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Jun 5, 2009 07:52 AM

Please Help Narrow My Dining Choices In Chicago

I'm new to Chow and I have been doing research for me and my wife'sfirst trip to Chicago. We will be there for a week at the begining of August. We are looking for some good food. I have come up with a list of places that look interesting to us. We will be staying in the heart of the Loop. We don't mind traveling a bit but nothing to far (I do realize Hot Doug's is a trek but It is an execption). We don't mind the type of restaurant as long as the food is good, we will eat in divey ethnic place to nice fine dining and everything in between. I also have a BYOB section we are on a budget so would like to do a little saving there. Please let me know if there are any places on my list I should avoid, I know it is a big list for a week and I am trying to make it more managable.

French what 2-3 are the standouts
Campagne Bistro
Bistro Margot
Café Bernard & Red Rooster
Central Cafe
La Sardine
Le Bouchon
Mon ami Gabi

Sandwiches and Dogs
Jim’s Original Sandwich shop
Pastoral Cheese 53 E Lake St Chicago IL
Milk And Honey Cafe
Hot Doug’s

Wow Bao Restaurant
Star of Siam
3rd Coast Cafe
Hop Leaf
Phoenix for Dim Sum
Ashkenaz Deli Kosher Deli
Manny’s Deli

Mexican and Latin American
90 Miles From Cuba
Taco's Erendira Inc
Arturo's Tacos
El Nandu

Oasis Cafe
Greek Islands

Eastern European
Healthy Food Lithuanian
Laschet's Inn Restaurant

A Tovola
Rose Angelis

Home Bistro
Siam Noodle and Rice
Café 103
Cafe Bella
Café Too
Glenn's Diner
Le Conakry
Sticky Rice
Machu Picchu
Uncle Joe's Tropical Dining
The Grocery Bistro
Spoon thai
Pollo Volador

Schaller's Pump
Old Town Ale House
Webster's Wine Bar
The Motel Bar
The Signature Room
The Map Room
Weegee's Lounge
Kuma’s Corner
The Green Mill
Quenchers Saloon

Thanks for your help looking forward to our trip to your wonderful city

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  1. Wow you've certainly done a lot of research. Here's some of my faves and also thoughts on your choices.

    Market Days is an LGBT-centered street fest. Of course people of all stripes are welcome. I'm personally not a big fan of eating at food stalls in street fests. The drinks though would be great. A lot of the bars on Halsted will set up booths outside. Your wife will also probably enjoy the eye candy. ;-)

    Bistro Campagne
    Lovely, lovely house. The garden used to be a great spot in the summer, but they enclosed almost half of it to make more permanent room. Chef Altenberg focuses on organic and local produce. The food is excellent, mostly updated classics on traditional bistro fare. His other restaurant, Crust, is one of the few certified organic restaurants in the country.

    La Sardine & Le Bouchon
    I'm grouping them together since they belong to the same owner. Really authentic, traditional Parisian bistro. Cramped, noisy, lively. La Sardine i think has some kind of weekly deal.

    Pastoral Cheese
    There is also another location in Lakeview. I've gotten cheese and wine there. Great staff.

    Milk And Honey Cafe
    If you go, get the granola. It is a fastfood format, which might be confusing to firstimers. You walk in, line up at the counter and place your order. The menu are listed on boards. They give you a number, and you find a table. On weekends, it is very crowded, and the staff will help you find a table.

    Wow Bao
    This is an Asian fastfood specializing in Chinese steam buns with non-traditional fillings (kung pao chicken, mongolian beef). A great place for lunch or snack.

    My # 2 favorite restaurant in the city. Excellent mediterranean-focused food. Small plates, communal table setup. They do not take reservations. Go early or late would be my advice.

    Hop Leaf
    Really great gastropub. Good food using local organic ingredients. A lot of the dishes uses beer for cooking. Huge, huge beer list.

    One of the few, if not the only Costa Rican place in the city. BYOB. Always very crowded. Get one of the shakes. The chicharones is heaven. Heart attack waiting to happen, but heaven.

    Pita Inn
    Very good, cheap Middle Eastern fast food. It is out of the way unless you have a car.

    A Tavola
    Very intimate place with very authentic food. The place is very small. The menu also has very few selections. They focus on doing things small, but doing it perfectly.

    Sticky Rice
    Best Thai restaurant for me in this category (storefront, BYOB, food is the star). They have a lot of dishes you won't find anywhere else. Offal. Bugs.

    Webster's Wine Bar
    Great staff to talk to about wine. One of the original wine bars in the city. Excellent food too.

    The Motel Bar
    Funky place. Nostalgic if you've gone on family road trips as a child.

    The Map Room
    Encyclopedic beer selection. Great neighborhood place.

    1. Place to avoid: Chutney Joes. I ate there once and thought it was below mediocre. And don't just take my word for it. See Monica Eng's review in yesterday's Cheap Eats column in the Chicago Tribune.

      1. My recommendations from your choices (some not from your list)
        Bistro Campagne
        Le Sardine/Le Bouchon (sister restaurants)

        Hot Dougs
        Jerry's (on Division near Damen) Good enough to make you cry

        No preferences from your Italian list. I would find something in the Mia Francesca family or Cafe Spiaggia or Coco Pazzo Cafe. Club Lucky in Bucktown is very decent traditional Italian also.

        Don't know all the BYO places you mentionned: From what I know I choose Glenn's Diner or Spoon. Sticky Rice was closed by Health Dept. Don't know if they have reopened.

        Kuma's Corner is bar, but with great burgers
        Websters Wine Bar is good.
        Map Room is good, but much better is Hopleaf in Andersonville.
        Signature Room basically for the view.

        5 Replies
        1. re: chicgail

          "Don't know all the BYO places you mentionned: From what I know I choose Glenn's Diner"

          I don't believe Glenn's is a BYO (at least they have a wine list), altho it is certainly worth going to if you're looking for seafood at a reasonable price. (Right off the Brown Line at Montrose, as is Spaccanapoli (Neapolitan pizza) and Mixteco Grill--both excellent choices).

          In the downtown area and nearby there a lot of mid-priced and higher end Italian restaurants that haven't made your list that are worth visiting. These include (from lower to higher price) Quartino and A Mano (both small plates), Trattoria 10, Coco Pazzo, Follia, Merlo, Spiaggia.

          1. re: jbw

            Last Thurs., 6/4, we had an excellent early evening dinner, @ 4 p.m., at Coco Pazzo. It was very pleasant from the Modigliani-style overkill on the walls to the antipasti display, to the tasty food to the friendly and efficient waitstaff. I especially loved the fish special I chose, a mouth-wateringly fresh pike from Lake Superior, crisply seared on the skin side. The salmon from the regular menu was good. Moderately priced by LA standards.

            Coco Pazzo Cafe
            636 N St Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

            1. re: Vikzen

              Note that there is a Coco Pazzo, and a Coco Pazzo Cafe. They are sister restaurants about a mile apart from one another. Coco Pazzo serves upscale, modern Tuscan cuisine.

              1. re: ms. chow

                Coco Pazzo is to CPCafe as Spiaggia is to Spiaggia Cafe. I like CPC very much for an more casual less expensive downtown Italian meal, but for one of the better Italian meals in Chicago (w/o the expense of Spiaggia) try the hq on Hubbard:


                1. re: jbw

                  Thanks for pointing out the two spots. I believe I was on St Clair and they were open continuously from lunch to dinner, so it must have been the café. Nevertheless, the food was very good and the atmosphere enjoyable - everything I said above. Being from LA and primarily a seafood eater from dive-like coastal shacks to the finest downtown, I stand by my generous assessment of the Lake Superior whitefish.

        2. Technically Kuma's is a bar but unless you go during off hours, you cannot sit around and drink at your leisure. The rest of us will kill you. People are there to eat the best burgers in Chicago and the wait for a bar stool or a table can be lengthy. By all means go, just don't plan on drinking there all night.

          1. Two of my favorites not listed above are: THE PUBLICAN and NUEVO LEON. Paul Kahn is the best chef in the city right now for 'farm to table' style food. Nuevo Leon is in Pilsen favorite Mexican joint!