Boston Chowhound Visiting....
I'll be staying for 2 nights in Chicago within the next week and have a wide choice of hotels. Having never been there before, what good casual restaurants are clustered closest to one hotel. I definitly want to try Giordanos and am open to other recommendations. I will choose the hotel based on your recs for good food for all 3 meals....and snacks :-). I will have a car, but prefer not to do much driving. I do have to go to an appt in Racine(sp?), Wisconsin for a few hours so anywhere north of Chicago for dining options is a possiblility too. Thanks for your help.
Let's be careful because the Chowhound Team does not like us to give travel advice unless it's related to food.
First, let's talk about where the hotels are. Then we'll talk about where restaurants are.
The big question is whether you want to stay in the city or the suburbs.
Most of the nice hotels in the city are in the "greater downtown area" neighborhoods, including the Gold Coast, Michigan Avenue, River North / River East, the Loop, and the South Loop (all of which are within a two mile radius of the middle of the Loop). There are *very* few nice hotels outside that area but still within the city limits. However, there are nice hotels sprinkled throughout most of the suburbs. Hotels in the suburbs tend to be less expensive than hotels downtown.
Restaurants are more uniformly spread throughout the city and suburbs, but this varies depending on the kind of restaurant. Many fine and finer dining restaurants are concentrated in the same downtown neighborhoods as the hotels are. You can also find quite a few fine and finer dining restaurants in some more distant city neighborhoods such as Wicker Park/Bucktown, Lincoln Park, and Lincoln Square, where there are few if any nicer hotels. Restaurants in the ethnic and cheap eats categories are located in neighborhoods throughout the entire city. Both types of restaurants are also found in the suburbs.
You also don't say what activities you will be doing, in what location(s), during your visit, other than your one appointment in Racine.
So basically you have a choice: You can stay in a hotel downtown, which will minimize your travel time to many of our restaurants which will be close by (and also to any of the downtown attractions, museums, shopping, etc, if that's what you're planning to do with your time); the downsides of doing so are that it will be more expensive, and it will require more time to drive to and from your appointment in Racine. Alternatively, you can stay in a hotel in the suburbs - let's assume the northern suburbs - which means lower cost and shorter distance to Racine, but longer travel times if you want to eat downtown.
As to *which* suburbs, I'll assume you're interested in tne northern suburbs, since those are the ones most convenient to your appointment in Racine. There is quite a vibrant restaurant scene in the closer-in northern suburbs, from Evanston and Skokie north (roughly 15-20 miles) to about Highland Park and Highwood. Although the suburbs doesn't have nearly the variety of the entire city of Chicago, there are still quite a few decent choices, particularly for the fine and finer dining options, although not so many for some of the more specialized ethnic cuisines. Once you go north from there, the pickings are much slimmer (as you can see if you find the huge topic about dining near Gurnee and read some of the complaints from residents there). If you're looking for recommended places right *in* Racine, you'll need to look on the Midwest forum, rather than this one.
Getting back to one of your remarks, Giordano's is one of Chicago's best pizza places. (I personally like Giordano's the very best, but there are other excellent places too; different people have different favorites.) Giordano's is also our biggest, with the most locations throughout Chicago, both city and suburbs. You can find their locations listed on their website at www.giordanos.com and you can read more pizza recommendations at:
Once you decide where you're going to stay, we can advise you on restaurants in that area. If you'd like to get a little flavor for what's around where, you might want to go through a few of these topics first, then come back with more questions.
City of Chicago recommendations - www.chowhound.com/topics/457215
Evanston recommendations - www.chowhound.com/topics/394525
Morton Grove/Skokie recommendations - www.chowhound.com/topics/428390
Deerfield/Highland Park recommendations - www.chowhound.com/topics/395248