I used to go to Maple Tree Inn down in Blue Island often a few years ago, and it was one of my favorites. Their gumbo, new orleans shrimp dishes, door stop pork chop, and crab augratin were excellent.
However I went 2 years ago on my birthday, and left disappointed, I didnt see the owner I had seen in the past, and the menu, and quality seemed to have slipped in my opinion. So I assumed he had sold the place, and I have not returned since.
Long story short, I am not sure if they are around still, but I cannot bring myself to return if they are still around.
I dont like Heaven on Seven either, and I have tried the Wabash location, and the Naperville location both with bad results regarding the food. Not a place I would recommend at all.
Luckily I have one of the best cajun spots in Northern Illinois about 15 mins from where I live. Its called Ron's Cajun Connection in Utica, Illinois, and the Chef, Cajun Ron is from Louisiana, and makes almost weekly trips back to the bayou to pick up product(crawfish, etc) to bring back with him.
Thx abf and nsxtasy.
Had a fab dinner at Topolobampo my last time in Chitown (been several years), and I'm on somewhat of an expense leash, so if I do head that far in I'll take my chances at Frontera.
Rosemont I'm somewhat familiar with, but Bucktown/Wicker Park is new to me. Since we are talking March I'm going to try to have both fair and foul-weather plans in place.
Really appreciate the input...
If your less enthusiastic about traveling around the town on the el, Rosemont offers several great dining options that are better than the typical airport cuisine and it's a only a 10 min cab ride from the terminals!
Just to name a few good options:
Carlucci (would be my 1st choice for Italian),
Morton's or Gibson's for steak,
Harry Carry's (American fare),
Gino's East & Giordano's are also nearby for great deep dish Pizza.
Great tips. I was born in Chicago and have visited many a time since then, so tourism is not on the list.
I'm hoping to get assigned a bunch of mystery shops at O'Hare to help pass the time.
Never thought about heading all the way into town, but given that I should have over 4 hours after factoring in travel/checkin times that opens things up. Time to go wifi searching, or don't bother with the net and head for Heaven On 7th, assuming they are still around, or maybe Frontera.
Heaven on Seven is still around. The original Wabash location is only open for breakfast and lunch (except one Friday a month) but the one on Rush Street is open for dinner. www.heavenonseven.com
Frontera Grill is around, but can be busy if you hit them at the wrong time, with their no-reservation policy. You might be better off at Topolobampo, which - like many restaurants in Chicago - takes reservations on opentable.com www.rickbayless.com/restaurants
If I hadn't been here in a while, and if there weren't a particular place I was dying to return to, I'd probably head to Bucktown/Wicker Park, because (a) it's right on the Blue Line before you even get downtown (get off at Damen and walk north), (b) there are lots of great restaurants like Spring, Scylla, Schwa, etc, and (c) it's fun walking around the area before or after eating.
A good website for complete restaurant listings, searchable by area, price, meals served, etc, is Metromix, from the Tribune:
With 7 hours you could easily take the blue line downtown ($2 each way), particularly if you're already checked through on your flight, and sightsee for several hours. There are many places to grab a bite along the blue line and downtown, but if I had never been to Chicago before, I'd spend most of my time simply walking arond and enjoying the city (so long as the weather is compliant). If a bar and a beer is your preference, however, the Map Room mentioned above is an excellent choice for a layover. One important note: if you do decide to go downtown there is some construction on the blue line, so you now should give yourself an hour each way.
The layover may be seven hours, but the airlines recommend checking in two hours in advance for international flights. Five hours is still enough time to travel into the city (either downtown or the neighborhoods) and back for food, tourism, etc. Allow 45 minutes each way by el (subway) between O'Hare and downtown Chicago.
With that much time, you could take the Blue Line of the el to a more interesting neighborhood. You can catch the train right in O'Hare and take it to, for example, the Logan Square stop for a meal at Lula Cafe (emphasis on local ingredients; don't know about wifi there) or to the Western stop and walk a few blocks to the Map Room (excellent beer selection, wifi). No food at the Map Room except on Tuesday nights, but the surrounding neighborhood of Bucktown has a variety of choices, from French bistro to hole-in-the-wall ethnic. Let us know if you want specific suggestions around there.
description of the Map Room:
CTA trip planner:
The airport terminals have wi-fi but you'll have to pay $6.95 to use it for a day, as described in their brochure:
The terminals have a wide variety of food and beverage places, everything from coffeeshop and fast food places to some pretty good sit-down places:
It may be worth it to buy a one-day's pass to one of the airline clubs at the airport (e.g. American's Admirals Club). No food, but they've got beer and it's the most comfortable place you'll find to kill time on your laptop. I know they offer internet access, but I don't know whether it's free (I suspect it is though).
Another option is the O'Hare Hilton, which is right across the roadway from terminals 1-3 (you can walk across the roadway or use the walkway underneath). They have a nice restaurant (Andiamo) and a sports bar (Sports Edition). The food in the restaurant is quite good (I ate their twice in the past year, once for breakfast and once for lunch) and they are accustomed to people killing time there. The hotel offers wireless but again you might have to pay for it; you would have to contact them for details. More info: http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/CHIOHHH-Hilton-Chicago-O-Hare-Airport-Illinois/index.do
Both of these options are walkable and weather is not an issue. Anywhere else, you will need to deal with ground transportation (shuttle buses or rental car or cab) which can be iffy when catching a flight. If you decide you are less worried about working on your computer and you're willing to set it aside for a nice dinner nearby, and you're willing to leave the immediate airport area, you might consider one of the places mentioned in this topic: