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Visiting beginning of December....what not to miss?

Hi my midwestern chow friends. My husband and I are visiting Chicago in early December for a week. We will be staying at the Hotel Allegro on Randolph street. It's not our first visit to the area by far but we haven't been there together in years. The last time I was out it was with my daughter and we stayed out near Oakbrook. This time we'll be downtown. We had a wonderful pizza dinner at Traverso's and would love to return. Is there one in the city? We will need casual dinners that won't break the bank. We won't have a car so things should be close within walking distance or cab ride. Also, can someone suggest a good dim sum place that serves weekdays? I'm also open to suggestions regarding things to see. Aside from the museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier which we've seen numerous times. Any fun little shopping areas away from the Mile? It will be a week away from the kids for me, my husband will be in meetings most days with Monday and Friday free. I would appreciate any suggestions!

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  1. Since you are staying in the loop, it will be very easy to take the el (CTA subway/elevated train) to Chinatown. I think weekend mornings are the best times for dim sum, but Phoenix is one place that says they serve dim sum in their downstairs, casual restaurant at all times. Three Happiness may be another option. You will hopefully get more opinions on which place to go. Ask your hotel concierge about how to get to the correct CTA stop.

    I am not aware of a Traverso's pizza downtown. If you are a fan of Chicago deep-dish pizza, you may wish to try the Giordano's on Randolph not far from your hotel. There are many other great pizza choices downtown. The original Uno and Due, Lou Malnati's, Gino's East all come immediately to mind. I expect you will get more input on pizza too.

    The other thing I would highly recommend, if you have never had one, is an Italian Beef sandwich. Or if you are feeling particularly hungry - a beef and sausage combo. In the loop, my two favorites are Mr. Beef on Orleans and Al's #1 Italian Beef just a bit Southeast of Mr. Beef. On Ontario, I believe. Although it is often recommended, Portillo's has never been one of my favorites for beef sandwiches, but I do like their hot dogs.

    I hope you enjoy your visit to Chicago and get some pleasant December weather! Cheers, Ken

    8 Replies
    1. re: kstroble

      Thanks Ken for the great info. My husband would love the Italian beef sandwich. What do you think of a woman taking the "el" alone during the day? Is it safe?

      1. re: mrsmegawatt

        In my opinion, it is safe for anyone to take the el to Chinatown, even more so during daylight hours. But I have lived in the Chicago area for 30 years. It would probably not be a bad idea to solicit a second opinion on that from your hotel concierge too.

        1. re: kstroble

          Thanks kstroble. I don't mean to sound paranoid, just trying to maintain a level of comfort/safety as most of the days, I'll be exploring alone.

          1. re: mrsmegawatt

            I think it is a perfectly reasonable question - not paranoia.

        2. re: mrsmegawatt

          Another thread I just read reminded me of one more pizza place I really like: Bacinos on Wacker near Hotel 71.

          1. re: mrsmegawatt

            Hundreds of thousands of women in Chicago take the "el" everyday without incident. As one of them, I can say that I've never felt like I was in danger on any train or bus in the city. (At least not from other passesngers. The driving abilities of the conductor/bus driver are another matter)

            As for a fun neighborhood away from downtown, I recommend Andersonville. Take the red line to Berwyn and walk 4 blocks west. It is a historically Swedish neighborhood that has trendy shops, great bars, and a wide variety of restaurants. It's also a very safe area. (I live in the neighborhood and always feel safe.)

            1. re: merkay

              Thank you merkay. We have a town here in California that's Danish, Solvang featured a bit in Sideways. Sounds like fun!

              1. re: merkay

                . . . and the stop before Berwyn on the Red Line is Argyle (about three blocks south), where you'll find yourself smack in the middle of our little Vietnam. Numerous food options, in particular Tank Noodle (pho), Thai Avenue, and some of the best Chinese BBQ at Sun Wah.

          2. Since you'll be visiting in early December, here's something that might be worth a couple of visits. It'll cover your chow, shopping, and sightseeing intrests all in one:

            http://www.christkindlmarket.com/

            Also, the Dia de los muertos exhibit continues at the Fine Arts Center in Pilsen until December 10 (about a $10-$15 cab ride from the Loop, also reachable by the el-Blue Line) with plenty of wonderful inexpensive Mexican restaurants nearby. Nuevo Leon is one of the best but check the "SF visitor" thread below for links to threads on the Pilsen area.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jbw

              Thanks so much JBW! This is the kind of thing I absolutely adore! I will make sure to visit!

            2. I actually have a list of shopping areas and restaurants that I put together for a family friend and her daughter who were visiting Chicago a few months ago. Would you like for me to email it to you?

              1 Reply
              1. re: elc515

                That would be wonderful elc. mrsmegawatt@prodigy.net ...since there isn't a way to send a private message (I wish they would work on that!) through this board, I'll just have to post it. All you spammers, leave me alone! I hate spam unless it's fried in teriyaki sauce and put in sushi!

              2. You might like to visit one of our ethnic neighborhoods, and a dramatic one would be Devon Avenue (Indian/Pakistani). From downtown take the Red Line subway (it runs under State Street) toward Howard. Get off at Loyola. As you emerge from the station you will be in front of McDonald's at a bus stop. (Safe neighborhood: that thing you will see across the street is Loyla University.) Take the Devon 155 bus. Ask driver to call Western Avenue (about ten minutes). This will put you in the heart of Calcutta, surrounded by shops selling saris, wedding shoes with turned-up toes, Hindu religious images, Muslim bookshops, lovely gold filigree jewelry, all kinds of gifts, videos and tapes, fascinating groceries and produce (go into Patel's supermarket and buy some spices and nuts at VERY low prices). Have lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet for $7 (they are everywhere). Then keep walking west past the big New England-y looking bank and you will suddenly be in Moscow: Russian book and gift shops, delis, and even a Georgian bakery with a big stone oven. A couple of blocks more and the street turns Orthodox Jewish with bakeries, Kosher delis, stores selling Judiaca, etc.. Devon Avenue is like going abroad without a passport. And, BTW, yes, a woman alone can travel the route I have described in safety. There will be lots of people around minding their own business and not menacing you. I do it all the time.

                1. You guys are all so great! I'm so looking forward to this trip. Querencia, I love Indian food. I'll definitely put that on my list.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mrsmegawatt

                    I love Devon Avenue!! Great suggestion from Querencia!

                    Tiffin, India Garden and Udupi Palace(for Southern vegetarian) are generally well-regarded, but I am sure there are other good ones too.