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Jan 24, 2009 08:23 PM

Inexpensive suggestions for two writing students visiting Chicago-- in the winter?

Hello Chowhounds!

I'm seeking advice: the old man and I are traveling to Chicago for the AWP conference that takes place at the Hilton downtown the second week of February. We, however, are staying at a hotel outside of the city and are taking the Blue Line in.

We're looking for some good, inexpensive eats (we're still undergrads, and therefore aren't bringing in the big bucks quite yet), close to the hotel since we'll be at the conference all day from Wednesday through Saturday (which happens to be Valentine's Day). We'll need destinations for lunch and dinner, and perhaps brunch on Sunday? We love ethnic food, but a lifetime of Spanish cuisine makes me eager for other sorts of foods, such as Greek (which was mentioned in a few other Chicago threads-- very helpful, those) or Asian.

I'd really appreciate any help at all, since I've never been to Chicago, and the last time my SO was there, he and his friends stuck to pizza. There isn't anything wrong with pizza (we already planned to stop for some authentic stuff), but we budding foodies would like to expand our options.


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  1. Which Hilton? If it's the Hilton Chicago at 720 S. Michigan, this is the third topic that has come up the past few days, from people looking for reasonably-priced food in that immediate vicinity. You can view the recommendations in the discussion at Just about all of the recommendations there apply to lunch as well as dinner. Let us know if you still have any questions.

    5 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Yes, it would be the Hilton Chicago. And thank you, I will certainly check that thread.

      1. re: iamtheeiceworm

        Oh, and a few points that aren't mentioned in that thread... Custom House, which is normally somewhat on the pricey side (although lunch is significantly less expensive than dinner) currently has a couple of promotions at lunchtime, one of which is a $5 gourmet burger, which is an inexpensive way to try the place. I'm not sure how long they are doing that promotion, but it's shown on their website at

        That thread doesn't mention Greek Town and its abundance of Greek restaurants (which you mention). Greek Town is slightly over a mile away to the west - a nice long walk at other times of the year, but in winter weather, you might consider sharing a cab. You can find comments and website links for all the restaurants in Greek Town in the topic at

        Again, feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

        1. re: nsxtasy

          or, jump on the Blue Line to UIC/Halsted, and that also put's you at a Giordano's plus Greektown.

          1. re: delk

            Note that the nearest Blue Line stops to the hotel - either at LaSalle and Congress, or Jackson and Dearborn - are not terribly close. If you want to take the CTA, you'll do less walking if you instead take the #126 bus, which turns around the loop in the Michigan/Harrison/Congress area near the hotel, and goes to Van Buren/Halsted in Greek Town, comes back from Jackson/Halsted. As another alternative involving less walking (but a change of trains), you can catch the Red Line at Harrison/State, take it one stop north to Jackson/State, and go downstairs from the platform and walk through the tunnel to the Blue Line stop at Jackson/Dearborn and take it to UIC/Halsted as indicated by delk. You can find CTA information at

          2. re: nsxtasy

            A side note on the gourmet burger at Custom house... I heard they usually run out fairly quickly.

            Red line south to Chinatown... its one stop south of Roosevelt. You an always find cheap eats in Chinatown.

            Brunch - I love Bongo Room and there's a location at Roosevelt and Wabash. They have fantastic and decadent pancakes - although I warn you they are massive. But you can get a single specialty pancake as opposed to the entire order of 3. So keep that in mind.

            Where are you staying at? I heard that there's a tasty BBQ joint called Smoque - near the Irving Park stop off the blue line.

      2. Recently opened in the South Loop is Chicago Curry House at 899 S. Plymouth Court, just inside Dearborn Park off of State. The ambience seems quite pleasant, and there is a Tandoori oven and several Nepalese specials on the extensive menu. I haven't eaten there myself yet, but here are some yelp reviews that might help you out:

        3 Replies
        1. re: jbw

          I haven't eaten at Chicago Curry House either, but it's the sister restaurant (i.e. same ownership) of the Curry Hut in north suburban Highwood. I've eaten at the Curry Hut, and it's very good.

          The Chicago Curry House has a website at

          1. re: nsxtasy

            There is also a Chutney Joe's Indian Diner about to open in the same Columbia/DePaul dorm building at 511 S State. I walked by it yesterday and it looks like it could open any day now.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Curry House is just okay. Competent Indian but not nearly as good as cheaper places on Devon.