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Jun 20, 2007 11:17 AM

Never been to Chicago, need your help

Hi there, I am a fellow chowhound from Toronto, coming to your beautiful city in July with my wife and two sons (11 and 21). Can you make some recommendations for breakfast lunch and dinner, or point me to some recent threads as I am sure this is a frequent requests. We are staying at the Hyatt Regency Chicago for about a week. We are all very adventurous eaters, and so tell me what is the best the city offers, i.e. the must do breakfast or lunch or dinner items. No budget restrictions but probably won't do the Charlie Trotters' type restaurants. Thanks and let me know if I can ever return the favor if you come to Toronto.

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    1. re: rubinow

      Yes, that is right. East Wacker Hyatt

    2. Visitors to Chicago often enjoy lunch at The Signature Room on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. The walls are glass so views are spectacular---go on a clear day. There's a buffet or you can order from the menu and prices are much lower than at evening dinner. Also, a downtown bargain is Big Bowl on Ohio just west of Rush---reliably good Pan-Asian stir-fries for around $10. If you want to explore beyond downtown, the Red Line subway runs under State Street and can take you to Chinatown or to our "Little Vietnam" (Argyle stop)---buy CTA passes at Jewel supermarket, State & Ohio. Downtown the 22Clark bus travels north on Dearborn---take it to 5200 North, (Foster Avenue), then walk north along a Middle Eastern/Swedish strip with good restaurants and interesting shops. A nice breakfast (until 3 PM) choice at the residential end of downtown is Original Pancake House on Bellevue just east of State---a pleasant 30-minute walk from your hotel. In the Loop part of downtown (south of the river) our traditional Cajun restaurant is Heaven on Seven in the Garfield Building on Wabash just behind Macy's (ex-Marshall Field's) and they serve breakfast as well as lunch. Welcome. Pick up free maps etc at Water Tower east side of Michigan Avenue.

      1. I'm not a local, but here's a list of places I enjoyed most on my trip to Chicago in May. Everything is in downtown (quick cab ride) or near public transportation. Most of these places are fairly reasonable (no fine dining on this list).

        Gino's East- (multiple locations) yummy deep dish pizza
        Wildfire- I love the martini flight & ribs
        Gibson's- I had the filet

        Orange on Harrison-
        Tweet- a bit outside of downtown, but take the red line to Argyle
        Original Pancake House- (haven't been to Chicago location, but I've been to the ones in CA


        Chains (but maybe different from what you have in Toronto)
        Grand Luxe Cafe-

        By the way- there are metro maps at O'Hare, just stop by the info desk on your way out of the airport. Your hotel concierge should have them as well.

        Some fun snack places:
        Ethel's Chocolate Lounge-
        Garrett's Popcorn- try the mix!

        1. Here are a few ideas:


          Chinatown - I would recommend Lao Szechuan, as lont as you are OK with spicy food. It was BYO last time I went. You could take a cab, 15-20 minutes from the Hyatt, or the El Red Line.

          Some outstanding Thai in Chicago, but the best are around farther from the downtown area. If you don't mind a little bit of a hike, Spoon Thai is outstanding and is just south of the Brown line Western Ave. station. The web site does not do the food justice.

          I think Carnivale (Latin Fusion) and Red Light (Pan Asian) are fun. Good food, outstanding decor.

          Le Colonial is excellent French-Vietnamese in the Goldcoast.

          If you are in the Gold Coast/Michigan Avenue area, Portillos on 100 W Ontario. is a fun, casual lunch. Started by a guy with a hot dog stand, they now have 30+ restaurants around the area. Typical Chicago style hot dogs and Italian Beef. Maybe not the best in town, but quite good and very convenient.

          There are some oustanding high-end Mexican restaurants downtown - Frontera Grill is the most well known, but also Salpicon, and the recently opened Xel-Ha was quite good (710 N wells. No web site yet


          I'm no fan of Chicago Pizza, but there are plenty of threads about it if you are interested. One interesting new option that I have not yet tried, although a little out of the way, is a new Coal Fired Pizza parlor (they burn a mix of coal and wood to heat the oven). Depends on how serious you are about going out of your way for a meal. 1321 W Grand. No web site.

          BTW, there is also an outstanding local food web site called LTHForum that you might want to look at. You'll find pictures of the food from many of these places there.

          5 Replies
          1. re: wak

            These are all great suggestions so far. Just a question, is there a particular cuisine, or type of food/restaurant that I shouldn't miss when we are in Chicago?

            1. re: soko

              Toronto is so sophisticated foodwise w/such an international polyglot base ... Chicago's Mexican cuisine, including varietals -- is arguably the best in the country -- Rick Bayless -- or, if you are adventurous, plan a day in Pilsen, first going to the Mexican Museum to get your bearings. Wander our Chinatown (Cermak station on the red line) stopping at Little Three Happiness, a local hole in the wall of epicurean standards -- and wander down Argyle Street (on the redline) for Vietnamese & other Asian -- and Devon Street for Indian, some Cuban.

              Suggest you check out the and download their list of great neighborhood restaurants.

              O -- ribs -- Chicago's got great ribs -- Honey 1 is accessible, but there are southside rib havens for the more adventurous.

              1. re: soko

                The answer will depend on who you ask. There are just a lot of great restaurants around, a lot of variety, a huge community of chefs and owners that keep the area active.

                Some might favor the Steak Houses, or the Pizza, or Hot Dogs/Italain Beef stands, or the red sauce Italian. These are all Chicago traditions, but not things that appeal to me.

                I like the Ethnic options - Indian, Thai, Mexican/S. American in particular. There are also a couple dozen good French Bistros to choose from. Some excellent high-end Italian. A strong contingent of 'contemporary American.' And scores of one-off places that are hard to categorize.

                It would help if you told us what kind of food you and your family like - maybe some links to your favorite restaurants.

                1. re: wak

                  Thanks for the great suggestions, in terms of Wak's question, my family enjoys all kinds of cuisine, we love ethnic, the city we live in -- Toronto -- has a huge ethnic population so we are probably spoiled with the options available. What we lack, is anything really good in terms of Italian, Mexican, great breakfast and lunch options, ice cream, pizza.

                  1. re: soko

           <--in case you want to have a look before you get there. CTA is $2 per ride. They sell unlimited ride daily passes, but not at the actual stations. It should be pretty convenient since your hotel is close to the State or Randolph stations.

                    For the 21 year old, the Rush/Division area is quite fun.