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Sep 20, 2009 07:04 AM

Questions on my chicago trip this weekend

We are coming to Chicago this Thursday. The first two nights we’ll be staying at the Marriott O’Hare so I can attend a conference. Then on Saturday afternoon we’ll be moving to the city and staying at Sutton Place Hotel which is on the corner of Bellevue and Rush, just off Michigan. We got a great deal so that is why we are staying there.

I have gotten a ton of info from this board and have looked at so many restaurants and menus but finally have things almost figured out. Thank you to everyone for your input on my earlier post.

We get into Chicago at 3:30 and hopefully, if we don’t have a ton of delays, can be at our hotel by 5:00ish. Had originally planned to catch the El into the city and have dinner at Avec, but have shifted gears. Now plan to go to Wicker Park/Bucktown for the evening. Figure there are lots of options there. Trying to decide between Spring or Le Bouchon, but open to other suggestions. May stop at The Violet Hour for a drink and Hot Chocolate for dessert. How is this area for walking around in the evening?

Friday will get some deep dish pizza for dinner; I think Gino’s East and Giordanos area close to the hotel.

Saturday for dinner we have reservations at Topolobampo. I made those reservations a long time ago, have wanted to go there for a while. Good thing as now we’d never get in.

Sunday looks like should have nice weather. We will do Millennium Park, Art Institute and maybe one of the CAF river tours. Lunch will be The Gage. I have heard nothing but good things, my husband loves a place with a good beer selection. Do you know if they also serve their lunch menu along with the brunch menu?

Dinner on Sunday will be Avec. I realize we’ll have to wait, but hey, we are on vacation, we don’t mind.

Monday I haven’t figured out yet what we’ll do or where we’ll eat lunch. Still looking at places. Maybe an Italian beef sandwich somewhere, maybe deep dish pizza if we don’t have it Friday night. Monday dinner is at Table 52.

We leave Tuesday so will look for a place close to our hotel for a nice lunch. Any suggestions?

Any good bars around where we are staying to grab some cocktails after dinner?

I am really looking forward to our trip. It should be a ton of fun. I would have liked to have dinner at a place like Alinea but unfortunately a little beyond our budget this trip.

Question on dress, I assume that the two places we are having dinner at so far are business casual or a pair of dress jeans and a nice top?

Okay, think that is it for now. Looking for any comments, input or suggestions.

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  1. Great itinerary. To answer some of your questions...

    Wicker Park/Bucktown is great to walk around at night. There are so many restaurants and bars and there is a lively crowd well into the wee hours. Spring is an excellent place in a very interesting setting (it was a former Turkish bath). Their focus is more on seafood with international flavors. Le Bouchon is a traditional French bistro if that is what you are looking for. The space is very very tiny. Takashi next door is excellent for sort of a blurred French/Japanese influenced food. Mado is one of the popular farm-to-table places these days.

    Congratulations on the Topo booking. I'm kicking myself for not thinking fast enough after Chef Bayless won Top Chef Masters. The meal he cooked for the show i think will only be available until sometime in October, if you are eyeing that.

    The Gage have both their brunch and lunch menus available on Sundays.

    For lunch close to your hotel, if you tend towards more breakfast stuff, The Original Pancake House is right across the street from you. Gigantic apple or dutch baby pancakes can feed a family of 4. Cash only. For a pricier lunch, how about Cafe Spiaggia? I haven't been to Cafe des Acrhitectes for lunch, but dinner is fantastic.

    You are staying right in the so called Viagra Triangle. Bars galore but not my kind of scene. The one good place a few blocks south is the Drawing Room. Excellent cocktails.

    Business casual should be fine. You see a lot of jackets and dresses at Topo, but i don't remember that they have a jackets required rule. Well, i should talk. As DH would say, i tend to overdress even going to the grocery lol.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ms. chow

      Thanks so much for the quick reply.

      I think I may make reservations at Spring. I do love french food and I'm sure that Le Bouchon is good, but we'll be dining fairly heavy in the next few days so starting off with a seafood place might be the way to go. Mado does interest me but it is BYO and it is just easier to have a place with a liquor license.

      I booked Topo back in mid July and had limited choice of times at that point. I think if I had waited any longer would not have gotten in. I have a couple of Rick Bayless's cookbooks and use them often. So I am interested very interested in dining there. The top chef masters win only makes if more interesting. The top chef tasting meal is available through early October and I've already decided that is what I'm ordering. That and a few margaritas to start.

      My husband is not a big breakfast person to that is why it is good if you can order off both a lunch or a breakfast menu. I had really wanted to try M. Henry for breakfast but they aren't open on Monday so might have to pass this time.

      I did consider Cafe Spiaggia. I am from NJ and we have tons of italian restaurants in this area so not sure if we'll want italian.

      Oooh, Viagra Triangle, what fun! We are both in our 50's but I like to think a young 50. We like cocktail bars like The Violet Hour where they have interesting drinks. But also like a good beer bar. Want to hit up at least one bar with a view.

      Depending on the weather and how we feel, may rent bikes and ride the bike path along the lake.

      My husband wants to go to Navy Pier as one of the guys he works with told him it was great with a lot of good restaurants. My guess is the guy is not into food as from what I've read it is touristy and not the place to dine. Though we may walk out there to get the view from the end and I think the stained glass museum could be interesting.

      I like to consider every vacation and adventure and I'm looking forward to this one too.

      1. re: KathyH

        You are correct about Navy Pier. About the only place that might be worth any attention is Riva, which is an ok seafood place. You mentioned beer, and the beer garden at Navy Pier, while pretty average in terms of selection, might be a nice stop to relax and soak in the lake view.

        If you want serious beer bars, go to Hopleaf, Map Room, or for me, increasingly, Publican. Map Room is in Bucktown, so you could work it in your Bucktown night adventure.

        The Map Room
        1949 N Hoyne Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

        The Publican
        837 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

        Hopleaf Bar
        5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

    2. I agree that Bucktown/Wicker Park are fine for walking around in the evening. You'll likely be on Damen, Milwaukee or North Avenue. Personally, I'd make a reservation at Mado and I might even have their desserts and skip Hot Chocolate, as much as I have the latter. The desserts I tried at Mado were fantastic. My favorite meal of this year so far was at Mado - better than ones I've enjoyed at Avenues and L.20. Mado is byo. By the way, there's a wine store about a 1/4 mile away from Mado and I understand that they are familiar with the restaurant and its menu and are very helpful. Both Mado and the wine store are very close to the Blue Line train stop at Western/Milwaukee.

      Otherwise, I like both Spring and Le Bouchon quite a bit but they're very different so it just depends what you're in the mood for. As for Violet Hour, expect to wait in line. Expect the same at Hot Chocolate.

      For your pizza choice, Gino's is next door to the Marriott O'Hare, while Giordano's is across the street from the Marriott Suites. By the way, Pizano's pizza is near your hotel downtown and it is much better than Gino's and Giordano's.

      As for attire, you'd be surprised how casual Chicago is, especially in a down economy when restaurants won't send anyone out the door. I expect you'll see a few jackets at both Topo and Table 52 (I wouldn't wear jeans to either, but I suspect some would), but nice jeans would be welcome almost everywhere else.

      For lunch on Tuesday, I'd definitely recommend David Burke's Primehouse where the beef is phenomenal, but everything else is very good too.

      5 Replies
      1. re: BRB

        Thanks everyone for their help so far. Is it just me or do others spend this much time trying to decide where to go, what to eat, what to do when traveling? Seriously I think I spent/wasted half the day yesterday all over the internet. Honestly though, I think that is part of the fun.

        Definitely doing Wicker Park/Bucktown on Thursday. I would love to try Mado, read about them in Bon Appetit but also really like the farm to table concept. I do have a couple of reservations. One is we'd prefer a place with a liquor license, just easier when one of us drinks wine and the other beer. But we can still deal with that.

        My other concern is that their menu is limited, which I understand as they use fresh local ingredients so you wouldn't have a massive menu. But the main concern is they seem to lean heavily towards a lot of offal. I also understand they do the butchering in the back and use every part of the animal. It's just I am not keen on eating every part of an animal. Also not big on rabbit for other reason. With all the raves that Mado has gotten would really like to go, just worry that I'll be very limited with the menu.

        Had considered Spring, but they are a little pricier so may opt for somewhere a tad less expensive. How about The Bristol that also looks very interesting. And still have Le Bouchon in the mix.

        If we go to Violet Hour would like to go before dinner for a cocktail as I think after dinner we'd hit a much bigger crowd.

        We had planned to have pizza near the Marriott for dinner on Friday, but that isn't set in stone. Could still opt for pizza one Monday or Tuesday for lunch and that leaves Friday open for maybe Lula or going back to another place in Wicker Park. Guess it will depend on the hour and how tired we are.

        I figue the Maproom might be a place where my husband can come back to for lunch of Friday. Someone else mentioned Hopleaf and while interesting I think a little out of the way as we'll only have two full days in the city.

        Ah, decisions, decisions.......


        1. re: KathyH

          It is hard, with so many choices and so little time.

          I hear ya on Mado. They do have a few fish offerings. Anyways, the Bristol is along the same vein as Mado. They also have their share of offal, but the menu is a bit larger, and in small plates format. Some things to consider though about Bristol. It is for me the loudest restaurant right now in Chicago. I still love it and go when I can, but the noise level is worst than most clubs. Location wise it is on the northern edge of Bucktown. Their monkey bread is one of my top favorite items this year.

          I heard Spring lowered their prices, but I haven’t been there since they did that. If Le Bouchon is still in the mix, look at Café Matou as well. It is a personal favorite for sentimental reasons. It is traditional French café fare, but has a lighter touch compared to Bouchon.

          I’ve also recommended this on another post, and since your husband likes beer… how about Violet Hour, Bluebird, and Hot Chocolate? Violet Hour before dinner is a great idea, that’s what I usually do too. Then head over to Bluebird, which is a casual, gastropub-by place. The food is solid, not great, but good. They have a very large beer selection and great wines. It’s the same owner as Webster Wine Bar, which has been around before wine bars became a trend. Then afterwards, Hot Chocolate is right next door.

          If you are considering Lula, I will give you very big, HUGE nudges and my 2 thumbs up. It is my #1 favorite in the city. There are 2 menus. The café menu shows their humble beginnings, and has a lot of affordable, great organic eats. The specials menu is where the chefs’ creativity excel. It is very imaginative, and at par with other casual, fine dining places.

          Oh and with Map Room, go for the beer. Get something to eat before or after somewhere else.

          1. re: ms. chow


            Cafe Matou
            1846 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60647

            1749 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

            1. re: ms. chow

              Okay, I think you swayed me. Might cancel the deep dish pizza idea that I had planned for dinner on Friday and take the train to Logan Square and have dinner at Lula. It was on my list but didn't see how it would fit in. Any places in that area to have a drink before or after?

              And I plan to do exactly what you suggest on Thursday, drinks first at Violet Hour, dinner at a place I've yet to figure out, and dessert at Hot Chocolate.

              I just have to watch how much I drink on Thursday and Friday as my conference starts early the next days and last all day. Do not need to feel crappy.

              I will look at Bluebird and Cafe Matou and throw those into the mix. I do love french food but the farm to table type place interests me, though the proliferation of offal scares me a bit.

              As for the Map Room, may send my husband there to check it out Friday afternoon, but I'll tell him to eat somewhere else first.

              Still plan to try deep dish pizza but now may do that for lunch on Monday or Tuesday instead.

              Another question, we do plan to go to The Gage for brunch Sunday, should we make reservations?

              Okay, those are my questions for this hours.

              Thanks again for all the help.


              1. re: KathyH

                Logan Square is a very mixed area, and most bars are neighborhood divey places. I would defer to other ‘hounds on this. I would recommend just staying at the bar at Lula, although the space is small, and oftentimes, people are choosing to have dinner at the bar. Lula has creative cocktails, like a Bloody Mary that is made with sambal olek (the Indonesian chili sauce). One time there was a rhubarb margarita on special. They also have some interesting beer selections. Wine list is great and really affordable. Note that Lula does not take reservations, although the outdoor seating right now will help with the wait.

                Brunch at The Gage, I usually notice that it starts to fill up around 12:30. But I would say it's always safer (when possible) to have a reservation.

        2. I am also going to Chicago this weekend. We have made reservations at Alina and The Publican. We will also be doing brunch at David Burke's Primehouse. Have fun!

          1 Reply
          1. re: steffunny

            I would have loved to go to Alinea but it is a bit beyond my budget at the moment. Figure for one dinner there, we can have two or three dinners elsewhere. I am sure you will enjoy it as I don't think I've read a negative review.

            I had considered The Publican but will go to Avec instead.

            David Burke's menu looks great, though don't feel like a steakhouse dinner. David Burke also has a restaurant here in NJ which I've been to a couple of times and it is interesting to see that some of the items on the menu are the same in both restaurants.

            Have a great trip and enjoy Alinea and the other places too!