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24 Hour Layover in Chicago

Next week we'll be in Chicago for a day only on our way to Europe. Any suggestions for a nice, but not too pricey (no $100 per person or more meals) place to get a good meal Friday evening (? neighborhood Italian, or other good suggestion). We will be staying at an aiport hotel, but if we can take public transport downtown easily to get to a restuarant that would work well.

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  1. The problem I see with this is the transportation issue -- the "rapid" part of transportation to/from the airport right now isn't -- there are some issues that would give me pause before sending a hapless traveler on what could be a very long ride ESPECIALLY before heading off to Europe. Very few of the airport hotels are walking distance for the CTA. Take a cab. Most cabbies LOVE to drive from the O'hare area downtown. It should not be criminally expensive. Probably under $20...

    Ok, that is out of the way. You say you can spend under $100/person. On Italian that can buy some really nice dining. :

    Coco Pazzo -- top flight Tuscan /rustic Italian in a big loft type space that is not too trendy or loud
    300 W. Hubbard St.

    Cafe Spiaggia -- more affordable twin to the place with out the "cafe" in front of its name. musch less formal. Portions are smaller, but quality is excellent. Great staff,
    980 N. Michigan Ave.

    Bice Ristorante -- a "survivor" that has been treating customers to fresh Italian for almost 20 years.
    158 E Ontario St

    Make reservation NOW!

    4 Replies
    1. re: renov8r

      In my experience, a taxi from O'Hare to the River North area is easily $35. I would hate to set expectations that aren't met.

      If you want to skip downtown, I've heard good things about Bistro Campagne in Evanston lately, although I haven't tried it since Michael Altenberg left.

      1. re: chicgail

        Bistro Campagne is in Lincoln Square, a ways south of Evanston. It's in a really nice space, but I was underwhelmed by the food. On the other hand, I think I'm in the minority: it's been well reviewed.

        1. re: Dedalus

          Sorry, You are correct. I was thinking of Campagna in Evanston. Both kitchens used to to headed by Michael Altenberg who left Campagne a couple years ago. I've heard good things about the new chef there.

          1. re: chicgail

            FYI - it takes a particularly long time to get from O'Hare to Evanston (compared to other places the same distance away) by both el and taxi. I would stick to places downtown, on the blue line, or near O'Hare.

    2. Not trying to argue, but I live near Montrose & Pulaski & I took a taxi last year from the airport & it was $25. I am 9 miles from downtown. I'm just a sayin' it'll be more than $20.
      I say it all the time, I love Sabatino's. It's not far from the Blue Line(about 2 blocks west). The Blue line should be o.k. although, I have been taking Metra lately.
      Decent neighborhood Italian joint, service has always been good, hoppin' place, although when we go we feel young.(we're all 40'ish). My husband always jokes that he feels like he should be wearing a silk suit w/a pinky ring.

      3 Replies
      1. re: louweezy

        Louweezy....this looks like it might work well. We are staying at Sofitel which I read is just a sky bridge from the blue line. It seems convenient to Sabatino's. Which stop would we get off for this restuarant? Do we need reservations if we will be going around 9 pm? Thanks for the suggestion. I'll have to get a pinky ring for my boyfriend...heh, heh

        1. re: nchagwa1

          I'm going to respectfully disagree. Sabatino's IMHO is your rather ordinary neighborhood Italian joint. Maybe nicer than some, but not anything special.

          You might want to consider Tuscany on Taylor St. or either Mia Francesca on Taylor St. or Francesca's Forno in Bucktown/Wicker Park (also on the Blue Line). Someone else suggested Coco Pazzo on Hubbard, but Coco Pazzo Cafe is even closer to you on St. Claire and Ontario. I had a recent lunch there with my college roommate.

          1. re: chicgail

            Yeah, if you really have a thing for basic, red-sauce Italian, Sabatino's would be a good bet. It's unpretentious and fun in a cheesy sort of way. Nothing wrong with that, but you have better options if you're after good food. I liked Forno, but it is easily the loudest restaurant I've ever been to. It was relatively new when I went, so maybe they've found a way to dampen the noise. But, wow.

      2. I am not sure where you are staying but some of the hoels are close to the Blue Line el and some can drop you off. I suggest you check with your hotel.

        I would take the blue line to the Damen exit (wicker park/Bucktown). To get there take the direction away from ohare and to get back to ohare. Or take a taxi back.

        I have attached a link for the stop.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Scooped

          Most of the airport hotels have shuttle bus service to O'Hare. You can always take the shuttle back to the airport and pick up the Blue line from there.

          And, there are some decent neighborhood places in the areas near O'Hare, for which cabfare ought not be too prohibitive. One of my favorites is Don Juan, which has creative Mexican (something you probably will not be eating in Europe).

          1. re: masha

            Cab fare from Midway to downtown was $30.00, wouldn't Ohare be more?

            1. re: sarge

              You will not be disappointed if you take the blue line into downtown, hop off at Jackson Station and hop onto the red a few blocks down to Roosevelt, and get off and go to Gioco on Wabash. Excellent Tuscan that won't break the bank. It was the best meal we had in Chicago. We thought it better than Cafe Spiaggia

        2. The nice thing about the Damen stop is the area. There are wine bars, stores, clubs and resturants. If you have time to kill this is a great selection. On a Frisay night it will be full of a thirty something crowd.

          1. I do not see why you would need to head down to the Loop or Evanston (which is a pain to get to from O'Hare with public transportation).

            Search this forum for Edison Park, Park Ridge, and Rosemount and you'll get plenty of good recommendations that are within 20 minutes of O'Hare.

            1. Another great option is Lula Cafe in Logan Square, about a block from the Logan Square stop on the Blue Line. Their focus is on seasonal/organic/locally sourced food. Menu available on their website: http://www.lulacafe.com/. If you search this board, you will find several threads where it has been discussed.

              1. If I had a full 24 hrs to be in Chicago.....For a large pancake menu for breakfast, I would head for the Original Pancake House and then walk-off breakfast at the Lincoln Park Zoo across the street (Free admission). The new gorilla exhibit is world class.

                Original Pancake House (look in the basement of the building at this address)
                2020 N. Lincoln Park West
                Chicago, Illinois 60614

                Lunch is Hot Dawg time. Take a cab from the Zoo.
                Weiner's Circle
                2622 N Clark St (Cross st., Wrightwood Avenue
                )Chicago, IL
                (773) 477-7444

                For that dinner that you asked about, Well, Rib-Eye Steak. I tried several in Chicago and IMO, pound-for-pound, dollar-for-dollar, Tenderness, flavor, service --go to Harry Caray’’s. Check out the link and then call to place your reservation.

                Harry Caray’s
                33 West Kinzie Street
                Chicago, IL 60610

                OR out by O’Hare --
                Harry Caray’s
                O’Hare International Center
                10233 West Higgins Road
                Rosemont, IL 60018

                2 Replies
                1. re: JeetJet

                  Has anyone eaten in the Sofitel's French restaurants of late? I can't judge by recent visits because it's been a while. But they used to have pretty good food there. Less energy needed to stay right there. There is also Harry Caray's and several other restaurants one could even waqlk to from the Sofitel in Rosemont. Why go into Chicago for local Italian food which might not suit you (based on comments above). Carlucci on River Rd north of the Sofitel used to be good, but it has changed hands and I have no way to know its current caliber. Can anyone else suggest restaurants in Rosemont area?

                  1. re: CJT

                    Not sure. I have gone to Harry Caray’s (Italian Steakhouse) in town maybe six times and have always been happy with the food and service. I gave the address for Harry Caray’s near O’Hare as an option. But I had a 5 hr. stop in Chicago once and hired a limo to drive us from Wrigley to Rock and Roll McDonalds and then we ate at Ed Debevicks for a wonderful time. We still sat at Midway for almost 90 min before our plane left. So to me, 24 hrs in chicago is like a dream come true -- Chowhound in Chowtown. I mean, a hot dawg is a meal, a deep dish at Geno's East is food for an army... The mid-west people of Chicago are the best group of people to eat with, So, why go into Chicago and not stay near the airport........Lots of reasons.

                2. Lots of good suggestions, but we seemed to have strayed from the original Italian request.

                  24 hours is a long time, so you could really hit just about any restaurant in town if you set your mind to it.

                  Cheapest way downtown is the El - there is a stop in the airport that will get you to town in about an hour for $2 per person, or you could grab a cab which as mentioned comes to $35 to 40 each way. I've taken a hundred cabs back and forth from OHare and its always in that range with tip.

                  If you do take the blue line, you can go to the Grand St. station and you are within a 1 minute walk of two Italian restaurants - Timo (which I have never been to, but I hear is a good, more comtemporary type Italian option,) or La Scarola, which is very old school, red sauce, Tony Soprano might walk in the door, type Italian.

                  If you go one stop farther to Lake St. you are in the loop - central business district. Coco Pazzo - my favorite Italian - is a 5 minute cab ride. Very nice open loft with very well prepared North/Central Italian. 10 minute cab ride away is Cafe Spiaggia which is the more casual little sister of Spiaggia, the best Italian in town. Both would run you about $75 per person for app/entree and a good bottle of wine. Both are excellent.

                  On a Friday night, be sure to make reservations. Menus are all on the web sites to give you a better idea.

                  Subway map: http://www.transitchicago.com/maps/sy...
                  Timo: http://www.thymechicago.com/
                  La Scarola: http://www.lascarola.com/
                  Coco Pazzo: http://www.cocopazzochicago.com/
                  Spiaggia Cafe: http://www.levyrestaurants.com/NR/exe...