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May 7, 2009 05:39 AM

August Long Weekend

My husband and I are coming to Chicago for the August Long weekend. (We are from Toronto)
I have already made reservation for Alinea on Friday night and Topobolampo on Saturday night.
But we still have Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night to fill.
Just wondering if anyone has any suggestions for those evenings.
We definitely want to try some "Pizza"
Any help would be appreciated.

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  1. Those are great places to start!

    For our delicious Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, there are two main types: the original, single-crust "pizza in the pan" originally introduced by Uno (1943) and Due (1955), and the double-crust "stuffed" pizza that started in the 1970s. If you've never had deep-dish pizza here before, pizza in the pan is a good place to start. The original locations of Uno and Due are still excellent (unlike the national franchise called Uno's Chicago Grill), and so are Lou Malnati's and Pizano's, both of which were started by sons of Rudy Malnati Sr. who played a lead role at Uno and Due in their early decades, and both of which have multiple locations. If you'd like to try stuffed pizza, Giordano's is excellent and has multiple locations as well. Wherever you go, you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake. If you'd like to tell us where you'll be staying (which hotel, or nearby street intersection), we can point out the nearest locations of these places.

    Also note that you might want to have pizza for lunch so that you can try other kinds of places for dinner. But don't stuff yourself; deep-dish pizza can be very filling (and the recommendations on the menu for how many people a pizza serves are accurate, much to the surprise of folks accustomed to thin-crust pizza).

    As for the other nights, keep in mind that some nicer restaurants are closed on Sundays and some are closed on Mondays, so that may play a role in where you go on which nights. Reservations are always a good idea. Most of our nicer restaurants accept reservations on the website.

    As for where to go... I would start by thinking about what kinds of places you would like to also have dinner at. So far you have a fine-dining restaurant and a provincial Mexican restaurant. I'll list some of the other categories of places you might consider, with links to discussions about them where you can find recommendations. I'll include one or two of our very best places as examples of each, but in most cases there are many other excellent places, and you may want to choose places that are closer to your hotel (wherever that is...?), or places that aren't closed on Sunday, etc. Also note that the "fine dining" discussion includes not only high-end places like Alinea, but also "casual fine dining" restaurants, whose cuisine often falls under the heading of "contemporary American". Here goes:

    Fine dining (e.g. Cafe des Architectes, Aigre Doux, North Pond*):

    Steakhouses (David Burke's Primehouse):

    Seafood (Shaw's Crab House):

    Sushi (Mirai):

    Italian (Cafe Spiaggia, Vivere):

    Pizza (see above):

    French bistros (Brasserie Jo):

    Upscale ethnic (Red Light):

    Eastern European (Podhalanka):

    Greek (Santorini):

    Turkish (Turquoise):

    Tapas (Mercat a la Planxa):

    Mexican (you've got that covered):

    Chinese (Double Li):

    Thai (TAC Quick):

    Jewish Deli (Manny's):

    Barbecue (too controversial):

    Burgers (Boston Blackie's):

    Hot dogs (Portillo's):

    Quintessential Chicago:

    Brunch and Breakfast (Bongo Room):

    *I put an asterisk next to North Pond, because it's a really unique place in Chicago, and worth elaborating. North Pond offers excellent contemporary American cuisine from James Beard Award nominated Chef Bruce Sherman. What makes it unique is its setting in the middle of Lincoln Park - the park itself, not just the adjacent neighborhood of the same name. It faces its namesake pond, and the city skyline looms over the opposite shore. The renovated building formerly served as the warming shelter for ice skaters on the pond during winter. It's a very special place, not only when you approach the restaurant, but also inside, regardless of whether you're dining in the front room with the full-length windows looking out on the pond, or the rear room with the open kitchen along one side. Note that in addition to dinner, North Pond is also open for Sunday brunch, and during the summer for lunch Tuesday through Friday.

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

    1. I have a question about your Alinea reservation: How were you able to make them? I, too, am going to Chicago in late August, but was told that I couldn't make any reservations for Alinea until June 1. I was told they only take reservations for the month you want to eat 2 months prior.

      2 Replies
      1. re: pastry634

        I believe that's correct. I assume the OP has not yet made her reservation at Alinea.

        Fortunately, Alinea reservations are not overly difficult to obtain when you're calling well in advance. It's not like a certain high-end restaurant in California where everyone calls the instant they start accepting them for that date, and all you get is a busy signal until they're fully booked. Of course, you should still call Alinea as far in advance as possible, but they don't book up instantly. Especially if it's not for a Saturday.

        Incidentally, since I'm guessing the reservation has not yet been made, the OP might want to consider having the Alinea dinner on Sunday. That would free up Friday night in case there are other restaurants where you'd like to have dinner but which are closed on Sundays.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Very good point, nsxtasy. Our reservations will be for Sunday night because that's the day we get there, and we leave on Wednesday afternoon. Just curious, OP, but what kind of places were you looking at for your other dinners? As I'm sure nsxtasy will attest to, and which he/she (sorry, don't want to make any assumptions :P) does a very good job at promoting, there are several less expensive yet great dining options in Chicago. I've come to find that Chicago has an under appreciated Thai food community, as well as a great modern-American places like North Pond. However, more specifically, I'll throw out Avec for one of your nights. It would be a completely different experience from both the food and the finer dining experiences that Alinea and Topobolampo will offer.

      2. Wow... Thanks so much for all of the wonderful suggestions.
        We are staying at the Four Points Sheraton so we are pretty central.
        I had to wait until May 1 to make my reservation for Alinea which they are taking up until July and because we are going there on the Friday which is the 31st of July (if that makes sense)
        North Pond sounds like a great suggestion for our Sunday Brunch :)
        Another quick question... My husband and I are both in the "industry" him being a chef and myself a Pastry Chef and while we are in Chicago the Sommelier that works with my husband will be in town as well. So we have decided to meet up with him on the Sunday evening. Any suggestions for that?
        Again I thank you soooo much

        4 Replies
        1. re: lovestocookandbake

          Yes, the Four Points Sheraton is very central!

          For your pizza, the hotel is only about a block from the original Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due, so that's where I would go for that. You're also about four blocks walk from Topolobampo. Both Alinea and North Pond are in Lincoln Park, two and three miles from the hotel respectively, so you'll want to take a cab, or public transportation (the CTA #151 bus goes up Michigan Avenue and through the park right past North Pond).

          For the Sunday dinner, I really like Cafe des Architectes ( ) as our very best contemporary American, casual fine dining restaurant. It features a highly accomplished pastry chef too. Martial Noguier, a semi-finalist in the James Beard Award competition, is executive chef at CDA, and when he arrived there last fall from his former haunt, he brought with him his talented pastry chef, Suzanne Imaz, whose desserts are among the best in town. And they are open on Sundays. In fact, I ate there on a Sunday last month, and Chef Noguier was in the house, and came around to all the tables at one point. I had already noticed his fastidious attention to detail on previous occasions at his restaurants. (At one point, when one of the members of our party got up from the table, he himself noticed and stepped over to fold her napkin while she was gone.) One other bonus is that on Sunday through Tuesday evenings, they feature a special "neighborhood friends" menu, 3 courses for $29, that is an exceptional bargain (although even their regular menu is a relative bargain for a place of such high quality). It's under a five-minute walk from your hotel. So that's my recommendation for Sunday evening.

          Here are four other places that may interest you as a pastry chef.

          Fox & Obel ( ) is our premier gourmet food store, with the finest fresh meats, seafood, cheese, prepared foods, etc. They have the biggest variety of some of the very best baked goods in the city, including breads as well as pastries. Their tres leches cake is excellent, and I love their bread pudding, as well as their chocolate version that they call chocolate brut. (Pop 'em in the microwave briefly before serving warm - mmmmm!) Best bran muffins and best cinnamon rolls ("swirls") I've ever had. Their breads include excellent croissants, brioche, a yummy rustic raisin nut bread (with apricots), etc. It's about half a mile east of your hotel.

          Vanille Patisserie ( ) is a very small but extremely high quality bakery. I really love their entremets. And their croissants are excellent as well. Just a great place. Not all that conveniently located, in the Clybourn Corridor, about three miles northwest of your hotel.

          LB Bistro ( ), in the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, a few blocks walk from the Four Points Sheraton, opened a month or two ago, and is the first restaurant of World Champion Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard. Branlard is the only person in the world to have earned the prestigious World Pastry Team Championship title twice. So far it's only open for breakfast and lunch, and I'm not sure to what extent they are emphasizing his pastry talents. I haven't been there yet, but I'm dying to go.

          TRU ( ), a couple blocks east of your hotel, is one of Chicago's finest restaurants, very dressy and very expensive. In addition to the usual menu, they offer a five-course dessert tasting menu. I haven't done that, but there have been reports here of folks doing that after having dinner elsewhere (i.e. the dessert tasting *only*), and they have been welcomed warmly.

          1. re: lovestocookandbake

            Three big industry hangouts these days are Avec, The Bristol and Mado. All 3 are excellent.

            Avec doesn't take reservations, but Sundays are generally less crowded. The Bristol doesn't take reservations either, but they seem to always be busy. I would recommend making a reservation at Mado. I was just there last night and one of their servers mentioned that Sunday dinners have been pretty busy for them lately. They also occasionally run "family dinners" on Sundays, where they might bring in farmers or other producers and do an entire meal around their products. I haven't been to one, but I've heard really good things about these meals, including some pretty tasty "snout to tail" type dishes.

            All 3 places are an easy cab ride from your hotel.

            Avec Restaurant‎
            615 W Randolph St
            (312) 377-2002

            The Bristol
            2152 North Damen
            (773) 862-5555

            Mado Restaurant
            1647 N Milwaukee Ave
            (773) 342-2340

            1. re: lovestocookandbake

              One of the more interesting (and eccentric) restaurants in Chicago is Schwa. It's very difficult to score a reservation, but since you're not coming until August, you might have a shot. If you can get through to the voice mail (a challenge of its own), mention that you are in the industry, and that might help. Here's more:


              1. re: jbw

                Schwa is rather similar in its cuisine to Alinea, with its emphasis on molecular gastronomy - sort of like Alinea without the formalwear...