2 Lunches, a Dinner and a Breakfast
Coming to Chicago from Toronto to meet a friend from Scotland. Sounds like the start of a joke...... So how do we spend our 2 lunches, dinner and a breakfast? We'll be staying either at The James or the Sofitel Water Tower. We're looking for a mix of fun stuff and excellent stuff. Do we go for deep dish? ENO's for wine and chocolate? Where would you take someone to show off your city?
Most any cuisine is on the table though I may skip Japanese (not my absolute favourite) or Chinese (spoiled for choice in Toronto). Absolutely love a diner breakfast or a casual brunch. These are all on the weekend (if that changes the dynamic). Thanks!
Thought I would follow up to report on what the choices finally were:
First lunch was just a quick grab after a delayed arrival - but dinner was at Frontera Grill. Unable to procure reservations 2 weeks in advance, we went at 5:30 and put our names down for a table. We eventually sat down about 8:15. Of course we left and came back so it was no hardship at all. For anyone unfamiliar, the place is certainly packed at 5:30. Any illusion I had of sitting at the bar was shattered, and I wondered if I really wanted to dine somewhere that had such a 'zoo' atmosphere (admittedly the restaurant area was not so crazy, but it was definitely loud). What won me over was the margarita I had after putting our names down. It was good enough to call me back 3 hours later. Dinner was delicious and worth the wait. We had goat tamale, beef tips, a chicken mole enchilada and a carne asada. All had such beautiful flavours and complex tastes. Service was fast and very helpful. But my friend and I were definitely loud-talking across the table to hear each other. This isn't a cozy dinner spot, though that wasn't necessarily my expectation. Left feeling thrilled and a little woozy from a couple of those margaritas!
Breakfast was at the Fox and Obel cafe. Beautifully presented breakfast and again, very helpful staff. Nutella and Banana panini? Deemed a great success by my friend. I loved my traditional scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes and toast. Service was fast, food was hot and we were well situated to take the morning architectural cruise on a beautiful, sunny Sunday.
Lunch was at David Burke's Primehouse. We were too late to try the American Dim Sum brunch (ends at 2pm) which was a disappointment. Those finishing up looked to be truly enjoying the carts filled with delicious surprises. I would return to try that. We did order from the 'regular' brunch menu. My beef, arugula and blue cheese salad was perfectly dressed and the beef was of the melt in the mouth variety. My friend's chicken baguette was tender and delicious.
A stop at Garrett's (sp?) popcorn before I left for home has left me with a true guilty pleasure.
A note that everywhere we went, we were greeted in such an open and friendly manner. The level of customer service was so high and we were thrilled. It was a real credit to the city and I only hope people get the same impression of Toronto when they visit here.
I would do the deep dish pizza for one of the lunches. Take your pick - double-crust "stuffed" pizza (from Giordano's, Edwardo's, or Bacino's) or single-crust "pan" pizza (from Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, Gino's East, or the original location of Uno's); all are excellent. The closest to the hotels you mention are the Rush St location of Giordano's ( www.giordanos.com ) and Pizano's on State ( www.pizanoschicago.com ). Two tips: Look at their website and phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake. And watch their advice on portion sizes so you don't walk out stuffed and unable to eat dinner later on (yes, two slices WILL leave you stuffed).
For breakfast/brunch, see the recommendations at www.chowhound.com/topics/364403
For chocolate, go to one of our artisanal chocolatiers; for recommendations, see www.chowhound.com/topics/374386
Fox and Obel is worth a mention, too. It's an upscale gourmet grocery store, just a wonderful place to shop for prepared foods as well as basic ingredients. They also have a cafe in the rear that's open day for a meal or a snack. www.fox-obel.com
For dinner, it all depends on what kind of food you want. My first choices would probably be Alinea for a "money no object" dinner, and one sixtyblue or North Pond for a "casual fine dining" dinner, but there are many more options within those categories, and many other kinds of restaurants as well. What kind of food do you like? Here are some discussions about various kinds of food:
Enjoy your visit!
Wow - thanks so much for the interest. Favourite cuisines of mine - Italian and Thai. Love Mexican and Barbeque, but have a terrible time here in Toronto finding good stuff in those categories. I always try to check out something directly related to the place I go. I'll explore the links you've provided more fully.
re: Julie McCoy
Since you really like Mexican, I highly rec Frontera Grill. Wonderful brunch menu and I hope we try dinner this weekend.
nxstasy is absolutely right about the size of deep dish. No one could convince dh of this and he ended up eating it all week (we had a fridge). fwiw, we both agreed we like thin crust better. It's a different pizza imho.
btw, Toronto has some mighty good eating too we found!
Thanks - and I really can't complain about Toronto restaurants. We have so many nationalities represented - and well - but Mexican and BBQ are definite downfalls. Just reading through all the great links nsxtasy provided and I'm going to have trouble narrowing it down. Realized my fine Scottish friend always likes a steak when on this side of the Atlantic, so that may factor in. But Frontera for brunch may well work....
re: Julie McCoy
If you're considering Frontera Grill for brunch, note that they serve brunch only on Saturdays, and not on Sundays.
Based on what you've said you like, I would suggest this itinerary:
LUNCHES - two of these three: deep-dish pizza (e.g. Lou Malnati's, Giordano's), Thai food (e.g. TAC Quick), and/or Frontera Grill
DINNER - either Alinea or Spiaggia at the high end, or one sixtyblue or North Pond for not so high end. To distinguish among these - Alinea is widely considered the finest restaurant in Chicago (and Gourmet magazine named it the best in the country), dressy and expensive, typically $300+ per person including alcohol and tax/tip; Spiaggia is the one Italian restaurant here that is among our finest, most creative restaurants, also dressy and expensive, typically $200-250/pp inclusive; one sixtyblue and North Pond both serve contemporary American cuisine, both casual and roughly $100/pp inclusive - both are great but I think one sixtyblue is slightly better for food, whereas North Pond has the nod for atmosphere and setting.
BREAKFAST - If Saturday, Frontera Grill; if weekday, Bongo Room; if Sunday, Between