Weekend in Chicago for Two NYC Foodies - help!
Hi Chicago Hounds!!
A couple of NYC food-lovers coming to Chi-town this weekend for our annual Halloween trip. We adore your city! But we haven’t delved deeply enough into the food scene. We are visiting a group of friends, and they’ve taken us to some of their favorite spots in the past (Giordano’s, Margie’s, Anne Sather) but we’re looking to branch out a bit this time around.
Here are some thoughts/preferences:
- I adore great desserts. I particularly love gelato, pies, and anything made with fresh fruit, but if you have a lead on some great pignoli cookies, I’d be all ears. I’d also love to find some good chocolate truffles to leave with the friends we’re staying with.
- Our favorite cuisine is probably Indian, but we also love Mexican and sushi, and we’re open to trying anything and everything.
- We dig the Chicago-style pizza quite a bit, but being from NY we get enough pizza at home, so we’d probably like to steer clear of that.
- Would love to discover a place with really interesting cocktails. Particularly a place we could swing by with a costumed group on Saturday night. :)
- My boyfriend is a coffee nerd, so if you could point him toward the best latte in the city I’m sure he’d love you for it.
- We’re vegetarian… but it’s not a huge concern of ours. We’re not going to get braised lamb, obviously, but every restaurant seems to have great veggie options so it doesn’t matter hugely to us what the cuisine is. We like trying new things and can always find something to eat wherever we go.
- Price - We’re not looking for anything super fancy - anywhere from very cheap up to maybe $40 per person.
- Number of diners: could be just the two of us, could be two couples, could be a group of 10-12 friends.
Thanks in advance! And in return for your kind recommendations, I have one for you: the next time you’re in NYC, check out a place called Mole on the Lower East Side. It’s fairly new, and it’s a very small Mexican place. Getting a fair amount of hype, too, so expect a bit of a wait. The atmosphere isn’t much (the room is so small) but the food’s amazing – all fresh ingredients and just delicious. Service is outstanding, although the food takes awhile to come out. Get the tortilla soup, skip the tamales. And make sure you try one of their margaritas – they change up the flavors every day based on what fruits they have hanging around.
205 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
My recs will be for inexpensive places, as I'm not one for frills, just good food.
The Chicago Diner!!!!
Indian (Vegetarian/non pakistani) I will throw this out as a rec for strictly vegetarian Indian fare. Our Indo / Pak section of town is REALLY something you should check out if you like Indian food. This place will be right on the strip. I cannot recommend enough that you check out our Indo / Pak places:
2629 W. Devon
Chicago, IL 60659
773 262 5280
Of course, we have one of the guys who started the whole Higher end mexican scene in Bayless:
Frontera Grill (casual but still higher end mex food) / Topolobampo (a little bit fancier
We also have Salpicon (I'm not a fan, but there are plenty who are)http://www.salpicon.com
And a relative newcomer that I highly recommend:
Restaurant Sol de Mexico
3018 N Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
For vegetarian diners, I always recommend May Street Market. Its not a pure vegetarian location, but has a lot of veggie options. Very creative food. If you go, definitely try the Maytag Blue Cheesecake appetizer. It will push the upper limit of your budget, but worth it.
I always recommend Avec to visitors. Outstanding food at a reasonable cost. Not sure about the veggie options, but you can see the menu on their web site.
You should definitely call for reservations if you plan to go to May Street. Avec does not take reservations. Also for Frontera, if your group will have 5 or more, call ahead for reservations.
Re: Truffles. Vosges is a local company that makes outstanding chocolates. I know that you can get them at Fox and Obel. And they have a shop in the mall in front of Nordstroms on Michigan Ave.
The only local coffee shop I know of that has not been conquered by Starbucks is Intelligentsia.
Frontera is a good recommendation. Salpicon too. If you don't mind travelling a little farther out of downtown for a great deal, I have heard great things about Sol de Mexico. Also Xni-Pec.
I agree on the truffles. Vosges are the best and they have some really interesting flavors. Go to their shop in the Nordstroms mall and get free samples.
There is a neat and interesting Indian restaurant in the Uptown area called Marigold. Here is their website: http://www.marigoldrestaurant.com/ They also have some fun cocktails
Vosges is very good and now has a well-deserved national presence (including boutiques in NYC), but for a truly local Mom-and-Pop chocolatier, try Canady's in the South Loop. He specializes in truffles but he also makes gelato, of which my favorites are the pistachio and mascarpone:
Also, some of the best coffees (including Lattes) in the area can be found in the Intelligentsia bars, two of which are in the Loop:
Just to add to the previous comments...
For desserts, there are lots of places. You have far more Italian bakeries in NY than than we do here, but an absolutely wonderful one opened here earlier this year. It's called Pasticceria Natalina and it's in Andersonville, which means it's about 6.5 miles north of the Loop. You can read about it at www.chow.com/topics/372142 Just a block or two south of there is the Swedish Bakery and it has wonderful Swedish breads and pastries, delicious marzipan-based ones, etc. www.swedishbakery.com A bit closer to downtown is Vanille Patisserie, with their wonderful entremets. www.vanillepatisserie.com
For chocolates, I tried chocolates from most of the artisanal chocolatiers in the Chicago area recently. You can read through what I found at
The ones I liked best were:
1. Belgian Chocolatier Piron (Evanston) - $36/lb - www.belgchocpiron.com
2. Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut (Glenview, Lake Forest - made in Canada) - $50/lb - www.bernard-callebaut.com
3. Vosges Chocolate (Chicago) - $91-100/lb - www.vosgeschocolate.com
4. Leonidas (Wilmette - made in Belgium) - $32/lb - www.cafechocolaterie.com
5. Canady le Chocolatier, Ltd. (Chicago) - $33/lb - www.canadylechocolatierchicago.com
6. Bon Bon (Chicago) - $60/lb - www.bonbonchicago.com
Note that Bon Bon is just a store or two over from Pasticceria Natalina (but as you can see, in the city, I liked Vosges and Canady even better).
For Indian restaurants, just walk up and down Devon Avenue along the 3/4 mile from Western Avenue west. One that is strictly vegetarian is Mysore Woodlands, 2548 W. Devon.
For Mexican, the previous mentions of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Salpicon are good ones. If you have a car, IMHO the absolute best and most unique Mexican place in the Chicago area is Flamingo's Seafood in Mt. Prospect, not far from O'Hare Airport. Don't get put off by the spartan decor; it's phenomenal, extremely creative Mexican food. www.flamingosseafood.com
For interesting cocktails, one place stands above all others: The Violet Hour. 1520 N. Damen Ave., Chicago
For vegetarian cuisine, you should really try Green Zebra. It's one of several restaurants run by acclaimed chef Shawn McClain. Not strictly vegetarian, but 90+ percent of its menu is. www.greenzebrachicago.com
Lots of people have recommended Intelligentsia. I second that with reservations: A on the coffee, B- on the atmosphere.
For my money, it's all about Metropolis. I live in Boston, and when I come to Chicago I always try to make a trip up there.
Chicago, IL, Chicago, IL