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Exploring Chicago/Chicago eats by foot

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My ladyfriend and I are going to be exploring Chicago this weekend. Our hotel is in the loop, but we'd like to get away from the city core into some more interesting areas where Chicagoans of all persuasions actually live and eat.

Any suggestions for interesting neighbourhoods to explore with good affordable food options? Places with a lot of energy and a somewhat unique Chicago vibe are what we have in mind.

We wouldn't mind walking upwards of 8-10 miles a day, stopping for a few meals and interesting snacks as we go.

All types of food welcome.

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  1. There are many, many Chicago neighborhoods with affordable food options. Some have a variety of foods: Evanston, Andersonville, Lincoln Square, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Bucktown/Wicker Park, Old Town, as well as the downtown neighborhoods of Gold Coast, Mag Mile, Streeterville, River East, River North, West Loop, Loop, and South Loop. (Yes, you can find cheap eats downtown too! And plenty of Chicagoans do live and eat in all these areas, with the exception of the Loop, where many of us work and eat.) Other neighborhoods have a concentration of a particular ethnicity: Mexican food in Rogers Park and Pilsen, Vietnamese food along Argyle Street near the CTA Red Line stop, Indian/Pakistani food along Devon Avenue between Western and Sacramento, etc. Most of the north side, and much of the northwest side, are overflowing with variety. Since you're willing to walk long distances, you could start in the Loop and just walk the length of one or more of our main commercial streets to the north and northwest - Clark Street or Milwaukee Avenue or Lincoln Avenue - and you'll be exposed to a variety of neighborhoods and foods. Another alternative is to browse this forum and pick up 5-6 specific ideas of places to go, and build your itinerary around those.

    Here are a couple of previous discussions that may help you pick up ideas:

    Best Chicago food neighborhood - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/437740
    Quintessential cheap eats - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/372986

    Enjoy your visit!

    5 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks for your suggestions!

      Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate for extensive walking with the cold and wind.

      Saturday we ended up at Frontera Grill for dinner, and it did not disappoint. Had to try the guacamole, and also had an order of scallop ceviche, choriso quesado (which I had seen called "choriqueso" in D.F.), and an order of their tuna "carnitas". All exceptional.

      On Sunday we were hoping to walk to Pilsen to explore the murals and Mexican shops and restos, but we only made it as far from the loop as the Maxwell Street Market, which blew our minds. Chowed on churros, elote, barbacoa, mole, quesadillas over several hours. Also purchased a few LPs, and some antique jewelry. It's safe to say that there probably isn't another place in the world where you can sit down on a near-freezing day and enjoy that kind of Mexican food off the street. Unfortunately after that much time outside, we were too cold to continue with our walk.

      Sunday night we headed up to Argyle St and ended up at Tank Restaurant on the corner of Argyle and Broadway. Amazing menu. I think we counted something like 247 items. I wished I lived in the area so I could come back a few times a week, as there was so much I wanted to try. Had to settle on a vermicelli bowl with grilled pork, and a pineapple smoothie. Both were excellent), and I'll definitely be playing around with the concept of the vermicelli bowl in my kitchen in the upcoming weeks/months/years. I wanted to get a banh mi to go to carry on for my flight home on Monday, but the kitchen was closed by the time we were leaving.

      I wish I had a longer visit!

      1. re: paulmtl

        Great choices. Glad you enjoyed Chicago despite the chilly weather. Makes me want to do both the Maxwell St. journey and a new visit to Tank.

        Come back next time between May and October and you'll be much more comfortable and do more walking.

        1. re: paulmtl

          good job,

          your stops of Frontera, Maxwell Street Market, and Tank were all good choices. Tank is my favorite restaurant in Chicago right now, & like you mentioned a huge menu, and I have not had a bad item there yet. Next time you have to try the Pho.

          1. re: swsidejim

            A dining companion had some Pho, so I did get to taste it. It was excellent. I can get decent Pho in Pittsburgh at one of the two Vietnamese restaurants in the city, and actually eat it about once a week for lunch, so I wanted to branch out a bit.

            1. re: paulmtl

              it sounds like you did it right . im glad you enjoyed your visit..

      2. My first suggestion would be, as nsxtasy mentioned, the Indian/Pakistani joints, snacks, grocers, restaurants, along Devon Avenue.