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chicago recos near swissotel

hi chowhounders,

hubby and i will be in chicago from july 1 - 5. we're staying at the swissotel.

can you please give me some dinner recos near our hotel? we'll need a total of four dinners for our trip.

we are looking for:
- unique chicagoan eats - hot dogs, pizzas, ribs, steaks, etc.
- we're NOT looking for michelin starred experiences
- we're on a budget - this trip decision has been made on a bit of a whim - we're already going to barcelona/paris later this fall - so dinner for under $50-60 US
would be much appreciated (especially considering our canadian dollar!!)
- we LOVE mexican ... we don't get a lot of good, authentic mexican in our hometown (toronto) ... i checked out rick bayless' properties but they were a bit out of our price range and also not exactly what we're looking for
- we're not into wine ... but hubby likes a good beer

ideally, after a day of sightseeing, we like to come back to the hotel, relax/shower/nap/etc. and then head out for dinner. i don't really want to schlep too far for grub - a 15 min walk would be fine.

also, i'm a BIT concerned about dinner on july 4th ... we've never been in the US for this holiday so i'm guessing that most places will be mobbed?? any tips on this one? we'd like to watch the fireworks but are also hoping we might be able to do it from our hotel...

some recos that i've gleaned from this forum already are: giordanos, portillos/al's beef, hop haus, brasserie jo...

finally, we'd like to catch a cubs game on thursday, july 2nd in the evening. any recos for good eats up near wrigley that might fit our requirements?



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  1. Navy Pier was built just for you!

    1. I would say that Navy Pier isn't just for you...but that is just my take. Not sure where the poster thinks you should eat there. I think that heading out into the neighborhoods not only gives you better deals but a better experience.

      I am biased because I live there, but head up to Andersonville. A cute neighborhood with lots of good eats. Check out hopleaf for the beer menu you are looking for, and check out Jin Ju or Big Jones up there.

      Or go up to Lincoln Park and go to Rose Angelis which I love and think is a steal, as well as a chance to walk through a residential hood and stare at some pretty houses.

      Just some quick ideas for you.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chargenda

        hi chargenda ... thanks so much for the neighbourhood tips.

        to be honest, i'm not sure if the navy pier comment was meant to be sarcastic? all other comments i've read about navy pier signal to me that it's an over-priced tourist trap. anyway, i'm hoping the navy pier comment is meant to be humourous. (and yes, canadians spell that with an 'extra' "U")... :)

      2. hi again,

        one more question ... can anyone tell me whether there's a small grocery store near the swissotel where i can stock up on water/snacks/supplies? fox and obel looks close on the map but the google walking directions seem to be taking me on some really long roundabout to get there.


        6 Replies
        1. re: lilaki

          Check out Goddess and Grocer near you. They are cute and started in Wicker Park first. That's more upscale. Stick to Walgreens for just waters and other basics. Fox & Obel is a long walk just for supplies.

          1. re: Chargenda

            hi chargenda,

            i'm a bit confused ... i mapped goddess and grocer (on e delaware) and it's significantly further than fox and obel. the swissotel is on e wacker. is there another GG that i should be looking for?


            1. re: lilaki

              Ugh! I messed up, I was getting Swissotel and Sofitel confused! Go for Fox & Obel!

              1. re: Chargenda

                cool! fox and obel it is. just gotta figure out how to get there ... i'll ask when i get to the hotel. i read the directions from nxstasy on another post and didn't really understand. tks!

          2. re: lilaki

            As far as groceries/snacks are concerned, one of the finest artisanal cheese shops is nearby, Pastoral: http://www.pastoralartisan.com/. Be sure to check their hours though, since this is a holiday weekend.

            Same goes for Chicago's Indoor Farmstand, here: http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en...

            By the way, you'll be here during "Taste of Chicago." Not for everyone so search around for much commentary.

            1. re: jbw

              OMG ... we LOVE cheese!!! tks!!!

          3. Some information about dinner & fireworks on the 3rd & 4th: Although our National Day of Independence is July 4th, the City of Chicago does its big fireworks display on July 3rd, not the 4th. The fireworks are displayed over Monroe Harbor (i.e, to the east of Millennium Park), so your hotel will be prime viewing area, assuming you are on a high enough floor, facing southeast.
            The area around Millennium Park on July 3rd, especially the evening, is jam-packed. It is not really that big a night for eating out. As another poster mentioned, our annual Taste of Chicago festiel will be going on then, so lots of people head there, or bring a picnic meal, to camp out in the park early, and get a good viewing spot. Especially if you head a bit north of the River -- say to Streeterville -- you will not have much trouble finding restaurants. I.e., as long as you stay away from restaurants immediately adjacent to the park (e..g., Park Grill, the Gage, restaurants in Navy Pier) you should be alright.

            1. hi all,

              thanks for the detailed recos!

              i did some reading about taste of chicago. we'll likely skip it ... we have something similar in toronto and it's really a 'been-there-done-that' kind of thing.

              and thank you for the clarification re: fireworks. i will re-jig our agenda accordingly. dumb question from a canadian (i guess) but why are the fireworks on the 3rd? and not the 4th??

              1 Reply
              1. re: lilaki

                Chicago does them on the 3rd, most of the suburbs do them on the 4th. My guess is that it's a non-compete sort of thing :)

              2. hi all,

                okay, i've narrowed down our list of dinner choices:

                - giordano's for stuffed pizza
                - al's or portillos for italian beef (it looks like a lunch place but we normally do lunch on the go)
                - wiener's circle for hot dogs before the cubs game
                (ugh - we are going to go home artery-clogged!)

                in addition, i have other places on our list - lunch/snacks/etc.
                - pastoral
                - fox and obel
                - garretts
                - downtown farmstand

                i need one more dinner reco. like i mentioned before, we love mexican ... but to be honest, i looked into a ton of mexican threads already and nothing has popped out at me (not even rick bayless' places). can anyone recommend a good authentic mexican place near the swissotel?


                4 Replies
                1. re: lilaki

                  A couple of suggestions: if you decide to go to Taylor Street for Al's Italian Beef (and I do recommend the combo beef/sausage there), one of our better homemade Italian water ices is right across the street at Marios. Try the peach if he's got it.

                  As far as GOOD AUTHENTIC Mexican downtown is concerned--other than the pair of Bayless's--I'm drawing a blank. But, if you have time on Sunday morning (7/5), you might want to pencil in a trip to the Maxwell Street Sunday morning market for some of the best MexicanLatinAmerican street food in the northern hemisphere. Just hop on a bus on Michigan south to Roosevelt (#3 for instance, but there are others that will get you there or close), and it's about a half-mile west up Roosevelt. Here's more:


                  1. re: jbw

                    hi jbw ... YUM! i will add mario's onto our list.

                    i'm sad about the maxwell street sunday market though! we're on an 8:30 am flight! :(

                    but yeah, mexican street food is definitely up our alley. i'm thinking pupusas, tamales, good horchata in that giant vat. anything like it downtown???

                    1. re: lilaki

                      Ok, if you're not up for a trip to Pilsen, you might give Flacos Tacos a shot if you're in the South Loop. They're fairly new, their tacos are fresh and cheap, they occasionally have some interesting special items (I've only tried their tres leches cake but it was quite good:

                      Not Mexican, but for inexpensive Cuban give Cafecito a look:

                2. hi chowhounders,

                  okay, i've given it some more thought and have decided to add frontera to our list. i even called and made a reservation for july 3rd ... they had a TON of times to choose from!

                  so, our dinner list looks like this:

                  wednesday: giordano's (will call ahead)
                  thursday: weiner circle before cubs game
                  friday: frontera grill
                  saturday: open

                  i've decided to do al's beef for lunch ... so still trying to find another restaurant for dinner. hubby has suggested the palm @ our hotel. any thoughts on this? apparently, they have some $62 special for two people ... from a logistics perspective, i actually like the idea of staying @ the hotel since we'll likely be packing up/getting ready to leave first thing sunday morning. comments on the palm?

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: lilaki

                    Weiner Circle is a bit of a hike from the Cubs game, but if you hop on the bus there you should be fine.

                    Sounds fun! Enjoy!

                    1. re: Chargenda

                      hi chargenda,

                      yeah, i noticed that on the map ... any recos for chicago style dogs nearer to wrigley??


                      1. re: lilaki

                        My fave for classic Chicago hotdogs in that area is:

                        Wrigleyville Dogs
                        3737 N. Clark

                        About a block or so north on Clark. Just your everyday Chicago hotdog stand. The polish aren't bad either but I really like the dog and fries. It is acros the street from the Gingerman which is more laid back bar from the hordes of sports bars in that area.

                        1. re: lbs

                          hi lbs,

                          thanks for the reco ...

                          i'm wondering if we should just hit portillo's and THEN hop on the L to wrigley.

                          we'll likely head to our hotel before leaving for the game so we could catch a cab to portillo's (or walk) and then get onto the red line.

                          is portillo's better than wrigleyville dogs?


                          1. re: lilaki

                            Hmmm.... personally I'd rather eat at a more locally owned place than a chain (even though Portillio's was started in Chicago). Both have good dogs but I'd give the nudge to WD just as the atmosphere is more conducive to the whole ball game vibe.

                        2. re: lilaki

                          Why not just grab a dog inside the park. Those are pretty darn tasty!

                          1. re: Chargenda

                            are they actual chicago-style dogs? or just regular dogs?

                            you know, i never thought of eating right at the park. that would probably work since hubby wants to get there early enough to check out the stadium, take pics, maybe watch a bit of practice, etc. what is the food situation like @ wrigley? i don't have huge expectations ... i'm expecting expensive for the quality ... but i will settle for decent. maybe it will add to the entire atmosphere of the game.

                            1. re: lilaki

                              The dogs at the park arent that great unless you go to the right concession stand. You can always bring a dog in the park. And there is really nothing like getting a dog from the walking vendor

                              1. re: lilaki

                                Well, you can get the full hotdog/stadium experience, but it'll be far from the best hot dog (particularly at the price) you've ever had . Take a look at this first, and make your decision:


                                1. re: lilaki

                                  I am not stadium dog pro, but I had one there that was wonderful last year. Yes, you can get the true Chicago style dog, but I would avoid the guys walking around in the stands. I just think that you need an overpriced dog and a not too chilled beer in your hands for the true stadium experience.

                                  1. re: lilaki

                                    YEs, to get the good grilled dog with grilled onions you must go to the hot dog carts at Wrigley NOT the regular concession or the hawkers. You can smell the onions two sections away, follow your nose.

                                    You also discussed Palm Steakhouse above. It's very good, but very overpriced. If you're looking for a steak that is very good and reasonable, my go to place is Wildfire on W Erie. It's about a 10 minute ($8 cab ride) or a 20 minute walk from Swissotel. I live nearby and have dinner there at least every couple weeks. If they don't have reservations, it's usually pretty easy to grab a high-top table in the bar (no smoking in Chicago) and you can have the full dinner. It's part of a local restaurant group and has now been replicated in a couple cities, but it's a great everyday steakhouse.


                            2. re: lilaki

                              Regarding a grocery store near by, go to Bockwinkels. It's located on Stetson Ave just a block or two from your hotel.

                              Regarding dinner near by, as mentioned by another person, I highly recommend the Gage and they accept reservations. Tavern at the Park is pretty good too and located on Randolph St near Michigan Ave.

                              1. re: mojava

                                hi mojava,

                                thanks so much for the recos ... i just mapped bockwinkels ... uber close! :)

                            3. I live in the apartment complex next door to the Swissotel (The Tides). :)

                              Grocery: Dominicks or Fox and Obel, both on Illinois. Walk out your hotel. Cross the street (that's Wacker) to the stairway next to the river. Descend it to the middle level (not all the way down to the river). You're now on Columbus. Walk North. Dominicks is on the corner. For Fox and Obel, take a right, walk two blocks. Bingo, you're there. (The sushi place along the way, Niu, is actually quite good.) There are actually two Bockwinkles quite close. The "other one" is in "that black building on Harbor". You walk through the park in front of The Tides building, then up and out the stairway out of the park on the East side. You're on Upper Harbor Drive now and you'll immediately see "that black building on Harbor".

                              The Palms, in the Swissotel, is a good restaurant, but pricey. The Gage on South Michigan is easy walking distance. I love their de-constructed root beer float. Tavern on the Park in the Prudential building. Park Grille, right in Millenium Park under "The Bean".

                              But the neighborhood is mostly business, so things tend to shut down. You're much better off for restaurants to get in a cab and head out into some of the neighborhoods. I'm partial to the South Loop area. Zapatista's has incredible spicy guacamole.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tgreer

                                hi tgreer,

                                WOW - thanks for the super detailed reply!

                              2. hi chowhounds,

                                i'm back from my trip and thought i'd do a quick write up of our food experiences...

                                - pizza @ bella bacinos on wacker -- GREAT pizza - loved the fillings; also really enjoyed the antipasto platter
                                - burgers - billy goat tavern @ navy pier (we rented bikes, got hungry, that's where we stopped) -- nothing to write home about but nothing horrible either!
                                - dogs from the hot dog vendor @ wrigley - tks for all the tips to 'follow the onions' -- never had carmelized onions on my hot dog before - they were great! as were the thick cut fries and chicken tenders. you know it's a bad food day when you can eat everything standing up and without cutlery! :) overall, i'm glad we decided to eat AT wrigley b/c it added to the entire experience (which was very neat and VERY different from a toronto baseball experience, btw)
                                - garrett's popcorn - okay, i get it now! fantastic!
                                - pizza @ lou malnati's (south loop)... not as good as bacinos. we were surprised! both pizzas were very bland ... never thought i'd have to add salt to a pizza
                                - dinner @ frontera grill (we were able to make reservations about a month in advance) - this was a disappointment after all the hype i'd read - guacamole was over-salted, jicima salad was under seasoned, tamales were over sweetened etc. it wasn't BAD food but i expected so much more. if i hadn't read anything about the restaurant, i would've given the place a 6.5/10.
                                - fox and obel - YUM! loved the bread, cheeses, sausages, etc. great store!

                                chicago is a great city ... and a great food town! next time, we want to come back and go to the maxwell street market. plus, we want to try other pizzas and italian beef sandwiches!

                                thanks to all for your help! it was invaluable.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: lilaki


                                  i forgot to add the bongo room to the list! it was AWESOME!!! thanks to all who advised about getting single orders of pancakes! we had four single orders - lemon ricotta, strawberry shortcake, banana/chocolate crunch bar, white chocolate pretzel. ABSOLUTE DELICIOUSNESS!!!