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Chow by Tribune Tower

So. Cal. woman will be staying at the Intercontinental next week. I hear it is too cold to go out exploring. Any thoughts on REALLY close places? I'm not too particular, in these circumstances, but prefer "interesting" over "hotel." Thanks.

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  1. Welcome to Chicago. All of the following are east of Michigan Avenue:

    Sayat Nova, reliable, low-key Armenian, on Ohio

    Blackie's, cheeseburger joint cum bar, on Grand

    Coco Pazzo Cafe, good-value stylish Italian, on St. Clair

    Fox & Obel cafe in namesake gourmet grocery, on Illinois

    Have fun. Favor us with a report if you can.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mugs

      Sayat Nova is the only remaining Armenian restaurant in Chicago, has very moderate prices for the area and has excellent food. It is also off the tourist radar. Several lunches and dinners there at the height of the tourist crush in July and August were quite peaceful. They are in the first block east of Michigan Avenue, a bit over a block from the Intercontinental Hotel.

      Sayat Nova
      157 East Ohio Street

      1. re: Eldon Kreider

        Thank you. I just found it on my map. I will be going there for sure.

    2. Thank you for the recommendations. Armenian sounds GREAT. I will report on my experiences.

      1. But it's not really too cold for exploring. Weather is set to get up into the 40's next week. Try a cab, or even the El, to get to some of our neighborhoods where great chow can be had! Depending on what you want, we can direct you to some really good places just steps from an El stop, or a short cab ride away! Chicago has some great stuff here, so don't let a little chill scare you away from it.

        1. Here are more excellent places within a couple of blocks of your hotel:

          Heaven on Seven (Cajun)
          600 N Michigan Ave
          Chicago, IL 60611
          (312) 280-7774

          Shaw's Crab House (seafood)
          21 E Hubbard St
          Chicago, IL 60611
          (312) 527-2722

          Joe's Seafood Prime Steak & Stone Crab
          60 E Grand Ave
          Chicago, IL 60611
          (312) 379-5637

          David Burke's Primehouse (steaks)
          616 N Rush
          Chicago, IL 60611
          (312) 660-6000

          Pizzeria Uno
          29 E Ohio St
          Chicago, IL 60611
          (312) 280-5120

          Les Nomades (French)
          222 E Ontario St
          Chicago, IL 60611
          (312) 649-9010

          And I wouldn't *automatically* rule out restaurants in hotels. Some chefs of restaurants inside hotels are given a lot of autonomy and are some of the finest places around (may others aren't, of course). For example, David Burke's, which is located in the James Chicago Hotel, is one of the best steakhouses in the city.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thank you for the links. I love to read about the food before I eat it (or why would I know this website.) I'm not dissing hotel food, it's just that I know Chicago has great restaurants and eating at the same place every night would be a bore. I think I passed Shaw's Crab House last time I was there and kick myself for missing that opportunity. I'm glad you reminded me about it.

          2. You'll want to stay away from Pizzeria Uno unless you want to stand in line with the rest of tourists from Indiana who are marched in like cattle, order taken while still in line, and rushed out. The Intercontinental now has a really cool wine bar which looks out on Michigan Avenue and has an amazine wine list, cheese and not so great chocolate. Stick with the wine and cheese. Not one block away and on Michigan Ave is Bandera which has very good food (get the mashed potatoes)...more of a lunch place though. And, if you like to hang out with media types, the Billy Goat is about a block away for beer and less than average burgers. The Heaven on Seven listed above is a cattle call as well. It's the tourist version of the far better original.

            1. That area has a lot of upscale eateries, so it's no surprise that the less expensive options get busy, but mostly at lunchtime. It sounds like the comments above are based only on observing these places at the lunch hour. At that time of day, these places are busy because most of the customers are locals who work in the area who want a reasonably-priced lunch, not tourists (and it's no different at the Billy Goat as at Uno's or Heaven on Seven). That's why Uno's takes orders while patrons are in line - because the pizza takes 30-40 minutes to bake, and workers on their lunch hour don't have a lot of time. And there's no need to denigrate these places by referring to long lines as "cattle calls". If you want to avoid crowds at these places, just avoid the lunch hours if you have the flexibility to do so.

              1. The "off Michigan Ave" pizza places such as Uno's and Due's are tourist traps for both lunch and dinner and the pizza isn't that good. The dining experience at these places should be denigrated -- they are horrible. There are thousands of places in and around downtown that you can get good food and have a pleasurable dining experience but the pizza tourist traps aren't it. Stay in your hotel room and order in from Connie's and you'll be far better off. Or hop in a cab and go into the neighborhoods...Renalli's is not that far away.

                1 Reply
                1. re: marilyn9

                  Pizza is a matter of personal taste, and many people - including me - strongly disagree with your opinion. The original locations of Uno's and Due's are still turning out good pizza, unlike their nationwide locations which don't. There are other places which also turn out good Chicago-style pizza. Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, and Gino's East all serve excellent Chicago-style pizza and have locations within a half mile of the Intercontinental; there's no need to travel two miles (or to the other side of the Loop) to Ranalli's, which IMHO isn't as good as any of these.

                2. You're right that it's a matter of personal taste. But, if you separate out the food part of the equation (which we can honestly disagree on), the dining experience is simply horrible. Scipio wanted interesting and Mugs has given terriffic recommendations. The off Michigan Ave pizza places are a cliche and cliches, by their very nature, aren't interesting.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: marilyn9

                    Thank you all for your suggestions. You're right about it being a matter of taste. I'm liking the crab and cajun suggestions. I'm rarely drawn to a pizza. The guys here think I'm crazy and keep telling me about great Chicago and New York pizzas when I travel. I guess the thought of the freezing cold is more daunting when viewed from outside the snow belt. These recommendations will give me good reason to get out in the cold.

                    1. re: ScipioMom

                      If you aren't really interested in pizza, then don't bother with Pizzeria Uno's debate. Plus if you are going to be by yourself, it's kind of a moo point. It's kind of too much for one person. Heaven on Seven on Wabash would be a better bet (I think that's the original) - especially if you have time to in the Art Insitute (which is free on thursday nights). Mugs and Marilyn has some good suggestions. Bandera is especially nice if you get a window seat overlooking Michigan Ave. Also, I don't know if you would have time, but the John Hancock Signature Lounge is a good place to get a drink and view the city lights. Food is medicore, but the drinks are good and cheaper than the price of the observatory. Have fun and dress warm! You're not used to this cold. Really only in Chicago is 40 considered warm. I'm walking around without my gloves today cause it's 15 instead of the 5's we've been having! :)

                      1. re: lbs

                        Thanks, lbs. I've fortunately had drinks at the Signature Lounge, so the cold CAN keep me away from that spot this time. I'm glad the temperature is up to 15. I think your city is fantastic and I'm sorry I have to work during my visit. But it sounds like I'll be eating well when I follow these suggestions. (but no pizza.) :-)

                        1. re: ScipioMom

                          As leek noted above, the weather all next week is supposed to be milder than it has been lately, with highs in the upper thirties and lows in the upper twenties (both of which are slightly above normal for this time of year, normal is 35/20). Even though this is colder than L.A., that's not too cold to go out exploring! Also, it's easy to get cabs throughout the downtown area (including River North, Mag Mile, etc) if you decide to go someplace that's more than a few blocks away and you don't want to walk.

                          I would stop by Fox and Obel at some point during your stay (originally recommended by Mugs above). It's a few short blocks east of your hotel. It's a wonderful upscale grocery store, like Balducci's/Zabar's/Dean&Deluca in New York, and it's worth checking out for that reason - all the finest meats, produce, baked goods, etc. The cafe in the back serves all three meals, and while I wouldn't go there for one of my dinners here (nothing against them, just that there are other places to check out for dinner), it's worth considering for breakfast or lunch. You can find the cafe menu on their website at www.fox-obel.com (click on CAFE).

                  2. I'll sit here quietly and wait for someone else to weigh in with the advice that visitors traveling 2,000 miles to visit Chicago use their limited dining time to walk over to Uno's, wait in line (possibly outside) for 45 or more minutes, sit down in a crowded, unpleasant and otherwise undistinguished dining room with a bunch of other tourists to have an average deep dish pizza.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: marilyn9

                      If visitors wish to try Chicago-style pizza, Uno's - and Lou Malnati's and Giordano's and Gino's East - are excellent places to try it. It's a better suggestion than a burger place, since you can get a hamburger anyplace in the country.

                      If you don't want to try Chicago-style pizza, there are lots and lots of other foods to enjoy here.

                      1. re: marilyn9

                        I hestitate to enter the fray, but as a former Chicago resident, and now a 'tourist', I'll cast my vote with marilyn9. I was really glad when Chowhounds let me in on Malnati's. When I was a kid/teenage, we'd ride in from the SouthSide to eat at Uno's, and it was fun. But that was because of the people, and growing up on thin crust made deep dish exotic. But, the two times I've been to Uno's and the two to Due in the past few years have been disappointing both in atmosphere and food. Malnati's allows me to get my deep dish fix without the 'pain' of Uno's and its second.

                        1. re: mike_d

                          Malnati's is good too, and so are Giordano's (for stuffed pizza) and Gino's East. However, they are a bit further than Uno's. Here are the closest locations to the Intercontinental:

                          Lou Malnati's
                          439 North Wells Street
                          Phone 312.828.9800

                          135 E. Lake (Prudential Plaza)
                          (312) 616-1200
                          730 N. Rush St.
                          (312) 951-0747

                          Gino's East
                          162 E. Superior St
                          Phone: 312-266 DEEP (3337)

                          The OP asked about places REALLY close to the Intercontinental. Uno's is. The others aren't.

                      2. You've jumped in Mike, now we've got to get you deprogrammed.

                        Where on the South Side? Fox's Pub (with the best old style thin crust in the city)?

                        Malnati's is good. They grow their own tomatoes which I like. But I wouldn't go to one of the downtown locations.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: marilyn9

                          Well, I've had really good experiences the two times I've been to the Wells st. Malnati, especially after checking out some of the talk on this board. Some extra tomato, skip the butter crust, and end up with a really good pizza.

                          Now, Fox's is good, there's no denying. There was a whole series of pizza places (carry out only) on 103rd st. just east of Pulaski in the same building. Different names, but the same pizza each time, like Fox's, but perhaps a little lighter on the cheese, leaning toward the cracker type crust. My mom swore by these guys and that was that. Maybe they were cousins??

                          But last time I was in town and went to visit friends, we had Fox's, and it was good. Hmmm, it's Saturday, maybe time for a drive :)

                        2. A moment of silence for all the tourists now lining up at Uno's, Due's, Giordano's and Gino's so that when they get back to Terre Haute they can say they had Chicago deep dish.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: marilyn9

                            com'on - it's not the best or the worst. But it's indicitive of Chicago Style Pizza. You may not like it, I may find other kinds and styles more platable (Piazano's is my fave for that style) but all in all, it's an experience.

                          2. Indicative of Chicago deep dish, I'll grant you that. It's the dining experience that I object to more than the pizza. It's just unfortunate.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: marilyn9

                              I'm not a fan of deep dish pizza done by anyone. I just prefer thin crust, that's all. Aurelio's or Lou Malnati's or Salerno's or Pat's in the South Loop. And I, personally, would never set foot in Uno or Due again. Been there, done that. But if you had never been to Uno or Due, you really couldn't pass judgment on it, could you? So why look down on those first-timers or tourists from Terre Haute that HAVEN'T ever been there? I probably wouldn't go back to Disneyland again, either. But I think everyone should visit at least once so that they can relate to the experience that so many people HAVE had. Let's not look down on tourists too much, either. Without 'em, Michigan Avenue would just dry up and blow away. And what makes you think that all those people standing in line are from Terre Haute? I've heard an awful lot of foreign languages and accents when walking past those long lines at Due and Uno. Uno and Due are an essential piece of Chicago's food heritage. The "tourist traps" that we could live without are the Hard Rock Cafe and Rainforest Cafe.

                              1. re: YoYoPedro

                                Good points all, yo yo, and agree with you on Hard Rock and Rainforest. This whole discussion started with someone from California asking about interesting places to eat. I would simply not recommend the aforementioned pizza joints until 300 or 400 other options have been expired. Nothing wrong with people from Indiana. Gee whiz, Dan Quayle is one.