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suggestions for wknd visit, one of us is a vegetarian

Hi Chicago chowhounds!

We're coming from Boston to spend the weekend. Staying near the magnificent mile/navy pier area. (I know embarrassingly little about the city!)

Going to try to do Moto or Alinea on Saturday night, so want much more casual (and much more cheap!) suggestions for Best-of-Chicago dining for the rest of the weekend. (Basically Friday dinner and Saturday and Sunday lunch. And maybe some snacks.)

I know we want one of the meals to be Chicago's best pizza. I'll search the boards for consensus/debate on that. What other chowish, Chicago-y gems should we try? We truly like all types of food but one of us is a not-super-strict vegetarian. Proximity to good museums, sites etc. would be great, but, let's be honest, the trip revolves around the food.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Chicago's best pizza, in my opinion, has to be Gino's east. I'm sure others would debate this!
    I've heard Jane's in Bucktown is good for vegetarian dinner.
    M. Henry's on north Clark has a GREAT brunch with many vegetarian options. Expect a wait during brunch time. they have a nice side cafe for having coffee and waiting.
    You might have trouble finding vegetarian downtown near the Mag Mile. (this is a pizza and steak city!). 1492 Tapas is on the Gold Coast, though, and has, of course, many vegetable tapas.

    1. For vegetarian fare (and also pleasing non-vegetarians), one restaurant stands out above all others, and it's just a short cab ride away:

      Green Zebra
      1460 W Chicago Ave
      Chicago, IL 60622
      (312) 243-7100

      For Sunday brunch suggestions, check out this topic:
      Most of the "fine dining places" are in the Mag Mile area, and Kitsch'n River North is nearby. Most of the others are a short cab ride away.

      For pizza, I like Giordano's ( www.giordanos.com ), which serves a "stuffed" (double-crust) pizza. Many folks like Lou Malnati's ( www.loumalnatis.com ) or the aforementioned Gino's East ( www.ginoseast.com ) for a single-thick-crust, "pan pizza". All three have locations in the Mag Mile area.

      One other "destination" for food lovers is Fox and Obel, which is right near Navy Pier and is our local upscale food store (a la Balducci's or Dean & Deluca in New York). Fine foods of all sorts, and they also have a nice little "order in line and they bring it to you" cafe in the back that might be suitable for breakfast or lunch.

      Fox & Obel Food Market
      401 E. Illinois Street
      Chicago, IL 60611

      1. the lula cafe is a great option for veggie friendly/affordable food (entries around $10). lots of seasonal organic/local farm produce and meats. great options for all diets. the specials are always delicious!! located in logan square, right off the logan square blue line stop. they serve breakfast lunch and dinner. arrive early, there is always a wait. (and if the hostess says 45 minutes, she really means 15)

        rodin in bucktown serves brunch on weekends. same price range, with vegan options. the best bloody mary in town. the nariyala rice pudding is awesome, and definately try the vietnamese coffee and doughnuts.

        1. Its a bit of a cab ride away, but I have had lots of luck with vegetarian friends at the May Street Market. Not strictly vegetarian like Green Zebra, but it has a wide variety of vegetarian options. Both of those can be on the more expensive end, although nothing like Alinea. www.maystreetmarket.com. From recent experience, I'd call either of them a few weeks in advance to make sure you get the time you want. May Street Market seems to have gotten very popular recently.

          Closer to mag mile and less expensive are a few Indian places with lots of veggie options: the Indian Garden at 247 E. Ontario, 2nd Floor, has very good Indian food - but I'll warn you that the decor is a little odd and the service leaves a lot to be desired. I always make sure to order an extra drink when the waiter stops by because you can never be sure when he'll be back. That said, the food is quite good as long as you can deal with the service. There is also India House on 59 West Grand. Never been there, but I've strolled by many times and it always looks good - a little pricer, but the waiters seem to come without being accosted. Or Klay Oven a few blocks to the west is our regular place - 414 N. Orleans.

          1. Let's face it, you're in the mag mile/ navy pier area for just 2 days... that's really not going to give you much time to get away from that area, and you're already planning a dinner at Moto or Alinea...

            For your other meal, since you've never been to Chicago, I'd just recommend you wander over to Rush Street and see what you can get into.

            There's a ton of restaurants and bars in the area, alot of nightlife, etc. Some of it's very chowish, some not so much. It's sort of like "greenwich village meets the upper east side" to get sort of a feel of it.... but very close to your mag/mile location. The "heart" of this very walkable area would be around Rush/State or Rush/Chestnut, Rush & Oak, etc... Plenty to do, plenty to eat, close to you. With a warm feeling on what will probably be cold days. Enjoy.

            1. Thanks all! Fabulous suggestions and pointers. Stomachs growling.

              Our current plan is lou malnati's on friday night, frontera grill for saturday lunch, moto or alinea for saturday dinner and Fox & Obel, Giordano's or one of the myriad other brunch suggestions on sunday. Allowing room of course for dropping the plan and going where the spirit takes us. And for making another trip to Chicago to try Green Zebra.

              Not that we have time or stomach capacity to add this, but were we to want a delicious bowl of noodle soup--like a curry udon or some such, or a flavorful pho--is there a top spot with options that are not egregiously non-vegetarian? That is the stock can be non-veggie, but free of pieces of meat. Will happily travel for soup (Boston's really lacking here) but not tooooo far from mag mile area i guess.

              Thanks again.

              1 Reply
              1. re: edamame

                "Our current plan is....moto or alinea for saturday dinner"

                I hope I am correct in assuming you have reservations at one or both restos? Alinea in particular is customarily booked way in advance, particularly on Friday or Satuday nights. Dinners can last for several hours there, and at Moto as well, so it's not like you can sort of wing it and just show up. Call. Now!!!!!!!!!!! :o) (And good luck.)

              2. It might be more $$ than you want, but Opera on South Wabash is very hip and the food is very good. Chinese/Asian, and they have a separate vegan menu that you don't even have to ask for. 1301 S. Wabash; 312-461-0161. Another more casual suggestion is Kroll's, at the northwest corner of 18th Street and Michigan Avenue. It's the Chicago location of a well-known bar-and-grill in Green Bay. Good beers on tap and the veg burgers and fries are SO good.

                Have fun.

                1. In the Mag Mile area, try Le Colonial for your upscale noodles jones.... in the Rush Street corridor I previously described. I just doubt that when you only have a weekend in Chicago that you're going to be able to get very far out into the City and you'd probably do better to find several places you like right around the Mag Mile.

                  Also, why would you do BOTH Lou Malnati's and Giordanos ?? that's more or less the same deep dish pizza fare. The closest Malnati's to the Mag Mile is the one over on Wells isn't it ? You might find the Pizzerias Uno/Due to be closer to you and offer a similar or better product.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                    I agree that two Chicago pizza meals is one too many for a single weekend. Furthermore, with all the great Sunday brunches around (as noted in that other topic), I would take advantage of a Sunday brunch elsewhere and not spend it on pizza.

                    If you'd like to try stuffed (double crust) pizza, do go for Giordano's. If you'd prefer trying pan (single crust) pizza, Malnati's is good but, as Mike notes, it *is* several blocks further west; as an alternative, I would suggest Gino's East on Superior, as it's right in the middle of the Mag Mile area.

                    1. re: Chicago Mike

                      Le Colonial is a good idea. http://www.lecolonialchicago.com/ They're also open for lunch. I'ver been there several times and always had a good experience.

                    2. As far as soup goes, you'd probably have to travel for good stuff. Does your vegetarian companion eat seafood? If so, your options in the noodle soup realm greatly increase. I've never personally had pho that wasn't beef stock (or chicken stock) with a whole lotta meat in it, but there may be some seafood options if you were willing to travel to the Broadway and Argyle area (a ways north of the Mag Mile) or even Chinatown. Joy Yee in Chinatown is crowded but has a lot on it's menu. I'm a big fan of Lao Sze Chuan but there again, I've had a lot of meat-based dishes.

                      1. for a superb udon in downtown chicago ther eis no place better tahn the recently opened "Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi" in the Macy's (111 N. State St., 7th Fl.) a noodle dish is around $9 but i guarantee it will hit the spot and is unlike anything else you can find in the city

                        1. We took a friend to Malnati's downtown once and it was fairly depressing. The pizza is good but the restaurant itself is rough and the ambiance sucked. I realize this is way late for a recommendation for this thread, but I'm wondering if anyone else likes The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder on Clark. Locals seem lukewarm about it but I've taken people there from out of town and they loved it!

                          1. My late report. Loved Chicago, though it was beyond cold. Certainly deserves more than a 2 day visit. Of course, our chow eyes were bigger than our stomachs so we didn't do nearly as much eating as planned. But:

                            We ordered a Malnati's cheese pizza as we taxied in on Friday night and loved it. I couldn't eat it as my once-a-week delivery pizza--so substantial--but quite a treat.

                            Alinea was amazing, as you all know. You have to do lots of rationalizing to justify the price--it's dinner AND theatre etc.--but a truly memorable and delicious experience. We were worried about the latter but there was no need. The meat-eaters want their own sous vide equipment, and I want some of that olive oil powder right now.

                            And that was basically it, as far as chowish goes. We went to a good thai place too, but I don't remember the name and I'm sure there are better places. This one was close by and thus we were less likely to get frostbite on the way.

                            Thanks again for suggestions--I'm keeping them for our next visit. In the spring, summer or fall.