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Long-term Temporary Job Assignment in Chicago Area, Not Sure Where to Start

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Hi! Long-time reader, first-time poster.

I am taking a long-ish (3 or so months) temporary job assignment in the Naperville area of Illinois. I have visited Chicago once, but I don't really know anything about it or its suburbs. I'm a huge fan of regional foods, and I'm excited to try a little bit of everything that gets all the posters fired up (pizza, hot dogs, etc).

My husband will visit on occasion, and becuase of the work schedule, I'll really only be free late Saturdays and maybe Sundays. We'd like to work our way around the city during our free time. We will also celebrate a wedding anniversary over the summer, and it will be nice to experience a new city that day.

We don't eat much meat, but we make exceptions here and there for anything that we must try. Cost isn't a giant factor, but I don't want to be spending $150 each meal, either. In fact, for our anniversary, I would consider $150 - $200 for a wonderful meal in a beautiful city, but for our regular weekend stuff, I'd really like to focus on food and experience rather than my budget.

I'm rambling, but I think what I'm looking for are suggestions on 1) must-try Chicago regional delicacies, 2) really good food experiences at solid restaurants, 3) some local gems, 4) a few higher-end places within that budget that would make special dining experiences. We're not chain-haters, but I'd rather have new experiences each time we go out. We do have our own car. And we're not really Chowhounds. I totally appreciate beautiful, thougthfully-prepared food and I'm a giant fan of the craftmanship that goes behind some dishes, but my palate is not as expanded as it probably should be. (I am not in the market for sweetbreads, foams, etc.)

I'll be able to build our weekend iteneraries around the wonderful food choices y'all suggest. Your suggestions are definitely appreciated! (Oh, one more thing: I'm a big fan of a really great breakfast and a really great sandwich, so those suggestions are welcome, too!)

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  1. Here are some of the more comprehensive discussions on this board. I've included a few that of particular relevance to the things you have stated. These will be a good place to start!

    Feel free to ask additional questions; the more specific the question, the easier it will be for us to provide an appropriate response.

    Welcome to Chicago!

    New to the Chicago board?
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/563288

    Fine dining:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/602985

    Steakhouses:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/359377

    Seafood:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/370202

    Sushi:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/362763

    Italian:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/360990

    Pizza:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/327474
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/319254

    French bistros:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/602957

    Upscale ethnic:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/502320

    Eastern European:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/440779

    Greek:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/119233

    Tapas:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/370492
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/366524

    Mexican
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/463572

    Chinese
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/594324

    Thai
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/491970

    Jewish Deli
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/307862

    Barbecue:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/360674

    Burgers:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/382781

    Hot dogs:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364427

    Quintessential Chicago:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/372986

    Brunch and Breakfast:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403

    Pastry:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/542316

    Chocolatiers:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/374386

    Butchers:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/561594
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/380774
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477536

    Fishmongers:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/321210
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/418724
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477536

    Chicago food tours:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/527608

    Chicago food neighborhoods:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/437740

    Western Suburbs:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/365132

    Open Sundays:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/378848

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks nsxtasy! I've read some of the previous posts (a lot of yours, actually!), and I realize I'm sort of drumming up the same old topic. One thing I want to make clear is that I'm not necessarily looking for only "Chicago" food, but rather Chicago experiences. For instance, I just looked up the North Pond place, and that looks like a place I would add to the list, not so much for the food, but for the location, view, etc. Thanks again! You're all a wealth of knowledge (food and otherwise!).

      Another question, slightly off-topic: Does Chicago have any sort of standard dress code for evening dining? We live in FL, and we're pretty used to the casual/ touristy vibe of this place; I'm afraid we might be underdressed sometimes. Anything besides regular "business casual" the norm anywhere? thanks again.

      1. re: The Beebs

        Business casual will be acceptable at 90% of the restaurants. There are some higher end restaurants where men are required to wear at least a jacket (and maybe tie) and women should dress commensurately -- e.g., Everest, Les Nomades. This is generally stated on their website, and you can always inquire about the dress code when you reserve. I cannot think of any restaurant where you might just "drop in," where the dress code is any higher than business casual.

        1. re: The Beebs

          Regarding attire - masha is correct. Actually, I've found that appropriate attire is rarely stated on the website of the restaurant itself, but IS usually stated in its listing on Opentable.com (where you can make reservations for most of our nicer restaurants). It's also indicated in many of the restaurant listings on Metromix, the entertainment website of the Chicago Tribune at http://chicago.metromix.com/restaurants

          I *think* the following are the only public restaurants (i.e. aside from private clubs or private events) in the Chicago area where a gentleman would feel underdressed if he were not wearing a jacket: Alinea, Everest, Charlie Trotter's, Avenues, TRU, Spiaggia, NoMi, Carlos (only one in the 'burbs), L2O, and Les Nomades. (If anyone notices any I've missed, please chime in.) I am not claiming that these restaurants would necessarily refuse to seat someone in business casual attire (or even less casual than BC), as my detailed report about my meal at L2O a couple of weeks ago bears out (see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546690 ), but these are the only places I can think of where well over half of the men wear jackets. Otherwise, places vary from business casual to casual.

          BTW, in the above list of comprehensive discussions, I omitted the link to another one that may be particularly useful to you:

          Naperville:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/411988

      2. The first thing you should do is search for places around Naperville, which is roughly 30 miles WSW of Chicago. It is a large city (population 150,000) with a vibrant downtown and a number of excellent restaurants within a 15-minute drive. It also is on the best Metra line to/from Chicago -- there are several non-stop "bullet" trains daily. You will not go hungry!

        1. Thanks to everyone for the input. I will definiltey review all of the other posts. If you think of anything, please feel free to add at any time.

          1. I'll adress the points that haven't been extensively covered already. Chicago has many breakfast places but there are few that are more famous (i.e. landmark status). Lou Mitchell's (http://www.loumitchellsrestaurant.com/) and Wishbone--Oprah's favorite (http://www.wishbonechicago.com/) come to mind. Since I went to school in Hyde Park, I am partial to Valois (http://www.yelp.com/biz/valois-chicago) more for the atmosphere than the food, but its a true slice of the neighborhood if you're interested in getting an idea of local flavor.

            Sandwiches can be a very personal thing, what type of flavors are you typically looking for? One of my favorite food writers in the city does a pretty good job of describing a few of the chicago sandwiches here:

            Italian Beef -- http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/05/jo...
            Brisket Sandwich--http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/03/se...
            Italian Sub--http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/02/se...

            2 Replies
            1. re: Eaterlover

              Eaterlover, thanks for the suggestions. The breakfast joints look awesome. That's the kind of thing I really wantto experience... institution-type places. Maybe not the "best," but definitely Chicago. (Both old and new.)
              For the sandwiches, I'm not so much looking for anything in particular... just some sandwich place that makes a nice one. Good delis or sub shops, places like that.

              1. re: The Beebs

                Jerry's is great for sandwiches.