Dinner spot, casual and good
I'll be in town in February for a meeting and we're trying to find a good spot for a casual, inexpensive dinner spot on a Saturday night. We're staying at the Fairmount, but can travel by L to where ever. Just hoping the Chowhound community can steer us toward something fun and different, with good food and drink.
So many good choices for casual and inexpensive. The only issue is what inexpensive means to you. Here are my top-of-mind recommendations. All accessible by L. I'm sure other people will have other favorites.
Hopleaf (a gastropub) in Andersonville. The biggest best assortment of Belgian ales in Chicago; excellent kitchen highlighted by wonderful mussels and frites. You may have to wait on a busy Sat. night. I don't know if they take reservations.
Spoon and/or TAC and/or Sticky Rice (Northern Thai) for authentic, inexpensive Thai.
Bristol in Bucktown. Small and large dishes. Nice wine list. Definitely fun.
Chinatown: Lao Tse Chuan; Emperor's Choice or Moon Palace.
Tank or one of dozens of Vietnamese restaurants on Argyle for Pho (great hearty warm food for a good day).
Hopstop.com is a good way to figure out how to get from here to there on public transportation.
Note that Hopleaf is a good ten minute walk from the nearest el stop (at Berwyn). If it's cold out, you may be better off taking the #22 Clark Street bus all the way there, even though it will take longer than the el. (If you're looking for a gastropub with a huge assortment of beers etc, the Gage is a whole lot more convenient to the Fairmont, just a few blocks walk with no need to take the el.)
Given the possibility of snow and/or brutal cold in February, just walking the four blocks from the Fairmont to the el may be an issue, so you might be better off choosing a place that's in or near your hotel (or at least having such a place as a "backup plan"). Anyway, here are a few ideas, either way.
Aria is an excellent pan-Asian restaurant located inside the Fairmont, with a menu including dishes from China, Thailand, etc., as well as excellent steaks and other non-Asian choices. One serving of their chocolate cake can feed an army! Figure $75-100 per person including moderate alcohol, tax, and tip. www.ariachicago.com
For an inexpensive option just a block from the hotel, Giordano's has a location in Prudential Plaza (135 E. Lake). Giordano's specializes in the double-crust "stuffed" type of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, and it's my favorite pizza in the Chicago area. You can call ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for it to bake while you're seated. www.giordanos.com
Here are a few more moderately-priced options within a few blocks of the Fairmont:
Park Grill - www.parkgrillchicago.com - for American cuisine (the burgers are excellent and inexpensive)
The Gage - www.thegagechicago.com - gastropub
Pizano's - www.pizanoschicago.com - for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza of the single-crust "pan" style
You may also want to check out Fox & Obel, even if not for dinner, for breakfast/lunch or snacks. Fox & Obel is our premier gourmet grocery store, and has a cafe in the rear where you can get anything from a cup of coffee to a full meal, made to order. Everything is top-quality. It's only a few blocks walk from the Fairmont, but if you are walking there, you should be aware that the streets in the hotel vicinity have two levels. You'll need to take an escalator inside the hotel down to walk out on LOWER Columbus Drive (the main entrance is on UPPER Columbus Drive); Lower Columbus Drive crosses the river to Illinois Street and Fox & Obel. www.fox-obel.com
If you're taking the el, there are numerous inexpensive places you can go, including:
Lao Sze Chuan (Chinese) - www.laoszechuan.com - take the Red Line south to the Cermak/Chinatown stop
TAC Quick (Thai) - www.tacquick.com - take the Red Line north to the Sheridan stop
Tank Noodle (Vietnamese) - www.tanknoodle.com - take the Red Line north to the Argyle stop