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First time in Chicago - looking for great espresso, pizza and steak

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Hi there.. 4 of us are off to Chicago this coming weekend and I'm hoping to make it a bit of an indulgent one as the airlines don't like women as pregnant as I am to fly after this.

Can you please please help provide some suggestions for:

1 - Good espresso near our hotel - if I'm limited to one cup of caffeine a day it must be quality! Preferably not a chain. Our hotel is near East Delaware and Michigan Ave.

2 - Pizza on a Thursday night - we get in around 7:30 p.m. - ideally somewhere where we're not travelling too too far from the hotel (less than 20 minutes?) as I'll probably be knackered. Pizzeria Uno/Due and Giordano's have been mentioned a bit and I'll keep searching but as I'm not familiar with the city I'm not sure these are likely options from a location perspective.

3 - Steakhouse or restaurant that serves great steak but the menu must also cater to non-beef eaters. This will be on Saturday night.

I've just started scanning the board for other ideas like bars/pubs with a great selection of beer for the boys (one is English and the other Aussie so it's always time for a pint), brunch in interesting neighbourhoods so we can bundle in food with getting a feel for different parts of the city. And if anyone has any other places along these lines please suggest away.

Thanks so much! V excited!

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  1. Intelligentsia is the best coffee in Chicago. It is a local company, although it now has a few locations in the city, and in LA. Not sure if that constitutes a chain. The only downside is that the 2 locations in the Loop are about 1.5, 2 miles south of you. The original location in Lakeview is a lot further north of you.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ms. chow

      In my opinion, Casteel is the "best" coffee in Chicago, but they're in Wilmette.

      1. re: ferret

        Casteel Coffee is in Evanston, not Wilmette. And while I don't drink coffee, I know a lot of people who consider Intelligentsia the best in the area, and none who have that opinion of Casteel (not even among Evanstonians).

        1. re: nsxtasy

          And some people like Dunkin' Donuts and some Starbucks and some...

          I've tried them all and find Casteel to be superior (I've even tried Superior). Not everything is a popularity contest.

          1. re: ferret

            You're the first I've encountered. As I mentioned, I don't drink coffee. But I've had others describe the flavor of Casteel's coffee as "burnt" (their word, not mine).

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Not that Casteel is near where the OP is looking for, but I agree that it is fantastic and worth a trip to Evanston. I think it is as good, if not better than, Intelligentsia. On another note, I find it amusing that you're criticizing Casteel's coffee when you have not tried it and don't even drink coffee.

              1. re: BRB

                As my earlier post noted, if the options are limited to the Gold Coast, I'd pick Lavazza over Intelligentsia. I'm not dissin' Intelligentsia, it's just not my favorite.

                1. re: BRB

                  I'm just passing along what my friends have told me. But if the OP wants to drive or take the train fourteen miles from the hotel for a cup of coffee, he/she is welcome to sample it and make up his/her own mind.

                  apb (the OP) - please note that the Lavazza location on East Walton recommended by ferret is only a block from your hotel.

                  1. re: BRB

                    I drink coffee and I've tried Casteel. It's ok. Better than Starbucks or Maxell House. Not Intelligensia. Sorry.

        2. Unfortunately you're surrounded by Starbucks in that neighborhood--I assume you're staying at the Westin MI Ave (make sure you get an renovated room). I would venture down to Inteligentsia (E Randolph, half block W on MI Ave on South side of street), about a 5 minute cab ride or 20 minute walk. There is an Argo Tea about 4 blocks away on E Pearson and Rush (just off Water Tower square) and I like their coffee too. (In my opinion, there is no cup of coffee good enough to drive or train 30 minutes North to Wilmette).

          Arguing about Pizza in Chicago is religion, so I don't go there on this board. I will say that I live in River North and if I were to order stuffed pizza on a random Tuesday night order Giordonos. About 95% of the time though, I eat the pan pizza and Lou Malnati's is my go to take out.

          Steaks also presents a huge range of opinions. My favorite steak + restaurant is Joe's Steak, Seafood and Stonecrab (the stonecrab of Miami fame). It's always great and my go-to restaurant. Keefer's also provides a varied menu that includes prime steaks and a bistro-type fish menu. David Burke's Primehouse provides my favorite steak in the city and the popovers to start are wonderful.

          I would suggest searching posts by NSXTASY, you will be provided a HUGE amount of data.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jbontario

            I'd recommend Lavazza. Sure, it's a chain, but it's also very good.

            140 E Walton Pl
            Chicago, IL 60611
            (312) 640-2440‎

            162 E Ohio St
            Chicago, IL 60611
            (312) 255-8850‎

          2. Too much of a caffeine buzz going on here lol. Some of the OP's question haven't been answered.

            For bars/pubs, try:
            1. The Gage, 24 S Michigan @ Monroe. They have beer that probably any beer drinker would want, but has the least selection of this list i'm putting here. Just depends what kind of beer drinker your Brit and Aussie buddies are. Plus side are the excellent creative food, and the location. I assume OP is staying downtown.
            2. The Publican, 837 W Fulton Market @ Green. Hopleaf used to be my go to place for serious beer, but Publican is definitely a strong contender these days. Besides, what better food to go with beer than fried pork rinds?
            3. The Map Room, 1949 N Hoyne @ Armitage. Will be a little off the beaten path if you are staying downtown. The breadth of the beer selection is amazing. There is also Beer School, a fun experience for beer drinkers, novice or experts. Only downside is food is so so. But the beer reigns.
            4. Hopleaf, 5148 N Clark @ Foster. Again, probably more off the beaten path. Very comprehensive Belgian list, and the food is decent and seasonal, with quite a few dishes that uses beer.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ms. chow

              Ms. Chow always has the best suggestions!

              I just went to the Publican and it was amazing. It's one of my favorite restaurants in town now. It just got the readers' choice pick as best new restaurant from Time Out, too.

              1. re: ms. chow

                Agree with everything Ms. Chow mentioned.

                Also agree 100% with jbontario's suggestion of Joe's Steak and Stone Crab for the best steaks (or seafood). You can walk from your hotel.

                1. re: stewy

                  >> Also agree 100% with jbontario's suggestion of Joe's Steak and Stone Crab for the best steaks (or seafood). You can walk from your hotel.

                  To give you an idea of distances, the walk from your hotel to Joe's will take a good 10-15 minutes. David Burke's is almost that long. Hugo's/Gibson's is under 5 minutes and Saloon is maybe 2 minutes away on foot. Your choice...

                  1. re: stewy

                    Thanks so much everyone! Some of the most helpful posts of all the boards I've used! I think the boys will appreciate the Publican and I'll look more into the steak choices too. Need to be a bit conscious of budget unfortunately. I'll take Lavazza any day over Starbucks (shudder) but keep an eye out for Intelligentsia. Me and my SO are the only espresso snobs so I don't think I can drag the others across town...

                    1. re: apb

                      BTW: it looks like Publican serves Black Cat espresso. That's an Intelligensia blend named after the late Black Cat Cafe. Actually, it looks like all of Publican's coffee is from Intelligensia.