Street food, fun food and beyond...
Heading to Chicago for labor day weekend - haven't been for years.....
We have one night at Alinea (ya, I read all about it down below but I'm still really looking forward to it) but after that we're looking for good street food, tasty asian fare, totally casual delicious food....I don't even know areas but we're staying centrally around East Pearson street if that helps.
I've heard it's all good in Chicago so I'm totally psyched to get there and eat everything I can get my hands on.
Any suggestions? Perhaps I've been too general. No pizza thanks.
Downtown is fun . . . but you'll have to travel a bit for some good street-type food. I really love the distinct ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago -- hope you take advantage of your time here and enjoy them. And enjoy your meal at Alinea -- I'm jealous.
First, take the Red Line "L" north to Argyle (or drive, but parking is a bit rough) and walk around -- mostly small Vietnamese restaurants and groceries and bakeries. I love the sweet and savory items at Patisserie P. Sun Wah is great for Chinese bbq items. Tank at the corner of Broadway & Argyle is great for Pho.
Of course, there's also Chinatown and there are plenty of places for decent (not great) dim sum, my favorite is Shui Wah (no carts) and Phoenix (carts). I'm guessing you're from NY and I don't think Chinatown will excite you, but there are some pretty good eats nonetheless. If I were you, I'd head to Argyle.
For some excellent Thai food, take the Brown Line "L" north to Western and try Spoon Thai. Here's a link to their translated Thai language menu: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=7364. This place is fantastic.
Head down to the Maxwell St. market. Here's a somewhat dated, but extremely helpful guide: http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=1394. You'll find some very tasty treats (particularly Mexican). You can also head down to Pilsen for some very good Mexican street food. For amazing pastries there, try BomBon on 18th Street. Both of these areas are just south of downtown. Here's a recent discussion concerning Mexican food in Chicago (referring to the article in September's Gourmet Magazine): http://www.chowhound.com/topics/434265
If you'd like Indian and Pakistani food, head north to Devon -- a lot of great restaurants, bakeries and groceries. It's a little easier to drive here but you can take a Red Line "L" to the Devon bus.
For Middle Eastern, take the Brown Line "L" north/northwest to Kedzie.
If you're looking for more particular information on any of these neighborhoods, let me know and I'll try to elaborate.
Enjoy the trip.
During the entire Summer, there are neighborhood festivals every week. Not the best "streetfood" by any stretch, (although Randolph Street does have some good food!) there are usually one or two local restaurants in the mix with the traveling food sellers (Chicken Divine! Funnel Cakes! Ugh! lol) who are at every fest. Anyway, over Labor Day weekend, there is the Bash on Wabash
This street fest is in one of Chicago's rapidly growing "new" neighborhoods, The South Loop.
Although I avoid the largest, Taste of Chicago, I do hit three or four neighborhood festivals each Summer. Great way to explore a neighborhood, people watch and hopefully grab a couple of samples from local restaurants.
Generally good advice re street fests, altho last year's BoW was pretty much of a dud, particularly if you're looking for interesting food. If you're in the area, perhaps to hear the music if you like zysdeco, otherwise don't make a special trip. You're better off at the Jazz Fest, where you'll find the same generic street food and a lot of free jazz:
If you want to eat Ethiopian restaurants, try Edgewater...there are some just North of Hollywood on Broadway...I think the blockage is like 6000 N Broadway or so on the west side of the street. Also, if you go west on Devon, there is tons of ethnic eating...mainly Indian but lots of choices! Enjoy wherever you go! Dublins is a great place that has some deliciouc salads!