Attending a conference in Chicaco next month and I'm sure we'll be hungry...
My boyfriend and I (along with some other engineers) are attending a conference Oct. 19 in Chicago (it's at the Westin Chicago River North). So far, we've read that the things to do in Chicago are related to architecture and blues. I've never been to the area, but we'll be there for a day before and after the conference and I'd like to make the most of our trip out.
Every guide book I've seen mentions Charlie Trotter's as the place to go, but it sounds like (here) it's a bit over-hyped and not worth the huge dinner price? I like food, and I appreciate good meals, but I don't think I'm looking to spend $150 per person on a meal. I've looked at the Gibson's menu (and the corresponding Hugo's and Quartino) and that looks pretty good. We like steakhouses, but we can go to Lawry's anytime we're in Vegas (we live in San Diego) and we'd just like to experience a good meal that we might not be able to find at home. No picky eaters here - we like seafood, sushi, Indian, Thai, meat, pasta, etc. And, while it might be nice to find a place for the two of us, if you have any suggestions for dinner with friends after the conference day (preferably near the Westin) I would highly appreciate it.
Food aside, if you have some sightseeing points-of-interest we can work in during our stay, we'd love to get an idea of what to do with our free days!
You're right to skip Trotters, particularly since your $150pp becomes at least $250pp once you add wine, tax, and tip. But you'll probably need to give the Chicago Hounds a little more to go on - Chicago rivals New York in its restaurant scene, and River North is a very central location, meaning there are probably (literally) thousands of restaurants to recommend. You might try narrowing down your budget, picking a cuisine and vibe you're after, and scanning these boards a bit to give us some more ammo.
I know, asking for restaurant recommendations is like asking what kind of color to paint my house - too many factors to consider! Since we'll spend most of our Friday/Saturday in the Westin, something close to that would be convenient. Budget would probably $20-30/person (less would be great!)? I'm not so into trendy vibes - I just want a good meal that we'll enjoy.
I spent the last 3 years out in San Diego, so hopefully, I can provide some perspective. The one thing I noticed when I first moved out here is that Chicago is a meat eating town. I actually found the Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese food to be better in San Diego, ie Phuong Tran, Celadon, Emeralds, etc. So, I would not recommend any of those cuisines. I definitely think the Korean bbq is much better here, though. For that, you could try Solga. This, however, is bit outside of the city, so if you're trying to remain within downtown, I wouldn't recommend it. I've had very good tapas experiences here in Chicago (much better than San Diego). Since Cafe Barbareeba is also available in Las Vegas, I would recommend Emilio's or 1492. Also, since you're in Chicago, you must have deep dish pizza. For that, you can go to either Gino's East (which is where I would go if you're in downtown) or Giordano's which is pretty much everywhere. I find Lou Malnatti's (another deep dish) to be extremely heavy and more watery than the other two pizza chains. The Indian food is pretty good here too. If you're planning on staying in the city, there's an Indian buffet called India House.
In terms of what to do, I would highly recommend the architectural boat tour that is offered by the Architectural Society. If you're not able to do that, the society also offers many wonderful walking tours. The Art Institute is one of my absolute favorites. It is definitely one of the best museums I have ever been to and they have a great collection of paintings. Good luck!
Thanks for the tip on the Thai, etc... we had read about Arun as a good Thai place, what do you think?
I love a good Korean BBQ - we just found our favorite at Bu Ga here in SD. Maybe on Sunday we can go to Solga before flying out.
Tapas sounds like a perfect option for dinner with friends. I'll look into where those are in relation to where we'll be after the conference.
And yes, we have it on our list to sample some Chicago pizza. =)
Chicago has a lot of good Greek restaurants, my favorite is Greek Islands at 200 S. Halsted, just west of the loop, but you can't go wrong at any of the Greek restaurants near there.
Chicago also has a very lively theater scene. If you enjoy plays, check out the League of Chicago Theaters' web site:
A sight seeing destination you might enjoy is the Pullman neighborhood. It's now part of Chicago but it was founded by George Pullman as a company town to house the workers at the railroad car plant that built the first sleeping cars.. It was later the sight of a violent strike. If that iinterests you check the out the Pullman Historical Society's web site: