Favorite local joint in Chi-town?
What's your go-to spot for a great weeknight dinner/casual weekend meal? Maybe a place where they have a can't miss dish, special atosphere, or just darn good food? I'll be there around both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and would love to try some beloved spots.
When I think of places that I rely on for spectacularly good food, in a casual atmosphere, I think of three places in the city for contemporary American cuisine: one sixtyblue, Blackbird, and Aigre Doux, and one in Evanston, Oceanique, which serves new American with an emphasis on seafood. At all of these places, you can go with a friend and get two starters, two entrees, and two desserts, and all six dishes will be "to die for" delicious, consistently and reliably.
Any visitor to Chicago also shouldn't miss real Chicago deep-dish pizza, whether it's the single-crust "pan" pizza of Lou Malnati's or Gino's East, or the double-crust "stuffed" pizza of Giordano's or Edwardo's. Our deep-dish pizza is so good, we are incredibly lucky to have it any time we want. Phone ahead with your order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for your pizza to bake.
Other than these recommendations, there are many, many other places that have excellent food as well, including the fancy "splurge" places as well as cheap ethnic places and other kinds of places. But these are the top "can't miss" ones, IMHO.
One of our favorite go-to places - especially during the week - is West Town Tavern on W. Chicago Ave. It is reliably very good and we've always been pleased with everything we've ordered. It's a nice atmosphere with a laidback feel... Check out the website, if you'd like: www.westtowntavern.com
Chicago might be bigger than you think. What kind of food are you interested in, where are you from, and would the recs need to be in any specific area? You can get some really good info here if you plug in at least some kind of criteria. Your current question is reading like this: Where can I get a good meal at a casual place? I'd bet that almost everyone on this board did a semi eye roll on this one. Really, I'm not trying to discourage you, and will be absolutely happy to make a recommendation for you, but you will get some pinpoint recs if you would hone down your search even a little. Casual good food = about 600 recommendations. "Casual, good, middle eastern food" would probably net you 15 recommendations. "Casual, good, middle eastern food, 1 mile from michigan avenue shops" would probably only net you 2 recommendations.
We have good greek food, good sushi, good middle eastern, good pizza, good korean, good thai, good indian, good contemporary, good american, good mexican, good italian, good gastropubs, good chinese... and SEVERAL places for each.
Depending on where you are from, I would suggest you look into our 'fancy' Mexican food scene, maybe a trip to greektown, and also a trip to Devon ave for Indian food, as these are somewhat unique to Chicago along with the obligatory pizza that you will probably be trying. "Darn good food" is everywhere. Help us to point you in the right direction. :-)
Now the discussion can branch out in other directions. Chicago has all of these types restaurants, of course. And you can have an endless discussion about each one (you might want to search on previous discussions here). Briefly...
Indian - the stretch of Devon Avenue (6400 N) roughly from Western (2400 W) to Sacramento (3000 W) is full of excellent Indian and Pakistani restaurants.
Chinese - Chinatown has a bunch of excellent ones (surprise, surprise), perhaps the best is Lao Sze Chuan, which also has two suburban locations. www.laoszechuan.com
Mexican - Rick Bayless's Topolobampo and Frontera Grill set the standard, www.rickbayless.com/restaurants Also good are Salpicon www.salpicon.com and Adobo Grill www.adobogrill.com And there are lots of authentic places in the Pilsen neighborhood, along and near 18th Street.
Here are some other discussion topics you may want to look through, to get a better idea of our offerings in each category:
Brunch and Breakfast:
If you like Mexican, go to Sol de Mexico for the best moles. I believe all entrees are under $20, it's BYO, and the food is fantastic. I would put this on the top of the list of Mexican restaurants. It's casual and the service is very friendly.
I would also highly recommend Spoon Thai for the best (my opinion of course) Thai food you will find in Chicago. Here's a link to a translated Thai language menu: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?.... The food is inexpensive and the offerings are far different from your standard neighborhood Thai place.
When my Manhattan relatives visit, they always want good Mexican and Thai (things that are not as prevalent in Manhattan) and you're not going to do better than these two spots.
I looked at your recent posts, and see a lot of Manhattan. From NY? If so, I would skip italian, and perhaps chinese. If you are real thai hounds, then I'd check on only a few of our thai joints since you can do just as well (or better) in NY:
Sticky Rice, Spoon Thai, and TAC Quick would be my recs. Tac is my fav pick.
Upper-crust Mexican would also be a high recommendation from me for a New Yohkah. Nsxtasy's recs are solid (as usual.) Frontera might be right up your alley as far as casual / atmosphere (bustling & lively.) Adobo grill as well, but I am a bigger Frontera fan from a food standpoint. I won't give Salpicon any love, but there are plenty of others who do.
Indian would also be another rec for a Ny native. I believe Tiffin is still the most
"fancy" for lack of a better term on Devon ave. I have heard that Tiffin might not be the best food, but Tiffin might be the nicest atmosphere. If you want some other Indian recs, just say the word. Plus, a stroll on Devon for sweets, and maybe some kuhlfi / spices afterwards is always fun.
Also, greektown is a good rec.
Others can rec Italian and American for you. Opera might be a neat Chinese spot for you to ckeck out. Atmosphere is interesting, and the food is a good bit above average "americanized chinese" fare. And, depending on when you're coming, you can probably get some reduced $ gift certificates. If you are interested, I'll throw you a link.
A little more about Tiffin and Devon Ave...
Most of the restaurants along Devon Avenue serve reasonably-priced all-you-can-eat buffets at lunchtime. Some of them are very good indeed. But since you don't get food made to order, certain dishes may not be as good as when made to order. Definitely a good value, though.
Tiffin does one thing slightly differently, for their buffet; instead of including tandoori chicken on their buffet, they make it to order and bring each person an order (I don't think it's all you can eat though). I've eaten there numerous times, and it's always been pretty good; I went again last month and I was a bit disappointed, FWIW. Not that it was bad, just not as good as in the past, or as some other places. As gordeaux notes, it's a very pleasant and spacious space.
Some of my favorites are:
Mia Francesca on Clark - Great Italian food in a relaxed atmosphere
Iggy's - Lemon butter pasta. Mmmmm (FYI, they closed and reopened recently- haven't yet been to the new location).
Las Tablas on Lincoln - Fish soup (on Saturdays only)
MK - Fries with truffle butter sauce
Lula's for brunch/breakfast. If you get there around 9:30, you beat the wait
Each of these listed, I have been to many times. I've lived in Chicago 12 years- and I don't mind the term Chi-town, either:)