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Aug 21, 2009 06:30 PM

New to Chicago

Hello foodies. I'm a long-time New Yorker recently transplanted to Streeterville for school. I'm looking to find my new culinary home in Chicago, and I'd love some help. My roommates and I are trying to build two lists of places to go--one of places that are (relatively) close by and worthwhile--favorite chinese, thai, sushi, lunch, dessert/ice cream, deli, breakfast, etc. Since none of us have cars (and are in class most of the day), we're looking for close-ish. I'd also love a list of places worth the (not outrageously difficult) trip--places to explore on the weekends.

For the first list, we tried Dao Thai the other night and found it to be passible but not amazing.

For the second, thinking Hot Doug's, some of the Dim Sum places in Chinatown (brings back memories of weekly trips to Dim Sum Go Go or Golden Unicorn), etc. We're frankly less interested in the debates about which place is BEST (we'll try 'em all), just some pointers as to where to head.

I'm sure that this has also been covered elsewhere to some degree--if there are links that would be helpful instead of originally constructed paragraphs, those would be great as well.


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  1. I'm a HUGE fan of Hot Doug's, but it's kind of off the beaten path if you don't have a car. Call the CTA or go to the website for bus routes, because I think that's the only option (I could be wrong, but I don't think the el goes near there). You should also know it's closed on Sundays, so Saturdays are your only option in terms of list #2, open 10:30-4:00 (and not a minute past).

    1. For your neighborhood list.
      Sayat Nova - great Armenian food, lively atmosphere.
      Coco Pazzo Cafe - comfort Italian.
      1492 - intimate Spanish tapas.
      Oysy - sushi and izagaya.
      West Egg Cafe - no frills breakfast.

      For your worth the trip list:
      Lula Cafe - creative modern food.
      Avec - Mediterranean focused scenester hang out.
      Happy Chef for dim sum
      Lao Sze Chuan
      Publican - oyster, pork, beer
      Green Zebra - vegetable focused
      Bistro Campagne - modern, farm to table French bistro
      Province - creative Mediterranean, Latin America food
      Sepia - Refined modern American in a sexy setting.
      Anteprima - takes you back to Italy. Or to Italy.

      1. Hi... welcome. I'm a long ago transplanted New Yorker who now thinks of myself as a Chicagoan. I recommend Semiramis (Middle Eastern) on Kedzie right near the Kedzie Bown Line stop. Also, the closest to a New York deli is Manny's on Clinton (or is it Jefferson) just off Roosevelt Road. Wherever you end up, happy eating at much more reasonable prices than in the 5 boroughs.

        1 Reply
        1. re: debbypo

          Pastaguy, I'm in the same boat - New York foodie, headed back to finish my time at Medill in a few weeks. In preparation for the soul-shattering hours and intellectual drubbing I'm about to receive, I've done a preposterous amount of research, so that I might end my day with the soothing balm of, say, a pizza the size of my head.

          But in all seriousness, I'm a foodie with pretty varied taste, and although I'm a ways from you (border of Gold Coast and Lincoln Park) I've got a huge list going. I like your philosophy of guaranteed quality rather than "best" - which is always an amorphous distinction, anyway. Highlights of respective cuisines that I'm going to be specially visiting are:

          Sol de Mexico for the real deal black mole, and elevated Mexican cuisine (and to compare to Bayless's ballyhooed Frontera's later on)
          M. Henry for the classic stuff-your-face-and-make-noises brunch - check out their menu's blisscakes and french toast. Seems like a better Norma's.
          Smoque, Honey 1, and some others for real-deal bbq like we New Yorkers dream about.
          Kuma's for their burgers, Tacqueria Puebla for their infamous cemitas.
          The Art of Pizza's stuffed crust pizza gets votes over the Lou Malnati's contingent, even among my native Chicagoan friends. This is earth-shattering and borderline treason, so it's worth a trip for that alone.
          For Thai, everyone seems to say Spoon Thai's "secret" menu is as close at it gets to delicious stuff actually eaten in the homeland.
          Toro sushi is well loved. Katsu is high-end, but worth it if you're a fan. Sort of like the Sushi Yasuda of Chicago.
          Cafecito's got great cuban-style sandwiches, and wi-fi. Fun place to study.

          I've got a far bigger list running that would threaten to overload the Chowhound server, but I cannot link or post my email due to regulations and their secret police. Holler at me if you've got more specific questions.

        2. Thai - If you want serious Thai food, take the red line or brown line L trains north. My favorite Thai restaurant in Chicago is Spoon Thai and it's about a 1 minute walk from the Brown Line Western Ave. stop. You don't need to ask for the "secret" translated Thai language menu - they bring you that menu when you sit down. N.B. - if you just plan to order Ameri-Thai noodle dishes, you might be disappointed. They specialize in authentic Thai food and it is amazing and cheap. Also, it's byo and there are a couple of liquor stores right near the restaurant.

          About 5 blocks south of Spoon is Sticky Rice which is also fantastic (might have to ask for Thai menu, assuming they have it . . . otherwise find it on

          Right next to the Sheridan Red Line stop is TAC Quick, which is also outstanding. At TAC, you do need to ask for the translated Thai language menu usually.

          For dim sum, my personal favorite in Chinatown is Shui Wah in the Chinatown mall. Afterward, head next door to St. Anna's Bakery for the best Chinese pastries. If you insist on cart dim sum service, Phoenix is very good too, but I prefer Shui Wah.

          For non-dim sum, I am a big fan of (Little) Three Happiness for pan fried noodles and salt and pepper shrimp (the one on the south side of Cermak; avoid the Three Happiness on the north side at all costs). It's largely Cantonese. For spicier food, head to Lao Sze Chuan or Double Li. My absolute favorite Chinese restaurant is more of a Hong Kong bbq-type place called Sun Wah and it's on Argyle, north of the city next to the Red Line Argyle L stop. I love their pan fried noodles (extra crispy), their Beijing duck and their bbq pork and duck options. Argyle features mostly Vietnamese restaurants and there are a lot of those to try too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: BRB

            From a big Tac Quick fan: since its right off the Red Line, a bit closer than Spoon Thai to Streeterville. I've never been disappointed when I've ordered off the chalk board there.

            and here's a couple of Streeterville recs: Boston Blackies for good relatively inexpensive burgers, and a second on Coco Pazzo Cafe for midlevel Italian.

          2. welcome to Chicago. without being argumentative, try:
            chinese: spring mountain for hunan, szechuan (chinatown square), lee wing wah for classical cantonese, i 2nd the sun wah rec; try the duck over rice and shrimp dumpling soup with or without the noodles.
            vietnamese: pho at 777 on Argyle st.
            thai: 2nd and 3rd spoon thai rec, on western, near the L station,
            indian: indian grill on clark, south of fullerton, himalaya in Niles, but that might be a trip for you.
            dim sum: happy chef next to shu wah is worth a try.
            pizza: also try Pat's for thin crust pizza (on Lincoln Ave), unos or dues for chicago style
            cajun: heaven on seven on Wabash (better ambiance than the Michigan ave location)
            best of luck to you in your new home town