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Help with & review Chicago itinerary

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I'll be in Chicago for 6 days in October for a conference, staying in the South Loop. A good friend went to Northwestern so I've been to the city a bunch of times but not for a couple years. I am looking to mix old favorites (Al's, Hot Dougs/SuperDawg, Gino's East, Topolobampo) with new places that represent what's hot & happening on the foodie scene. Taxi's are no problem, but I would prefer to take the El & walk as much as possible, so I'd really appreciate notes on how safe it would be for a lone female or couple to walk to/from the restaurant or if a taxi would be the best choice. I've got a fairly generous expense account during the week but not up to the Alinea level. I'm leaning away from steakhouses, big multi-course meals or anything overly fancy on this trip, especially from Friday onward when my bf is flying in for the weekend (although I could be persuaded in that direction).

So, here are my thoughts:
Tuesday: probably 9ish before I get to the hotel. Would appreciate some suggestions for dinner that are open fairly late (10 or 10:30 reservations).
Wednesday: Blackbird for lunch, Frontera Grill or Topolobampo for dinner
Thursday: Trying to decide between Green Zebra/Sweets & Savories/Schwa
Friday: Hopleaf
Saturday: hot dogs and/or Italian beef, Avec for dinner
Sunday: Gino's East for pizza then off to the airport

Would appreciate some comments and additional suggestions!

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  1. In general I'd say that all sounds fine, although I have not been overly impressed with Sweets and Savories, but if you are serious about Schwa, call now. If you can are open to go any of the above days, you'll have a good chance of getting in, although they have been known to book up 3 months in advance (as far out as they seem to take reservations).

    Also, keep in mind that Hopleaf is pretty far north. Everything else you list is right near the loop.

    1. I'm actually a big fan of Sweets & Savories . . . assuming you do the tasting menu, but I would also prefer Schwa. Green Zebra is excellent too. I'd have a tough time choosing between them all but I'd choose Schwa. But do call far in advance for Schwa. And if need be, beg and tell them you're from out of town.

      For the night you get in, I would do Avec . . . if you're going to Blackbird, I'd do that for Saturday dinner. Alternatively, you could try the Gage on Michigan Ave. across from Millenium Park for a late dinner when you get in. It's an upscale pub of sorts with some pretty good fish & chips, among other things. There's also Chinatown -- I love Lao Sze Chuan which is especially good if you like spice -- and many of the restaurants are open very late.

      You can't go wrong with Frontera/Topolobampo for dinner. Also, I love Hopleaf . . . just don't be surprised if you have to wait.

      As for pizza, there's always much disagreement here, but I much prefer Lou Malnati's and Pizano's to Gino's for deep dish.

      1. I definitely concur with BRB...check out Chinatown for weekend dim sum (we really liked Happy Chef...no carts, no frills but very fresh and authentic), and skip Gino's East (very disappointed) and opt instead for Lou Malnati. Also, a cocktail in the lounge on top of the Hancock Building is an afternoon treat (instead of visiting the observatory with the masses!). It's a jewel of a city with great eating...enjoy!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Suzyummy

          Thanks for the suggestion on Chinatown, but since I'm from San Francisco, I'll probably skip dim sum, as we get pretty good stuff out here :-)

          I've got an emotional attachment to Gino's, reminds me of my dad (who flew me out on my 16th birthday to have pizza with him, since he was working in Chicago at the time), so I always go there even if it isn't the best pie in town!

          1. re: alis

            Love your nice Gino's story and I can definitely understand the attachment (hey, you could do a lot worse!!). Funny coincidence...I am going to San Francisco on Friday for 5 days and am excited about the food (especially dim sum) and just being there. There's plenty of info. here on the boards but anything you could contribute...foodwise or otherwise...would be much appreciated!! :)

            1. re: Suzyummy

              anything in particular, other than dim sum, you are looking for?

              I generally agree with the "best of" posts on the SF board: Ferry Building is a must, Giant burritos in the Mission, Chez Panisse, roast chicken at Zuni, Aziza, Incanto...

              Also here are some you might not usually see...
              Alambic on Haight is my new favorite place - great (expensive) cocktails, huge whisky list, truffle mac and cheese to die for
              Dosa - if you've never had South Indian food, this isn't a bad place to try it (not the best in the bay, but best chance in San Fran proper)
              I love love love the imperial rolls and claypot chicken at Slanted Door
              The Distict - out by the ballpark, nice little wine bar, the bacon-batter calamari is evil.

        2. Hot Doug's is closed at the moment. Doug injured his leg and had to have surgery to repair the damage. He expects to be out of action for two weeks or so.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LabRat

            He'll be back open shortly though . . . and certainly by October.

          2. Tuesday I would go to Dublins - they are open late and for a pub, have amazingly good food (and authentic, close to gourmet). You could also try Iggy's - I believe the new location will be open by then

            Wednesday - I would choose Blackbird for dinner instead

            Thursday - I like Sweets and Savories, the food is amazing. But I'm always a bit disapointed with the service. Haven't been to Schwa but I've heard its very good

            Saturday - go to Avec a bit early and be prepared to wait

            Sunday - I'd check out the Hancock lounge for sure as someone else suggested. Just enjoy the view and a soda. For pizza, Gino's East and Giordano's are all the same to me.. I prefer Pequods on Clybourn. An area with much debate!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: blondie60614

              Pizza debates?Here? NEVER!!

              Personally I'm not a huge fan of Pequod, it's good, but not great, ditto for Pizanno's & Malnatti's.

              As to Giordano's & Gino's East being the same? Hardly! The two couldn't be more different. Giordano's is a stuffed (double layer of dough) pizza with sausage pieces/chunks and a silky smooth sauce with a very bread like crust. Gino's East is a single dough layer traditional deep dish style, with a whole pizza sized sausage patty, stewed tomatoes slices in the sauce and a cornmeal buttercrust, very different indeed. I happen to like both very much.

              That being said, since Gino's East is your destination, I strongly recommend that you go to the Ontario and Wells location since it is the best. The newly re-opened Superior location just isn't the same.

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              Gino's East
              633 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654