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Student Moving to Chicago from New York

Hey all. I will be moving to Chicago this coming fall to attend UIC as a grad student. As a way to distract myself from other things I should be nervous about, I have been focusing on questions about food that I might encounter.

What should I know about Chicago food (in the grad student price range---that is, as close to free as possible) and what should I expect? Will I be starved for a real bagel? Should I reconcile myself to Chicago style pizza, and just accept it as a different, but legitimate, school of pizza thought, in spite of my native pizza sensibilities? What can I look forward to?

I know it's a broad question, but any thing to get me in tune would be very welcome.

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  1. Don't worry, no one is going to hold you down and force you to eat deep dish pizza. In fact, the vast majority of pizzas sold in Chicago are of the thin crust variety. Chicago thin style is a sturdy cracker-like crust with toppings out to the edge and is generally cun in to squares, but if you're jonesing for some east coast style pizza Coalfire is only a mile or so north of the UIC campus or you could head further north to Piece or Spacca Napoli. A lot of people seem to have a distorted view of the food scene in Chicago. It isn't all about sassages, beefs and deep dish pizza. I think you will be VERY pleasantly surprised when you get here and can experience all this city has to offer first hand.

    1. Chicago is pretty diverse in its cuisine. Much like NYC, each ethnic neighborhood has it's holes in the wall and it's fancy shmancy places and everything in between. Go to Pilsen for cheap, but good hispanic fare. Try an eating tour of Chicago -- there's Koreatown, Chinatown, Ukrainian Village, Greektown, Little Italy, etc. Yum!!

      1. Agreed with the others, we have a great dining scene--even on the cheap end.

        You will, however, pine for a good bagel and a slice that is foldible (brooklyn roots and did my grad school at NYU). That being said we have the following that will help take you to home:

        NYC Bagel on North Ave and Sheffield (lincoln park)
        The Bagel -- it's almost a good NY-style deli, but they do have good bagels (lakeview)
        Brueggers is reopening in Chicago soon. OK, I know I will get disagreement here, but they are the only national chain (of which I am aware) that boils then bakes.

        For pizza, it's almost impossible to get thin crust that doesn't crunch when you eat it. That being said, Luigi's Pizza on Clark between Fullterton and Diversey (lincoln park) gets pretty close to my old fav, Bens.

        Coalfire is really good--more New England than NY--but if you've had Arturo's in the Village it's pretty close.

        1. Piece is New Haven style (I think). Coalfire and Spacca Napoli are truer Italian-style wood-burning oven pizza places. In other words, they're not NY-style pizza places. They're all good, though.

          Santullo's is close to NY-style pizza. They have big, foldable pieces by the slice. None of those other places do.

          I also suggest Pizza Metro. I can't define it. Can anybody else define it?

          There are some other threads on this board about NYC pizza, too.

          IMO, GOOD bagels are tough to come by unless you venture northward. NYC Bagel, mentioned on this thread, is pretty good, though.

          1943 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

          pizza metro
          1707 W Division St Ste 1, Chicago, IL 60622

          1. As someone who grew up in Chicago but went to school at NYU and worked there for a year after I graduated, I know the best of both worlds. The only thing is that I'm less knowledgeable about a ton of specific places in Chicago since I didn't REALLY become a foodie until I was at NYU as an undergrad.

            But I can tell you that you can DEFINITELY look forward to awesome ethnic food here in Chicago. Interestingly, the cuisines Chicago does best in are ones that really suck in NYC, such as Thai and Mexican. Those are two cuisines that you should definitely make the most of while you're here because there's nothing like it in NY with the exception of Sripraphai. You'll also find all sorts of regional Mexican food which is extremely difficult to come by in NY. There's also more Vietnamese food here than there is in NY.

            I'm not sure what the general consensus is on Indian food in Chicago vs. NY, but I've personally had better and more authentic experiences here in Chicago. One place my family and I have been going to for a long time is Hema's Kitchen on Devon and Oakley.

            You'll find that most Chicagoans don't eat deep dish pizza on a regular basis in the way that New Yorkers eat NY pizza. Most will eat thin crust, but it's different than NY thin crust. But I do think trying Chicago's best deep dish is worth a shot because you can't find it anywhere in NY with the exception of the Chicago Uno's chain (quite different than the original Uno's in downtown Chicago) which has to be the most awful deep dish pizza I've ever tried. Lou Malnati's is my personal favorite, but everyone has their own opinions.

            1. Yep, some great recs here!
              Actually, as far as Indian goes, I'm not sure that there is anything quite like the Devon Avenue Indian/Pakistani town in all of America, New York Included. There are easily 100-150 Indo-Pak restaurants along Devon avenue. A beautiful scene it is!!! Don't forget to browse through the fascinating shops.
              Hema's on Devon or at Clark and Fullerton in Lincoln Park are great! My absolute favorite is Viceroy of India on Devon. The buffet is great!
              More cheap eats:
              Middle Eastern:
              Babylon on Damen just north of Clark. Outstanding chicken or beef shawerma and much more! Love it!!!
              Semiriyanis on Kedzie in Albany Park for Lebanese
              Noon-O-Kabob on Kedzie in Albany Park for the best Persian in the city.
              Reza's for very good Persian cuisine. Fantastic brunch and lunch buffet!! West Ontario Avenue downtown.
              Kan Zaman for great Lebanese on Wells street downtown.
              UIC AREA:
              Greektown (just north of campus): Greek Islands is awesome and cheap cheap!!
              Tufano's Vernon Park Tap. Great old school mom and pop Italian at dirt cheap prices. Cash Only.
              Pancho Pistolas at 700 W. 31st Street for the best carne asada in town. Tasty Cheap cheap Mexican in a clean urban storefront. Fun local crowd. The Margaritas suck :(
              Bobaks or Gilmarts on south Archer Avenue for top notch Polish buffet. Also check out the amazing grocery & butcher shop at Bobaks.
              In case you didn't have enough of them in NY, we have a some great Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Columbian restaurants!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: amoncada

                Has Bobak's reopened their buffet? It was closed in February according to a post by Rene G on LTHForum: http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                1. re: Eldon Kreider

                  Hmm, I was not aware of the buffet closure at Bobak's. Gilmarts has a great selection as well...and even tastier I say.

              2. Do you know yet where you will be living?

                Near UIC, try an Italian beef with hot peppers at Al's (the original one on Taylor, not the franchises which reportedly are terrible), or at the Patio further west on Taylor. From May 1 to mid-September you can follow the sandwich at Al's with an Italian "lemonade" (=ice) at Mario's across the street.

                Conte di Savoia, on Taylor between Bishop and Laflin, is an excellent Italian deli. It's worth the walk to get a sandwich made here rather than at one of the chains (Jimmy Johns, Subway, Potbelly) around campus.

                I definitely second Pilsen for Mexican food. Do a search here also for reports on the food at the Maxwell St Market, held Sunday mornings on Canal north and south of Roosevelt.

                The bagel situation here is fairly grim, unless you can get someone to drive you up to NY Bagel and Bialy on Touhy in Lincolnwood (open 24/7). But you are not far from Manny's, for pastrami and corned beef in a bare bones cafeteria atmosphere.

                Al's Beef
                1079 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607

                Patio Restaurant
                1503 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607

                New York Bagel & Bialy
                4714 W Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood, IL

                Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli
                1141 S Jefferson St., Chicago, IL 60607

                Conte Di Savoia European Spec
                1438 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607

                4 Replies
                1. re: Amata

                  I am not sure yet, but one of three places: on the UIC campus, in McKinley Park, or in Uptown. I am hoping for Uptown as it seems like an interesting neighborhood and I understand there are tons of cheap Vietnamese and Ghanaian restaurants nearby.

                  I'm getting hungry!

                  1. re: downpressor

                    Not to go off topic, but . . .
                    you may want to reconsider your move to Uptown as you will have a really long commute to school--at least 35 minutes on a couple of trains if they're on time or maybe more by car. Chicago transit, while good is no where near NYC. Since the condo market is a little soft, you may be able to rent in West Loop or South Loop and be very close and there are bunches of great restaurants in both areas.

                    1. re: jbontario

                      i appreciate the advice. i know it's abit of the ways from uic, but theres also circumstances which will have me in the northern suburbs at times as well. that plus a really good housing opportunity in uptown makes it pretty enticing for me.

                  2. re: Amata

                    Oh yeah, we can't forget Manny's....hmmmmm, the roast beef, pastrami, and corned beef sandwiches are tops in Chicago!!! The matzo ball soup is quite tasty as well.

                    I grew up going to the original Conte Di Savoia in the strip mall next to Morris and Son's, man was it head and shoulders above the current one...no comparison really. Although, the one is more of a cafe and the old place more of a Italian specialty food and spice store....on of the best in the city back in the day!

                  3. Sidebar to downpressor: love your screen name! A great reggae song, nicely revived by Sinead O'Connor.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Having grown up in the East, I can say that, if you are a fan of NY or east coast pizza, you probably will be disappointed in what you find in Chicago. Ditto as to bagels & Jewish deli food. As Amata said, NY Bagel & Bialy in Lincolnwood is the only place that gets bagels right. (We drop by every few months when we are anywhere in the area, buy a few dozen & freeze them.) Think of this experience like you would if you moved to Paris: you would not go in search of American food, but there would be lots of other excellent food opportunities.

                      The Mexican, Thai, Greek, Italian, Indian, and other cuisines that others have mentioned are all excellent.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: masha

                        I've been told that Treasure Island stocks NY Bagel and Bialy bagels. Does anybody know if that's true? Should I start a new thread?