Help for L.A. Mom and Son staying at Hilton
Like Tony Soprano I'm taking my kid to look at colleges. Would appreciate food recommendations near the Hilton on 720 South Michigan Avenue. No car but the hotel shuttle will travel a one mile radius on Michigan Avenue. We want to try something that is unique to Chicago, something we can't find in Los Angeles. We want to keep the cost under 75.00 for two food only for dinner. My son is an adventures eater. For breakfast we don't need all you can eat brunches. After doing some checking on the chow board I came up with these ideas. I just don't know the distance limitations from the hotel.
For Dinner: Frontera Grill (love his cooking show, but is it too far from the hotel?)
Hot Doug (is this the place to eat a great chicago hot dog?)
Gino's East (is this the best deep dish pizza place near the hotel?)
Any recommendations or thoughts would be appreciated. Please save me from overpriced hotel food and boring chain food.
Other restaurants within walking distance of the Hilton on S. Michigan include Gioco (Italian in the 1300 block south Wabash), Opera (Chinese, across the street from Gioco), and Oysy (Japanese/ sushi, on Michigan, a few blocks south of your hotel). Opera has a $25 prix fixe, 3-course dinner on Sunday & Tuesday; otherwise probably out of your budget. At Gioco, you'd probably stay in budget so long as you started with soup or salad, and then had pasta. Agree with the suggestion to avoid Hackney's. I've been to Amarit a number of times, and think its good. Another possiblity for an inexpensive meal is 11 City Diner, which is a Jewish style deli, that also serves all day breakfast, in the 1100 Block of South Wabash.
And, "walking distance" is a very elastic concept. In nice weather, all of the restaurants north of the river are easily walkable -- say Billy Goat, for the quintessential Chicago burger joint on which SNL's "cheezburger, no Coke, Pepsi" skits were modeled, on lower Michigan Ave. near the Wrigley building.
Here are suggestions WITHIN A FEW BLOCKS OF YOUR HOTEL. All are worth going to, and all are very reasonably priced.
For stuffed (double-crust) Chicago-style deep-dish pizza:
521 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Check the menu on their website and order ahead of time if you want to avoid waiting 30-40 minutes for your pizza to cook.
Edwardo's is similar to Giordano's (mentioned above) but is much closer to your hotel.
Orange on Harrison
75 W. Harrison St.
They serve pancake "flights" (four different kinds of mini-pancakes on a plate), egg dishes, custom-blended juices, etc.
For burgers, "French dip" (roast beef sandwiches), loaf of onion rings:
733 S. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60605
For Thai food:
600 S. Dearborn St.
I usually agree with all of nxstasy's recomendations, but I can't stand Hackney's. I've been there a couple times and think their burgers are among the worst I have ever had. Nasty greasy bland meat. The Dearborn location is the one I have gone to.
Since public transportation or cabs 9or your hotel shuttle) are so convenient in Chicago, I wouldn't limit myself to things just within walking distance.
Re: the slam of Miller's Pub, it's the simple pleasures: a genuine Greek salad, a properly broiled piece of whitefish, a stalk of steamed broccoli, a hearty baked potato, and a well-mixed drink, all enjoyed amid shoppers, cops, tourists, and office workers under photos of Bobby Hull's gap-toothed smile and Joey Heatherton's gams.
Pizzeria Uno is in the loop and has good deep dish. Although not classic Chicago, the Grand Luxe Cafe is a great place to eat, but if they have those around you in LA it won't be remarkable.
Forgot to mention the Billy Goat Tavern (of SNL fame)!!! When I used to go there they still yelled "cheezbogor, cheezbogor, cheezbogor!".
The scarier (becuase there are folks in there midday pounding down hard liquor and smoking like chimmneys) non-touristy Billy Goat is at the corner of Adams & Wells...
I have had very inconsistent pizza at the Edwardos, and the staff seems to hate to clean the place -- often it is just gross...
Jury is still out on Amarit (the South Loop location recently opened), but if you want to try what has consistently been considered one of the best Thai restaurants in Chicago (there's a lot of competition for that) go to TAC Quick. It's right on the red line (North) below the Sheridan stop. They have chalkboard specials every night.
TAC Quick Thai Kitchen
3930 N. Sheridan Rd.
Also, The Bongo Room, which is close in offerings to Orange but, IMO, superior, seems to have gone MIA on some of these listings. Primarily a breakfast place, you'll find it 4-5 blocks to the south at:
The Bongo Room
1152 S. Wabash
Allow at least an hour each way to get to and from TAC Quick by el, due to construction on the Red Line. Or, 2-3 minutes walk to Amarit. Since your time in Chicago is limited, you may not want to spend a lot of it on long trips on the el. Your choice.
I think Orange on Harrison is at least as good as Bongo Room (and, again, closer to your hotel). Bongo Room hasn't gone MIA; I recommend it when people are staying closer to Bongo Room than Orange (like if they're at the Hyatt in McCormick Place). But since the OP is closer to Orange, I recommend going to Orange.
One other suggestion for you. Right near your hotel is an outstanding restaurant called Custom House, which has one of the city's top chefs, Shawn McClain. It will exceed your budget at dinner, for sure (even their special three-course pre-theater menu is $46 per person) but you might enjoy going there for breakfast or lunch. They serve a breakfast buffet for $12.50. Lunch dishes include salads ($7-12), sandwiches ($11-12), and mains ($13-17). While it's not exactly inexpensive, it might be nice to try one of Chicago's more elegant places without paying the steep rates charged for dinner.
500 S. Dearborn Street
Also, the distance to Frontera Grill was mis-stated above. It's closer to two miles from the Hilton, roughly 1.5 miles north and a quarter mile west. Chicago street numbers vary by 800 for each mile. For example, the north-south distance between 720 South (where the hotel is) and 445 North (where the restaurant is) is a difference of about 1200 house numbers, which is a mile and a half. It's a fairly quick trip (10-12 minutes, not counting walking and waiting time) on the el's Red Line, using the Harrison/State stop near your hotel, and the Grand/State stop near the restaurant (and does not go through the Red Line construction zone, which is further north around the Fullerton and Belmont stations).
If you're eager to try Rick Bayless's food, but you would prefer to have an advance reservation, consider eating at Topolobampo for lunch. Topolobampo is his other restaurant next door, and unlike Frontera, Topo accepts advance reservations. While Topo is considerably more expensive than Frontera for dinner, the prices for the two are very similar at lunchtime, and much lower than dinner. So, just like with Custom House, lunch is a way to try either of them without breaking the bank. You can check out their menus, including prices, on their website at www.rickbayless.com/restaurants
I would second the suggestion to hit Topo for lunch. Besides the benefit of being able to get reservations (vs. Frontera's maddening policy) the menu offerings in Topo are more unique and creative (addressing your "not in Los Angeles" desire). I just had lunch there yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed a starter of emapanads de chivo followed by pescado (mahi-mahi, yesterday) al guajillo. The empanadas were so good I could have kept eating them as long as they refreshed the platter; fortunately they just served me the 3 and I didn't explode. The fish was just an amazing combo of flavors - perfectly cooked fish served atop a tamalon (tamale variant) stuffed with ham hock & bacon in a rich, complex, guajillo sauce strewn with fiddlehead ferns. Of the 6 of us at lunch 5 had the fish and all had the same reaction - bliss. I'm tempted to go back and have this again before it disappears with the next menu spin in a few days.
BTW, nsxtasy, while the 8 blocks to a mile is a good generalization there's always a "but . . ." which, in this case, does have some impact to the OP. From Madison to Roosevelt (1200 South) it's 12 blocks/mile, from Roosevelt to Cermak (2200 South) it's 10 blocks/mile, and from Cermak to 31st it's 9 blocks/mile. Just one of those Chicago quirks.
In either case if the OP's like walking and it's nice out it's a very doable walk for people that like walking. Otherwise, as noted, it's a cheap (~$5) and easy cab ride.
Frontera is about a mile north of the hotel. Problem is that they have an odd reservation policy - only take reservations for groups of 5 or more EXCEPT if you call in the day you want to eat at 8:30 in the morning and they might set something up. Otherwise you just show up and wait for a table. If you get there early (until 6:00?) its usually not much of a wait, although it did just win a James Beard Outstanding restaurant award so might be a little busier these days. Or you could just s***w it and go to Salpicon, a little farther north with equally as good food and a more rational reservation policy. Both will push the upper limits of your budget.
For another unique Chicago expereicne I'd second the Greek Town suggestion.
China Town is small but fun. Lao Szechuan is generally acknowledged as the best dining option, although the mean it when they tell you a dish is spicy. For the adventurous, try the beef maw appetizer.
Hot Dougs is the place for a great dog, but not particularly convenient to the loop.
And when you say "like Tony Soprano..." I hope that doesn't mean a body will be found floating in the Chicago River. We already have enough of those.
I have walked from the Hilton to Frontera dozens of times IF the weather is right, meaning warmer than 60 degrees, cooler than 85, no rain, or excess humidity. If any of those interfere get a cab, it won't be expensive.
Hot Doug's is fun. But NOT an authentic Chicago Style Dog. Best palce for THAT would be anyone of about a dozen spots, including the Vienna Factory Store, that is farily close to DePaul in Lincoln Park (if that is one of the schools he is looking at...) . Search the threads for details... If you must go to Doug's, take a cab.
Gino's East is not particularly close to the hotel, but if the weather is right you could walk. Picking the Best Chicago Pizza has a "holy war" quality to it, with adherants of the "stuffed" vs the "deep dish" being only the two main factions, inside of which are sub sects who will rail against dough made with/without shortening/corn meal/ what have you. To me, there is no Chicago based place turning out BAD pizza in the pan, some are just more memorable. Only rule is it MUST have sausage. There is a Giordano's closer (236 S. Wabash) that does a servicable lunch offering -- very convenient if you are at Columbia College (LA -- film???)
For "adventure" I know if I were a high school senior I would be thrilled to get dinner at http://www.motorestaurant.com/ -- quite a bit more than $70, but like the MasterCard commercial would say -- experience. PRICELESS.
Your a block or two away from the red line Harrison El stop. If you want a non LA adventure ride the el to different neighborhoods. For example you are only two stops from China Town. The red line is a great one for first timers. I have attached a link for you that will help you work it out. And although its public transportation its cheap and safe.
Good sources on this board recommend Pizano's for deep dish pizza. It's in the Loop on an east-west street just east of Michigan Ave. w/in walking distance of your hotel. Metromix.com can supply the address and hours. Nearby Pizano's is Russian Tea Time, which 'hounds like. It's affordable for lunch.
On S. Wabash a few blocks north of your hotel is Miller's Pub, subject of many posts by me. It's quintessentially Chicago. On Harrison just west of Dearborn, very close to your hotel, is Orange, a hip, sumptuous breakfast place I haven't been to.
A mile west of your hotel is Greektown, subject of many posts. Try Santorini or Costa's. Cheaper are Greek Islands, Parthenon, Pegasus, Athena, and Venus. The last is my new favorite: Cypriot food. Artopolis is a moderne Greek cafe/bar/bakery open late. Take time to stop into the Athenian Candle Co., a relic on the SW corner of Halsted and Jackson selling Orthodox and voodoo wares. Continuing south on that block, check out Pan Hellenic Bakery, Athens Grocery, and the tiny Greek Music Mart. Kitty-corner from Athenian Candle Co. is Melia, winning praise for its breakfasts.
The area around the Conrad Hilton aka Chicago Hilton and Towers is a hot residential area with new joints opening all the time. You could search this board, LTHforum, and Metromix using the terms Printer's Row, South Loop, and Museum Campus.
Have fun. Mine's graduating Saturday.
Everyone thanks for your help. I don't know how my kid's interview will go, but I know with our help we will at least eat well in Chicago. Thanks again for taking the time to post.
Mugs congratulations on your child graduating. Kids grow up fast, don't they. In seems like nano second when my son was a infant screaming at our favorite Thai restaurant. My husband and I got a big, scowling look from the patron at the next table...Indy himself, Harrison Ford.