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Jan 10, 2008 09:59 AM

Where and what to eat in Chicago

I am coming from Montreal and just bought a plane ticket to Chicago for the weekend. I will be staying at The Sheraton Towers and I want some suggestions of where to eat in Chicago. I love good restaurant but can't afford to go to Tru, Alinea, Avenue, Everest, Charlie Trotters or Motto. Around the hotel - downtown - what should I not miss and can be very proud to say that I have eaten there while in Chicago?
Thank you for your opinion.

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  1. In the price category of restaurants just below the most expensive restaurants which you list, I would definitely recommend Blackbird. I actually prefer it to some on your list and the food is always excellent. It's just west of downtown, and if you are a pork lover, search for some of their pork dishes (particularly pork belly) which they do amazingly well.

    In the same general grouping of Blackbird, I would suggest Naha and One Sixtyblue for other restaurants offering upscale, generally seasonal American food (although Naha leans Mediterranean and One Sixtyblue a little French). All of the above three are less than 10 minutes by cab from where you'll be staying. But of the three, I recommend Blackbird the most (It's sister restaurant, Avec, is next door and is more geared to small plates and Mediterranean food but is also outstanding).

    I would also highly suggest you sample some of Chicago's great Mexican food. Assuming again that you would like to stay in the general downtown area, I would recommend a trip to either Salpicon ( in Old Town or Frontera Grill/Topolobampo (Topo is the more expensive of the two)( Again, both are within 10 minutes by cab from the hotel. Old Town would be a fun area to walk around should you choose.

    After these recommendations, I guess it depends what else you are looking for. If you're willing to travel by El, you can head up north (about 30 minutes or less by train) and take in some great Thai food (TAC Quick or Spoon Thai), or you can head about 10-15 minutes south of where you are to Chinatown (Shui Wah or Phoenix for dim sum; Lao Sze Chuan for Szechuan) and there's Argyle St. for Vietnamese and Chinese bbq and many Asian food and gift shops. If the weather is decent, the Maxwell St. market is a fun place to walk around and is a wonderful spot to feast on some of Chicago's great Mexican street food.

    And if there's any type of food or area in Chicago you wish to explore, just say so.

    5 Replies
    1. re: BRB

      Thank you for your suggestions. I might look for Blackbird. It sounds very interesting. Also, I've been in Chicago a couple years ago and I remember going with a colleagues to jazz\blues bars and eat outside. Do you have any recommandations for a restaurant around that place? I think there were a lot of Italian restaurants there.

      1. re: mtl98

        There are a number of spots for Jazz/Blues -- if there's one you plan on visiting, let me know and I'll try to recommend a nearby spot.

        1. re: BRB

          What about something around Fulton Market? A restaurant, a blues club, a lounge, trendy spot that I cannot miss?

          1. re: mtl98

            Fulton Lounge is very nice for cocktails.
            Sepia right next store is also good for trendy Italian.
            Carnivale is quite the trendy evening out and I like the food.

            1. re: mtl98

              Otom (Moto spelled backwards and from the same owner) is in that area. They offer a modern, upscale take on comfort food and my one meal there was quite good -- here's my review of it:

              Also, Follia is very good for Italian, particularly their thin crust pizzas, and that's in the same area.

              Both Follia and Otom are upscale and somewhat trendy, but sorry, I'm not much help when it comes to the bars/clubs in that area.

      2. You should take the train to Evanston and go to Quince. The food is outstanding. My favorite new restaurant. It is in the old Trio space on Hinman. Excellent food, wine and atmosphere.

        5 Replies
        1. re: emort

          I really don't recommend Quince. I found it unimpressive in all respects, everything from ho-hum food to tiny portion sizes at dessert. If you're going to take the train to Evanston, there are far better places, particularly Oceanique and Chef's Station.

          Close to downtown, I mostly agree with BRB's suggestions. one sixtyblue is my favorite casual fine dining restaurant in the entire city, with food that is simply to die for. Blackbird is also one of my favorites, with outstanding food, but it tends to be a bit more crowded and noisy than one sixtyblue. A third place with spectacular food is Aigre Doux. Naha is pretty darn good, too. One final place I recommend is North Pond. Like the rest of this group, it has spectacular food in a contemporary American vein, but it has one thing the others don't - a unique and exquisite setting, in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, not just the neighborhood of the same name). The building was originally the skaters warming shelter on its namesake pond; since the renovation, one room has floor-to-ceiling windows facing the pond with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore, and the other room has an open kitchen along one wall. And the cuisine is wonderful, which is why Chef Bruce Sherman was nominated for a James Beard award this year (Best Chef - Great Lakes).

          Website links:
          Oceanique -
          Chef's Station -
          one sixtyblue -
          Blackbird -
          Aigre Doux -
          Naha -
          North Pond -

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I am arriving on Sunday (tomorrow) and in a similar situation - I come fairly often, and have really found Avec and Naha to be both consistent and wonderful. Being from San Francisco, I am always looking for interesting combinations with local ingredients.

            I've also tried Aigre Doux, which was good, but not spectacular or memorable.

            I enjoy the more "small plates" type places because I can try more things, so any other recommendations from the list above or additions to it?

            I will definitely be hitting Avec, and likely Naha, so I have two dinners to fill. I can handle that kind of price range ($8-14 for small plates) so my dinner comes out to about $40-50 with a glass of wine, but not the Tru/Alinea level of dining.

            1. re: RichInMV

              You might want to try A Mano. It's Italian small plates. We've been a couple of times in the last month and it was great both times. Housemade pasta and gellato are both very good. Plates are truly small so you'll be able to try a number of dishes. They also have a large and reasonably priced wine list.

              A Mano
              335 N Dearborn St
              (312) 629-3500

              1. re: jesteinf

                Thanks for the rec - I went there last night, and had a great meal! Service was excellent, and the small plates were both a good value and very good in flavor. We had a total of 10 items:

                House made copa salumi - very nice and smoky
                Stewed pepper w/salad

                Small gorgonzola ravioli - great rich flavor with walnuts
                Spaghetti w/meatballs - some interesting spices put a good spin on this old standard

                Berkshire Pork Chop - perhaps one of the best pork chops I have had in recent memory. It looked to be from a fatty cut from a Black Pig - incredibly rich, juicy and flavorful! Outstanding!

                "Mud and Grass" - this was a side of escarole and ??? (I forgot) - nice savory veggie side

                Cauliflower terrine - super smooth with a crunchy crumb topping and some olive for a nice contrast

                Apple/cranberry crostata - lovely light crust with a fresh, tangy filling.

                Gelati - three flavors - strachitella (chocolate chip), pistachio and espresso - all house made with nice, natural flavors - not too overdone.

                All in all, it was an excellent meal, with two glasses of wine each, only $128 total - very reasonable for so many tastes of this quality.

                Quite recommended for a nice casual place, especially for a group that would like to share tastes. Thanks again!

                Now where do I go tonight....Avec, Naha, or ???

                1. re: RichInMV

                  Awesome, glad you liked it.

                  I'm a huge fan of Avec, and on a Monday you won't have any trouble getting a table. Get whatever pork shoulder prep they're doing right now. It will be perfect on a night like this.