If you had two days to cram in all of Chicago, where would you eat?
My partner in crime and I are headed to Chicago in August and it may be the only time we get to visit. We have two days (a Saturday and Sunday/Mon morn) and would love to experience some of the culinary ecstasy Chicago can offer. Hot Doug's is already at the top of our list, but we're wondering what the locals would suggest? We're staying north of the Loop, and would definitely like to experience deep dish. I'm also wondering if Topolobampo is worth the hype? I'm a foodie on all levels, but Mexican rocks my world. Any help would be fantastic!!
Forget Topolobampo. If you're going to spend a lot of money, go to Tru. The food is phenominal -- innovative yet classic. The service is like synchronized swimming. Many may disagreed, but I enjoyed it more than the French Laundry or Alinea.
If you want truly great Mexican food, go to Maiz in Humboldt Park. They make their own corn tortillas. The food is fantastic, authentic and inexpensive -- sort of like Mexican tapas. My husband absolutely loves the huitlacoche (corn smut) -- which I have never seen elsewhere. They also have only a very small bar selection, but great, fresh margaritas. Maiz does not have a website, but you can read reviews on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/maiz-anojitos-y-bebidas-chicago.
They only take cash and are not open for lunch. Another plus -- the owner, Carlos, is just a great guy.
If you can get a dinner reservation at Schwa, you should try. Depending on how soon you're coming, you may not be able to. It's a very small place. www.schwarestaurant.com
If you can stick around for lunch on Monday, you must have lunch at Blackbird. Order the porkbelly sandwhich. Your life will never be the same. Trust me. www.blackbirdrestaurant.com/lunch.php
I've been in Chicago for five years, and authentic deep dish is great, but don't waste your time on it if you're only here for a couple of days. There are so many more unique and wonderful things to try.
If Mexican food rocks your world, I'd look into:
Sol De Mexico, Fonda Del Mar, Taqueria La Oaxaquena, and Frontera Grill before Topolobampo. Topo is not bad in any way, but I think you get better value at many other places in Chicago. For simple taqueria fare, I'd work in a trip to Las Asadas, La Pasadita, or El Asadero. For some really good homestyle cooking in a cafeteria style setting (GO EARLY FOR BEST SELECTION OF TAMALES) try La Casa Del Pueblo, or El Milagro which are within a block or two of each other. There are MANY other choices for Mexican food, and everybody has their own opinions, these are just mine, a few others on this board might agree, some would not.
Ok. Next. I would aso try my darndest to get a beef sammich in. I'm not big on hot dogs, or sausages, so Hot Doug's would not be a "must stop" for me at all. My favorite beef sammich in the city is at Tore's on the corner of Elston, Diversey, and Western. you can also get a true chicago style dog here if that's what you are looking for. Search for Italian Beef, and you will find a whole bunch of suggestions.
I would also try to work in a pizza if I was from an area that lacked good pizza (which is a WHOLE LOT of places in this world, but I'm certainly spoiled.) My first choice would be thin crust, but outside of Chicago, most people think of Chicago as being the place to get stuffed pizza. Search is your friend here too.
Thai food at Tac Quick for me.
Then Indian Food. More than likely, I would go to Khan Bbq on Western and Devon. Again, opinions vary on Indian food - there are quite a few places.
All of the places above are either casula, or extremely casual, but IMO, they all offer a very good value with the exception of Frontera which is still good, but it runs a tad high, but it's also a touristy kind of experience. I do like Frontera a lot, but I'd go with other places first for my money as I noted above. You might really wanna try Frontera for the experience.
Surely there are a slew of more refined places than what I've listed, but If I only had a few days, I'd really try to work in the stuff I've listed. Again, just my opinions. Good luck!