La Cocina (45 N. Wells) might be an option for decent tacos(I've enjoyed them well enough in the past). The Loop is still a relative dead zone for mid-priced eats. Unless you're chain-bound.
Oasis Cafe' recently moved back to The Jeweler's Mart...so...if you're in the mood for downtown M.E. you could do much, much worse.
You iterate that you are specifically looking for affordable eats; Frontera's not expensive for it's location and imprimatur, however...it ain't taqueria cheap, neither.
Avoid the potpie pizza place; Rachaeeelllye Raieiyy has no freaking idea what she's talking about.
And, again, I understand you're visiting from Canada, but please don't settle for Cheesecake Factory and Ruby Tuesday(I assume they're intriguing because of lack of similar representation in your home country...but...just don't...)
For a decent downtown burger I'd add both Exchequer and Miller's Pub to the list.
Again, you really must travel beyond the Loop to find what's best in Chicago.
More info regarding those burger places - Exchequer Pub ( www.exchequerpub.com ) and Miller's Pub ( www.millerspub.com ) are both on South Wabash in the Loop (directly under the el tracks, in fact). Depending on where your hotel is on East Grand, it's probably about a mile or so walk (or cab/bus). Hackney's ( www.hackneys.net ) has a location in the South Loop that's a little over a half mile south of Exchequer and Miller's.
Funny, I've always enjoyed the burgers at Boston Blackie's. And the cole slaw too. As well as the other places mentioned (and if you go to Hackney's, don't miss their "brick" of onion rings). Oh well, there are lots of opinions about Chicago food, and rarely a consensus about anything. You can always check Chowhound to read through lots of opinions (such as the burger discussion at www.chowhound.com/topics/382781 ). - shrug -
Also, the CTA Red Line will be re-routed on the elevated tracks this coming weekend throughout the downtown area, so you'll need to catch it at the elevated stations, not the subway stations, and you can expect trips to take longer than usual. (edited - thanks Beverator!) www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi...
From nsxtasy above:
"Also, the CTA Red Line will indeed be closed this coming weekend throughout the downtown area. www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi..."
You will still be able to get on the Red Line in the downtown area. It will be running on the elevated tracks. But will definitely be confusing for out-of-towners.
From the article:
Trains will be rerouted beginning at 10 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday from the subway to the elevated tracks, officials added.
Northbound Red Line trains will operate normally from 95th Street to Cermak/Chinatown, then reroute to the Roosevelt elevated station where they will proceed to the inner Loop track along Wells and Van Buren.
Northbound Red Line trains will make their first stop at Library, then LaSalle/Van Buren, Quincy/Wells, Washington/Wells, Merchandise Mart, Chicago/Franklin, Sedgwick and Armitage, and then to Fullerton, where normal northbound service will resume.
Southbound Red line trains will operate normally from Howard to Fullerton, then reroute to Armitage, Sedgwick, Chicago/Franklin and Merchandise Mart, then to the outer Loop track along Wells and Van Buren. In the Loop, southbound Red Line trains will stop at Washington/Wells, Quincy/Wells, LaSalle/Van Buren, Library to Roosevelt elevated, and then proceed to Cermak/Chinatown stations where normal southbound Red Line service will resume.
Ok, this is for everyone!! A million thanks for all the great advice - you will have saved me a ton of research (which I wasted doing for a week prior) and a return to Toronto with disappointment and heartache!
Wish I had more time to research all the recommendations mentioned here, but I will just print this posting and go for it!!! Will post when I get back.
We're leaving early Sat morning.
Not related, but why are your taxis/shuttles so pricey? Ok, forgot to add that the train was suggested for $2, but I'm suffering with a heel spur right now - although I doubt that will stop me from finding good food!!!
re: red dragon
You answered your own question; the reason the taxis and shuttles are expensive is that most locals take the el for $2, unless we have a huge amount of baggage (in which case we have a family member or friend pick us up). I'm sure gasoline for $4 a gallon doesn't help the rates...
Yeeesh! Us Chowhounds can be sooo opinionated eh!!!!
Casual restaurants with great food is my specialty. With that in mind, I recommend;
BTW: Chicago & Pizza and Oven Grinder is not bad, but I recommend Lou Malnati's (a close variation on the original Uno's Deep Dish that arrived from Siciliy ("i think") sometime during the 20's or 30's) on Wells downtown. The Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza is actually a take on the Sicilian pan pizza that first arrived in Chicago/America sometime in the 20's or 30's. The original southern Italian pan pizza is available at Uno's or Due's downtown although a bit inconsistent.
Pancho Pistolas: 700 W. 31st street, Chicago
For very good reasonably priced downscale Mexican Food in a fun atmosphere, try Pancho Pistola's in Bridgeport (a 10 minute cabride from downtown) at 700 W. 31st street. Great local crowd. The carne asada/Mexican skirt steak is outstanding...one of the very best that I've tried in Chicago! The margarita's are made with a syrup-ey mix :(!!
For great authentic mom and pop, "neighborhoody" Italian, try Tufano's Vernon Park Tap at 1079 W. Vernon Park in the Little Italy area very close to downtown.
Greek Islands at Halsted and Adams for excellent food in a festive atmosphere at reasonable prices.
Regarding the history of Chicago deep-dish pizza... Pizza traveled to the United States in the late 19th Century from Naples, where it originated.
Uno's was founded by Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo in 1943; another of its original founders (whose role varies depending on who you believe, as founder, manager, bartender, chef, etc) was Rudy Malnati Sr. Most sources refer to them as the originators of deep-dish pizza, without any reference to specific regions of Italy (or America) as origins. Two of Rudy Malnati Sr.'s sons founded their own Chicago-based chains serving deep-dish pizza: Lou Malnati founded his namesake restaurant in Lincolnwood in 1971, and Rudy Malnati Jr. founded Pizano's in Chicago in 1991.
Double-crust "stuffed" pizza arrived in the Chicago area in the early 1970s. Nancy's introduced its version in 1971, and Giordano's opened in 1974. Both were started by families from the Turin (Torino) area in Italy, and give credit to the role their family recipes played when they developed the pizza recipe for their restaurants here.
You can read more about the history of pizza at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_pizza
As for Sicilian pizza (Sicily is an island off the coast of, and part of the country of, Italy), the version found in Palermo has the ingredients mixed into the dough, according to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicilian... ). The version called "Sicilian pizza" found in the United States (particularly in the New York City area) is a square pizza with a very thick, dough; the texture is very light and bready, very different from the relatively dense crust found in Chicago's deep-dish pizza at Uno's et al.
re: Chew on That
Hi everyone, thanks for the feedback and great advice; much appreciated. Well, from this board, I have decided on Honey 1, Mary's Cafe, The oven grinder and pizza (not sure of the name). We love food, but not fine dining, just good food with large portions (husband eats for 2). IMO, we don't have good BBQ or Mexican in Toronto, so we'd like to find a good Mexican place and we like Ruby Tuesday's for their burgers and Cheesecake Factory when we're in the U.S.
Again, appreciate your feedback. This trip is special for us and I understand everyone has different tastes, but yes, I'm glad I checked here first for some great advice.
P.S. We don't drink nor are we into the jazz scene.
We are also staying in the downtown core (no car).
re: red dragon
Just so you know, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder is not a typical representation of Chicago deep-dish pizza. It's more of a novelty, a single restaurant's dish of tomato sauce and cheese "pot pie" that slightly resembles a pizza. I don't recommend it. We have so many places whose delicious deep-dish pizza gave us our reputation, and I recommend any of them - the single-crust "pan" pizza of Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, Pizano's, and Due and the original location of Uno's, and the double-crust "stuffed" pizza of Giordano's, Bacino's, and Edwardo's. Furthermore, CP&OG is a bit of a hike from downtown, whereas the well-known chains have lots of locations within walking distance (Gino's East and Uno/Due in River North, Pizano's and Giordano's in the Loop, Pizano's and Giordano's and Gino's East off North Michigan Avenue, Edwardo's in the South Loop).
As for Mexican, I recommend Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, both of which are in River North, probably walking distance from where you are staying. Both are open for lunch during the week, which costs less than dinner, and Frontera Grill is open for brunch on Saturdays. Frontera Grill does not accept reservations, so it helps to arrive when they open the doors. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants Another good choice in Old Town, not too far away, is Salpicon. www.salpicon.com
Please don't waste your time in Chicago on national chains like Ruby Tuesday's or Cheesecake Factory, when there is so much great food you can get in Chicago and nowhere else. Oh, and if you're looking for a local place for burgers while you're here, two places with locations near the downtown hotel areas are Boston Blackie's ( www.bostonblackies.com ) and the Billy Goat ( www.billygoattavern.com ).
Wow, thanks for the great advice. Yes, we only have 6 days in Chicago and want to make the right choices. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder was recommended by Rachael Ray on her Tasty Travels show on Food TV.
I have printed off your reply and will most definitely add it to our agenda. Thanks again for the valuable info. I had no idea and glad I checked here. You're right, not knowing what's a tourist trap and what's authentic would have dampered our trip!!!
Can't believe Boston Blackies and Bill Goat Tavern are on the same street as our hotel (East Grand Ave)!!
The Mexican sites look great, but can you think of something less upscale, less expensive?
Would appreciate it (again).
re: red dragon
Never trust Rachael Ray, and not far behind her I would say never trust an Emeril recipe!
I will say, the pizza recs above are all safe.
I strongly disagree that Frontera grill is even remotely representative of Chicago Mexican, it's yet another celebrity chefs interpretation of Mexican cooking, although a nice place, it's hugely expensive for what you get. You'd be better served by delving into Chicago's Pilsen or Little Village neighborhoods for the"real thing". Don't be afraid to wander, the city is much more that the touristy, expensive and often inferior offering you get Downtown.
And as to burgers; The Billy Goat is an AWFUL recommendation! And if anything it most epitomizes a Chicago tourist trap! Greasy horrible burgers from a place whose sole appeal is that the guys behind the counter yell "cheezborger, cheezborger" like in the Saturday Night Live sitcom skit from back in the 70's, it's played out and the smell of the fowl grease trap wafting up from Lower Michigan ave is the only lasting impression that place has ever left upon me. Go with the Blackies rec or even better Miller Pub & Hackneys for burgers.
Skip Billy Goat, Blackies, and Hackneys for burgers all of them are pretty bad. Miller Pub is a very good rec..
Or a bit further away Kumas Corner, if you can take the heavy metal music, has great beer, and very good burgers.
2900 W. Belmont
enjoy your visit.
re: red dragon
Since you're on East Grand, you should also be aware of Fox and Obel, which is nearby. It's an upscale gourmet food market with the best quality of everything. As an out-of-town visitor, you might want to drop by just to see it. Also, the cafe in the rear has a nice menu, basic coffeehouse ambience - nothing special there, they serve all three meals so it's not a bad pick for a breakfast or lunch. www.fox-obel.com
>> The Mexican sites look great, but can you think of something less upscale, less expensive?
Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are considerably less expensive if you go there for lunch rather than dinner, so that would be my top recommendation for spending less. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo were revolutionary in bringing provincial Mexican food to the United States, which is why Chef/Owner Rick Bayless won the equivalent of the "life achievement award" in last year's James Beard Awards. "Alumni" chefs from his restaurants have gone on to establish many of the best Mexican restaurants in the Chicago area. The food there is still delicious and unique, one important part of our vast array of creative Mexican restaurants. There are quite a few Chowhound topics about Frontera/Topolobampo, including:
I don't know of any cheap, good Mexican places in the downtown area. You can go down to Pilsen (CTA Pink Line to 18th Street) but what you're likely to get is very conventional Mexican food like what you can get anywhere in the country, rather than the much more creative regional fare you'll find at Frontera/Topo and Salpicon (and some other places which are geographically inconvenient to downtown, like Flamingo's, Xni-Pec, etc). Since you're visiting Chicago, you really ought to take advantage of the creative Mexican cuisine you can find here and few places outside of Mexico, instead of the same enchiladas and tacos that you can find in any city in the country. For more information on our best, most creative Mexican restaurants, see www.chowhound.com/topics/463572
re: red dragon
Sounds like you're gonna be here Sunday morning. Hop on the redline south at Grand/State, get off at Roosevelt, walk west about a 1/4 mile and you'll find this (if redline south isn't functioning, try the #3 southbound on Michigan or #29 on State, which also goes to Roosevelt:
The CTA Red Line will be re-routed on the elevated tracks this coming weekend throughout the downtown area, so you'll need to catch it at the elevated stations, not the subway stations, and you can expect trips to take longer than usual. (edited - thanks Beverator!) www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi...
It's the type of place that us "locals" who work nearby go a drink or two at happy hour or to play pool only. IMO, after eating here you will surely have hit "Rock Bottom"!
I'm glad you checked in with us first too! it's no problem fro us to save you from the many mistakes that have been allowed to fester in the Chicago food scene.
I went there..once. It was paid for by someone else. Hmm so let's see.. free food, a year ago, and I haven't been back. If someone else was paying again, I would soul search a little bit before deciding to go or not. OOH wait. wait. As my mother told me countless times..if you can't say anything good...
The house brewed root beer was pretty good. A little sweet, but pretty good.
Sadly, this post was 100% truthfull. You may think it is sarcasm, but it is not.
I had a rueben sammich with corned beef that was borderline carl buddig pressed meat, and a sharp cheddar cheese that ruined it all. It was decent cheese, but it was one of those that should not be melted becuase it gets more knotty than stringy. The fries were 20% potato, and 80% salt, and the cost was pretty much 10.00 for the sammich alone.
I'm glad you checked here before heading to Rock Bottom!! It's definitely not representative of the good food that Chicago is well-known for. Is it ethnic you're looking for, casual or upscale, and what area of Chicago? We'll get you headed in the right direction for a memorable culinary visit to Chicago!
No. "Locals" do not go to Rock Bottom. Sheesh. Out of all the hundreds of places locals frequent, Rock Bottom is definitely NOT among them. Nothing necessarily against Rock Bottom, but 1. it's a chain 2. it's not representative of Chicago.
Imagine replacing Rock Bottom "where locals go" with TGI Fridays..."where locals go."