Take me out to the airport
First of all, thanks to you all, and in particular to nsxtasy whose recommendations (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/600132) have so far landed me with at least one tasty meal (Café des Architectes). Now I have a dilemma. I have to leave for the airport about 5:30 pm tomorrow. The food offerings at O'Hare seem dismal or overpriced or both. Where can I get food to take to the airport at that hour or, even better, earlier in the day? It needs to be tasty (of course) and survive the trip to the airport in good shape. I'm staying in River North and working at the convention center (McCormick) but am willing to look anywhere downtown since there are shuttle busses to pretty much all the hotels from the convention center. If I can order ahead and pick up in a jiffy, I'd also be willing to have a cab pull over on the way to the airport while I hop out and grab something.
Thanks again, and a full report on my Chicago dining experience (nothing new for you all, I'm sure) will be forthcoming. Please don't hesitate to ask over on our board if you're coming to Boston.
I agree that Fox & Obel is a great place to get prepared foods and pre-made sandwiches. They also have pre-made salads, although those might not keep as well. And of course their baked goods, some of which don't need refrigeration, are wonderful. You also may run into an issue with salads getting through security, since the dressings on the side may be too much liquid for the security folks to allow.
You can get food for carry-out at just about any restaurant, but the questions about doing so are whether the food will travel and will keep. For example, an Italian beef sandwich is one of Chicago's specialties, but it's a travel nightmare. Deep-dish pizza would work if you're planning on eating it soon, but it's also big and heavy. So while I often recommend places on the way to the airport like Giordano's for pizza (at Higgins and River Road near the River Road expressway exit and the Rosemont CTA stop) and Al's for Italian beef (on Higgins near the Cumberland expressway exit and CTA stop), I'm not sure they're the best choices for food to go. Smoque for barbecue (on Pulaski south of Irving Park, near the expressway and CTA) may travel marginally better, but you would want to phone ahead to avoid having to wait a long time in line when picking it up.
Those logistics of traveling with food make doing so rather inconvenient, so you'll have to decide whether it's really worth it to you. Personally, I find it a whole lot easier to eat at the airport, even if it costs a few dollars more than elsewhere. (And if those dollars are important, you can save a lot of money, as well as time at that time of day, by taking the CTA to the airport instead of a cab. That's what we locals do, whenever possible.) My go-to place in the airport itself is the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, for eating there as well as food to go; I find the food reasonably good, and the service is reasonably quick. When I'm meeting someone at the airport for a nice lunch, I go to Andiamo, the restaurant in the Hilton in the center of all the terminals - again, not that it's great, but it's decent, and it's convenient. (Note that the Wolfgang Puck restaurant is inside the security checkpoints, but the Hilton is outside security.)
Thanks! I'll give Fox & Obel a test run for lunch tomorrow (they want $15 for a food court sandwich at McCormick!!), but it sounds like just the ticket (no pun intended). The extra cost of eating at the airport isn't the issue, it's the chow factor. If I can get tastier take out downtown, it's worth the detour for me.
Funny you should mention liquid. I once went through airport security at SFO with my entire ziplock bag filled with little containers (< 300 ml each!) of salsa to go with my burrito from El Farolito. Made the screeners laugh and I think they've seen most everything.
Here are a few tips for Fox & Obel shopping.
If you are driving, there is valet parking for $7-9, but they also have free parking available with a $20 purchase; drive past the store and you'll see F&O parking signs for the condo entrance on the left. Follow the signs to the specially marked F&O spaces, and when you take the elevator to the street, you'll be right across the street from F&O. Bring your parking ticket with you so you can get it validated at the customer service counter in the store, just past the cashiers.
You can also take the CTA there, notably the #65 Grand Avenue bus. It's a bit of a walk from the nearest el stop, the Red Line at Grand and State. CTA info at www.transitchicago.com
You can have them make most anything you want, with sandwiches and salads and other items custom made for you in the cafe at the rear of the store. (Have lunch there if you like!) The refrigerator case with pre-made sandwiches and salads (also soups, a big no-no for the airport security folks) is located just past the fresh fish counter.
Their bakery counter has some of the very best baked goods in the entire city. I love the cinnamon swirl rolls, the bran muffins are the best in the world, their rustic raisin nut bread is terrific, brioche, croissants, etc. None of which require refrigeration. Circle around the bakery counter for the refrigerated items like their wonderful bread pudding and chocolate brut (which is like a chocolate bread pudding); if you have access to a microwave, these are even better when heated. Also their puddings, and tres leches cake, and fruit tarts, etc.
Speaking of goodies for the airport - Once when I was shopping at F&O, a fellow was making a rather large purchase of beef at the meat counter. He was taking it home with him on the plane to Alaska, where he says they don't get high-quality beef.
Fox & Obel is one of our greatest culinary treasures. Enjoy!
If you decide to take a cab from McCormick (either back to your hotel or to the airport) one good place along the way to pick up one of the better Italian subs in Chicago is here:
(of course, you can get a pretty good meatball sandwich there, too, but that can get a little sloppy.)