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Rec's around Michigan ave at Grant Park?

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Coming to Chicago for the first time for a conference in 10 days. I will do some serious Chowhound research for must-experience dinner options. We're staying at the Congress Plaza Hotel on MIchigan Ave at Grant Park and are in need of some recommendations for nearby early morning breakfasts (healthy muffins, smoothies type things that can be taken to go to early morning sessions) and casual, inexpensive dinner places (we're easy -- love anything ethnic) ($20 per person, not including booze).

Thanks! Looking forward to some fabulous chowing in Chicago.

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  1. Also, any great local coffee place recs to go with breakfast would be great!

    1. For an inexpensive dinner, get Chicago deep-dish pizza! Edwardo's, which specializes in double-crust "stuffed" pizza, has the closest location to the Congress Plaza, at 521 S. Dearborn Street. Look at their website and call ahead with your order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for your pizza to bake. www.edwardos.com

      For breakfast, you're right near Orange on Harrison, but it's more of an "eat in" type breakfast place rather than a "carry out" place.

      1. "healthy muffins, smoothies type things that can be taken to go to early morning sessions"

        Probably your best bet for something like this would be Corner Bakery up the block at 224 S. Michigan. It's a local chain, and I don't know about the smoothies, but their baked goods are dependable and they're open at 6:30 on weekdays. $20/head + ethnic + quality is a tall order for your location, but if you need a port in the storm Hackney's on S. Dearborn (about 700 S) will get you a good hamburger, occasional Irish specialties and an imported beer if you're in the mood. Otherwise you might want to consider a short cabride to Greektown, which will be a lot of fun for you if you're a first time visitor to Chicago. Plenty of posts, and a search for "Greektown" should bring them up for you..

        3 Replies
        1. re: jbw

          Corner Bakery isn't a local chain- it's all over the country. And owned by Chillis. It's not terrible but it ain't good.

          1. re: jpschust

            Sorry about that, altho Corner Bakery was founded in Chicago by LEYE and about a third of its stores are still in the Chicago area. I'm not making great claims for it, but where else would you go in easy walking distance if you wanted a muffin to carry back to the Congress at 7-8 am?

            1. re: jbw

              A slightly further walk would take the OP to Intelligentsia, at Jackson and Dearborn, open at 6 I believe, with perhaps the best coffee in Chicago. Note, however, that this location is closed on the weekends.

              (click on the Places link below to see a map of the location.)

              Intelligentsia Coffee
              53 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604

        2. I'd suggest Argo Tea on Randolf for smoothies/protein shakes and healthy snacks

          For a casual dinner place I'd recommend Star of Siam, The Greek Islands or Boston Blackies

          2 Replies
          1. re: blondie60614

            Just to note - all of these places are at least a 15-20 minute walk (or a short cab ride) from the Congress Plaza.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              The OP didn't specify that he wanted places within walking distance

          2. The Gage Inn is right off Michigan: http://www.thegagechicago.com/

            Klay Oven (Indian) and Kan Zaman (Lebanese, BYO) are good and within a 5 minute cab ride:

            (KZ has no web site. Menu is here) http://chicago.menupages.com/restaura...

            Greektown is a 10 minute cab ride. Several good options there. Do a search for more links to past reviews.

            3 Replies
            1. re: wak

              I must disagree on Klay Oven.

              Four of us went to Klay Oven for dinner last week and were not impressed. The service was very slow even though the place was half empty. The food was edible but disappointing.

              The overall problem with all our food orders was that all the dishes tasted pre-cooked and warmed up. Nothing tasted like it had been cooked to order. Nothing was served hot - just warm. To me, an indication of a 1st class Indian restaurant are fresh tasting spices and sauces. Klay Oven's tasted like from a can. There have to be better Indian places in Chicago!

              1. re: joschus

                > There have to be better Indian places in Chicago!

                There are, but they're not in the downtown area.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Downtown, India House is better than Klay Oven, but not considerably from my experience. I've also heard good things about Gaylord, although never been there.

                  I live close to Klay Oven and generally order take-out about once a month. While not the best food I have ever had, I think its quite good, better than most Indian I have tried, and reasonably priced for the area. I've eaten in the restaurant a dozen times and have never had slow service, although they used to employ a waitress that I always found a little odd, but she appears to be gone, so I can't explain the slow service.

                  Up on Devon you can do better, but that's a hike from the loop.

                  Indian Garden on Ontario has also been good, but I hear they are under new management now and the qualtiy may have gone downhill. The service there had been dreadful. The kind of place that would be 20% full and you'd have to flag down the waiter mid-meal to have him deliver the check since you never knew if you would see him again. I once ordered two beers at once for the same reason. But the food was pretty good. If the foods suffered, that will be the end of that.

            2. For inexpensive dining near the Congress, just slightly above your budget, Opera has a 3-course $25 prix fixe menu on Sundays & Tuesdays that is tough to beat. It's in the 1300 block of South Wabash.

              As to a nearby place where you can grab a takeaway breakfast, you might try Cafe Mediteraneo in the 600 block of South Dearborn - about 4 blocks from your hotel. I ate there for lunch recently and it was fine. It would be a viable dinner option too.

              The closest breakfast option may be the Panera that is in the first floor of the dormitory just west of the Congress Plaza, at State and Wabash. Not much of a "chow" experience, but convenient.

              2 Replies
              1. re: masha

                > just west of the Congress Plaza, at State and Wabash

                State and Wabash are parallel and don't intersect...

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Good point! - I meant State & Congress.

              2. Several blocks south of the Congress Plaza at 888 S. Michigan is a funky contemporary Japanese bistro called Oysy http://oysysushi.com/oysy.swf. They specialize in "Izagaya," is basically Japanese bistro food or tapas. They offer several dozen small dishes of grilled seafood & meat, tempura, dumplings, soup, soup and, of course sushi and sashimi. Plates are small and generally under $10 (some as little as $4 or $5) so you can sample lots of stuff, which is great because the quality is excellent and the menu likely features some dishes that you may not have had the opportunity to try before.

                If you're interested in Russian and central Asian food and/or tea or vodka (try the sampler), you might consider Russian Tea Time on Adams just across the street from the Art Institute (which is 3 blocks north of the Congree Plaza on Michigan). http://www.russianteatime.com/

                For more standard contemporary American fare (including excellent sit-down breakfasts) in a stylish, but casual setting try the Atwood Cafe, which is located on State St. in the heart of the Loop, in the Burham Hotel. Not only is the food good, but the restaurant and hotel are located in the old Reliance Building, which was constructed in 1885 and designed by three of Chicago's greatest architects (Daniel Burnham, John Root and Charles Atwood). Considered one of the first modern skyscrapers, it's an exquisite example of classic Chicago architecture and has been beautifully renovated in recent years. http://www.burnhamhotel.com/bur_atwoo...

                1 Reply
                1. re: jbentley4

                  For a casual and highly enjoyable ethnic dinner spot, I would highly recommend Tamarind on Wabash just south of Congress at Harrison. The restaurant is Asian, but have some of the best Asian, Pacific-Rim type cuisine I have had. They also have Japanese and sushi done very well.
                  I know you suggested a place for a quick take-away breakfast, but I have to throw in a recommendation for one of my favorite breakfast places in the South Loop: Yolk. If you have time for a sit down breakfast, they have freshly squeezed juices, tons of egg dishes, oatmeals, crepes, French toasts, pancakes, and everything else under the sun...recommend it very very much.

                2. For dinner, I love the Russian Tea Time. It's on Adams just west of Michigan, so a pretty short walk. The entrees are all just under or over $20. I've been there with a few people who used to live in Russia, and they all thought it was pretty authentic, and it's delicious.

                  1. Thank you all. Though the Congress Plaza was nothing to write home about, your suggestions were. Intelligensa coffee was excellent. A huge step up from Starbucks. I walked the extra block every morning. Panera was a stop on the way back for some kind of baked good (fit the immediate need but not outstanding -- disappointed that so few bakeries had whole grain items).

                    We also tried Edwardo's -- first deep dish experience. the top layer was a bit doughy but other wise fun to try.

                    oysy was decent. didn't order much as eating alone.

                    the culinary highlight was avec on friday night. Yum!

                    Thanks again for all you suggestions.