Toronto Chow visiting Chicago
I'll be visiting Chicago (first time) to run the marathon near the end of October, looking for some wallet friendly chow cuisine.
I'm staying at the Best Western Inn on E Ohio St. (means nothing to me) and would like recommendations for the following:
Quick, cheap, tasty (maybe ethnic?) for Friday night (my flight arrives at 5:30)
Breakfast/brunch/lunch on Saturday
Sushi Saturday night
Group dinner for Sunday night - varied menu, doesn't have to be 'chowish' but should have big portions, good quality food.
Withing walking distance which for me means a few miles. I'll take transit if it's worth it. Other than Sunday night I'll probably be dining alone.
Also a decent grocery store nearby where I can pick up some snacks and pre-marathon morning food (yogurt, juice, fruit, etc.).
Thanks in advance!
Thanks for all the recommendations. I heeded some and not others, mostly due to lack of time and/or control over where I ate, due to others' wishes.
I hit Whole Foods when I arrived Friday night. I was alone, starving and needed groceries anyway, and I find their prepared food pretty good, when desperate. They had a great mushroom barley bison soup.
Saturday for lunch was at Fox and Obel - what a great spot! I had the giant 1/2 roast beef sandwich on baguette with gorgonzola and some lovely butternut squash apple soup. It's a bit of a cluttered, noisy environment, but still a pleasant experience. Saturday night I wasn't too hungry and joined friends at California pizza kitchen for dinner. This place was fine out of desperation since it was a busy night everywhere else. I didn't eat here - just tasted their pizza and had a drink.
Sunday dinner was at Vivo - can't say enough about this place. Service was top notch - nothing like the haughty service I've received in DC, NY and other big American cities. My martini was HUGE, as were other serving sizes usually reserved for large chain restaurants. Quality was evident everywhere. The wine list was extensive and well chosen, and I did know what we were drinking at one point, but then a few bottles later my memory was erased...
I had the calamari grigliati, a towering plate of perfectly grilled calamari, unbelievable in quantity and quality for the price. Then I had the rigatoni alla butera, a sausage, tomato, peas and goat cheese mixture. Having just run a marathon, I could not finish this!!! The taste and texture of both the pasta and sauce was sublime, with a generous amount of goat cheese, but not too much, and some lovely, fresh, sweet peas. Between the four of us we had 8 different dishes, all equally impressive and satisfying. I didn't pay so I have no idea what the bill was, but I'm sure it was well worth it! Thanks again for the recs. I don't think I got the true Chicago food experience, but I'll just have to make a return visit (not to run the marathon again though!)
Having lived in both Toronto and Chicago, I can say that there are only a few ethnic cuisines that Chicago has a comparative advantage over Toronto. One is definitely Mexican and South American cuisine and the other is Thai. For pretty much everything else, I would say Toronto is better. Japanese (sushi) included. And Toronto is much cheaper too for sushi. (Miss my old haunt, Ichiban on Spring Garden in North York) Unfortunately, there are not that many affordable sushi places in Chicago that have very good sushi, much to my regret. Still if you decide to have sushi in downtown Chicago, I would recommend Mirai or Meiji. Both places are not cheap and would set you back more than $100 (I guess it depends on what you eat though). Kamahachi is ok, but I think their sushi is not as good as Mirai or Meiji. Someone mentioned Japonais, which is pretty decent. I would recommend going there for drinks and getting a few roles from their bar.
For quick, cheap and tasty, what about some deep dish from Lou Malnati's or the Art of Pizza?
Thai places are great in Chicago, but most good ones are on the north side of the city like Spoon Thai, TAC, and Jitlada. TAC and Jitlada are close to Wrigleyville where a lot of bars are (and many locals hang out) so you might want to swing this way for an evening out anyway and go to one of these places.
For Mexican, there is always Frontera Grill or places like Adobo grill which offer good food with good atmosphere. There are also a lot of authentic, hole-in-the-wall sort of places that have amazing food (especially in Pilsen, like Nuevo Leon...).
There are also many Nuevo Latino restos that are worth checking out, like Nacional 27, Carnival, etc.
One place that is fun and affordable that is fairly close to your hotel is Cafe Iberico for Spanish tapas.
Since you are running the marathon, I would suggest Rose Angelis or Quartino for good Italian at a reasonable price.
Also, for supermarket options, I second Fox and Obel. Also, you can grab lunch there sometime. (btw, their meatloaf is quite good.)
For morning snacks and juice, you can also try Corner Bakery on St. Clair. Good selection of juices, cut-up fruit, etc., and frankly, the grocery prices in that neighborhood are so stellar that you won't save that much by going to the White Hen or Dominicks.
IMHO, Treasure Island (a couple of blocks away) is a much better grocery store than Dominicks.
Friday night - Star of Siam is good, cheap, fast Thai food.
Saturday - eating alone, you might want to head up to Wells St. in Old Town (about 2 mi from the hotel). All the restaurants have outdoor seating if the weather is still nice. Old Jerusalem has really good Mediterranean food (I'm particularly fond of their Tabouli). Adobo Grill is good for Mexican.
Both Kamehachi and Oysy are within walking distance of your hotel. Both are very good and relatively reasonably priced.
Other excellant options if you want to get in a cab/on the train: Sushi Wabi, Mirai Sushi.
Group dinner - it gets said on this board all the time Greektown is the place to go with big groups. The food is good, the portions are big, the check is reasonable. My favorite places in Greektown are Pegasus and Parthenon. I can't stand Greek Islands (but I'm in the minority, most people like it).
If you are not into Greek, Reza's has good Persian food and works well with big groups.
Grocery store - there might be something closer to the hotel, but there is a Jewel at Ohio and State, six or seven blocks due west of your hotel. If you want to go a little further there is a Whole Foods at Dearborn and Superior.
Good luck with the marathon!!
Grocery store- There is a large Dominick's within walking distance. It's brand new and you can get all your staples there: 255 E Grand.
Fox & Obel is a short distance from Dominick's and is a gourmet grocery store. Worth checking out but too expensive for things like juice. Great produce, though.
Sushi- Japonais, Kamehachi and Oysy are great picks in the downtown area.
Brunch (short cab ride away) - Orange on Harrison. They have inventive food like fruit sushi (frushi). Here's some more info: