Good meals in South Loop or Bucktown / Wicker Park that aren't too expensive?
I'm visitting Chicago from San Francisco, and am looking for good places for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that are reasonably priced.
I'll be staying at the Congress Plaza Hotel at 520 South Michigan Avenue in the South Loop neighborhood, and spending a good chunk of time at The Hideout, in Bucktown / Wicker Park.
Some of my interests include:
- good breakfast places near the Congress Plaza Hotel
- quick lunch near The Hideout (Wabansia & N. Elston)
- late night food (i.e. good food available after 10 PM
on a Friday / Saturday and possibly Sunday)
Will be happy with any and all ethnic offerings, but even just
good sandwiches would be nice. Offerings in other convenient areas are of course of interest too (esp. w/r/t dinner and good food after 10 PM).
Thanks for your help!
Thanks so much for reporting back in detail, especially the information about the restaurant in the Congress Plaza, which I must confess I've never even thought about.
Hope you can get back to Chicago sometime with a more relaxed schedule and get to explore more of the chow-rich neighborhoods of the city (since you now have seen two of the relative wastelands for food :-))
Kudos for the suggestions. Unfortunately I never woke up
early enough to try any of the many breakfast suggestions, but I did manage to try:
- Miller's Pub, which seemed like an easy choice after
a long flight in. Am not much of a fan of sports
bars (or sports generally), but after getting upstairs
at MB, I enjoyed a juicy 14oz prime rib, decent baked
potato, and very good "all American" iceburg lettuce
salad w/ bleu cheese. Dressing had nice fresh chunks of
bleu cheese and was quite tasty. Crowd I think consisted
largely of folks in town for the machinists convention,
and the background hum of sports-related conversation was
so loud and consistent it felt like a parody at times, but
the meal was overall very satisfying and an excellent
- Cuatro on Wabash. This one was a bit disappointing.
Really enjoyed the dim ambiance and found the service to
be outstanding, but the filet mignon was spongey and
drowning in so much sauce that I had trouble tasting the
meat. Sauce was sort of like adobo, with a medicinal
smokiness that was overpowering. Texture of the beef
reminded me of what happens when
beef is defrosted by soaking in water. Maybe this was
the side-effect of some kind of stew-like prep technique,
but I was unpleasantly surprised. My more budget
conscious friend enjoyed a plate of prawns and claimed
they were very good while wincing at what he
correctly perceived as an appetizer-size serving for
an entree-level price (and this was listed as an entree).
- Never managed much off-grounds sampling in the area of the
Hideout due to paranoia about missing the bands.
No surprises w/r/t the food available there (and not
something I'd like to revisit). Was typically
beer-addled enough that I wasn't especially sensitive to
- Took the Brown Line out to the Kedzie stop to sample
some of the Middle Eastern offerings. Ended up at
Salam. Baba ghanoush was _phenomenal_. Posted some
comments on this in another thread.
- And much to my surprise, the Congress Plaza's in-house
restaurant / room service option "Rafael's" was really
good. And while this wasn't in any way a "good value",
I had a delicious omlette delivered
for breakfast one morning
(before returning to sleep) and a great grilled chicken
sandwich in the restaurant (served on focaccia with a
basil aioli). Room service filet mignon was a near
perfect piece of meat delivered medium rare exactly as
requested, with a very tastey bearnaise sauce on the side,
along with sauteed mushrooms, green peppers, and onion
that complimented the meat surprisingly well. Side salad
was also very fresh with excellent bleu cheese. May have
done better elsewhere for less money, but this truly was
Thanks to all of you for your suggestions!
Gotta disagree on the Bongo Room at 12/Wabash. Not cheap, but unless there have been significant changes in the kitchen in recent weeks, they've got some of the best eggs benedict in town along with some very interesting pancake offerings. They do draw a crowd for weekend breakfasts (IMO justified), but not so much on weekdays. Also serving a good brunch (with an Italian flair) on Sundays only is Gioco a block or so down the road on Wabash. Not yet well-publicized, so if want to avoid a line and have a breakfast at a similar price point as the Bongo Room ($10-$12 a head), that's a good option.
The above rec for Heaven on Seven is also a good one, but note that their opening time on Saturday is, I think, 10:00 am.
The area directly around the Hideout is pretty much in a wasteland, dining-wise (unless you're driving). There are a couple of okay lunch counters at North/Elston, but if you want anything beyong gyros and fries you're out of luck. Stanley's market is also at that intersection if you can live on bread and fresh produce.
A few blocks east, across the bridge on North, there's a Whole Foods and several strip-mally cheap places. About a mile west, centered on North/Damen/Milwaukee (where you'd be getting off the train, if that's how you're doing it) is where your best choices are.
I would second the recommendations for Gourmond and Blackies for cheap eats near the hotel. By all that is holy, stay away from the crowded, overpriced, underserviced vortexes that are Orange, the Bongo Room, and Eleven.
It's closed on Sunday, but you could walk a few blocks and grab breakfast at Heaven on Seven on Saturday morning.
It's a quirky space that always makes me feel like I time travelled into an old movie. It's on the seventh floor of the Garland Building, a 1920's era high rise that played a minor part in a notorious piece of Chicago history.
For breakfast in the South Loop (my old neighborhood):
Since you are from SF I know you need good coffee. Go to Intelligentsia at Jackson and Dearborn (about 5 blocks from your hotel), founded by alumni of Peet's. They open at 6 weekdays and 7 on weekends. Just pastries/muffins to eat, though.
Another cafe in the area is Gourmand, on the west side of Dearborn north of Polk. They also serve Intelligentsia coffee and have quiches as well as the usual muffins etc. I'm not sure how early they are opening these days.
For standard eggs, etc, I'd recommend Blackies at Clark and Polk, which serves breakfast Fri-Sun only. Hackney's on Dearborn just north of Polk has brunch on Sat and Sun, but not till 10:30 I believe. Do not under any circumstances be tempted by the Bar Louie in Dearborn Station (Dearborn and Polk).
There are also a couple of creative/trendy breakfast places in the area (e.g. "pancake flight, french toast kabab"...): Orange on Harrison between Federal and Clark, and Bongo Room II on Wabash and Roosevelt. The latter would be slightly out of the way if you are planning on catching the Blue Line up to Wicker Park immediately after breakfast.
On Wabash just north of Bongo Room is a so-called deli, Eleven City Diner, which by all reports is just miserably bad.
Dearborn between Congress and Polk is Printers' Row, a very pleasant neighborhood. Not much in the way of late night food, but if you are looking for a quick sandwich for lunch or early dinner try SRO on the west side of Dearborn south of Harrison (closed Sun, though). Their chicken sandwiches are good, also their falafel. And the Italian beef (a Chicago specialty) isn't bad either.
I love Cuatro in the south loop--Latin fusion/Carribean. Fabulous all the way through from apps to dessert. In Wicker Park, try Francesca's Forno for great Italian--loud, but reasonable and great. For brunch on a sat or sun, try Rodan on Milwaukee--chilaquiles, bloody marys, etc. Kills the overcrowded Bongo Room close by.
For breakfast or lunch, (it closes at 4 PM) Manny's Coffee Shop and Deli at 1141 S. Jefferson. NYC style deli with kosher type, but not kosher, food. Corned beef or pastrami sandwiches, potato pancakes and cheese blintzes are my favorites. It takes 2 buses and about 20-25 minutes to get there, but I think the food is worth it. Catch the #3 southbound on Michigan and transter to the #12 westbound at Roosevelt (12the StL) to Jefferson. It should take about 20 minutes.
Downtown, within walking distance of the Congress, Miller's Pub is a good place for steaks, barbecued ribs, sandwiches and Greek specialities. While it's right nextdoor to the Palmer House Hotel and lots of tourists go there, its not a particularly toruisty place. It a sports bar and real Chicago place.
Not knowing what your standard is for "reasonably priced" --or what you like -- in Bucktown you might want to try:
Toast on Damen for breakfast
Bongo Room on Milwaukee for breakfast or brunch
Cafe de Luca on Damen for breakfast, lunch or desserts
Silver Cloud for comfort food
Cafe LeGuardia (Cuban) for dinner
Le Bouchon (French) for dinner