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Best Chicago Foodie 'Hood

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Hi,

I'm likely relocating from Manhattan to Chicago in the next six months, and while I've lived in Chicago before, it was right out of college, when I wasn't such a food snob. That said, I'm curious to hear which Chicago neighborhood(s) have the best mix of reasonable, ecletic food. I tend to grativate towards ethnic cuisines but like a "high-end" restaurant thrown into the mix occasionally. I'm considering Bucktown/Wicker Park, Old Town, LP, and Lakeview, but am open to an argument for another 'hood, as long as it's accessible to the Loop.

Thanks!

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  1. There are lots of neighborhoods with a great mix of restaurants, but it really depends on what kind of food you want. Bucktown/Wicker Park has lots of bistro type places, not as much ethnic; Old Town is similar. The entire north side is full of ethnic, from Devon Avenue's Indian/Pakistani cuisine, to Vietnamese on Argyle, to Mexican in Rogers Park, but you won't find many high-end places. You've got Michigan Avenue and the overall downtown area with lots of high-end places, but not much ethnic. And then you have a bit more of a mix, but without as much depth at any one thing, in the "in between" areas like Lincoln Square, Uptown/Edgewater, Andersonville, Evanston, etc.

    The real key is that ALL of these neighborhoods are at most 20-30 minutes from each other by car in off hours, 30-40 minutes by public transportation. So you can really live in ANY of them and have access to ALL of them. Don't worry about it - you'll have great food close by living in any of them.

    7 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks for your reply. I guess I'm spoiled living in Manhattan. I have American, French, Mideastern, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, etc. all within a 5 minute walk of my apartment. Is there not a neighborhood with all of this within a 10 minute walk?

      1. re: xtgirl

        Keep an open mind. Anyone who takes the time to get to know Chicago's restaurants can feel just as spoiled as in Manhattan.

        1. re: xtgirl

          One major difference between Chicago and Manhattan is the geography. Chicago is not a concentrated in as small area an area as is the island of Manhattan. Therefore, whil eyou can find all those wonderful restaurants, they're not likely to all be found within a 10 minute walk.

          The other major difference is that Chicago has always been a city of neighborhood -- mostly ethnic. While that is changing, it still remains largely true.

          You can find most of what you want inside of a 10 minute drive..

          1. re: xtgirl

            I live in NW Bucktown (N of Armitage, between Damen and Western) and I'd say we have access to most of these (plus Cuban, Costa Rican, Peruvian, Pizza, taquerias, sushi, BBQ, and "Indian sports bar" and such as) within a 10 min walk. I'm not sure that we have Vietnamese in walking distance in my 'hood. However, some are better than others. I would not say that the Thai or Chinese within walking distance of my place is anywhere near the best Thai or Chinese available in Chicago, but at least one of the highly-regarded places (Sticky Rice) will deliver for $1 extra fee (technically I'm outside their delivery area by 2 blocks)

            1. re: leek

              I just moved to Wicker Park and pretty much spend my time at this moment trying new places. I've been pretty underwhelmed with the quality of many of the places around here to be honest. A lot of mediocrity and not a lot of bright stars shining through. I'm still searching for some great spots though!

              1. re: leek

                Leek, I live right in your hood and am delighted to learn that Sticky Rice will deliver to us. Well worth an extra buck. Do you know of other places that deliver for the extra charge?

                But, please tell me where there is an Indian sports bar.

                1. re: chicgail

                  Sorry to have missed this note for so long! On Western - 2165 N. Western Ave. It used to be La Bonita/Ixcapuzalco the sign says it's an Indian restaurant and sports bar.

                  I haven't asked other places about delivery for an extra buck. But it's worth a shot - SO many places have their southern delivery border at Fullerton or on the other side, their northern delivery border at Armitage. It's like living in a delivery dead zone.

          2. Obviously, it depends largely upon which ethnic cuisines you prefer. I live in Lincoln Square (I have lived in both Lincoln Park and Lakeview previously) which is accessible to the Loop via the Brown Line "L" and I love both the neighborhood and the dining that it offers. Near me I have some of the best Thai restaurants in Chicago (Spoon Thai, Arroy Thai, Rosded, Sticky Rice). I'm also about a mile from Kedzie and Lawrence, which area features a number of excellent Middle Eastern Restaurants (Noon O' Kebab, Semiramis, Salam to name a few). Two miles north is Devon which is a strip of many Indian and Pakistani restaurants and shops. Within Lincoln Square itself there are a number of other pretty good places to eat.

            Here is a discussion from the LTH Forum in which a question very much like yours came up. Good luck.

            http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

            5 Replies
            1. re: BRB

              Thank you all for your suggestions! I will definitely check out Lincoln Square and the other 'hoods mentioned here and on the LTH forum. Also, thank you for the link to LTH; I wasn't aware of this great site.

              P.S. I don't really appreciate, the "you won't be happy anywhere" comment. Perhaps it wasn't meant the way I took it, but I am originally from Chicago and am moving to Chicago to be back in the city I love. Food is important to me so I want to be where I have the most access since this is what I've become accustomed to living in Manhattan.

              1. re: xtgirl

                Narrow it down in further in Lincoln Square. West of Western Avenue (2400 west) from Montrose (4400 north) to about 5000 north (a standard block north of Lawrence Avenue). This puts you within a ten-minute walk of the Lincoln Avenue restaurants in Lincoln Square and some in North Center for the more yuppie types plus multiple non-Starbucks coffee shops. Ethnic options beyond the Thai and Middle Eastern noted by BRB include Salvadoran, multiple Mexican (mostly with predominately Mexican customers), Filipino, Moroccan, Guatemalan, Korean, Vietnamese banh mi and Bosnian. Then there is the pizza place with a wood-burning oven run by a Bosnian who had a stint making pizza in Milan before coming to Chicago. This pizza is soft enough in the center to fold. Once you have been exposed to the variety, quality and prices (including a fair number of BYOB places), you may not want to hit the high-priced neighborhoods that often yet they are readily available by public transportation. The Brown Line has stops at Rockwell (2600 west), Kedzie (3200 west) and Western with a bunch of restaurants close to each stop.

                For grocery shopping beyond the chain supermarkets HarvesTime Foods (2632 West Lawrence) has a good assortment of foods including quite a range of ethnic items but pales in comparison to Cermak Produce (4232 North Kedzie). By Manhattan standards these stores are huge. This only scratches the surface for groceries and doesn't touch the specialty stores and bakeries. There is also a pretty good farmers' market on Tuesdays near the Western el stop.

                You can get a feel for Lincoln Square at the Chamber of Commerce Web site (lincolnsquare.org) but recognize that some of the better restaurants such as Spoon Thai are not members. Lincoln Square is quite diverse ethnically with some remnants from periods when it was heavily German or Greek while having many long-term professional residents, newer yuppies, Eastern Europeans and Hispanics. Albany Park to the immediate west is a little UN that has been quite diverse from the start.

                1. re: Eldon Kreider

                  Excellent points -- and I also neglected to mention the many very good Korean (particularly Korean bbq) restaurants very close to Lincoln Square, including San Soo Gab San, Cho Sun Ok and Hae Woon Dae. Of all the neighborhoods I have lived in, it's by far the best for chow -- especially ethnic chow.

                  1. re: Eldon Kreider

                    any nice BYOB places in Chicago that are Italian or steak?

                    1. re: cslatt

                      You may want to ask this elsewhere on the site :)

                      We like Tango Sur for steak, and Vinci has a wine list, but allows corkage. If your wine is over 10 years old, they waive the corkage fee.

                      -----
                      Tango Sur
                      3763 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613

                      Vinci Restaurant
                      1732 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL

              2. From the list you are considering, I would recommend Lakeview. There are tons and tons of restaurants to choose from and a neighborhood which is more conducive to walking everywhere

                Instead of food, you may want to consider people in being the determining factor in where you live- because Chicago is known for being very segregated. Lakeview is very different from Old Town, which is very different from Wicker Park. If you are originally from Chicago, then you probably already know that

                Also, keep in mind that there are plenty of places that deliver in Chicago, and to all different neighborhoods. Wherever you decide to move to.. Chicago rocks! Welcome back!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: blondie60614

                  I agree with everyone haha! I am in Lakeview and I love it. I ride my bike or bus or train everywhere, even to Logan Square for shows (every time we try to go to Lula it's closed! ha) and Uptown for Thai or the loop for fancy shmancy. I do think that when looking you will want to consider the neighborhood and streets as much as the restaurants. Welcome Back (when/if you do move back that is)!

                2. Pretty much any of the mentioned neighborhoods have all what you are seeking, they just may be good and not the best of each. What we as Chowhound's tend to do, is only recommend the "best in class" of each place, which tend not to all be on the same block and even spread out around the city much like NY. I'm sure that the all the places you speak of in Manhattan that are 10 min away are all very good, but better versions of each can be had if you drive or cab it out to the top places.

                  That being said, most of the near north neighborhoods should be fine for you.

                  1. Just read the whole string and, I too, am a Midwestern born, former Manhattanite living in Chicago. The only thing I can add is that I PERSONALLY would shy away from Lakeview/Lincoln Park/Close-in North Side area due to the area's homogeneity. I lived in the Village and loved the mixed bag of people and food one would encounter. I agree with the comments that we are a city of neighborhoods and you'll need to travel (not far) to find all that you're looking for. Unless you lived in a co-op on the Upper East side, I would suggest venturing into West Loop, West River, South Loop or Southern Wicker Park/Ukranian Village for a more NYC-type living experience. AGAIN, my personal opinions.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: jbontario

                      Jbontario,
                      Though I agree many Northside neighborhoods are very homogenized, not all of them are. If you look at stats, by far the most diverse place in the city is Roger's Park. If you really want a huge amount of food choices with great variety, the edgewater/roger's park area is perfect. Mexican, indian, thai, vietnamese, middle eastern. Damn, now that I'm living in Michigan I miss home just thinking about all the good food! Plus, for pure living enjoyment (and price) IMHO, it doesn't get any better than RP.

                      1. re: saltyassdog

                        I'll venture further in my dining experiences, I must admit never been to Rogers Park except on the way to Evanston. Sorry to go off topic, but a couple of your favorites?

                        1. re: jbontario

                          Rogers Park has a lot of ethnic foods in the "cheap eats" category, particularly Mexican (see www.chowhound.com/topics/352995 ) and Indian (along Devon Ave). However, there is virtually nothing in the way of the occasional high-end place requested by the OP.

                      2. re: jbontario

                        Althought River west is my favorite hood.. there are hardly any restaurants within walking distance here. It is very diverse, but the OP asked for places she could walk to/from. Same thing for WP, UV or SL

                        Like Saltyassdog suggests, Rogers Park is a good alternative

                      3. I have lived in the Near North/Gold Coast/Old Town over the past ten years and whereever I go, have always found plenty of good restaurants. Just along that strip of Wells St. from North to Division you have Adobo Grill, Dinotto, Roma, Topo Gigio, Fireplace Inn, Obriens, Od Jerusalem, Kamehachi, Bistro Margot, and if you want to dr

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: wak

                          Sorry - computer froze up last night as I was typing that up.

                          So to get back to the OP's list - I think there are a lot of options in Old Town - and that list was only on one street.

                          I now live closer to the loop on the border between River North and River West and have dozens of dining options within a 10 minute walk - a little short on the less expensive Ethnic places, but still there is Kan Zaman, Klay Oven, Rezas, de Cero. the real strong point are the mid-to-high end - Sepia, Carnivale, Balckbird, Avec, and the whole Randolph Street corridor, Zocalo, Coco Pazzo, Crofton, Tizi Meloul, Naniwa, Wild Fire, Lou Malnatis, Pepper Cannister, and even some River North options - Frontera, Brasserie Jo, etc are within 10 minutes. I could list many more. A little light on the cheap eats, but certainly a huge variety in the mid-range within a short walk. Depending on what you consider "reasonable" it might be a good fit.

                          Of course this area is also not a traditional neighborhood like other places - much more of an urban city feel in the middle of all the high rises. I like that, but not everyone does. You can also walk to work in the loop.

                          1. re: wak

                            This is great to hear! I love the feeling of Old Town and am considering buying a place there. I like the closeness to the downtown area, and Wells looked to have a lot of restaurants, bars, boutiques, etc. When I'm back in Chicago next week, I'm going to drive around Lincoln Square and check it out although I'm concerned it's a bit of a hike from downtown. I really do not like Lincoln Park so I hope OT isn't just an extension of the trixieville.

                            1. re: xtgirl

                              OT is very much an extension of LP, I'm sad to say. I live on the west side of LP because it is near the expressway and I travel a lot for work

                              You might want to consider River West or Ukranian Village/Wicker Park instead. Still in close proximity of the loop but stripped of a lot of the pretention of the Goldcoast and sillyness of LP/OT

                          2. Depending on whose version of neighborhood boundaries you subscribe to, I am either on the northern boundary of Old Town or the southern boundary of Lincoln Park. A quick walk (5-10 minutes) to the south east is the North/Wells area that is loaded with restaurants and pubs. A short walk the other way is the Armitage/Halstead area which is loaded with relatively inexpensive ethnic restaurants, but also home to higher end places like Boka, Alenia and Charlie Trotter's. Not a bad neighborhood for a foodie!

                            1. The worst neighborhood if you want good food that's just around the corner is Streeterville and the Gold Coast. Nothing but places that cater to tourists and/or business travellers on expense account. Sure, within walking distance are some great places. But they're not the sort of restaurants you just drop into for a bite. Unfortunately, a lot of NYers who move to Chicago who don't move to LP end up living here because they're the neighborhoods with the most NY-y vibe.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: xtopher

                                Agree with xtopher. I live in Logan Square and my best friend lives in Streeterville, always complaining about how much of a pain to have so few good food options and always having to come to me. I go down there occasionally for a burger at Boston Blackies but that's about it.

                                I really like the Bucktown/Wickerpark/Logan Square area. Tons of good food options, most within a 5 minute drive, and in terms of value for buying a place its probably one of the better areas. My friend from NY came to visit me a couple of weeks ago and said that he ate the best he's ever eaten in his life during his time in Chicago, so don't worry about a letdown here.

                              2. I have to put in a plug for Rogers Park. Very diverse neighborhood and the food reflects it - Indian, Pakistani, Thai, Mexican, North African. But also, we are getting higher end restaurants here too! Viet Bistro (not at its best yet but a hopeful sign), Uncommon Grounds is moving in on Devon, and more to come. I love the Indie Cafe (edgewater) for amazing Thai, venture a bit further down Clark and you have much more in Andersonville - La Donna, Hopleaf, MHenry. Plus you are almost right on the border of Evanston that has some tasty eats and a great rmainstream/art theater!

                                It is relatively inexpensive still and near the L and the lake. Give us a try. :-) We are worth it!