Help me plot a week of dining adventures
I'll be in Chicago, staying at the Fairmont, for a week at the end of this month. I've read the posts on what's near the hotel and within reasonable walking distance. I'm interested in exploring the city and finding some unusual ethnic food. I'm an expat New Yorker, so I'm not afraid of public transportation, and I'm a current Vermonter, so starved for spice and variety. I've also never been to Chicago, so am wholly unfamiliar with the city, the transit system, the neighborhoods, etc. So, where can I go within half an hour or so on whatever train(s) I can catch near the Fairmont?
This question is very difficult to answer because it is so broad. There are many, many, MANY places within walking distance of the Fairmont, as well as many, many, MANY more accessible via public transportation. A single post can only scratch the surface and won't really do justice to your question. As an ex New Yorker, I think you can appreciate the dilemma; suppose someone asked the same question about New York: "Where can I eat within a half hour subway ride of midtown Manhattan?" Entire books have been written on the subject, and the same is true for Chicago.
I would suggest that you plan what you would like to do for the week. Maybe you would like to see a ballgame at Wrigley Field, or visit Lincoln Park Zoo, or take an architecture tour (walking tours as well as boat tours are available). Then plan your eating for places close to the other activities on your itinerary. Or, if there is a specific type of food you're looking for, you could look at a discussion here to find a restaurant that does that food particularly well, then explore the neighborhood around it for an afternoon or evening.
You'll find lots of previous topics here on Chowhound, with extensive discussions on just about any topic you can imagine - whether it's about a specific kind of food, or about restaurants in a specific neighborhood, or recommendations close to a specific landmark (e.g. Wrigley Field). For example, here are recent topics that give recommendations for restaurants close to the Fairmont:
Chicago has an excellent public transit system. You'll find information on the city's bus and subway system at www.transitchicago.com If you decide to visit the suburbs, you may also want to refer to the commuter train information at www.metrarail.com and suburban buses at www.pacebus.com All of these sites have a travel planner function that accesses all three, or you can find it at www.rtachicago.com
If I had a week to explore Chicago's dining scene, I would organize it around types of food.
One night for dinner at one of our splurge "top table" restaurants, and another night at one of our "casual fine dining" restaurants:
One night for a Greek dinner in Greek Town:
I'd plan to make sure I'd hit some of the foods that are considered "quintessential Chicago":
Several afternoons in the far-flung ethnic neighborhoods described above, including lunch and/or dinner.
Burgers for lunch:
Hot dogs for lunch:
And, of course, breakfast and brunch:
Wow. Thanks for all the suggestions. Here's what I'm thinking for six nights:
Night 1: Aria in the Fairmont on arrival, because it's easy
Night 2: Roditys in Greektown
Night 3: Pho 888
Night 4: Semiramis in Albany Park
Night 5: TAC Quick (better than Sripraphai in Queens?!)
Night 6: Indian of some sort on Devon? Is this a parallel to the (not so hot) 6th St. scene in NYC? Sounds like there are a lot of choices. I tend to like more rawly spicy food from that part of the world (love Bangladeshi cuisine).
Regarding Night 6 - Devon Avenue is an east-west street in Chicago. It's 6400N, which means it's roughly eight miles north of the Loop. The stretch in the Rogers Park neighborhood roughly from about Western Avenue (2400W) to Sacramento (3000W) is filled with mostly Indian and Pakistani restaurants and shops. To get their via CTA ( www.transitchicago.com ), take the Red Line el to the Loyola stop, then catch the 155 Devon Ave bus southbound on Sheridan.
From your hotel you can catch any of the subway/el lines very easily. Walk west to Wabash for the Orange, Brown, Green, and Pink elevated lines, another block west to State for the Red Line (underground at this point) and another block west to Dearborn for the Blue Line (underground).
There's a recent thread on what's near the Red Line: a couple possibilities are the Sheridan stop for excellent Thai food at TAC Quick; Argyle for the Vietnamese neighborhood; the Berwyn stop plus a short walk west to Clark St puts you in the Andersonville neighborhood (search for recent discussions of Andersonville).
You can take the Brown Line northwest to Western, to explore the Lincoln Square neighborhood (another good Thai restaurant is Spoon, up there), or further to Kedzie for the main Middle Eastern neighborhood in the city.
For Mexican take the Pink Line to 18th Street. Carnitas Uruapan is very close to the el stop, and there are plenty of other food options on 18th, mostly east of the stop. You might also enjoy the National Museum of Mexican Arts on 19th and Wolcott, near the el stop.
The Red Line going south will take you to Chinatown. (Chinatown stop).
The Blue Line going northwest will take you to the hipster bars and restaurants of Wicker Park/Bucktown (Damen stop).
I hope this will help you get started. Check the CTA trip planner for details of routes, and info about passes.
Either Semiramis or Al-Khaymeih is nice for dinner. Also, each is owned by Christian Lebanese who don't mind if patrons bring beer or wine to go with their dinner (as opposed to the Muslim restaurants in the neighborhood, where BYOB would be quite inappropriate). There's a lot of discussion of both places on lthforum.com, which is another good resource for Chicago culinary discussion.
By the way, the name of the neighborhood around Kedzie and Lawrence is Albany Park (this may help you in doing searches).
4639 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
4748 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625