found out you were leaving Chicago forever.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. Grasshopper,

    1. You WILL start a long discussion with a challenge like that, regardless of your not wanting to "start a long discussion."

    2. CH operates on the quid pro quo (give something get something), sharing basis. Why don't you start the group off with your top ten and then invite responses such as "if I like these, what else would I like that I may not know about".

    3. Search for the tip sheet/faq which some think belongs here and others don't

    JMHO

    pd

    3 Replies
    1. re: pdaane

      I think "The ever more unofficial (not to mention non-controversial and much beloved) Chicago Visitor Tip Sheet and sort of FAQ, v. 1.1" is appropriate to this discussion. Please note that it was posted September 1, 2003, so a lot of information has been posted since. Nevertheless, it's a fine starting point.

      The link is below.

      Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      1. re: GeorgeR

        Gee, pdanne and George, you sure do know how to dump on a poster.

        But I've got to say, I've lived in Chicago all my life and spent 18 years of it with a buisness account for lunches and dinners, and I wouldn't recomment most of the restaurants listed on the massive list. (for example, Gene & Georgetti's is antiquated and gross by today's standards).

        Now, mind you, I don't have a full "top 10" to offer, but despite your wet blanket all over this post, I'll still offer these:

        Rosebud on Taylor Street (the old "Little Italy") around UIC, The original. Fine Italian dining. A bit east toward the lake and just west of Morgan (1000 W.) is the greatest Italian Ice stand in Chicago (open only during the summer months).

        Patio on the Kingery just north of 75th in the Western
        'burbs (take I55) for BBQ.

        I endorse the recommendation for Nuevo Leon on 18th street in the Pilsen area (west of Halsted).

        And I would like to add a very non-traditional experience that you can enjoy on Sundays---the (relocated) Maxwell Street Market. Great outdoor experience with food (mostly Mexican) kiosks all along the route. Roosevelt road and Canal (I said it was relocated.) dawn to dusk all year 'round.

        Even though Pizzeria Due and Uno pioneered the deep dish pizza, Giodannos is the best. Lots of locations all over the place and selected other cities, too.

        The best hot dog is found at the Home Depot on North avenue just east of the Kennedy expressway.

        One of the best Deli/breakfast joints is Manny's on Jefferson just south of Roosevelt road. Also terrific, is the Original Pancake house (Apple pancake serves 2) on Clark and Armitage.

        Best burger place in Chicago is in the Bucktown area and I'm kicking myself for not remembering the name just now, but it's a courtyard behind an Iron gate and has a bar area, fireplace, lots of plants. (Somebody out there native to the area, please help me here.)

        For summertime spectacular outdoor eating (the food is secondary here) try any of the cafes along the river in downtown area.

        Oh, can't forget Joes Bebop on Navy Pier! great creole food and live jazz!

        1. re: Hill

          The Bucktown burger place is the Northside Grill.

          .and I can't believe that nobody has mentioned the truely best BBQ joint in Chicago: Fat Willy's. Try the beef brisket.
          - and this from a man who always orders the ribs.

    2. s
      Shannon Clark

      My personal list, others will differ:
      (in no particular order, just 10 places I recommend to everyone frequently)

      Yoshi's Cafe
      Opart Thai House
      Johnies
      Gina's Italian Ice (summer only)
      North Pond
      Zealous
      Lem's (though I haven't been in years, need to go back)
      Silver Seafood (assuming recent reports of going downhill have been addressed)
      24hr Korean restaurant (especially for late night dining, other Korean places better at earlier hours)
      Naniwa/Bob San (same menu, same owners, best sushi at prices that are affordable, dishes I crave and go back for)

      In months past I would have had Printer's Row on this list, probably instead of a seasonal place such as Gina's, but since it is now closed I'll add Gina's.

      Other places that I would note as being very worthy of visiting:

      Four Taste - everything is really good, everything is appetizers and each dish is $10. Not cheap, but not overly pricey either and very very good.

      Peneng - Malaysian food which can be hard to get and is the best approximation of my real favorite cuisine, Indonesian.

      I'm not an expert on Mexican, but would certainly point people towards the Maxwell St. Market on Sundays, towards this board for various other spots, and towards some of Chicago's upscale Mexican for a treat (though I'm not a fan of Salpicon having never had a great meal there, though in fairness it has been many years).

      I would also note Bistrot Margot, Le Sardine (best deal in town on Tuesdays), and Topo Gigio as some of my favorities for French or Italian. Bricks would get a nod from me for good, cheap, convienant (for me at least) pizza. (note, I'm certain there are equally good if not better Italian places than Topo Gigio, however in over 8 years of eating there I have never had a bad meal, have always enjoyed it, and they have a few dishes I go back for time after time - the mark for me at least of a great restaurant).

      I would note to people that there are also many interesting Thai places in Chicago - Thai Avenue, Spoon (if you can wrangle the "secret" menu - not always easy on the first attempt), Thai Aree, and others - worth looking over this list. For vietnamese I would suggest Argyle & Broadway for a wide selection, but also not Pasteur and Le Colonial as other, more upscale options and places where I have always had good meals (though it has been a long while since I was at Pasteur).

      For Steaks, not something I go out for often, I would not Ruth Cris as being very good (yes it is a chain, but I've eaten very, very well there), Gene & Georgetti as full of Chicago character and capable of a great (if very expensive) meal if you get good service - helps to go with a local business leader or politician), and Mike Ditka's as a surprisingly great place - especially for Pork Chops. I would further suggest reading Chowhounds and exploring - Chicago has plenty of options for great Steaks.

      Anyway, that's my list for the moment - I'm sure if you asked me again in a few weeks it would be different. But my top ten are mostly places that have stood the test of time (perhaps not Silver Seafood if current reports are true)

      (and a place like River Kwai II and the Pakistani cab driver spots would get a mention as late night options)

      Shannon

      1 Reply
      1. re: Shannon Clark
        r
        richard alcala

        here's my top 10 list.....it was not easy to just pick 10 !!!!!!!! 1.NUEVO LEON....THE BEST MEXICAN FOOD EVER...ITS ON 18 ST. IN PILSEN...TRY A VARIETY OF THEIR APPERTIZERS IF YOU ARE GOING WITH FRIENDS.....THE QUESO PANELA,THE TACOS RAUL...THEY ARE MINI-CHEESE TACOS...TACOS DANIEL...MINI STEAK TACOS...OOPS I ALMOST FORGET YOU HAVE TO BRING YOUR OWM BEER AND WINE......ITS WELL WITH A TRIP TO THIS PLACE... 2.REZA'S...DOWNTOWN....CHICKEN ON THE BONE....DILL RICE...PERSIAN TEA,,,THAT'S LIFE AND GOOD EATING... 3.CLUB LUCKY......IN BUCKTOWN....ITS IN A OLD V.F.W. HALL...LOOKS LIKE A OLD TIME BAR FROM OUTSIDE...BUT INSIDE ITS FULL OF MAGIC.....ITALIAN FOOD....GRILLED CALAMARIA....WARM BREAD...PASTA...FISH...I'M GETTING HUNGRY JUST WRITING ABOUT IT....4.BOSTON'S....GREAT BEEF SANDWICHES ON GRAND AND CHICAGO.....5.UNCLE MIKE'S BEST BREAKFAST AND LUNCH ON GRAND AVE...6.LA PASADITA......THEY MAKE GREAT TACOS WITH A SPICY AND HOT GREEN SAUCE...NOTHING FANCY AT ALL....P.S. THE HOT SAUCE MAY PUT SOME HAIR ON YOUR CHEST......7.FOGO DE CHAO....DOWNTOWN....BEST SALAD BAR I HAVE EVER SEEN....THE FOOD HERE IS MOSTLY MEAT....BEEF, PORK, CHICKEN.LAMB...ALL HAND-SLICED AT YOUR TABLE BY BRAZILIAN WAITERS.... SKIP LUNCH IF YOU'RE GOING FOR DINNER....YOU WILL NEED THE EXTRA ROOM.....TRUST ME !!!! 8.CLEOS BAR.......MONDAY NITE...10 CENT CHICKEN WINGS.....I WAS NEVER A BIG FAN OF BAR-FOOD IN GENERAL.....BUT.......THE WINGS HERE ARE SO OUT THERE.....SO UNIQUE.....SO GOOD...I THINK I NEED A COLD, COLD....... BEER AND SOME WINGS RIGHT BOUT NOW!!!!!!!9.COCO'S IN CHINATOWN...GREAT DIM-SU..GET THERE BEFORE 2P.M. FOR THE BEST SELECTION... 10.CAFE CENTRAL...FOR PUERTO RICAN FOOD.THAT MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR IN THE TROPICS....NOTHING FANCY....JUST GREAT FOOD...TRY THE FRIED PLANTAINS....YELLOW RICE WITH PEAS....GREAT CHICKEN STEW....BEEF AND NOODLE SOUP...AND TRY THE FRIED POTATOE WITH GROUND BEEF....ENJOY....LIFE'S TOO SHORT NOT TO.......

      2. I make too many lists. Best albums of 2003. Movies. Books. Whatever. So, why not places to eat. Here's my top 10 favorites in no particular order:

        Old Chicago Pizza
        Johnnies
        Schwarma King
        Dat Donut
        Spoon Thai
        Tortas USA
        Hot Dougs
        Three Happiness
        Cafe Mariano
        Caponies

        1. Standard India
          Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop
          Stanley's
          Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder
          El Tinajon
          Costello Sandwich and Sides
          Robey Pizza Company
          Vito & Nick's Pizza
          Home Run Inn
          Noodles in the Pot

          1. erwin - nice american food, great space
            cafe iberico - tasty affordable tapas
            erie cafe - excellent steak establishment, no hype
            taco burrito palace - fast dish burritos
            lou malnati's - true pizza
            berghoff - an institution
            soul kitchen - fun and good mid-end tasty fare
            frontera grill - high end mexican that set the standard
            reza's - the one on N Clark
            nani wa - great affordable sushi and a nice guy

            1 Reply
            1. re: M

              > soul kitchen - fun and good mid-end tasty fare

              FYI ... Soul Kitchen closed a couple months back.

            2. taqueria santa rita - best tacos al pastor
              hecky's - it's the sauce
              ruby of siam - consistently good
              katsu - 'nuff said
              cafe 28 - delicious food, great drinks
              johnnie's - makes me proud to be a chicagoan
              thai valley - for the spicy rice namsod & crispy crepe
              schawerma king - sandwich exploding with flavor
              gino's east - a chicago staple
              la paillotte - though it's closed now, ranks as my single all-time favorite chicago restaurant

              1. i
                ian alexander

                Hot Dog - Hot Dougs (if suburbs are included, michaels HP)

                Sushi - Mirai

                Beef - Mr. Beef

                Pizza - Lou Malnatis (lincolnwood best)

                Chinese - The Phoenix

                Ribs - Carsons (reluctantly)

                Steakhouse - Gibsons

                Seafood - Nicks Fish Market(expensive but worth it)

                Fine Dining(newer) Spring

                Fine Dining(classic) Ambria (the rack of lamb is still the best in town)

                1 Reply
                1. re: ian alexander

                  Sadly, Ambria is now closed.

                2. Thai: Thai Aree
                  Red Sauce Italian: Sabatinos
                  Italian Beef: Toss up between Al's and Johnny's
                  Hot Dogs/Sausage: Hot Dougs
                  Dim Sum: Phoenix
                  Barbeque: Lem's
                  Soul: OT's Soul Food Place
                  Seafood: Joes Stone Crab
                  Steak: Gibsons
                  Puerto Rican: Borinquen
                  Banh Mi: Ba Le

                  1. This is fun...

                    I like lists.

                    No particular order and on constant update:

                    Thai- Siam Noodle and Rice
                    Chinese- Ed's Potsticker House
                    Korean- Lincoln Noodle House
                    Vietnamese- Pho Tank
                    Japanese- Itto Sushi
                    Italian- Sabatino's
                    Seafood- Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab
                    Steaks- Morton's
                    Upscale- Spring
                    Super upscale- Spiaggia

                    1. Based upon taste and atmosphere:

                      Hot Dogs: Gene's and Jude's
                      Italian Beef: Johnnies
                      Burgers: Charlie Beinlich's
                      Italian: Gennaro's
                      Late night: Weiner Circle after 12:00 a.m.
                      With kids: Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder
                      Steaks: Gibson's
                      Dessert: Margie's Candies
                      Upscale Mexican: Salpicon (over Topolobampo)
                      Summer: Patio at Mon Ami Gabi in Lincoln Park

                      1. 1) Crispy Skin Chicken at LTH
                        2) Crab w/ginger, scallion and hot pepper at LTH
                        3) Mixed seafood w/pan fried rice noodle at LTH
                        4) Clam's w/black beans and jalapeno on pan fried noodle Evil R style at LTH
                        5) Thai fried chicken at Spoon Thai
                        6) Thai fried chicken at Siam's House
                        7) Grilled beef salad w/garlic at Thai Aree
                        8) Hash browns crisp w/onions and giardiniera at Edgebrook Diner
                        9) Mozzarella balloon filled w/heirloom tomato foam and basil essence at Trio
                        10) Dry aged Colorado steak (bone-in rib eye) at Smith and Wollensky
                        11) Melissa's home made bread at bread tasting
                        12) Gribenes chili chicken at Mandarin Kitchen
                        13) Toro w/fresh grated wasabi at Katsu
                        14) Grilled Kobe steak w/fresh grated wasabi at Yoshi's
                        15) Lem's spare ribs
                        16) Oysters and tater tots at Davis Street Fish Market
                        17) Sausage, garlic and onion pizza at Vito and Nick's
                        18) Lemon chicken at Tufano's
                        19) White cheese sorbet at NoMi
                        20) My first chicken shawerma at Shawerma King, no subsequent visit has been close.
                        21) Anything eaten in the company of Chowhounds

                        Enjoy,
                        Gary

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: G Wiv

                          Incidentally, I had about the same reaction to Shawarma King. A couple weeks ago, however, I finally had a chicken shawarma to rival my first from him. I also had a terrific beef shawarma, which gives credence to the dubious advice to keep trying something that you've never been truly happy with before. I know each batch of shawarma meat is going to be a bit different, and I don't know how you can tell a good one. And I don't know if he has made some modification to increase quality or maintain consistency. Or maybe it made that much difference eating it on premises. But damn, he was really on his game.

                          1. re: Aaron D
                            s
                            Shannon Clark

                            Definitely sounds like a place I have to try, though I somehow doubt it will rival my best Shawarma ever.

                            (which was from a hole in the wall - literally place in Acre in Israel - in the old city, it was a small shop seemingly blasted out of an old building overlooking a small square. Amazing sandwich, one of my all time best anywhere. But unlikely to be rivaled anytime soon.

                            Shannon

                        2. e
                          Evan B. Druce

                          In no particular order:

                          Hot Doug's
                          Johnnie's Italian Beef
                          The Snail (Hyde Park)
                          Chilpancingo
                          Nuevo Leon
                          Gino's East (for pizza)
                          Harold's Chicken Shack (53rd & Woodlawn)
                          Kaufman's (Skokie)
                          Noon O Kabab
                          Dat Donuts

                          1. Rosebud
                            Giordano's
                            Morton's
                            Sushi Wabi
                            Wiener Circle
                            Mia Francesca
                            Delacosta
                            Walker Brothers
                            Ravinia BBQ
                            Boston Blackies

                            1. 1). Chicago Diner- The most amazing vegetarian food anywhere! They give huge portions, comfort food with a veggie twist like "chicken" parm, "steak" n cheese, etc. I am always there and love everything on the menu. (try their yummy desserts and shakes too)
                              2). Orange- my favorite place for breakfast and brunch. Love their chai tea french toast, stuffed with ricotta and served in a bowl with apples and chai tea "soup."
                              3). Exchequer- Located in the loop, it feels like a neighborhood secret. Great bar food, deep dish pizza, ribs, etc. Could spend hours here.
                              4). Lou Malnati's-Best place for pizza. Great appetizers too, like their spinach bread. They have famous butter crusts as well as more healthy ones.
                              5). Wishbone-I love their huge space at the west loop spot. Great food accompanies the atmosphere. Come for breakfast or brunch especially. Corn cakes with sweet red pepper sauce are my favorite. Also like the wishbone massive omelet. Later in the day, they have the best sweet potatoes and chocolate pecan pie.
                              6). Spoon Thai-Pad thai is one of my favorite foods, and this place has my all time favorite.
                              7). Hot Chocolate-Awesome Bucktown restaurant for a dessert or nice dinner. They have nice weekend brunch too. I come in for one of their hot cocoas, maybe the yummy mac n' cheese too. Dessery is the real draw, with their rotating specialty and seasonal menu.
                              8). Coast Sushi-Just a stone's throw up the street from Hot Choc. My favorite sushi place. I come in with friends, enjoy the space, and feast on maki rolls. The best miso soup and tempura dishes as well.
                              9). Eleven City Diner-South loop jewish-style restaurant with a deli feel. Huge sprawling interior and great service!! Classic soda-fountain drinks like Purple haze, egg creams, and a plethora of milk shakes. Fantastic breakfasts, as well as lunches and dinners. Try the wisconsin cheese fries. Huge burger melts, matzoh balls, bagels behind the deli coutner, and slices of pie.
                              10). Kitsch'n-I prefer the newer River north locale. Bigger space, funkier atmosphere. My favorite things to get are the desserts later in the day, like the twinkie tiramisu or brownie batter. Also, I am a fan of their pot pies, spinach lasagna, and falafel pitas. In the morning, they have coconut french toast, phat jacks, green eggs n' ham, and other fun stuff.

                              1. In no particular order:

                                Sol de Mexico
                                Le Bouchon
                                Le Coloniel
                                Las Tablas
                                Roys
                                Campagnola
                                Avec
                                Sweets n Savories
                                Volo
                                Tru

                                1. West Town Tavern
                                  Bistro Campagne
                                  Hot Doug's
                                  Jury's - for the burger
                                  Copperblue
                                  Avec
                                  Opart Thai
                                  Chicago Chop House
                                  Los Nopales
                                  Wishbone
                                  Evergreen
                                  Osteria Via Stato
                                  Coco Pazzo
                                  Greek Islands
                                  Cafe Iberico
                                  Bin 36

                                  Okay, that's more than 10. Whatev...

                                  1. What great information. I will be in Chicago for a few days early December. Have never been there before. May I put a twist on this question, where would you recommend a single, traveling woman eat along and feel comfortable AND what particular dish/food should I make sure I try while I am in the windy city? Outside of great beef, I am not sure what Chicago is known for.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: sallyct

                                      "Outside of great beef, I am not sure what Chicago is known for."

                                      Pizza.
                                      Greek food.
                                      Mexican food
                                      Italian food.
                                      Polish food
                                      We're getting there with Thai food.
                                      I'd rate us just under NY for sushi.
                                      Indian food
                                      French
                                      American
                                      Vietnamese

                                      Without knowing where you are from, sallyct, that's a tough question to answer. If you were from Texas, I would not recommend you to try our 'cue. If you were from NY, I would not rec you to try our Italian or sushi. Normally, my standard recs for out of towners are higher end Mexican food (Frontera / Salpicon,) stuffed pizza (Giordanos,) and Indian food on Devon ave.

                                      1. re: gordeaux

                                        Thanks for all the recommendations. They have been really useful in my last few days in Chicago

                                        I loved Hot Doug's for lunch today

                                        http://majbros.blogspot.com/2007/10/c...

                                        S

                                    2. i haven't been to many of the high-end gastronomic institutions like charlie trotter's and alinea, so please keep that in mind when reading my list.

                                      all around favorite: yoshi's cafe / avec
                                      sushi: katsu
                                      non-sushi japanese: sakura (AH)
                                      steak: rosebud steakhouse (near the drake hotel)
                                      chinese: lao beijing / ed's potstickers
                                      fine dining: cite
                                      italian: osteria via stato
                                      sea food: bob chinn's crab house
                                      korean: cho sun ok
                                      dessert: tru
                                      pizza: lou malnati
                                      ribs: texas roadhouse
                                      traditional french: it used to be bistro 110, but it went downhill in the past two years. i'll put everest for now (reluctantly)

                                      1. I love Top Ten lists! :)

                                        My top ten favorite Chicago eating establishments, in no particular order:

                                        Chicago Diner
                                        Dharma Garden
                                        El Cid
                                        Evergreen
                                        Opart Thai
                                        Viceroy of India
                                        Mysore Woodlands
                                        Cousin's
                                        Andie's
                                        Amitabul

                                        1. san soo gab san - korean bbq till 5am ---shut ur face!!
                                          cozy noodle- my fave thai and peanut sauce which is vital

                                          Matisse - best tilapia ever---which normally is boring when i cook it
                                          baked brie with almonds, candied pecans, apples and strawberrie,golden raisins ----so good its sick
                                          Tank-great sushi - half off on sun. wow

                                          Wildfire- excellent steaks, soups, SALADS
                                          Soupbox- they deliver soup-dude

                                          Highdive--best bar food ever - they rule that area
                                          PATIO- reason to go to the burbs for ribs ---best ever and try the tuna melt- OMG

                                          Hooters ---sorry awesum wings, shrimp and ceasar salad. its always good
                                          Glenn's Diner - best seafood on a budget and is so fresh - i cant stress how worth it this place is