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Boston Hound coming to Chicago for a weekend

This trip can't arrive soon enough, I'm too excited for the (too few) meals I will be having.

I'll be in town for just a weekend 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners. But, I'm going to try to squeeze in as many snacks and in-between-meal meals as possible. One dinner is already spoken for ( we're very excited to be going to Alinea). Because of that one dinner, the rest of the trip will be on a tighter budget. We'll be staying at the Marriott downtown on the magnificent mile.

Since this will be my first 'real' trip to the windy city, I really need to get some Chicago style pizza and a hot dog. I've been doing some research on this board and have a few ideas so far:

Pizza (dinner or lunch )- Gullivers, Gino's East, Bacino.
Hot Dogs ( a lunch) - Gene & Jude's, Portillos

As for the breakfasts and other lunch dinner, we are very adventurous eaters, love the hole in the wall shacks, but also enjoy nice establishments. Here's some more info/question:

-We both really like Mexican food, and I am wondering if there are any great Mexican breakfast places (Huevos Rancheros?)

-Is Frontrera Grill worth a lunch stop?

-Any spots for late-night eats near the hotel?

-Any good happy hour places with decent apps and interesting cocktails for drinks before dinner?

What am I missing? Where should we go for breakfast?

Any help will be much appreciated!!

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  1. we were at alinea last week---it was amazing! i think the only people who would be disappointed in that place would be those that didn't do their homework beforehand and know what to expect. it is somewhat on the weird side, but what an adventure!! we had the 24 course tour, but it ended up so much food that we could only make it through 18 courses. the wine pairings are fantastic! my favorite was the hot potato/cold potato.
    a good quick lunch stop we made was on the third floor at neiman-marcus. they have amazing sandwiches for not a lot of cash--make sure you have cash, since they do not accept visa debit cards!
    we went to gibson's steak house on rush st., and it was a real chicago experience. i recommend the prime rib or walleye highly.
    we didn't do breakfast since my husband was in meetings all day.
    we didn't do mexican since we live on the border and that's not exotic to us.
    this board really helped with our trip--i'm sure you'll get tons of great advice.

    1. My wife was born and raised in Medford, MA and lived in Nashua, NH, for 20 years after that. When we got married, she moved out here to Chicago suburbs with me. As a Bostonian who had never really been in the midwest to speak of, she was most impressed with Chicago deep dish pizza, Chicago hotdogs and Italian Beef sandwiches.

      Anytime anyone would come visit from Boston, we would have to take them to Uno's or Due's (both Uno's) downtown. One of her hangouts in Nashua was the Pizzeria Uno's, so she always thought she had eaten real Chicago pizza. However, once she ate at the original Uno's downtown, she quickly realized that she's never even had anything close.

      The closest thing you'll find in Boston to an Italian Beef sandwich would be a french dip sandwich.

      As for breakfast, she is now forever hooked on bicuits and gravy.

      1. > Pizza (dinner or lunch )- Gullivers, Gino's East, Bacino.

        Don't waste your time with Gulliver's. It's REALLY far from downtown, and IMHO the pizza isn't as good as places like Gino's East and Bacino's. I agree with Crissup's recommendation of the original Uno's and Due because they are both VERY close to the Marriott, closer than Gino's East or Bacino's.

        > -We both really like Mexican food, and I am wondering if there
        > are any great Mexican breakfast places (Huevos Rancheros?)

        Not that I'm familiar with in the vicinity of the Marriott. However, Frontera Grill is open for brunch on Saturdays. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

        > - Is Frontrera Grill worth a lunch stop?

        Yes, it's worth it for lunch during the week as well as Saturday brunch.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nsxtasy

          Frontrera offering Saturday brunch just made me very happy. Very, very happy.

        2. Definitely go to Frontera for brunch Saturday. For Sunday, you might want to try Orange (75 W Harrison) for a unique brunch experience. The menu has dishes like frushi (fruit sushi), chai infused french toast, and french toast kebabs!! Every out-of-town guest I have taken to Orange can't stop raving about the experience.

          If you are in need of a late night meal, as far as I know there are only 2 places near your hotel. Tempo Cafe (6 E Chestnut) has the usual diner/breakfast fare, and for your more upscale late night cravings Bijan's Bistro (663 N State) is open until 4am.

          For a happy hour, the NoMI lounge (800 N Michigan) has exciting, but pricey ($15) martinis, delicious lounge fare, and breathtaking views of Magnificent Mile. I believe Nacional 27 (325 W Huron) also has a happy hour. If you want something cheaper, RA Sushi (1139 N State) has under $5 appetizers for happy hour!!


          1 Reply
          1. re: missado

            For breakfast/brunch, in the immediate vicinity of the Marriott are a lot of hotel restaurants, which can be expensive (and include some very elaborate brunches, such as at NoMI, Seasons, and the Ritz).

            For less expensive options, I like Orange, but I like Bongo Room even more. Both are open every day for breakfast/brunch, and both have two locations. Orange's location in the South Loop on Harrison is closer to your hotel than its north side location. Bongo Room's location in the South Loop at Wabash/Roosevelt may be slightly closer than its Wicker Park location. I also had a wonderful Sunday brunch (Sundays only) at Between, in Wicker Park.

            For more details and extended discussion on breakfast/brunch options, see www.chowhound.com/topics/364403

          2. Save yourself the trip and skip Gene & Jude's!! Portillos has great hot dogs with many locations throughout the city and suburbs and is much cleaner and more tasty than Gene & Jude's. I used to go there at 3 a.m. after a night of drinking and dancing in the discos! Portillos is much better!

            1. For an experience truly unique to Chicago, may I suggest Hot Doug's (www.hotdougs.com) not only for great hot dogs, but for some of the best sausage sandwiches you've ever had.

              Consider some of these options:

              Burgundy-Citrus Pork Sausage with Lemon-Pepper Mustard Cream and Coolea Cheese

              Smoked Crayfish and Pork Sausage with Caper-Shallot Goat's Milk Butter and Balarina Aged Goat Cheese

              Tongue and Cheese Sausage with Horseradish Mustard, Chopped Liver and Swiss Cheese

              Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish-Garlic Cream Sauce, Smoked Cheddar Cheese and Crispy Fried Onions

              Bacon Sausage with Wine-Infused Grainy Dijon Mustard, Herb-Garlic Eurocrème and Caramelized Onions

              The Sonoran Dog: Quarter-Pound Jumbo Hot Dog wrapped in Applewood-Smoked Bacon with Jalapeño Mayonnaise, Pinto Beans, Tomatoes and Onions

              1 Reply
              1. re: chicgail

                Just be aware that Hot Doug's is quite a distance from downtown.

              2. Pizza, I vote for Gino's East. Good God Man, they have the sausage wheel!!!

                Frontera Grill, must stop.

                Breakfast, second the Bongo Room on Roosevelt.

                Lunch, must have Chicago is an Italian Beef, make sure it's dipped. Portilio's is good, so is Al's

                Also second Hot Doug's but might be hard to get to without a car. On weekends, they have duck fat fries!

                1 Reply
                1. re: ciesel

                  Oh, and a couple of tips if you go to Bongo Room. It doesn't say this on the menu, but most of their pancake type dishes are available in partial portions. A normal portion is three pancakes (or slices of French toast), but you can order portions of one or two at a reduced price. This makes it easy to try multiple dishes in a single visit. And in addition, if one type of pancake sounds good but a sauce listed for a different type of pancake sounds good, you can "mix and match" sauces and pancakes.

                2. Wow, thanks everyone for the suggestions. I'll be in town the first weekend in May and will be sure to report back!

                  1. I'm another Boston hound planning a trip to Chicago in mid-May. I am dying to try Alinea, and have convinced the boyfriend to join me. What are the chances we can get a reservation for 4-7 people with just a couple weeks' notice? I left a message at the restaurant and am waiting to hear back, but if it's very, very unlikely I'll get a table, I'd like to start preparing for disappointment now. What are the comparable restaurants I could visit instead?

                    The rest of this thread is also very helpful. Thanks!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: cookboat55

                      Don't prepare for disappointment; wait and see what they say. Your chances are better if you are asking for a weekday than a Friday or Saturday (I'm not sure about Sunday though).

                      Comparable restaurants in Chicago, in terms of quality and creativity, are Everest ( www.everestrestaurant.com ), Charlie Trotter's ( www.charlietrotters.com/restaurant ), and tru ( www.trurestaurant.com ). Maybe a tiny step down in quality but pretty darn close are NoMI ( www.nomirestaurant.com ) and Spiaggia ( www.levyrestaurants.com ), the sole Italian entry in this esteemed group. In terms of molecular gastronomy and avant garde cuisine (as well as quality), consider moto ( www.motorestaurant.com ) and Schwa ( www.schwarestaurant.com ) although it's very difficult to get reservations at Schwa.

                      Avenues ( http://chicago.peninsula.com ) was in this group but recently experienced a change in chefs so the "jury is out" on Chef Curtis Duffy until he establishes his mark on the restaurant and a lot of people start trying it.

                      I believe all of these except Alinea and Schwa accept reservations on opentable.com Keep in mind that when opentable.com doesn't show availability, you can sometimes still get a reservation by calling the restaurant directly.

                      1. re: cookboat55

                        You may already know this, and this may be the cause for your trip, but the Restaurant Show is in mid-May this year, and tables will be really hard to come by that weekend. If you're planning to dine out between May 16th and May 20th, you'll be battling 70,000 other food lovers for prime tables. The restaurants will also be crazy busy. Better lock in now.

                        1. re: foodiegrl

                          Thanks for the tip, guys. We're in! Dinner for 4 at the unfashionable hour of 5:30 on a Friday. I'm psyched. Does anybody know how often the menu changes (if ever)? Am I in for the tasting posted on Alinea's website? I have a shellfish allergy (sob!) and I know they'll make adjustments for me. Does anyone know what I might see instead of lobster?

                          I can't wait for this meal, and for the chance to try some real chow finds. And, of course, to catch the Red Sox taking on the Cubs!

                          1. re: cookboat55

                            You may be starting your dinner unfashionably early, but with dinners at Alinea taking anywhere from three to five hours (depending on whether you get the 10-course or 23-course tasting menu), you may be finishing at a more typical hour.