Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Aug 11, 2009 08:46 AM

Torontonians visiting Chicago

Hello ChiHounds,

I am visiting your city soon with my Mother (we are 30 and 53) and am hoping you can help me out with some recomendations. I am very urban, love all sorts of food and wine, travel to eat and thoroughly enjoy the dining out experience. She is suburban, does not drink, and eats only to fuel her body, for the most part. We will being staying in the loop district for 4 days and 3 nights.

I'm hoping to find spots that have a great atmosphere to distract her while I enjoy a cocktail, good food and "not too stuffy". She does not enjoy sushi or anything too heavy or spicy (ie french, indian etc). I am hoping for a fun italian spot and definitely good mexican since we are seriously lacking in that area here in Toronto. Also good brunch spots as well.

From a quick search of recent posts I have seen the following mentioned:

Pizzeria Via Stato
The Kerryman
Fox and Obel
Bongo Room (breakfast)

Would these be a good middle ground for us? Are they reasonably close to the loop?

Thanks so much for helping me close the loop between Mom and I!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. LOL @ distraction. Distance is relative. With the exception of Mexique, all of these locations i have walked over from where i live. But i'm also one who walks 2 miles without batting an eyelash. Just depends. Most will be a short cab ride.

    Zocalo is my favorite casual Mexican, especially because i'm a block away. Best margarita, huge selection of tequila. The tacos de casuela and the shrimp/calamari fajita are stand outs.

    Mexique is also a current favorite. It is a casual but refined spot, serving French influenced Mexican. it is in West Town, and a 10, 15 cab ride away.

    The Kerryman is a great local pub. Good bar food.

    Fox & Obel is an upscale grocer. I have generally been disappointed with their cafe, but get stuff from the bakery, and deli/prepared food counter.

    Bongo Room is one of our more creative breakfast places. 'Dessert as breakfast' if i have to summarize it. The South Loop location is closer to you, but personally i prefer the original Bucktown location.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ms. chow

      Thanks so much ms.chow! Can you recommend any other good spots that would work for both of us?


      1. re: JaclynS

        Going with Mexican, Italian.

        de cero is another fun Mexican spot. It is a taqueria with very creative fillings in the tacos. Great margaritas too. Short cab ride to the West Loop.

        Don't know if your mon is old school, or how much you like old school red sauce Italian. La Scarola is a fun, bustling spot. Always crowded and busy. Another option, a little north in Lincoln Park, is Riccardo Trattoria. It is one of the few places here that closely resembles being in Italy. Both short cab ride away.

        La Scarola Italian Restaurant
        721 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654

        De Cero Taqueria
        812 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

        Riccardo Trattoria
        2119 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

      2. re: ms. chow

        Fox & Obel is a great grocery store and the cafe is fine for breakfast or a quick lunch but that's about it.

        1. re: HoosierFoodie

          What about spots that are "american contemporary" ?

          1. re: JaclynS

            My personal favs.

            Blackbird. Loud and cramped. 12 years running and still packing them in every night.

            Sepia. Refined, sexy, sophisticated food.

            Perennial. Upscale casual farm to table.

            Blackbird Restaurant
            619 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60606

            Perennial Virant
            1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

            123 North Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60661

      3. For fun Italian:
        Ms. Chow mentioned La Scarola - agreed if you like old school Italian (good call Ms. Chow)

        Quartino is a good location with lots of things to try, from wine (available in smaller sizes and flights) to antipastos and small plates and a vibrant scene of distractions - a bit of a human zoo - try their website for more info:

        Gioco (also Italian) in the S. Loop is also a good bet - the best smelling wood oven around (IMHO) and top notch Italian food (certainly calmer than Quartino

        I'd also recommend The Gage by Millenium Park. I'd describe this as Gastro-Pub with well beyond a pub menu and a lively atmosphere - friends who cannot decide between a bar and a restaurant often end up here and everyone is happy.

        Total side note - if you are interested in picnicing or snacking in the park or Hotel - try Pastoral on Lake St. - huge selection of cheese with some wines to match - fun place to duck in and try things with a wonderful staff. Their other location (much smaller) was on FoodTv sometime back and they have kept with what got them there.

        If you plan to venture North (Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Etc.) - let me know for more rec's, not sure how far you intend to venture.

        3 Replies
        1. No. But if the bottle is inside a bag, you're generally ok. At outdoor fests, they specifically say no alcohol allowed, but no one enforces it either. Just as long as you don't get too rowdy, i suppose.

          1. re: ms. chow

            And I'd get plastic glasses if you can. Glass containers are generally frowned upon.

            1. re: lbs

              Great! Thanks so much for all of your ideas! I am going to do some more research today and put together a plan. I'll definitely report back after our trip on all of the spots we hit.