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May 22, 2007 09:58 PM

1st Time in Chicago Suggestions

I'm going to Chicago for a friends wedding this weekend. It is my first time spending personal time in Chicago and looking for some suggestions!

We are staying at the Hilton on Mich Ave. Any suggestions for affordable and yummy breakfast, easy going and great atmosphere for lunch (hotdog suggestions) and dinner.

Would love some great Italian (living in AZ now), wine bar or some Sushi recommendations. Honeslty I'm looking for some fun local and affordable ideas!! My boyfriend and I are in our late 20's and looking to see where people hang out, eat, drink and be merry in Chicago :)

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  1. Have you tried to do a search? Not being snarky but this is frequently asked question. I'm hoping Nxstasy will chime in. She has a great listing of posts that will answer a lot of your questions.

    Couple of other questions:

    1) What days will you have free of wedding stuff?
    2) Are you willing to take public transporation to the various neighborhoods of Chicago or are you looking to primarily stick to the Mich Ave area?

    1 Reply
    1. re: lbs

      I have read a bunch of suggestions from Nxstasy and other.

      To answer your questions:
      1.I will have three and a half days free from wedding stuff, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday AM
      2. I'm 100% willing to take public trasportation to various areas. I'm a native NY'er but living in AZ now. So I'm familiar with how to use public transit just not familiar with Chicago's set up....

      Really iching for some good Italian food!

    2. Thanks, lbs!

      Here are some topics to look through, to give you some ideas:

      Fine dining:










      Hot dogs:

      Quintessential Chicago:

      Brunch and Breakfast:

      Wine bars:

      Here are some places worth considering WITHIN A FEW BLOCKS OF YOUR HOTEL. All are worth going to, and all except Custom House are very reasonably priced.

      For casual fine dining:

      Custom House
      500 S. Dearborn

      For stuffed (double-crust) Chicago-style deep-dish pizza:

      521 S. Dearborn Street
      Chicago, IL 60605
      (312) 939-3366

      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.

      For breakfast/brunch:

      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 Thai food:

      600 S. Dearborn St.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thank you so my Nsctasy! Wonderful suggestions and all just what I'm looking for. My boyfriend has been dreaming about pizza so I will 100% try Edwardo's.

        Other suggestions are also great love Thai food and any breakfast suggestions are great. You are very helpful.

        1. re: beephoenix

          Edwardo's is a chain, and not a particularly good one, at that. Try elsewhere; I am a fan of Pizano's (Madison & Wabash in the Loop).

          1. re: beephoenix

            Don't know if this has already been mentioned bee, but thought I'd mention these two just the same. If you're ever here in the city again, the two best pizza places in Chicago are: for deep dish, Pizzeria Due. For NY style thin crust, Coalfire on Ogden Ave.

        2. A couple quick ideas - Oysy is a sushi bar a block south of the Hilton on Michigan Avenue. Its pretty good and very convenient for you.

          About a mile north of the Hilton, just north of the River on Dearborn is a wine bar/restaurant called Bin 36. Lots of wine by the glass and good food. They have a causal cafe area in the front, more formal diing in the back, and a cheese bar if you just want to drop in for a glass.

          If you keep walking north of there you will go by a ton of bars and restaurants. Kind of touristy, but there's a lot going on.

          In that same area is Quartino's on State St. - good casual Italian with a lot of wine's by the glass and a large number of dishes - all between appetizer and entree size, so good for sharing.

          Also in that same area is Pop's for chamapagne - wine bar specializing in Champagne.

          3 Replies
          1. re: wak

            I'm a junky for fun wine bars. Favorite wine bar cafe with food is Excelsior Café in Teleride, CO. So Bin 36 and Pops look right up my alley from the Web sites provided. I think we will check out both as well as Nxctasy's suggestions for casual dinning and pizza.

            As for sushi. What is the word regarding Blue Water Grill?? I used to work for BR Guest at the James in Scottsdale. Food there was always good but not sure what the word on the street is about Blue Water, we are willing to splurge on a dinner like that if reviews are good???

            Also, is the James hotel cool is Chicago or a lame "be-seen" kind of place?? Anyone know?

            1. re: beephoenix

              Oh boy...don't go to Blue Water Grill. There are a lot of great places in Chicago and that ain't one of them. For sushi, your two best bets downtown are Tsuki and Mirai (although neither is even close to as good as the best places in NYC).

              I've never stayed at the James, but I have eaten at David Burke's Primehouse which is in the hotel. It is currently my favorite steakhouse in Chicago (mmmm, 40 day dry aged bone-in rib-eye)

              1. re: jesteinf

                Lived downtown for years and always enjoyed Kamehachi for sushi. I think the Old Town location is worth cab ride. Upstairs turns young and fun after midnight. 1400 North Wells Street. Old Town is a fun neighborhood and a cheap cab ride from downtown. They have one in Streeterville too at 240 East Ontario.

                For pizza, I would HIGHLY recommend Pizanos. It's just down the street at 864 N State St. Their stuffed pizza is good, but man, the thin butter crust with homemade sausage is killer. Frequently mentioned Chicago-style pizza is a short cab ride away at Lou Malnati's, 439 N Wells St. Giordano's isn't bad either and right nearby at 730 N Rush St. In fact, first time in Chicago, staying at the Omni, we went there. Learned to never order a large pizza.

                Staying in the neighborhood, you cannot go wrong with Italian Beef sandwiches at Al's at 169 W Ontario St. Apparently some of the best Italian Beef sandwiches are nearby at Mr. Beef's 666 N Orleans St. Call for hours, they seem to close early, that's why I never went there.

                Off the Mag. Mile tourist area, I enjoyed Italian at Club Lago 331 W Superior. Family-run place, great atmosphere and lots of locals. I really enjoyed the Italian at Dinotto Ristorante in the Old Town area. Pretty local, but down to earth. Had a very good Ragu. And a very good bottle of wine. Waiter recommended the Chianti Classico from Dievole. Never had it. I look for it now.

                Have fun. Downtown Chicago is great. Explore the neighborhoods. Trains and cabs are cheap there.

          2. I’m a twenty something Chicagoan and I find most of the stuff in the downtown area (near where you are staying) to be geared towards tourists and business people (i.e. pricey and not that interesting). Unfortunately for visiting 'hounds, most of Chicago’s interesting little places are kind of inaccessible (or maybe I'm just a public transportation idiot). Anyways, maybe can help you figure out how to get from your hotel to any of these places.

            There are a lot of restaurants, bars, and clubs located along Randolph St., west of the loop. Most of these places are in the moderate to expensive range. I just went to Starfish on Randolph for sushi last weekend and thought it was really fun. Great people watching if you sit outside. I liked what I had, but I am a total novice when it comes to sushi.

            For hot dogs, you really should try to go to Hot Doug’s either on Thursday or Friday for lunch (they close at 4:30). Friday has the added bonus of you will be able to get the special weekend duck fat fries, which are great, but the lines will probably also be longer. This will also really be a schlep on public transportation, but I think it is worth it. I know someone has posted how to do it on public transport before. The regular hot dogs are good, but the specialty sausages (rabbit, venison, etc.) are the real draw. These change regularly and you can see them at

            Also on the schleppy side is Hopleaf in the Andersonville neighborhood. It’s a really great bar with an amazing beer list (pages long) and Belgian food. Go early though, because it gets very crowded. There are many other good restaurants in this neighborhood too, so you could just grab a beer at Hopleaf and then go somewhere else.

            If you are interested in ethnic BYOB places, I like Irazu (Costa Rican) and Habana Libre (Cuban). Both are inexpensive and full of young Chicagoans.

            For breakfast, I really like Bongo Room on the corner of Wabash and Roosevelt (Roosevelt L stop). They have really good pancakes that are more like desserts. If the lines are too long there, I sometimes just go to the Eleven City Diner slightly north on Wabash. It’s a Jewish style deli. The breakfast stuff there is less creative, but still very good. The already mentioned Orange is also good and along the same lines as Bongo Room.