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Jul 30, 2006 05:15 PM

Early dinner, River North

Been many a year since I was last in Chicago, and when I looked on MenuPagers/Areas there was no Near North; I guess River North is the closest approximation. Anyway, I'm gonna be there next week, near the Merchandise Mart, and I'm looking for a nice, mid-priced restaurant where I can get an early dinner, around 4PM. (Do people actually eat dinner at that time?) Someone suggested Brasserie Jo, but, frankly, I'm at sea (so to speak). Anyway, can someone help this New York (formerlly UofC) hound? Thanx.


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  1. Restaurant guides normally don't list for Near North as a whole because the area is so large (boundaries are Chicago River on south and west, North Avenue and Lake Michigan)and loaded with restaurants that it would be unwieldy. River North includes the portion near the Merchandise Mart. Your biggest problem in this area is finding a mid-priced restaurant open for dinner before 5 PM. You may have to go farther up the price scale (several steakhouses are open then) or a bit down the scale. is pretty good for hours and telephone numbers even though they do have some problems keeping up to date. Ignore their user reviews.

    One location of Lou Malnati's Pizzaria (439 N. Wells)is very close to the Merchandise Mart. Kinzie Chophouse (400 N. Wells) might meet your specs. Puerto Vallarta (431 N. Wells) is a Mexican restaurant that isn't horrible but no competition to 100 other Mexican restaurants that aren't nearby.

    Two Thai options are a little farther away; both are average Ameri-Thai: Singha (340 N. Clark) and Siam Rice (117 N. Wells; 312-606-9999).

    Brasserie Jo opens too late for you.

    1. I would recommend Bin 36, which is within walking distance of the Mart.

      The website says dinner starts at 5, but I think you can go sit at the bar and order before then. I'd call and see to make sure. Great cheese, wine, and desserts.

      1. I second Bin 36... and I can't think of anything else.

        1. Agree about Kinzie Chophouse and Puerto Vallarta.

          Kinzie is a great traditional steakhouse with a good Delmonico and Kansas City.

          Puerto's redeeming quality is that it's one of a handful of Mexican-themed restaurants downtown. Agreed that it's nothing compared to the actual Mexican strewn throughout Chicago.

          Coco Pazzo is a nice little Italian place up on Hubbard/Franklin that's has really good fresh pasta and wood-oven pizza.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SKing

            I would steer clear of Puerto Vallarta. Not horrible, but definitely not a destination.

            Kinzie is just across the street from the Mart so it would be convenient. But I think it can be hit or miss.

            1. re: SKing

              Coco Pazzo doesn't open for dinner until 5:30 according to Metromix. Coco Pazzo Cafe in Streeterville is open continuously from lunch through dinner but is quite a distance from the Mart.

            2. For mid-priced River North restaurants open for dinner at 4:00pm try;

              GREEK ISLANDS (long walk or short cab ride)in Greektown at Halsted and Adams is absolutely delicious and very reasonably priced. Nice atmosphere as well but can be packed like sardines...not likely to be packed at 4:00 pm.

              REZA'S on West Ontario; for very good Persian Food at very reasonable prices. I think it's walking distance from the Merchandise Mart.

              SCOOZI: for Italian on west Huron

              EMILIO'S TAPAS: 215 E. Ohio / very good Spanish Tapas at reasonable prices.