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May 24, 2008 03:24 PM

Chicago food review (including deep dish pizza)

Hi everyone! I promised to come back and post a review, so here it is, although quite long!

We loved Chicago! Other than a 10 hour flight delay, it was perfect! Our tastes are not as refined as some others, and we prefer casual/casual fine dining, so I hope our review is helpful. Thanks to everyone who gave us such great advice and tips. We wish we had more time to try a few more places that we couldn’t make it to.

Uno's - We had so many choices, but stuck to restaurants close to our downtown hotel, due to a foot injury. Well, I've never had deep dish pizza, and I'm not an expert, so here's our opinion. It was good, not great. We had a 6" sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, onion and mushroom, and yes, we finished it between the two of us (or should I say my husband did). I found the crust had way too much cornmeal for our taste and was too crunchy. Surprisingly, it was not greasy! I'm not sure if all Uno's are the same way, but we had to order first, wait 30 minutes, get shown to our table, and then wait another 30 minutes. It was a Saturday around 3:30, but still had a line-up. We know that deep dish pizzas take about 45 minutes to bake, but I guess we were starving at the time …lol

Chipotle Grill - Loved the guac and chips (great price for $2). Burritos were good! Great price, very clean and well ventilated.

Boston Blackies - Burgers were good, not great. Service was okay.

Lou Malnati’s on North Wells Street. Found the pizza to be the greasiest of the three places we tried. Crust was ok. It turns up a bit thin towards the top edges. Service was horrendous. Won’t return if we’re in Chicago again.

Honey 1 BBQ. This was after the Lincoln Zoo, so we got lost a few times. It seemed to be quite a trek, but could be because we were lost. We know true BBQ is smoked and not the typical BBQ that is boiled or steamed, so knowing this, we gave it a try and have to say (don’t shoot me down here ok?), we didn’t like it. It was dry and chewy, but again, this true type of BBQ is not what we’re used to, and we weren’t that fond of it.

We really wanted to go to Smoque to try the brisket and chicken, but ran out of time, as we wanted to try one more pizza place.

Burrito Beach off Michigan Ave: Service was very rushed and a bit rude. Good part was we both received free burritos for taking part in a very short survey. Burritos were good, can’t complain when it’s free.

Fox & Obel: Bought some take-out items here. They have a lot of gourmet/high end items, similar to Whole Foods Market in Toronto (thanks nxstasy for the suggestion – we never made it to Heaven on Seven (which was so close to our hotel) or Kitsch’n; it was a bit out of our way for our tight schedule).

Back to Chipotle Grill – yes we loved it that much!

Giardano’s on Rush Street. Their pizzas don’t come in a 6”, but they do have individual pizzas for lunch. We ordered the 10” with sausage, green peppers, onion and mushrooms. It was the BEST pizza out of the three we had. I did find there was not much sausage on our pizza though, not sure if it was just a fluke, but I found myself digging for the sausage and coming up empty most times! Yes, we finished even the 10” (or my husband did). The crust was the most delicious pizza crust we’ve ever had. I found myself picking at the crust even after I was full. I can’t describe the taste – buttery, slightly crunchy, a bit flaky, like a crispy tea biscuit, hard to say … but it was very tasty. In all the 3 pizzas we’ve had, we found Giardano’s to be the best!

Weber Grill on State Street – pretzel bread (complimentary) with cheddar spread is addictive! We loved it so much! Seemed to be a mix of white and dark (perhaps rye or pumpernickel). We had the BBQ chicken and Brisket. Chicken was extremely tender, same with the brisket. Portions are in our opinion, small for dinner. Corn bread is great. BBQ sauce and beans are too sweet. I wouldn’t say the brisket is the best I’ve had, but it was a great experience and last night dinner.

We bought some things from the Corner Bakery Café. They were ok, nothing to write home about. Since we were stuck at O’Hare for about 12 hours total, we bought a few things from the airport location. We also ended up eating at Burrito Beach (again) at O’Hare.

We really miss the deep dish pizza the most and will never eat Toronto pizza with the same enthusiasm again.

Not related to this food forum, but to explain how much we enjoyed Chicago, the highlights for us were the Zoo and The Blue Man Group. I got pulled on stage for their act and it was a thrill!!!

Edited to explain pictures:
1. Uno's
2. Chipotle Grill
3. Honey 1 BBQ
4. Giardano's

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  1. "Chipotle Grill – yes we loved it that much"
    The chain owned by, or formerly owned by, McDonald's?!! The one were they stuff burritos with rice?!! Say it ain't so.
    I haven't been to Chicago in years, but is there a separate restaurant called Chipotle?

    BTW, the only "real" Uno & Due's are located around Ohio and Ontario. All the other Uno's in Chicago and all other states are pathetic places run by a chain in Boston.

    8 Replies
    1. re: The Old Man

      I don't know who owns Chipotle Grill. Keep in mind this is an open forum and what one person thinks is great, another might not think so. I posted my "own" comments and opinions and we loved the food that we had!!

      1. re: red dragon

        Thank you for your trip report! It is always nice to hear back from visitors! It sounds like you had a good culinary experience and I hope you come back again to our fair city!

        1. re: lbs

          Hi lbs,
          Thanks, it's nice to know my time and efforts are appreciated.

          I can't wait to return to Chicago, and hopefully will have more time to try the numerous great restaurants that I didn't get to!!

        2. re: red dragon

          I was just trying to determine--since I haven't been there in years--if there was a new restaurant named Chipotle or if you were talking about that (IMHO) godawful, non-authentic, Mexican chain.

          1. re: The Old Man

            Chipotle Grill named by the OP is the chain that you think it is.

            I don't think there is a chain version of Unos outside the suburbs and certainly not in the downtown area so the OP probably went to the original Unos and just didn't like it.

            You or I or others might not agree with the OP's preferences, but s/he is entitled to them. I am delighted that Red Dragon enjoyed visiting Chicago and found restaurants that pleased him/her.

            We're all where we are in terms of background, expectations, experiences and all growing and learning from our own experiences and that's the fun of being a chowhound..

            1. re: chicgail

              Hi chicgail,
              Thank you for your post! I couldn't have worded it better!!!

              "You or I or others might not agree with the OP's preferences, but s/he is entitled to them. I am delighted that Red Dragon enjoyed visiting Chicago and found restaurants that pleased him/her.

              We're all where we are in terms of background, expectations, experiences and all growing and learning from our own experiences and that's the fun of being a chowhound"

            2. re: The Old Man

              McDonalds does not own Chipotle any longer...been a few years, at least. Chipotle falls into the "Fresh-Mex" category with others, such as Moe's, Baja Fresh, Rubio's. Interestingly, Baja Fresh used to be owned by Wendy's...maybe still.

              While I'd much rather eat at Frontera Grill than Chipotle and can hardly believe I'm mentioning them in the same sentence, Chipotle should be applauded for their sustainable business practices. A quick google search will yield many news articles about the great lengths they go to use sustainably raised meat and other such things. This, in and of itself, promted me to come to their defense in this thread.

              1. re: harken banks

                Agreed, that while Chipotle is a now a huge national fast food chain, it is quite good for that level of eating. A word of warning is that the burrito is HUGELY fattening. Try a salad bowl (or burrito bowl) without the sour cream or cheese and it's not too bad health-wise.

                b/t/w love the screen name harken--it's so rare to find another Hot Dog fan out there.

        3. Red Dragon,
          Seems to me that you ended up doing a bit more of a fast food tour that what I thought you might end up doing, especially given the recs on your previous thread. At any rate, I'm glad you enjoyed yourself in our city! Hope you can come back and give us a 2nd shot at hitting you up with what many of us feel is "the better stuff" on your next go-around.

          Uno's - 6" lunch personal pan pizzas are really never going to be anyone’s best rendition of a deep dish pizza since it does not have the density of the 10" or 12". But Uno’s is still pretty good and fine examples of the “Original” as long as you don’t with any of the other Uno's Chicago Grill versions of the restaurant anywhere else in the word.

          Chipotle Grill – it’s a national chain out of Colorado, and IMO: garbage. I’m sorry you ended up here for Mexican food given the abundance of so many great and authentic Mexican food restaurants in Chicago. Strictly speaking, this place is a anomaly in the food world, here’s what’s odd; a Denver chef travels to San Francisco and understandably falls in love with Mission style burritos. He then goes back to Denver and opens his first several Chipotles and they are of course a hit, in spite of the fact that Denver has its own wonderful and unique Southwest style green chile smothered burritos. Then they get picked up by McDonalds, and in the end both Denver & San Francisco lost out on the chance to introduce the world to their best food products! It’s like seeing the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich being introduced to us from a chain in El Paso Texas! Its just not right! But what do I know? The line for every Chipotle goes all the way out to the street at lunch hour, living proof that those who suffer with bad taste also have mob mentality.

          Which brings me to the next horrible food selection: Burrito Beach; If taco bell and chipotle spawned an illegitimate child it would be birthed on a Burrito Beach counter. It is by FAR, one of the worst burrito places in the city. And the bad service there is legendary, not that expectation are very high at fast food counters and burrito places but the service from these guys is exceedingly bad.

          I understand you stated foot & travel limitations, but you should know that Downtown Chicago has some of the most pathetic showings for Mexican cuisine in the entire city! So for future reference; La Bamba would have probably served you better as a fast food/cheap Mexican fast food option, otherwise, please venture out into the city on your next visit for thousands of much better options.

          Boston Blackies – I agree with you, good but not great.

          Lou Malnati’s – I’ve never been a fan, and I think they have the most god awful sausage in the pizza business.

          Honey 1 BBQ. – I have this place is on my shit list from the last time I went there and had pork rib jerky, I will not be back and I do cringe every time I see it mentioned here, or see it featured in Chicago food shows or papers as being the be-all of Chicago BBQ, next to Carson’s and Twin Anchor its one of the most disappointing places to eat. “We really wanted to go to Smoque", after reading your one and only BBQ experience I wish more than ever you had, hopefully next time.

          Fox & Obel- Eh, its OK, it’s still just a grocery store with high class offerings. I used to go for lunch on occasion and always thought it was seriously overpriced for what you get.

          Giardano’s – Giordano’s – Very good stuffed pizza; tasty sauce, wonderful sausage but I hate the side crust. Bella Bacino's is a better version of the same style, again one for the next trip perhaps.

          Weber Grill – Not nearly the food experience it used be. When It first started in Wheeling it was a wonderful place, now it’s become nothing more than chain restaurant in the making. It’s Ok if you don’t any other options I suppose.

          Corner Bakery Café- just another “so what” fast food sandwich place, not much to say about them except even in Downtown there are many better options.

          At any rate taste and preference aside I'm glad you came here and are willing to come back. Hopefully this trip was a mere "Taste" of the broad offering this major food city has to offer.

          6 Replies
          1. re: abf005

            comprehensive post abf, well done,

            I agree, it is sad they had to go to Chipotle, and Burrito Beach as their "mexican" food experience for Chicago when there is probably hundreds of better options.

            As a side note to a post upthread & Chipotle's green gimmick, I dont care if Chipotle raised their own chickens & pigs, etc, and let them live indoors, the food is terrible, and a place much like their previous owners McDonalds I will never return.

            1. re: swsidejim

              Just an FYI, we didn't "have" to go to Chipotle or Burrito Beach, we chose to go.

              I agree there are tons of better mexican foods in Chicago, and perhaps we'll try them out on our next visit.

            2. re: abf005

              Uno's--I thought that was true about the 6" but I've been out of the city for so long I forgot--yes, you must order a regular size pizza.

              Chipotle--my thoughts again exactly, on this post and on the Northbrook post some people, while visiting one of the best restaurant cities in the US, wound up at chains. I think they really missed out.

              BTW I use to love El Famous Burritos on Clark--now I see they have 19 locations! Any good?

              Honey 1 BBQ--I didn't think you were allowed to use the word sh_t on Chowhound. Anyways I always like Calo's on Clark for ribs--should I duck?

              I hate to mention this but Blue Man Group is a chain also.

              1. re: The Old Man

                Here is one of my recent reviews of El Famous with pictures:


                A point I was trying to illustrate to the OP is that even given the desire to eat primarily “cheap eats” while in this city. As noted above; the attempt to hit 3 of the top rated deep dish pizza places was defiantly a great start!

                Chicago is home to so many “unique” and “only found here” types of "fast foods", and that simply going to any of the national chains instead is to really “miss out” on the true essence of Chicago cuisine and all of its various facets.

                In fact, one could call Chicago fast food a whole genre of fast food unto itself. It would be a broad genre that would undeniably include: Pizza (cracker thin, thin, deep, stuffed & pan,) Italian beef & sausages, Chicago style hot dogs, corn roll tamales, Maxwell St. style Polishes & pork chop sandwiches, breaded steak sandwiches, deep fried breaded shrimp, and gyros. Which are all are unique eats to our city, and have never quite been duplicated anywhere else and BTW all invented here as well.

                And that’s in addition to the many great Italian sandwich delis that have great hero’s/subs and the literally 1,000's of Taquerias (be they called "greasy" or whatever to most novice pallets... In other words, there is still much left to see for the OP.

                1. re: abf005

                  Thanks for the info--I can't believe they became a chain.

              2. re: abf005

                Hi abf005:

                You know, for all the planning and research that we did, not everything always goes as planned. We got pulled in different directions and at times, chose what was close by or convenient, or what we felt like at the moment.

                I had a list of all the restaurants to try - but so many and so little time, and what the heck, we were on vacation and not to be dictated by my numerous lists

                Yes, we will definitely try the more refined and noted referrals on our next visit, as this barely made a dent in what Chicago has to offer!!!

                Forgot to mention, but we were not pleased with Burrito Beach, we were just steps away and hungry and had no idea what it would be like. Horrible service to boot, but we can't complain as we received free coupons for any entree, so I'm glad we didn't pay for what we had. Others might like it though, the place is jammed packed with the office crowd, from what we saw.

              3. Wow. You've been getting some kneejerk replies(not that I necessarily disagree with many of them). You stated on your earlier thread that you were in the market for easily-accessible, "affordable," mainstream eats. Kudos for trying a plethora of Chicago deep dish pizzas. As others opine, any "lunch-size" pie isn't the way to go at any of these places. I'm sorry you got suckered in by Chipotle and Burrito Beach(I've never patronized a BB, but with a name like that...feh). Honey 1 has a huge following and you are correct that it is the antithesis of Chicago-esque and corporate-style meat jello.

                Well...there's always a future visit, right?

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