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UK Couple need help with dinner, brunch & bars?

  • c

I hit a landmark birthday in June (don't ask) and my wife has surprised me with four days in Chicago - she was going to keep it a secret but knows that half the fun for me is in the planning!

We want to experience typical Chicago cuisine and also want to try some of your more upmarket restaurants. Provisional plans for Dinner so far

Saturday - Deep Dish Pizza (I've read the thread and will probably to try Uno at 29 E Ohio mainly i guess because it's where it all started)

Sunday - Cafe Spiaggia?

Monday - the Big Day - considering Blackbird or Alinea - Which would you guys recommend also will these restaurants be open on Monday nights? Maybe we should swap to Sunday for better atmosphere?

Tuesday - Frontera Grill? we love Mexican food and can't it really in England

Other suggestions gratefully received - I really love anything quintessentially American and would like to try things I can't get back home.

I'm also after suggestions for breakfast / brunch - We are staying at the Affinia on E Superior St but anywhere within 30 mins walking distance is fine as we will be out early exploring (Bongo, Orange, Original Pancake House all had good reviews - are there others you would recommend?)

What about bars in the area? again anywhere within 20 mins walk fine - like dive bars or somewhere hipper or more upmarket? What about somewhere with a view (Signature Room?)

No lunch suggestions needed as late breakfast / brunch plus hefty dinner is normally all i can manage although might fit a cake or slice of cheesecake in during the afternoon. I've lost 20 lbs in preparation for the trip and intend to put it all back on over the three days!!

Any help or suggestions would be fantastic - Really looking forward to visiting your city. I'll give you an update on how it all goes

Thanks, Colin - Birmingham, England

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  1. What a great Birthday gift! Enjoy your stay.

    The orgininal Uno's is great for Chicago (transplanted Sicilian) Style Pizza.

    Frontera is great for Mexican but I would suggest Salpicon instead. Frontera will be packed to the gills and incredibly noisy. The chef at Salpicon on Wells street in Old Town, Pricilla Satkoff, used to work for Rick Bayless of Frontera. Old Town is a fun neighborhood for after dinner exploration, just walk straight north from the restaurant and you'll run into several local bars, cafes, boutiques, and restaurants.

    HIP Restaurant w/great bars:
    Sushi Samba, Japonais, CRU wine bar, De La Costa, Fulton Lounge, Zed 451.

    Great Dives:
    The Green Mill Jazz Lounge in Uptown on Broadway at Lawrence (opened in 1907 and frequented by many of the greats, plus a few notorious mobsters like Capone, Mugsy, etc).
    The MapRoom on Armitage in Bucktown. Great local crowd, fantastic beer selection, and freindly staff.
    Dublins on State Street in the Gold Coast for an upscale bar menu in a divey pub atmosphere. Open late night.
    For breakfast/brunch, I suggest Ina's on Randolph, Wishbone on Washington.

    Don't forget to make a stop in Greektown. Santorini's is fantastic. or for something different, try Venus for Cypriot cuisine + some Greek, also in Greektown.

    Bijan on State street for upscale late late late night eats in an upscale-ish pub atmosphere.
    The Hopleaf in Andersonville on Clark street at Foster for very good Belgian Ale's, and Belgian grub. Great place, and fun neighborhood.

    1 Reply
    1. re: amoncada

      These recommendations are great! I live in this neighborhood and I couldn't have said it better myself.

      I do prefer Gino's East to Uno for deep dish - but if you ask ten Chicagoans what their favorite pizza is, you are likely to get ten different answers - and Uno is where it all started.

      I also like the Pancake house for a casual breakfast or brunch - the bacon waffle is fantastically delicious and filling (definitely a splurge food!).

    2. sound advice from [amoncada].do not miss brunch at 'david burke's prime house @
      the jame's hotel, it's american dim sum!!!.creative food served from rolling cart's
      in the chinese style,just don't have a big breky.
      sun set dinner at oakstreet beachstro,the setting is unforgettable & the food is outstanding. enjoy your stay.

      1. Note that Alinea is not open on Mondays, so you will not be able to celebrate "the Big Day" there. Blackbird is.

        As to walking distance from the Affinia, Bongo & Orange are probably at the outer limits of your 30 minute perimeter. The Affinia is in Streeterville, which is close to "the Gold Coast," "River North," and Old Towne. Bongo & Orange are in the South Loop. In nice weather, they are walkable from the Affinia but it will be more like 1 hour (at least to Bongo, which is further south than Orange).

        If the weather is clear, drinks at the Signature Room can be quite fun; just don't eat dinner there. Nomi, in the Park Hyatt, just south of Water Tower Place, also is an upmarket bar with good views of the lake.

        1 Reply
        1. re: masha

          Hopstop is a great site that shows routes for walking as well as public transportation. According to it, walking from Affinia to Orange should take about 31 minutes (1.5 miles), and from the Affinia to Bongo Room should take about 35 minutes (1.9 miles).

          Obviously these are estimates and a lot depends on how fast/slow you walk, so it's probably better to look at the distances than time estimates.

        2. Not exactly a dive bar, but rather a blues bar. Check out Buddy Guy's for a real Chicago experience:


          It's in the south Loop: a long walk or a short cab-ride away. Shows usually start at 9:30.

          1. Hard to beat the advice already given. Just want to add a bit to it:

            - Uno's and Due's usually have a wait to get in. The food is worth it, but know to expect it.

            - For a great view, try Cite at Lake Point Tower. I'm not a sophisticated eater, but enjoyed it immensely last summer. http://www.citechicago.com

            - For a dive, try the original Billy Goat Tavern, located underground at Michigan and Hubbard Street. It's become touristy, but it's still a lot of fun.

            - My friends won't leave the city without having Italian Beef. Lots of people like Al's -- I don't eat meat, so can't recommend it personally.

            Have fun! Sounds like a great trip.

            1 Reply
            1. re: toniacita

              Thanks everyone so much for your comments and suggestions. It's fantastic that you have taken so much time and effort to help us get the most out of our trip. I'm plotting all your suggestions onto my street map and will be sampling as many as possible.

              Look out for us on the last weekend in May - I'll be the one looking slightly hungover with pizza sauce stains on my shirt!!!

              I'll report back on this thread how the trip went. Thanks so much again. Colin & Keeley, Birmingham, England

            2. A few more comments...

              Wherever you go for pizza, check out the menu on their website and phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for it to bake. And the "pan pizza" at Uno's is NOT "Sicilian style pizza", a term that is used (at least, on the East Coast) for a very thick (often 1.5" or more) bready pizza, whereas our pan pizza is by contrast very dense.

              I love Bongo Room and I like Orange on Harrison, but as noted above, both are not very close to your hotel. The Original Pancake House on East Bellevue is much closer. Don't miss their puffed-up cinnamony Apple Pancake!

              You can check the websites of restaurants for their hours, or you can look them up on Metromix at http://chicago.metromix.com/restaurants For a list of places open on Sundays, see www.chowhound.com/topics/378848 For Mondays, see www.chowhound.com/topics/455953

              Cafe Spiaggia is very good (although it's Italian, and I'm guessing you can find lots of good Italian food in the UK).

              I think Frontera Grill is a good choice (so is Salpicon, but it's much further from your hotel). You also might consider Topolobampo, Frontera Grill's sister restaurant, which accepts reservations. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

              Alinea and Blackbird are two somewhat different kinds of places, both excellent but it depends what you're looking for. Alinea is one of the very best restaurants in the entire country. You will be dressed up (jackets for gentlemen) and paying $250-400 per person including alcohol, tax, and tip. You will choose from a ten-course or 23-course tasting menu, and your dinner will take 3-4 hours. The food is extremely creative, with unusual ingredients in unusual combinations. Blackbird is a "casual fine dining" restaurant. You can dress "business casual" (men in slacks and shirt, no jacket or tie) and dinner will be around $100/pp. They have an a la carte menu. The food is delicious albeit not as unusual as at Alinea. It's somewhat noisy and crowded, with tables spaced close together. Two other places you might consider are one sixtyblue, which has even better food IMHO in a more spacious, less noisy, classy contemporary atmosphere, and North Pond, whose excellent food combines with an exquisite setting in the middle of a city park, with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore of the restaurant's namesake pond.

              Enjoy your visit!

              1. Do not eat at Orange; we went to the one on Harrison on Tuesday and it was inedible - the "orange rosemary french toast" was dense and hard and came in a bowl of milk - which was described as a "cream reduction" the green eggs and ham were over done

                Otherwise we had some amazing meals in Chicago but Orange was a disaster.

                We had read alot before going and had narrowed our breakfast choices to Kitsch'n, Orange or Bongo Room. We chose Orange because it was featured in a travel article and we were headed downtown for the day.

                I only wish I could turn back time.