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NY hound looking for new tips for second trip to Chicago

I will be coming to Chicago for the second time next week for four days. Last time I was there, I had some great food as I went to Wiener's Circle, Jim's Original, Al's Italian Beef, Mario's for lemon ice, Walker Bros and Wishbone for breakfast, Pilsen for mexican food, Lou Malnati's for deep dish, Devon for south indian food, Billy Goat Tavern for a cheeburger, etc. I'm looking for uniquely chicago experiences that I missed last time. Have read mixed things about Hot Doug's but looks interesting. Also, any recommendations for not to be missed bars (or good beer bars) would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. Your question is very open-ended. There are literally thousands of restaurants in Chicago, and many are worth recommending. So help us by telling us more about what YOU'RE looking for, so we can provide the most appropriate recommendations for you:

    - Are you looking only for more "cheap eats" like those you mention, or would you consider more expensive places?

    - Are there particular foods you enjoy? Ethnic cuisine (which ones?), burgers, whatever - help us narrow it down.

    - What about location? What location is most convenient for you? And will you be traveling by car, or public transit? (In addition to giving recommendations that are convenient for you, this enables us to give directions using the most appropriate means of travel.)

    P.S. I don't yet know if it fits your needs, but one uniquely Chicago experience you didn't mention, and not all that expensive, is going to a Greek restaurant in Greek Town. See this topic for recommendations: www.chowhound.com/topics/119233

    For breakfast and brunch recommendations:

    1. Definately try Hot Doug's, I've never had it due to the limited hours open, but there's a guy at work that is way more into food than me and it is his number one reccomendation. Enjoy your trip!

      1. Actually, I found your post to be pretty informative based on where you went last time. And it sounds like you hit the alot of the uniquely Chicago places. Hot Dougs is closed for vacation the time you are here. It seems like you didn't hit the uptown/Andersonville area last time you came in. You may want to go to the myriad of Vietnamese places off of Argyle (Tank Noodle, Sun Wah, do a quick search) then walk down a bit and hit the Green Mill - an old Chicago place that Capone used to hang out at. If you are going to be in that area the Hop Leaf has an extensive beer list and is one of my favorites in the city. Excellent mussels and food too. Take the Red Line to Argyle for both suggestions. If you are going to the Hop Leaf, walk west to Broadway, north to Foster (about a block) and west of Foster for about a block or so til you hit Clark. It's right there.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lbs

          Oh, and from your list it seems like you came in the summer. Next week is supposed to be in the 30-40's and snowy/cloudy (not that you're not used to the weather). You may also want to hit Lincoln Square and go to some of the German resturants. i like the Brauhaus and across the street is a German bar which I think is called the Huttenbar. Take the BROWN line to Western.

          1. re: lbs

            Thanks for all the great suggestions so far! The Hop Leaf looks great and I never got to check out Argyle last time so would like to do that. As far as narrowing down my question, I am interested in more cheap to moderate places, will eat pretty much anything except vegan food, do not have a car although might be with a friend who has one, will be staying in East Village and Hyde Park but I will gladly travel for something special.

          2. Another vote for Greektown. That's always fun. Lots of past threads on where to go.

            Also lots of good cheap Thai food in Chicago - once again, lots of info in past postings. TAC and Spoon Thai always get good reviews.

            1. Yet another vote for Greektown and Hopleaf. I would also strongly recommend going to Goose Island our largest local brewer. The Lincoln Park location (not far from the North/Clybourn red line stop) regularly has 7-10 different delicious craft brews on tap (though the food can be hit or miss). Also, if you're in the mood for something uniquely Pittsburgh in Chicago, Lucky's Sandwich Shop in Wrigleyville serves up monster food with both fries and cole slaw directly on the sandwich...takes me back to my college days!

              1. Every now and then I like to put in a plug for the Southside;

                Ricobene's which best known for the breaded steak sandwich is a real treat, there are several locations around the south side and one location downtown right off of Lake & Wells: http://www.ricobenesfamoussteaks.com/ for a great explanation of how & why this place is special check out this link: http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Write... Ricobene's also has some of the best deep dish pizza (available by the slice) in the city as well, just be sure to get the deep dish and not the pan pizza!

                1. One more "uniquely Chicago experience" - if it's a clear day with good visibility, go to the Signature Room at the top of the John Hancock Building and have a drink at the bar. The restaurant isn't known for standout food, but a drink doesn't cost that much and the view makes it worth every penny.

                  1. The pickings are slim in Hyde Park, but if you want to go somewhere close to where you are staying, the best bet is the Medici (on 57th). This is a University of Chicago institution - good burgers, good pizza, great college-y atmosphere. Also, a couple years ago, they opened a bakery next door, Medici Bakery, which is a great place to get a quick breakfast before heading out to explore better chowing territory.

                    1. You might like to try one of our new Brazilian churrasquerias, all located in River North (just a few blocks from Michigan Avenue shopping district) All three have a similar service but personally I think Fogo de Chao is best, the others being Brazzaz and Sal y Carvao. All are pricey at evening dinner (around $50) but, considering what you get, a bargain at lunch (around $25). All start with a spectacular salad bar on which you could survive for a couple of weeks. Then many cuts of meat are brought to your table and carved onto your plate, and you can keep asking for more as long as you like, with side dishes constantly replaced. Everything is included in the one price. There is something wildly pleasant about being surrounded by solicitous servers urging you to please have just a little more filet mignon, roast pork, lamb chops, roast beef etc.. See Fogo's website for pictures.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Querencia

                        The Sal y Carvao downtown is closed. They are supposed to reopen in late summer as Zed 451. From what I have heard it will be essentially the same style service, but with a menu that isn't so focused on Brazilian food.

                      2. Not to be missed bars: The Map Room is number one with a bullet. Greatest micro-brew and fine ales on tap bar in the world, IMO. Hop Leaf also quite good but not in same class. But the Map Room is just a beer drinking emporium, there's not much else there to do but enjoy the very finest beers in the world on tap. Green Mill is a great authentic Jazz Bar, one of the best I've ever been to. Don't miss the late night saturday set, starts around midnight on Saturday's with the Sabertooth Quartet, best house Jazz band in Chicago or about anywhere else.

                        Depending on when you're arriving, we have some great German bars... Resi's and the Bierstube particularly....

                        You didn't mention Chicago's awesome authentic Thai restaurants. Queens has a great authentic Thai joint in Sriraphai but honestly Chicago's joints are better... Try Thai Avenue near Argyle, TAC Quick at the Sheridan red-line el station, or Spoon on Western. They are all BYOB friendly, bring a bottle of inexpensive riesling and you'll have a feast. enjoy.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Chicago Mike

                          wow. The Map Room sounds amazing. Sounds like my ideal bar. I've been to the Green Mill and enjoyed it although there was a lot of loud talking around the bar area. Which of those three Thai places is your favorite ChicagoMike? I love Sripraphai so a place that bests it might be a must stop. Any thoughts on an Italian beef place to try? I hit Al's on West Taylor last time which was great but a friend was telling me about Johnnie's. also, is superdawg good or mainly a tourist trap now? (it tasted mighty fine from the airport stand on a long stopover at Ohare recently) Thanks for all the great suggestions!

                          1. re: tummyache

                            Regarding Thai... hmmm, I think all 3 beat Sriraphai, honestly.... (not that Sriraphai isn't great or authentic).... I guess I'd probably choose TAC although my ex (who is Thai) might take Thai Avenue... and Spoon is great too.....

                            The Map Room rules, there's no bar in Chicago OR NYC that compares to it for selection.... be sure to take a taxi because you won't be in condition to drive. Italian Beef I don't know really but regarding hot dogs the ONLY place to go is the Weiners' Circle (2600ish N. Clark) on the Weekends (Friday and Saturady nights) after midnite... wine guru Robert Parker listed it as one of this "top ten meals" of 2000.... quite a madhouse, and the hot dogs aren't bad either, but it's a classic chicago scene.

                            1. re: tummyache

                              Johnnie's in Elmwood Park is great for Italian Beef--I think it's much better than Al's. Johnnie's doesn't have indoor seating and it's not near easy public transportation, though, so if it's really cold you might want to save it for another trip. However, if you do make it out to the near west suburbs, I would recommend that you go to Johnnie's for lunch, spend the afternoon in and around Oak Park and River Forest looking at the Frank Lloyd Wright houses and other buildings (the Home and Studio is at 931 W. Chicago Ave.), as well as the just generally great vernacular architecture in this area, and then have dinner at Yum Thai in Forest Park, one of the absolute best Thai restaurants in the entire metropolitan area. FYI, Yum Thai is closed on Mondays, so make sure and visit on another day of the week.

                              Have a great trip!

                          2. Brazilian being unique to Chicago? There are far more Brazilian restaurants in NY.

                            But I definitely see where you are going. Those are exactly the type of places I always take visitors to Chicago. Unique Chicago experiences.

                            I second the recommendation for Ricobene's breaded steak san; it is sloshly with marinara sauce and positively artery-hardening. Worth it!

                            Since you've been to Malnati's, try Uno's or Due's; from a historic standpoint, this is where it all began and the pizza is still fantastic and different from Malnati's.

                            You won't be able to get to Superdawg's home without a car, but it is one of those kitchy places, with big hot dog characters on the roof. You might be able to do it via some combination of L and bus. Not sure. It isn't a tourist trap; it has a huge local following. My BIL took the family there to celebrate his oldest daughter's engagement.

                            Mexican should definitely be on your list again, though you might want to do more upscale this time. Who would come to Chicago and not go to one of Rick Bayless' places? Frontera Grill for some fabulous Mexican..or I just saw a place on "Check, Please" for tacos (steak tacos got raves) on the north side: La Pasadita (1132 N. Ashland Ave); it'll be easy to get to with public transportation and is a cheap eat. Too bad the show's website doesn't give more information on what the reviewers said, but I'm headed over there soon.

                            OK, and then there are ribs! Lately, I heard that "fall-off-the-bone" ribs are considered Chicago-style. Personally, that's not my type. I like to gnaw and there are getting to be fewer and fewer places where you can get those type, so I still have to recommend Carson's. There are loads of fall-off-the-bone places, but Carson's is a local institution.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: madlyophelia

                              Actually, I find the deep-dish pizza at Uno and Due to be very similar to Lou Malnati's (and also Gino's East). All specialize in a single-crust pan pizza, and the overall style within that genre is very similar. If you are looking to try another widespread and uniquely Chicago pizza style, then go to Giordano's or Edwardo's for a double-crust stuffed pizza. Both are delicious but distinctly different from Malnati's/Uno's/Gino's, and both have locations all over the city and suburbs.


                              For more discussion on Chicago-style pizza:

                              I agree with the recommendation for Carson's for their baby back ribs. Carson's was one of the earliest places popularizing barbecue ribs in a fine dining setting here. Though many have other favorites, they're still mine as well. They also have the best cole slaw in the world, and do an excellent job with prime rib and steaks, too.


                              For more discussion on Chicago barbecue:

                            2. To me, Malnati's crust is unique among Chicago establishments.

                              Another idea is Polish but I can't give you any specific recommendations.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: madlyophelia

                                Another Chicago institution is Eli's. While it isn't the best steakhouse in the city, nor would you need to go to a steakhouse, this place fits the bill of Chicago institutions of yore. Believe it or not, one of the their signature dishes is calves liver with onions, sweet peppers and mushrooms. I know people who think this dish sublime. Also you can have Shrimp DeJonghe, which was created here in Chicago. Few places anymore have it one the menu. Then you can end your meal with some cheesecake, the best in Chicago and different from its NY cousins.

                                1. re: madlyophelia

                                  Unless it re-opened up in a location of which I'm unaware, Eli's is (sadly) gone since summer 2005, altho its cheesecake carries on:


                              2. You're quite right. I haven't been down that street for awhile. Wonder if there's any truth to what it says on the website about finding a new home. Surely they would've found a space by now. Another one bites the dust.

                                1. Hi, I was born, raised and still live *in the city of Chicago (never in the burbs), and I can give you some good recommendations for cheap and authentic eats:

                                  Maxwell Polish: The original Maxwell St. hot dog stand (near UIC/Pilsen area) has since been closed (gentrification at its best), but there is a good substitute still in the same area - Jim's Original and Express Grill are located just off I-90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway) at the Roosevelt Rd. exit on Union Ave. Jim's Original is located near the intersection of Roosevelt and Union and it is open 24 hours a day. And they also have killer pork chop sandwiches. Needless to say, cheap eats. Best food after a long night out. Seriously gives Weiner Circle a run for their money. This is where real Chicagoans get their dogs.

                                  Chicago Deep Dish: you can't really go wrong with Giordano's. Another good option is: O'fame in Lincoln Park, or My Pie (also in Lincoln Park)

                                  Authentic Thai food: near the Argyle area, in Uptown you can find Siam Rice on Broadway. This is REAL Thai food. My sister in law's family is straight from Thailand, and this is where they go to eat. Cheap, REAL Thai food. ALSO...try Aroy Thai in Lincoln Square. One of the original cooks from Siam Rice opened this restaurant. Just as good, just as cheap.

                                  Hyde Park: I went to college in Hyde Park, and there are some GREAT hidden gems there. My favorite bakery (comparable to those in Paris) is Bon Jour Cafe on 55th. Go there for a great breakfast roll, AMAZING cake/pastries, or a very good and light lunch. Not expensive here either.

                                  Ann Sather's: Has since become a chain in Chicago, but can't beat the original one near Belmont and Clark and get their amazing, warm cinnamon buns on a cold winter day. Belmont stop off the Red/Brown lines.

                                  Las Tablas: If you like meat, try Las Tablas-- Columbian cuisine in Lakeview. Perfectly marinated and grilled meat, served on a chopping block with fried plantains. Not as expensive as the other steakhouses in Chicago, but just as good, if not better.

                                  Irazu: One of the only Costa Rican restaurants in Chicago. GOOD food, good prices, casual dining in Bucktown/Wicker Park area.

                                  Just some initial thoughts...so much to eat in Chicago! I'm glad you're coming to appreciate it!

                                  1. Forgot about other Hyde Park cheap and authentic bbq eats: Harold's Chicken Shack (think bullet proof glass, greasy but orgasmic chicken). Along those lines, Kenny's Ribs or Ribs and Bibs (although Kenny's is arguably better).

                                    1. As long as we are talking about a true Chicago experience and ribs, Twin Anchors has fantastic ribs and is about as Chicago as they come. Usually a wait, but the bar area is classic Chicago and the place is in a great Chicago neighborhood--old town. Here is the metor mix link: http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/se...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: pouletbuffet

                                        If you get to Twin Anchors before 7pm on weekdays there usually isn't a wait. Friday-Sunday is a different story. They also have good onion rings. I live about a block away, so I've been there quite a bit!

                                      2. For me I'd prefer Smoque over Twin Anchor's in terms of food not much in terms of ambiance. If you're into the nostalgia aspect of it all Twin Anchor's has that. Definately different style's of 'q though and if I went to smoke I'd get the pulled pork or the baby back ribs. Twin Achors sauce is sweeter but I prefer the smokey taset at Smoque.

                                        But above all I'd go to Lou Malnati's over Smoque. You can order them frozen which satisfy a craving but there's nothing like the Deluxe with sausage.

                                        1. Italian Beef - I would recommend Johnnie's on North Avenue in Elmwood Park (.7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park) Yes - it's a drive; but worth it. Get the home made Italian Ice that they scoop out of the bucket with bits of fresh lemon rind. The beef is great and there is always a standing line; but it moves quickly. The place has a lot of character- just a joint where the line moves through and ya have to know how to order! They are fast!

                                          1. I always vote for Dues on Ontario. One of the original deep dish pizza places and exactly as it was for many years. Great pizza and unique to Chicago. All of the other deep dish pizza joints developed from Unos and Dues.

                                            1. Thanks to the Chicago hounds for some great suggestions. I managed to do a good bit of eating and drinking while in your fine city. Here is my report:

                                              First day: Had a carne asada burrito and chorizo taco from la pasadita. I thought the burrito was pretty good but not as good as the last one I had at pasadita a few years back (the one a few years back was the one with just a counter and a few tables...this one had more seating)
                                              - After that, my friend took us to Margie's Candies for ice cream. I'm not a huge sundae guy but I got the turtle split and the hot fudge was delicious. I liked the stuck in time vibe of the place.
                                              -To cap off the evening, we went to the Map Room. Great beer selection. I tried a bunch of local beers I'd never heard of but were quite tasty (Alpha King, Cane and Abel, Great Lakes Porter, etc.) I realized there how much I appreciate the smoking ban in NYC. It sucks to drink great beer like that and have smoke blowing in your face. But overall a great place. Went back the next afternoon when it was less crowded and enjoyed a nice belgian on tap (van steeberge gulden drakke) the night before we went to some hot dog place after the map room called swank frank or something like that (in Wicker Park). Not much love put into those dogs and they screwed our order up. I wanted to go to Wiener's Circle and experience the scene but had to settle for a nice char dog the next day without the insults.
                                              -Next day went to Windy City Cafe for breakfast. Pancakes weren't so great but friendly place to hang out. For dinner, since my friend was sick, we ordered takeout from a Vietnamese place in his hood (Fan Si Pan). Really bad. I had some yellow curry noodles with shrimp that tasted like one of those cup of noodle soups. Spring roll was pretty bland too. It said something about the chef having worked at Four Seasons. Hard to believe.
                                              -Day 3 I woke up and walked along Chicago and turned left onto N Orleans for breakfast of champions at Mr. Beef. Got the combo hot with juice and thought it was delicious. Had read some negative stuff about this place but I loved it. Maybe because I got there so early and everything was pretty fresh.
                                              -Day 4 breakfast at Medici near U of C campus. decent pastries and coffee but nothing special. Snack from Garrett's popcorn which hit the spot on my long walks around town in the freezing cold. I had lunch at Pizzeria Due's where I got an individual sausage pie. As a New Yorker, I haven't had a ton of deep dish (actually just one at Lou Malnati's on my last visit) but I thought this pie was pretty good. Nice sauce and good sausage. I'll take a NY pizza crust any day though. Took a brief stop at Julius Meinl (might be remembering the name wrong) for some Rooibos tea with orange peel. They were very welcoming here and helpful in explaining rooibos tea and its variations. After reading so much about Thai in Chicago, I made it up to Thai Avenue for a great meal for my last meal in Chicago. I was lucky to find Erik M's great translation of the Thai menu and brought it along. The waitress (maybe owner or manager?) was extremely nice and helped me match up the translated dishes with the menu and gave me some good recommendations. I had the Som Tam with crab, the Waterfall Beef with roasted rice powder, Thai fried chicken with dipping sauce and sticky rice, and Duck Noodle Soup (for my recently developed cold). It was all delicious and definitely spicy. The two standouts for me were the waterfall beef and the fried chicken. During my meal, the waitress asked if it was ok to photocopy my printed out translation (maybe to offer to people who want to understand the thai menu...although it seemed like most of the dishes were on the regular menu...you just had to find them) Capped the snowy evening off with drinks at the Hop Leaf. Great selection of Belgiums and American microbrews and it's great they have the appropriate glassware. I had a Gouden Carolus Classic and a belgian style beer brewed in collaboration by Avery and Russian River. Wish I could have tried more...

                                              Overall, a great eating/drinking experience again in Chicago. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions and look forward to coming back to try more stuff!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: tummyache

                                                This thread is going to be great for when I return to Chicago in the fall - I'm an NYC hound as well, studying there for another year...Thanks for the great report, it's always nice to see how the trip turned out!

                                              2. chicago restaurants to definitely try; noono kebab persian food, rick bayless' tapolobampo, fox and obel's for breakfast, chocolate chip cookies at grand luxe cafe ? bhabi kitchen in devon for indian food. love the eating when we go to chicago !