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Dining near Art Institute/Orchestra Hall?

mezzodiva54 Apr 22, 2009 02:10 PM

Hi, two Boston hounds will be padding our trip out to our son's graduation with a little us time alone in Chicago mid-May. Schedule is still a little rough, but the day we arrive we're planning to take in the Art Institute in the afternoon and a CSO concert in the evening. The big question is: do we eat before the concert, or can/should we eat afterwards? If we eat before, what are some suggestions for the area (or reasonably nearby) that will get us to the concert on time? Or would it be possible to eat in a more leisurely fashion after (on a Thursday night)? We'd obviously have more leeway as far as location, but there's the time/kitchen constraint as well. If we CAN eat after, what would you suggest for a lunch-ish meal after we arrive but before we hit the museums? Recommended pick-me-up pre-concert? If our Chicago friends could give us some pointers, we'd be most grateful, thanks! Style of food really not an issue, although I don't think we're looking at burgers 'n' beer.....then again....

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  1. b
    BarbaraM48 RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 22, 2009 02:49 PM

    The Gage would work for either but i would ask for a table in the back. They have a large menu that ranges from burgers to fabulous fish or even a steak. We eat before the concert since we can't stay up that late but i am sure that people do eat there after.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BarbaraM48
      ms. chow RE: BarbaraM48 Apr 22, 2009 02:56 PM

      Yes The Gage is definitely one of the best options for your itenerary. We have gone there after theater, and the place takes on a more relaxed vibe. Pre-show it has a lively buzz given the pre-show crowd, and happy hour crowd. Very excellent food, using a lot of local products.

      If you opt for a lighter meal and you eat Japanese food, Oysy (a little further west on Michigan Ave) is a good option as well.

    2. nsxtasy RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 22, 2009 03:18 PM

      There are some excellent restaurants within a few blocks of both venues.

      Mercat a la Planxa is a new tapas restaurant a few blocks south which has received consistent raves here. www.mercatchicago.com

      For something more casual, Pizano's on Madison, a couple blocks north of the Art Institute, serves Chicago-style deep-dish "pizza in the pan". Phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for it to bake. www.pizanoschicago.com

      Rhapsody is right at Orchestra Hall, serving contemporary American food. www.rhapsodychicago.com

      Just north of the Art Institute at the entrance to Millennium Park is Park Grill, serving contemporary American food, everything from complete dinners to darn good burgers. www.parkgrillchicago.com

      For after-concert dining, just check on the hours of the restaurants you're considering. This discussion has more late night recommendations, suitable for post-concert dining, in the immediate vicinity of the Art Institute, Orchestra Hall, Palmer House Hilton, etc. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/489652

      Here are more discussion topics with recommendations in that vicinity:

      Lunch - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/399947
      Cheap eats - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/496202
      Dinner - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/370730

      1 Reply
      1. re: nsxtasy
        ms. chow RE: nsxtasy Apr 23, 2009 06:18 AM

        Just a word of caution based on my more recent experiences at Mercat. It is a better bet to go there post-show than pre-show. The last few times i was there, either early in the evening (6p) or later (9p), they have not been handling the crowds well. So service might be a bit slower than usual. Personally, not that much of an issue, because the place is great. But if you have a show time to consider, that's another story.

      2. m
        mezzodiva54 RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 23, 2009 11:54 AM

        Thank you for these excellent suggestions -- Gage looks terrific to try, and so many choices will give us lots of options for that day (plus I know to stop by Garrett's for popcorn at some point!).

        Now I have a trickier (maybe) question. On Saturday morning I will be at Mass at St. John Cantius, and my husband (now with my elderly mother in tow) will be having brunch and waiting for me to join them after. We will at this point have a car and be heading out of town (westbound, if that matters). I really need suggestions for the brunch. The places that get mentioned a lot on your board (David Burke's, NoMI, Frontera) all seem to be in River North and are all so fancy as to be unimaginable for my mom (well, not Frontera, but she won't like that it's Mexican -- you can see the constraints rising here?). St. JC is on N. Carpenter, kind of sort of in the River West/Noble Square area (I'm guessing here, based on a map in front of me, and could possibly be talking nonsense). They will have the car, but I will need to be able to get there either on foot or on public transportation (well, or a cab, duh). I saw Wishbone mentioned previously; this is in the West Loop and I can get there from the church by bus. Are there any other suggestions in other places nearby that I can get to by CTA? I know this used to be a Polish neighborhood, but have no idea what's there now. I read of many charming places in Wicker Park, but have no idea how easy or hard it would be for me to negotiate getting there. More help, please? You guys are terrific, thanks!

        9 Replies
        1. re: mezzodiva54
          ms. chow RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 23, 2009 01:54 PM

          You are very close to one of my favorite breakfast places in the city. Except the food is southwestern. More on that. The trickiest part is that it is a Saturday, and a lot of places don't do Saturday brunch. Taxis might not be as easy to find, but you are very close to a few major bus and el routes. So off the top of my head, here are a few recs.

          Flo. I have been going to Flo pretty much every Saturday for 6, 7 years now. The food is southwestern, so not sure how it goes with your mother given what you mentioned about Mexican. It is a short walk on Chicago Ave west of the church. A true neighborhood gem.

          The Breakfast Club. The food is pretty basic brunch fare, but solid and good. This place has been around for years. It is in an actual house, very charming. Also a short walk from where you are.

          Bongo Room. Go to the intersection of Chicago/Halsted/Milwaukee and hop on the 156 bus. Bongo Room is in Bucktown, and one of the more creative breakfast places in the city. Taking the blue line is another option.

          Wishbone. I used to alternate between Flo and Wishbone for Saturday breakfast. Don't go there as much mainly because Flo is closer to where i live. The food is southern, and is one of the true melting pot places in the city, in terms of clientele. I suppose in terms of bus, take the Halsted #8 and then short walk over to Morgan.

          Ina's. Ms. Pinkney IS the breakfast queen of the city.

          Best of all, there are parking options for all these places.

          1235 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

          Wishbone Restaurant
          1001 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607

          Bongo Room
          1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

          1434 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

          Breakfast Club
          1381 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60642

          1. re: ms. chow
            mezzodiva54 RE: ms. chow Apr 23, 2009 02:56 PM

            Ms. Chow, you rock my world! Flo looks FANTASTIC, and Google maps says I can walk it in a mere 11 mins. My mom can have an egg and a piece of toast, and if she's nice, I'll give her a bite of my berry-zabione French toast. (No need to do Bongo Room -- spousal unit and I are planning on hitting the Bongo Room's S. Wabash location on Friday morning; if we recover from that soon enough, we'll stop by Giordano's for stuffed pizza (an entity unknown in these parts) prior to the Cubs game. If not, we can have pizza AFTER the game!

            So far, this is the itinerary I've worked out for us:

            Thursday (arriving sometime late am, dumping baggage at what will probably be the Palmer House, knowing Hotwire)
            Breakfast / Lunch -- Atwood Cafe
            Fine Arts Bldg so husband can try out violins until I can drag him away
            Art Institute
            Restorative -- Park Cafe
            Beethoven and Sibelius at CSO
            Dinner -- Gage

            Breakfast -- Bongo Room on S. Wabash
            Pit stop -- Canady Le Chocolatier
            Lunch (maybe a very LATE lunch!) -- Giordano's, Addison St.
            Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!

            If we don't eat lunch after the game, we'll try your sushi suggestion of Oysy.

            At this point we have to go back to the airport, pick up the mom, pick up the rental car, and (ugh) find someplace to park it back in the loop. I notice a couple of places have evening rates -- can we leave it overnight, do you think, for this rate? The car in the city is an awful impediment, but we don't want to switch hotels, and I can't subject my 84-year-old mother to schlepping on the CTA with bags.

            Dinner (it's still Friday, we've somehow disposed of the car and stowed the additional baggage back at the hotel) -- Miller's Pub

            Brunch -- Flo's (thank you again, Ms. Chow)
            Then off to Beloit to witness the young sprout's graduation.

            We will be back in Chicago on Sunday, dropping car and mom off at the airport on the way in. At this point we'd like to spend another afternoon and evening in Chicago, this time with a younger and more maleable person in tow. We're thinking dinner at North Pond? In fact, it would be very nice to move our base of operations northward and explore another part of town, if possible. I've also been carrying a pass for free admission for two to Buddy Guy's Legends around in my wallet for about 15 years, so it would be interesting to see if they'll still take it!

            Monday morning I thought we'd have breakfast at Heaven on Seven before regretfully heading back to the east coast and reality.

            How does this sound in actuality? And seriously, any advice on what we can do with the stupid car overnight would be gratefully appreciated. I will of course post a synopsis of any and all meals consumed!

            1. re: mezzodiva54
              nsxtasy RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 23, 2009 03:12 PM

              Looks good! Comments...

              >> Lunch (maybe a very LATE lunch!) -- Giordano's, Addison St.
              >> Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!

              The ball park is on Addison. The nearby location of Giordano's is on Belmont, a half mile south of Wrigley.

              >> At this point we have to go back to the airport, pick up the mom, pick up the rental car, and (ugh) find someplace to park it back in the loop. I notice a couple of places have evening rates -- can we leave it overnight, do you think, for this rate?

              Not necessarily; you may want to check with the garage you're considering. FWIW, when downtown, I generally park at one of the underground garages on the land just east of Michigan Avenue. Their daytime rates ($14 for <12 hours) can be more reasonable than garages in the Loop. They also have rates (more expensive ones, unfortunately) for up to 24 hours so you can park overnight there if you want. More info on their website at www.millenniumgarages.com For general info about parking all over downtown Chicago, see www.chicagoparkingmap.com

              >> We will be back in Chicago on Sunday, dropping car and mom off at the airport on the way in. At this point we'd like to spend another afternoon and evening in Chicago, this time with a younger and more maleable person in tow. We're thinking dinner at North Pond?

              Great choice! Especially this time of year, when you can arrive for dinner in daylight and leave after dark, experiencing the beautiful setting both ways.

              >> it would be very nice to move our base of operations northward and explore another part of town, if possible.

              There are lots of great Chicago neighborhoods with interesting food finds, and you can read about how they stack up in the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/437740 Just be aware that most of the decent hotels are concentrated in the downtown areas (and to a lesser extent in the suburbs), and not in outlying city neighborhoods.

              1. re: nsxtasy
                mezzodiva54 RE: nsxtasy Apr 23, 2009 04:49 PM

                >> The ball park is on Addison. The nearby location of Giordano's is on Belmont, a half mile south of Wrigley.

                I know, I know, I got my directions mixed up looking at the map and typing too fast. I got the Giordano's/Wrigley tip from another of your posts, BTW!

                Following your advice, I checked out the Millenium Park garages (that Chicago parking website is just tremendous, thanks!!!). The E. Monroe garage has a flat rate of $14 for 0-12 hours, which will suit us just fine. We'll be careful to follow the directions and not park in the wrong one!

                >> Just be aware that most of the decent hotels are concentrated in the downtown areas.

                Yes, and sadly we'll probably wind up back at the Palmer House because it's hard to beat that Hotwire $79 rate. But as someone else pointed out on your board, it's an easy place to escape from. We'll be armed with our CTA pass and fearless! It would be awfully nice to get back early enough on Sunday to take a river cruise (it would also be nice if the weather gods shine on us for this trip!!!), but Sunday is still a bit up in the air. I've been sighing after North Pond for several years now, however, and how could it not be lovely, even in the rain?

                I cannot tell you both how much I appreciate your assistance -- I've read a LOT of Chicago posts in the past few days, and your names come up many times, so when you were kind enough to reply, I knew I was going to be in good hands. I'll be sure to report back on how it all shakes out.

              2. re: mezzodiva54
                jbw RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 24, 2009 07:51 AM


                Miller's Pub is a lot of fun if you're looking for an old-time Chicago ribs n' steak place w/o spending a lot of money. But if you're looking for a more upscale place for your Mom, have you checked out Lockwood's in the Palmer House? It's one of those restaurants that opened badly, made changes, solved most of its problems, and is now IMO one of the more underappreciated restaurants in the area. Take a look:


                1. re: jbw
                  nsxtasy RE: jbw Apr 24, 2009 09:32 AM

                  In my previous post, I was going to say something about Miller's Pub, but wasn't sure how to express it. jbw does so quite well. It's indeed a longtime Chicago pub type place. Definitely not expensive and not upscale. A good place to stop in for a burger and a beer after work if you work nearby. But it's not really one of our best or more unusual places. Maybe that's exactly what you're looking for? Otherwise, I'd consider other places. If I wanted a burger and a beer near the Art Institute and Orchestra Hall, the Gage and Park Grill are places I'd be choosing over Miller's. And if I wanted something more than a burger and a beer, I'd throw other places into the mix, too (my previous suggestions as well as jbw's suggestion of Lockwood, which I haven't tried yet).

                  1. re: nsxtasy
                    delk RE: nsxtasy Apr 25, 2009 07:15 AM

                    I'd only add, Miller's Pub is open very late, which was great for me when I had four years of night classes around the corner!

                  2. re: jbw
                    Eldon Kreider RE: jbw Apr 26, 2009 02:55 PM

                    Note that there is a large price difference between Miller's and Lockwood with the latter two to 2 1`/2 times the former on entrees (not with the same dishes). Wines are also much more expensive at Lockwood. Miller's has one bottle at $27 on their wine list. The same wine (no longer on either of these other two's wine lists) was $32 at Grill Room and $40 at Lockwood when it opened. Lockwood has very few wines below $40 with $40 to $45 for their entry level prices. Miller's wines are mostly in the twenties with two reds are $45 and $46 per bottle.

                    I have found that Miller's fry cook does a good job on shrimp and catfish. Miller's usually has some specials in addition the menu shown on the web site.

                    We don't go to Miller's much for pre-CSO dining even though it is very convenient and has fast service because the place is such a madhouse at that time. Saturday I looked in the window as we were walking from the Grill Room to Orchestra Hall. The place was jammed at 7:15.


                    Rhapsody changed chefs a little while back. The new chef has been making evolutionary changes in the menu. The current menu in the website has some changes from what we had several weeks earlier. I like the direction he is going, but others may not.

                    1. re: Eldon Kreider
                      mezzodiva54 RE: Eldon Kreider Apr 27, 2009 07:26 AM

                      To all the comments regarding Miller's, I chose this particular venue because (a) it was open late, and we'll be getting back late from the airport with my mother, and (b) it is more casual and at the same time has an old-time Chicago feel. Although I appreciate those who think that we should be taking my mother to a more upscale establishment, if you see my comments earlier regarding the well-known high-end brunch places, a lot of that would just be over my mom's head, and she wouldn't enjoy it. Miller's will be just right.

                      For my husband and myself, however, we're planning to go to The Gage after the concert, and I'm sure we'll be hitting Russian Tea Time at some point as well -- I have very fond memories of it from the last time I was on tour in Chicago.

            2. c
              chicago09 RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 24, 2009 10:51 AM

              You could also check out Aria for dinner near the Art Institute/CSO. My friends are CSO ticket holders and go before every show. The food is great and they are very accommodating. It's in the Fairmont Hotel.

              1. r
                rjka RE: mezzodiva54 Apr 24, 2009 02:09 PM

                for a pre CSO dinner, I recently enjoyed Russian Tea Time, which is directly around the corner from Symphony Center. Not excessively expensive and a unique type of cusine.

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