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Quintessentially Chicago restaurants?

copydoc Sep 29, 2008 03:30 PM

I'll be coming to town for a conference Nov. 7-9 and am looking for suggestions on quintessentially Chicago restaurants – a Top 10 list of "not to be missed" spots for those interested in soaking up some local flavor. Could be any cuisine or price range. What do you recommend?

  1. abf005 Oct 3, 2008 08:39 AM

    When I think of the phrase "Quintessentially Chicago" I would not assume it is a request for what is the "best" or my "favorite" I believe it to mean what "Style of foods are unique to this area. Such as what was invented here, has a disproportionate following or only exists here in the area. That being the case my answer to the OP is this:

    Chicago is best known for some the following food items, (there are many more):

    Deep dish pizza (also stuffed & pan)
    Thin crust
    Chicago style hot dogs
    Maxwell St. Polish sausage
    Italian beef sandwiches
    Breaded steak sandwiches
    Shrimp De Jonge

    A Few of the "Quintessentially" Chicago neighborhoods:
    The little village & Pilson with its numerous Mexican taquerias & restaurants
    The Devon bizarre - the 3nd largest Indian area in the world outside of India
    Greek town
    Taylor Street (which is less Italian these days, but more of restaurant row)

    Yes, there are MANY upscale and individually unique restaurants to list, but IMO they don't really fall into the category being quintessential

    1. t
      tyv Oct 1, 2008 12:09 PM

      low and high:

      Jimmys Red Hots
      Gene and Georgetti

      7 Replies
      1. re: tyv
        chicgail Oct 1, 2008 08:54 PM

        I understand the concept of hot dogs and steaks, but for a city with the culinary depth and breadth of Chicago, that response is terribly limited. I don't even particularly like the choices.

        Some thoughts that are by no means exhaustive:
        Unos or Dues: the originators (1940's) of Chicago-style thick crust pizza
        Hot Dougs for the best hot dogs and the most unusual and excellent sausages.
        Nuevo Leon for authentic down home Mexican
        Toplolobampo and Frontera Grill for upscale Mexican
        Spoon or TAC for authentic Thai
        Lao Tse Chuan or Moon Palace in Chinatown
        Half Shell for seafood (not great food, but quintessential enough)
        Spring or Green Zebra for Shawn McLean's offerings
        Blackie's or Hackneys or Ubba Tap for burgers
        Alinea for molecular gastronomy
        Blackbird, Tru, North Pond, Everest, Charlie Trotters for fine dining

        and that's just a pretty good start. I'll leave it to others to fill in the plenty I've overlooked.

        1. re: chicgail
          chicgail Oct 2, 2008 11:16 AM

          Just for clairfication for myself, I'm not sure what the OP means by quintessentially Chicago and "soaking up local flavor ".

          The city is too big, too old and too culturally rich to go in just one direction. Here are some of the things I think of:
          1. Old school Chicago which brings to mind dearly departed restaurants of yesteryear like the Berghoff or Fritzel's and the ones that still exist like Unos..
          2. Stuff around Chicago institutions like bars and burger joints around Wrigley
          3. Some of the strong ethnic cuisines in Chicago like Mexican or Thai
          4. Uniquely Chicago contributions to the food scene like Alinea or Tru.

          So if I responded too quickly or inappropriately, I apologize, and any clarification would be welcome.

          1. re: chicgail
            rubinow Oct 2, 2008 12:53 PM

            I think the OP needs to look on this board a little more closely and narrow it down or at least make a more informed question. Any cuisine?!?! Any style?!?!? From the thousands of restaurants we have to choose from?!?! This entire board is made up of recommendations for quintessential Chicago.

            1. re: rubinow
              otis738 Oct 2, 2008 03:37 PM

              Ditka's or Harry Carey's. Big, boisterous. Lots of sports and media types, and lots of visitors. Very good food in both spots. Italian/carnivore. Lots of chicago ambience.

              Spiaggia for the unrivaled view. Signature room for cordials.

              1. re: rubinow
                copydoc Oct 3, 2008 08:36 AM

                I know there are thousands of possibilities to choose from in Chicago. I'm trying to put together a list of ideas for fellow conferees, so the field is wide open and I purposefully avoided specifying a particular cuisine, style or price range.

                Perhaps a better question to the board would be this: without regard to cuisine or price, what are your top ten personal favorite places to eat in Chicago? Chicgail offered some good choices – I'd be interested to see yours.


                1. re: copydoc
                  nsxtasy Oct 7, 2008 10:20 AM

                  The list put together by chicgail is a darn good one.

                  One thing you may want to consider is location. I assume your conference is based somewhere in the downtown area (in/around the Loop or North Michigan Avenue). Not that you can't travel anywhere in the city or suburbs, but a nearby location is a major convenience factor, particularly when you're part of a group. And there are enough places close to downtown that you really don't need to travel far to enjoy some of our finest.

                  Here are my favorites, with preference given to places in or close to downtown:

                  Fine dining - Everest
                  Casual fine dining / contemporary American (for the food) - one sixtyblue (note recent change in chefs), Aigre Doux
                  Casual fine dining / contemporary American (for the setting) - North Pond
                  Asian fusion - Red Light or Aria
                  Mexican - Topolobampo or Salpicon
                  Italian - Cafe Spiaggia or Vivere
                  Pizza - Giordano's (stuffed deep-dish pizza)
                  Seafood - Shaw's Crab House
                  Burgers - Boston Blackie's
                  Sunday brunch - Between
                  Breakfast during the week - Bongo Room

                  1. re: nsxtasy
                    copydoc Oct 7, 2008 11:58 AM

                    Thanks, nsxtasy – I'll check these out, as well as the ones chicgail recommended earlier.

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