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May 2, 2008 06:38 PM

Chicago for 1st time

Staying in the downtown core ... I think our hotel is across from Nordstrom's. Can anyone recommend any good restaurants that are not to be missed. We'll be staying for 6 nights. We like all kinds of food, but not fine dining, more casual ... or casual fine dining. We have tried the Cheesecake Factory and Chili's while in the U.S.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. I think Lou Malnatti (not sure of the spelling) is one of the better deep dish pizza's, or Uno's?

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  1. I hope you don't judge our food based solely on the Cheesecake Factory and Chili's!

    I think you're on the right track by making sure you try our delicious Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. There are a lot of places serving great pizza here, and the chains (with the exception of non-downtown locations of Uno's) do quite a good job of maintaining consistent quality across many locations. 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 - you can't go wrong with any of these. (Lou Malnati's and Pizano's were both started by sons of one of the founders of Uno's.) You can phone your order ahead of time if you want to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake; you can find their menus and locations on their websites. All the above chains have locations within a mile of your hotel; the closest are Pizano's on State ( ) for pan pizza, and Giordano's on Rush ( ) for stuffed pizza.

    We have some wonderful contemporary American, casual fine dining restaurants. IMHO the very best ones fairly near downtown are:

    one sixtyblue -
    Blackbird -
    Aigre Doux -
    Custom House -
    North Pond -

    North Pond, in addition to having wonderful food, has an exquisite setting, too. It's right in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park, not the neighborhood), on the pond (the building used to be the place where people would rent ice skates in winter), with the city skyline as a backdrop at the opposite end of the pond. It's about three miles north of your hotel, an easy cab or bus ride ( ).

    If I had to recommend just one of these places, it would be one sixtyblue for the food, and North Pond for the atmosphere, but there are lots of such excellent places; these are just the very best IMHO.

    We also have some excellent mid-priced Italian restaurants, notably Cafe Spiaggia ( ), Coco Pazzo ( ), Vivere ( ), and Trattoria No. 10 ( ). Cafe Spiaggia is a short walk from your hotel.

    And, we have some excellent Mexican restaurants. However, these are not the conventional places found in many cities here; please realize that these feature very creative provincial Mexican cuisine. Take a look at the menus on their websites and you'll see what I mean. Ones near your hotel (short cab ride or long walk) include Frontera Grill and Topolobampo ( ), Salpicon ( ), and Adobo Grill ( ).

    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. Walkable (slightly less than a mile) from your hotel.

    So those would be my first recommendations. You can find more detailed discussions about specific types of food here in these other topics:

    Fine dining (including casual fine dining):











    Hot dogs:

    Quintessential Chicago:

    Brunch and Breakfast:

    There are lots more places, particularly in outlying neighborhoods where you find more ethnic places (Thai, Indian, etc) but they involve some traveling from downtown (30-60 minutes via public transportation). In particular, there are lots of Indian places on Devon Avenue (6400N) between Western (2400W) and Sacramento (3000W), and lots of Vietnamese places on Argyle (5000N) around the CTA's Red Line el stop and Broadway.

    Six days will give you the chance to try out a lot of these different kinds of food. Let us know if you have more questions and we'll try to help.

    Enjoy your visit!

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      I completely lost track of this post and wanted to thank you for the detailed info!! I repeated myself by posting several times and have only come across this reply now!

      I have printed it to read on the plane! Stressed out and running out of time ... we leave early Sat morning and nothing done yet, still have to pack, etc.

      Again, thanks for the wonderful tips and your detailed info!! You saved me time by posting the links too :)

      1. re: red dragon

        If you have not left yet, here is my trip report from last weekend: