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Doc student Chicago trip

Hi all-- we, a bunch of doc students and recent phds (read: still poor), are looking for bar/restaurant options for our big trip to Chicago. We are staying at the Hyatt Recency on East Wacker.
Pho and the fast-food Korean place on our campus happen to be the group favorites for eating right now, but we are into anything. We will be in town for nearly a week (AERA convention), so all suggestions are welcome, as we will need quite a few places to go.
We are looking for reasonable holes-in-the-wall and one nice place for a big night out-- if anyone has a good Ethiopian suggestion, that is even better.
Also, as professional students, we do like to drink. Gin mills are totally acceptable, and while we like wine bars, we will more than likely not be able to hit more than one of those in our travels.
Thank you in advance for your help!

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  1. You won't find much downtown that's cheap but if you spring for a subway ride, in fifteen minutes you will reach our Vietnamese neighborhood where you will find enough inexpensive pho to go swimming in it. Take the Red Line (it runs under State Street---you can get on at Grand or Chicago) north toward Howard and get off at Argyle. Pho restaurants are along Argyle from Broadway to Sheridan and spill over into both streets, especially along Broadway south as far as Lawrence.

    1. I thought of something close to your hotel: Big Bowl. Cross the river and walk about three blocks north on Michigan Avenue to Ohio, turn left, and go one block to Rush then just across Rush. Big Bowl is a cheery inexpensive place featuring pan-Asian always-tasty stir-fries for around $10---see their website. Actually Big Bowl has another branch a 20-minute walk north of there at corner of State & Cedar that might be of interest to you since you mentioned drinking and the State & Cedar one is one block from the strip of bars along Division Street between State and Clark.

      Two more options in expensive downtown: 1) Water Tower Place (shopping mall on Michigan just north of Chicago Avenue) has a little place in its front lobby called Wow Bao that has very good baos (stuffed buns) with a few rice bowls, very limited menu but tasty and cheap. 2) Probably cheapest food in neighborhood is Spice of Life Cafeteria at Northwestern Memorial Hospital one block east of Michigan Avenue (building occupies entire block defined by St Clair, Fairbanks, Huron, and Erie). Cafeteria is on second floor, is open to public, and is 'way better at noon than at dinner. At noon all the chef stations are open and you can get a decent plate for pasta etc for around $3.

      1. Within a five-minute walk from your hotel, all quite inexpensive with excellent food:

        Billy Goat Tavern (burgers)
        430 N. Michigan Ave at Lower Level
        Phone: 312-222-1525
        www.billygoattavern.com

        "Cheezborger! Cheezborger!
        No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!"?

        Giordano's (stuffed deep-dish pizza)
        135 E. Lake (in Prudential Plaza)
        (312) 616-1200
        www.giordanos.com

        Bacino's (stuffed deep-dish pizza)
        75 E. Wacker Dr
        Chicago, IL 60601
        312-263-2350
        www.bacinos.com

        Heaven on Seven (Cajun, breakfast and lunch only)
        111 N. Wabash, 7th Floor
        312-263-6443
        www.heavenonseven.com/wabash.html

        Fox & Obel Food Market
        401 E. Illinois Street
        312.410.7301
        www.fox-obel.com

        Fox & Obel is a gourmet grocer with an inexpensive cafe in the rear serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not much on atmosphere - your basic coffeehouse - but the food is good. It's right across the river from your hotel.

        1. Greektown - almost all the restaurants in Greek town have good food and reasonable prices. They can also easily accommodate big groups. A bus ride or a short cab ride from your hotel. My favorite is Parthenon, but you can search for Greektown on this board and you will find many more opinions.

          Devon St. - this is an area in far North part of the city with lots of really good Indian restaurants.

          Andalous Moroccan is a good BYOB. It is in Lakeview (a neighborhood), which is a ways North of your hotel, but it easily accessible on the Red Line. Close to Wrogley if you are going to a Cubs game.

          Oasis Cafe (lunch only) - great, cheap middle eastern food tucked into a divey food court on Wabash a few blocks from your hotel. Their baba ghanouj is out of this world.

          Old Jerusalem - more good Middle Eastern food. This is a short bus ride away. It's close to Second City. Also nearby, there's a bar that sound right up your alley - Old Town Ale House. It's been around forever, with a fun homey feel. It's a neighborhood place, very relaxed.

          Star of Siam - if you need something cheap close to your hotel, this is one of the few options. Good, standard Thai food, with quick service.

          Other good bars -
          Hop Leaf - a great bar with an amazing number of beers available. I've never eaten there, but recently people on this board have been raving about their mussels and frites. It's not that far from the Argyle neighborhood where the great Thai and Vietnamese restaurants are.

          Map Room - fun bar with interesting options on tap and free live music on weekends.

          Webster's Wine Bar - if you are just going to go to one wine bar, this is the one I would go to. Fun, bohemian atmosphere with excellent wines at relatively reasonable prices. The food's good too.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SuzMiCo

            > you can search for Greektown on this board and you will find many more opinions.

            Or, just click on this link:
            www.chowhound.com/topics/119233

            1. re: SuzMiCo

              Like your list SusMiCo with the exception of Star of Siam.

              Two bars near the hotel with good food and atmosphere are; Bijan (open late late 7 days), Jake Melnicks, & Dublin's.

              Indian Town on Devon Avenue is worth the trip. Great site seeing. Check out Viceroy for the lunch or dinner buffet. The food will not dissapoint. I prefer the regular menu.

              Pancho Pistolas on 31st and Halsted is the best for cheap Mexican eats with a nice exposed brick atmosphere. Fantastic skirt steak and dirt cheap for Chicago standards. Everything is great here except for the margaritas...yuck, syrupie sweet.

              Reza's lunch and dinner middle eastern buffet is definitely up your alley as far as prices go.

              Greek Islands, Rodity's, and probably two of the more reasonably priced restaurants in Greektown.

              For great Italian Beef & sausage, ribs, hot dogs, etc & downtown try Portillo's on Ontario.

              For great cheap burgers try Mr. J Dawgs on State street.

              I second the recommendation for the Hopleaf. It's a Belgian Ale House with great atmosphere and bar food. Stop at Huey's Hot Dog's on Balmoral for a great burger, hot dog, chicken sandwich, etc.

              Bowman's Bar and Grill at Montrose & Lincoln has upscale bar food for reasonable prices and a very friendly staff. A short bus or train ride. Ask for Jonnie the GM and tell him that Alex sent you.

            2. Hi! My fave for Eithopian is Ras Dashen. It's in the Edgewater neighborhood. Friendly service, excellent food. Not to hard to get to from your hotel. Take the RED line from Grand going to Howard. Get off at THORNDALE (about 45 mins*). Go west to Broadway (away from the lake). Cross the street. Go South for two- three blocks and you will run into it. Also, you will pass by

              - Moody's Pub for excellent burgers and fries. If you come during May, the outdoor beer garden will be open. Try the sangria and you'll be in heaven.
              - Broadway Cellers - haven't been there yet but have read decent reviews. I believe it's BYOB.
              - (block with no real food options. you will be crossing Hollywood now and it's three storefronts up).
              -- If interested in complete veg food, Alice and Friends is next to Ras Dashen. Been a couple of years since I've been there but reasonably good to this carnivore. But service was atrocious and slow.

              Ras Dashen
              5846 N. Broadway
              773-506-9601

              ** recent train construction has caused the red, brown, and purple lines to run extremely slow. It's not unbearable perhaps if you aren't familiar with the train but for those who take it everyday the waits are long. You can take the #36 Broadway bus but be aware that a colorful cast of characters are often on that route.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lbs

                If you take the 36 Broadway bus from the Loop to 5846 n. Broadway during rush hour, do realize that is a LONG bus ride. And in general, CTA buses take twice as long during rush hours than they take during slow periods.

                Personally, I think that I would take my chances on the Red Line.

                Had a great bowl of pho and spring rolls at Tank Noodle at teh corner of Broadway and Argyle this evening.

                (I have been spending a lot of time commuting between Jefferson Park and Uptown on the 81 Lawrence bus. Today's journey eastbound took 48 minutes. The westbound trip took only 22 minutes.)

              2. Ugh the Hyatt. As conventional as a convention-centre hotel can be. Unfortunately the "tourist haze" has sunk into all the close by stuff too. That said, there are a few unique lunch spots that are an easy walk due west of the Hyatt.

                For a unique Chicago Deli walk about 7 blocks to http://www.perrysdeli.com/

                For a one-of-kind "Italian Breaded Steak Sandwich" walk about 6 blocks to http://www.ricobenesfamoussteaks.com/...

                1. As for bars, try Chicago's great Blues and Jazz venues...

                  1) #1 with a bullet is the Green Mill, at Lawrence and Broadway, just a block west of the Lawrence red-line el train (you can get there for 2 dollars from any red-line stop).... tremendous authentic jazz joint, especially great on Saturday night after 11pm when the Sabertooth Jazz Quartet takes over and plays until about 330am This is just not to be missed. You could do dinner at a Vietnamese or Thai place around Argyle Street then follow up with this joint....

                  2) Blues clubs are not as singularly distinguished, but my favorite is B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted just a few blocks north of Fullerton....

                  Chicago has many other great watering-holes but these are two of the very best when you factor in the live music....