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Dec 8, 2008 12:24 AM

Alinea & ???

Hi Chicago hounds,

The Mrs. & I are being sent on a 40th birthday trip to dine at Alinea as a major, major treat (coming from AZ).

Other than that, I really know nothing about what we should focus on while we are there. My only previous trips to the area have been work based in the suburbs where we never got out of the hotel meeting rooms.

Basically, we're wide open as far as recommendations - like everything.

We are looking to stay a bit budget conscious so if there are any cheap, great local dives with amazing food, that's always a bonus.

From looking at the board, I was surprised to see that Mexican & Thai were specialties but we're open. Looks like pizza is a must.

As far as logistics, we fly in Tuesday morning, eat at Alinea Wednesday late & fly back to AZ on Friday afternoon. We're also staying in Lincoln Park at the Belden Stratford & we won't have a car - planning to cab it, hope that's not a bad decision.

I guess I'd ask what are your best cheap recommendations in an expanded area around Lincoln Park.



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  1. Yes, you can get around the city (particularly the north side neighborhoods from Lincoln Park to downtown) easily enough by cab, as well as by public transit (buses and the el, our trains that combine elevated and subway routes). See for transit info. Either way, cab or public transit, you will still need outerwear to deal with our winter weather; you won't be able to avoid it.

    Chicago has a wide variety of cuisines - everything from haute cuisine to cheap eats, ethnic etc - you name it, we have it, and many places do it well.

    I recommend a dinner at North Pond. It's in the middle of Lincoln Park, easily walkable from your hotel, and features a nice view of the park as well as the city skyline rising over the far shore of its namesake pond. Cuisine is contemporary American. Not inexpensive, but a very special place in Chicago.

    L2O is a new high-end seafood restaurant, and it's located right in your hotel, but it's quite pricey (more so than North Pond). Also in your hotel is Mon Ami Gabi, a moderately-priced good French bistro.

    Good places for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza in Lincoln Park include Lou Malnati's at 958 W. Wrightwood for single-crust "pan" pizza, and Bacino's at 2204 N. Lincoln for double-crust "stuffed" pizza. and

    Another moderately-priced option in Lincoln Park is Riccardo Trattoria for Italian food.

    Combining public transportation with less expensive food options, from your hotel, you can walk up Fullerton to catch the Red Line el and take it three stops north to the Sheridan stop, where you'll find TAC Quick for Thai food. Or, you can walk to Fullerton and Halsted to catch the #74 bus and go westbound on Fullerton about four miles to Fonda del Mar for great Mexican food.

    1. Lou Malnati's at Wrightwood/Sheffield/Lincoln would be a very, very short cab ride from where you're staying. And deep dish pizza is nice, but if you really want to hit it out of the park on a budget, head to either Spoon Thai or TAC Quick for Thai food. Of course, if you have time for both, even better. By the way, at Malnati's, make sure to request the butter crust.

      I notice you are a big fan of Lotus of Siam. You can expect to find similar quality food at Spoon Thai and TAC Quick and you owe it to yourself to try one or both. I'm sure you've found references to the Thai language menus at both, and maybe you found a reference to my recent post with some of my favorites. Both are inexpensive . . . just make sure to ask for the translated Thai language menus (at Spoon they usually give it to you when you sit down). My personal favorite is Spoon Thai, but both are easy to get to by the "L" (although TAC would be a shorter cab ride). To get to Spoon by the L, just take the Red Line train to Belmont, then switch to the Brown Line (same platform) and take it 10 minutes to to the Western stop (Spoon is across the street from the station). Both are outstanding, but at both you are well advised to avoid the run-of-the-mill Thai dishes which are no better than what you will find at any Thai restaurant.

      And for Mexican, Fonda del Mar is a great suggestion and although a longish bus ride, it's still easily accessible from where you are staying.

      Cafe Icosium (on Clark just north of Fullerton), is not too long a walk from where you're staying. You can get pretty decent crepes there.

      If you want a Chicago dog (but be prepare to be abused some and you may not be able to sit), Weiner's Circle at 2622 N Clark St (2 blocks north of Fullerton) has excellent dogs, burgers and fries.

      2 Replies
      1. re: BRB

        Here's one more Mexican recommendation, not quite as far as Fonda del Mar. The Real Tenochtitlan is at Fullerton and Milwaukee, which is about a mile closer to Lincoln Park. You can take the #74 bus to get there, too.

        Lou Malnati's is just under a mile from your hotel, and so is the Fullerton el stop - walkable in nice weather, maybe not on a bad winter day. Bacino's is about half a mile, so it's more walkable. Oh, and FWIW, I thought I would like the butter crust at Lou Malnati's, so I tried it once, and subsequently decided I like the regular crust better than the butter crust.

        >> To get to Spoon by the L, just take the Red Line train to Belmont, then switch to the Brown Line (same platform) and take it 10 minutes to to the Western stop

        You can also catch the northbound Brown Line at Fullerton, and not have to switch trains. The downside is that the Brown Line makes two stops between Fullerton and Belmont, while the Red Line skips those stops; taking the Red Line and switching is often, but not always, quicker, depending on how long you have to wait for each train.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          If you're going from your hotel to TAC Quick for Thai food, there's an alternative to walking or cabbing the mile to the Fullerton el stop and then catching the Red Line to get there. The #151 bus goes through Lincoln Park on Stockton Drive and stops there a block east of your hotel. It then stops right at the restaurant.

      2. nsxtasy & brb: Thanks a bunch for the replies.

        I had seen many mentions of North Pond & with it being so close, we will definitely have to hit it. Also seen many mentions of Malnati's but it's hard to know what's close if you haven't had a chance to put in the requisite research time. Helps to know what is close!

        And if you're comparing Spoon Thai & TAC Quick to LOS, we are definitely there! I'm a huge, huge fan of LOS & we have nothing like it in AZ.

        Super excited! Thanks a ton!


        1. All the suggestions look great so far. The only thing I'd add is while it's not typical Chicago pizza, it is a fun spot with really good "oven grinders" (basically a Calzone) - Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. It's right by Riccardo Trattoria that someone else recommended, on Clark street not super far. Anyway it's not too expensive and very filling!

          1 Reply
          1. re: chicagofoodie84

            Yes, it's filling. And that's about the only thing I could say about Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. Skip it. Much better options have already been suggested.

          2. Omgosh, forget the Chicago Dog, have a Hot Doug, the chicago emporium of encased meats. My first time there was revelatory even with the hour wait outside in the cold with at least 20-30 other people. Hot Dougs is so unique in its idea of exotic meats and gourmet add ons--for example, I had a brandy-soaked portugese chorizo with boucherolle cheese on top. Those are ingrediants I'd hardly have hoped to have together but there they were, in Hot Dougs!