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Feb 24, 2009 09:50 AM

Need a wide range of Chicago recs - breakfast, lunch, dinner

Coming to Chicago for four days in March and am relatively clueless on where to start. I have been one time, but only spent one night there and ate at Shaw's Crab House, which was nice. But I'd like to try some new places.

I'm looking for the following:

Dinner: Mid-range ($$) restaurants for 30-somethings; perhaps something cool with a bar, or a wine bar setting. We have three nights so a few suggestions would be great. Would love to find a great French bistro, perhaps an Italian place and a New American place. Or whatever you think is good. We're staying at the Hyatt Regency so in the general vicinity would be great. We are major foodies so nothing run-of-the-mill.

Breakfasts/Lunches: Best place for a Chicago hot dog? Also cute cafes with great sandwiches/salads would be nice.

Overall: Any Don't-Miss places.


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  1. When you say "Hyatt Regency" I assume you mean the Hyatt Regency Chicago on East Wacker Drive, and not the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place or the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. If I'm mistaken, please let me know.

    We've had quite a few inquiries lately from people staying at the Hyatt Regency:
    and an older one:
    so those discussions might be worth checking out, to read more about what's close by.

    As for your specific questions, here are appropriate recommendations that include many of our very best restaurants and food that will wow you. Nothing run-of-the-mill, I promise!

    >> Dinner: Mid-range ($$) restaurants for 30-somethings; perhaps something cool with a bar, or a wine bar setting. We have three nights so a few suggestions would be great. Would love to find a great French bistro, perhaps an Italian place and a New American place. Or whatever you think is good.

    For the "something cool with a bar", there are a couple of Latin fusion places that would appeal:
    Nacional 27 - - is borderline walkable, maybe a 15 minute walk northwest of the hotel
    Carnivale - - is slightly further, maybe a mile west, so you'd probably be better off in a cab

    For the "wine bar setting":
    Bin 36 - - ten minutes walk west from the hotel

    For the French bistro:
    Brasserie Jo - - 5-10 minutes walk northwest from the hotel

    For Italian, I consider the first two the best mid-priced Italian places in the greater downtown area, but the third is slightly closer to your hotel:
    Cafe Spiaggia - - one mile north of the hotel
    Vivere - - 3/4 mile southwest of the hotel (in the Italian Village complex, not to be confused with the other two restaurants in that complex)
    Coco Pazzo Cafe - - ten minutes walk north

    For contemporary American, I'll give you a bit more detail about several possibilities...

    Cafe des Architectes ( ) is in the Sofitel about 3/4 mile north of your hotel. I've heard it called French but I really think it's more contemporary American with influences from around the world. I went there a few nights ago and LOVED it. I posted a detailed report on my dinner at

    Aigre Doux - - is about a fifteen minute walk west from the hotel, across the street from the Merchandise Mart.

    North Pond - - is about three miles north of your hotel, a ten minute cab ride or 20-25 minutes on the #151 CTA bus. It's special not only because of its excellent cuisine, but also for its unique and exquisite location in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, not just the surrounding neighborhood of the same name), facing its namesake pond with the city skyline towering over the opposite shore.

    All three of these have spectacular, sinfully delicious food and are among our very best casual contemporary restaurants.

    There are other kinds of contemporary, casual fine dining restaurants that you may also enjoy. Our creative provincial Mexican cuisine offers a different option; it is not similar to the conventional Mexican food to which most Americans are accustomed, and it is also not similar to the Latin fusion places I mentioned. You can look at the menus on the restaurants' websites to get a better idea of the food. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo ( ), the side-by-side restaurants of Chef Rick Bayless, were pioneers in this arena and are in River North, a 12-15 minute walk northwest of your hotel. Other excellent creative Mexican places easily accessible and only a bit further include Salpicon ( ), Mundial Cocina Mestiza ( ), and Mexique ( ). There's more information in the Mexican restaurant discussion at

    Everyone keeps raving about Mercat a la Planxa ( ), a new upscale tapas restaurant about a mile south of your hotel on Michigan Avenue.

    All of these places are pretty casual in tone and not all that expensive (under $100 per person including reasonable wine/alcohol and tax/tip). If you're interested in our highest-end, haute cuisine restaurants, which are dressy and more expensive ($200-300+/pp), they are led by Alinea ( ) and include Everest, Avenues, Charlie Trotter's, TRU, and L2O.

    >> Breakfasts/Lunches:

    Breakfast/brunch discussion:

    Here are a few quick recommendations for breakfast/brunch places. Atwood Cafe ( ) has a nice breakfast/brunch; they feature contemporary American cuisine in an upscale setting in the Hotel Burnham, a ten minute walk southwest of your hotel. David Burke's Primehouse ( ), a ten minute walk northwest of your hotel, does a wonderful "American dim sum brunch" on Sundays; read my detailed report in the breakfast/brunch discussion link above. Bongo Room ( ), a mile and a half south of your hotel at Roosevelt and Wabash, has incredible pancakes if you enjoy sweeter dishes for breakfast, such as the pretzel pancakes with white chocolate sauce; their standard dish is three huge pancakes, but you can order a one-third or two-thirds size portion at a reduced price, for smaller appetites or to try more than one dish. Beware long waits at Bongo Room on Sundays; you can make reservations for Atwood or Burke's.

    >> Best place for a Chicago hot dog?

    Hot dog discussion:

    >> Also cute cafes with great sandwiches/salads would be nice.

    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. They have fresh meats, cheeses, seafood, and prepared foods, and everything is top-quality. Their bakery counter is one of the very best in the city; I love their cinnamon swirl rolls, bran muffins, breads, etc. (some of which are also available in the cafe). For salads and sandwiches, you have a couple of options; for the quickest option, they have some already prepared in a refrigerator case just past the fresh fish counter. For the freshest option, they can make them to order for you in the cafe. You can view the cafe menu on their website at

    Fox & Obel is only a few blocks walk from the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 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.

    >> Overall: Any Don't-Miss places.

    I think the one "can't miss" specialty in Chicago is our Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. There are a lot of places serving great pizza here, and the chains (with the exception of non-downtown locations of Uno's) do quite a good job of maintaining consistent quality across many locations. Take your pick - double-crust "stuffed" pizza from Giordano's, Edwardo's, or Bacino's, or single-crust "pan" pizza from Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, Gino's East, or the original location of Uno's - you can't go wrong with any of these. You can phone your order ahead of time if you want to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake; you can find their menus and locations on their websites. The nearest of these to the Hyatt are Giordano's, my personal favorite of all the Chicago pizza places, which has a location a couple blocks away in Prudential Plaza on East Lake Street, and Bacino's, on Wacker just west of your hotel.

    And don't miss Fox & Obel; see above.

    Most of our nicer restaurants accept reservations on (as well as by contacting them directly, of course).

    Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks SO much for this amazing list. I am going to take it with me. I did find the hot dog thread, and think I may hit Hot Doug's since I saw it recently on No Reservations. Everything sounds wonderful and I will have hard time deciding!!

      Looks like I should make the hotel gym a regular stop on this trip as well. BTW, it's the Hyatt Regency on Wacker...

      Thanks again-
      Clare K.