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5 dinners, 3 lunches..Extreme Foodies need help.

Would appreciate help with planning food itinerary. We eat anything and want to experience true Chicago. We are from NYC so not looking for food we can have in New York. Staying at omni chicago on N.Michigan ave.. Please help us plan 5 dinners and 3 lunches. Price is not an issue, but need not be fancy. No tourist spots. Think of things you can't get elsewhere and what you would miss if you left Chicago. We will not have a car. Thought we would stop at Rick Bayless' restaurant but need advice as to which one. Also, we like blues, so if there is restaurant that has both, please let us know.

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  1. For Bayless' restaurants, Topolobampo right now is booked 3 months out. The wait time at Frontera is 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ms. chow

      If you go to Topolobampo half an hour before it closes at lunch, you can get in. It was the favorite meal of my trip.

    2. What I would miss -- in no particular order:
      Alinea
      Schwa
      Pho and other Vietnamese on Argyle & Broadway
      Authentic and regional Mexican cuisine (Mextico, Neuvo Leon, Mixteco Grill, Fonda Del Mar -- to name a few)
      Naha
      Publican
      Mado
      Le Bouchon
      Hot Chocolate
      The Bristol
      Chicago-style hot dogs
      Hot Dougs
      Uno and Due pizza (Lou Malnati's will do in a pinch)
      Authentic Thai (Sticky Rice, Spoon, TAC)
      Lula
      Italian Beef sandwiches (wet with sweet and hot peppers)
      Sola
      Perennial

      That's a good start for a food Mecca.

      8 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        Sorry, under Mexican I meant to say MEXIQUE, Nuevo leon, Mixteco Grill, Fonda Del Mar ...)

          1. re: sis2catbat

            "Think of things you can't get elsewhere and what you would miss if you left Chicago."

              1. re: chicgail

                Chicago hot dogs/Hot Dougs and to a degree Italian beef sandwiches, and "Chicago pizza" are all pretty unique "Chicago" foods.-which was part of the question. For a lunch any of these would be good suggestions, I think.

                Alinea is one of the best restaurants or restaurant experiences in the US so I certainly don't think that is a "miss".

                Perennial and Naha are great places but not something that you "can't get" in NYC.

                Otherwise, I would tend to agree.

            1. re: chicgail

              Sorry, this is not a reply.....it's a question. Can I get a few recommendations for dining near the downtown core. We're staying at the Fairmont. I'm a Sommelier and was a chef in Italy for years but am looking for something not too posh. We will be there Fri/Sat and are looking for quaint, tasty and fairly priced. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

              1. re: chicgail

                As somebody that spent many years (up until recently) eating my way through NYC, I would say that chicgail's list is the most spot on. Chicago is great for Molecular Gastronomy (WD-50 but better in my opinion). Schwa, Moto, and Alinea are at the top of that lists. Avec (Blackbird's sister restaurant) is the most NYC feeling place I've come across. They serve upscale comfort food in a lively setting with communal tables. Otom (Moto's sister restaurant) is also fairly similar. Graham Elliot is also an interesting choice. If you like seafood I recommend L20 (sort of like a more modern take on Le Bernardin). For a cheaper choice I would recommend Belly Shack (reminds me of something David Chang would open). For a "unique" expereince and amazing burgers you cannot beat Kuma's Corner. Spiagga is supposed to be great for high end italian although I have never been.

              2. Two areas where Chicago surpasses NY is Mexican and Thai food. As you have heard, you might have trouble getting into Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. However, you might be able to grab breakfast or lunch at his new sandwich place Xoco. But for dinner, you still have options for great, traditional Mexican food.

                You might want to try Salpicon (closest to downtown), which is casually upscale like Frontera and the food is excellent. I prefer Sol de Mexico for their outstanding moles, but it's a bit of a drive from downtown. Finally, Mixteco Grill which is a little over a mile away from Wrigley is another great choice.

                As for Thai, there are several authentic Thai restaurants which are outstanding (in my opinion better than Sripraphai in NY). My personal favorite is Spoon Thai and when you sit down they will bring you the regular menu and two menus with specials and items from their translated Thai language menu: recommendations: Thai Isaan-style sausage; one bite salad; banana blossom salad; catfish curry custard; pork with Chinese broccoli; curries; shrimp paste rice with pork, apple and egg; pork neck larb; duck larb; Thai fried chicken; beef jerky; deep fried rice with pressed ham, omelette with shrimp and coconut, wild boar stir fry and mango with stick rice . . . I could go on and on, but this place is great, byo and easily accessible by the El or by car.

                A couple of other outstanding and authentic Thai places are TAC Quick and Sticky Rice (ask for translated Thai menu at both - not sure if they offer it at Sticky Rice but it's online at lthforum.com). I love the Isaan-style sausage at Sticky Rice.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BRB

                  I'd second both Spoon Thai and Sticky Rice. It might be a little easier to get to Spoon Thai because it is on Western right across from the Brown line el stop.

                2. One thing you can't get in New York is the view of Chicago from the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. My tip for visitors is, do not waste money ($15 pp) visiting an observation deck at the Hancock or the Sears/Willis because for about $20 you can have the buffet lunch, which is agreeable but not unforgettable, at the Signature Room (96th floor of Hancock, expensive at dinner) and get the identical view. Go on a bright day so you can see what's what. About the same price, but you get all-you-can-eat lunch as part of the deal. Google "Signature Room Chicago" for hours, details etc. N Michigan Ave just south of big Chicago Avenue intersection with Water Tower.

                  1. You could also get in some BBQ. Twin Anchors, while maybe not everyone's favorite (I'm sure others will weigh in) is a Chicago institution. Smoque is also good, but more difficult to get to without a car. If the lines for Frontera are too long, I'd also recommend Salpicon as another poster mentioned.

                    1. A couple more suggestions...although prior replies have covered a lot of good ground:

                      Lunch/breakfast:
                      Le Creperie on Clark Street - who would have thought there was a piece of France in the middle of Chicago? It's not fancy, just freakin' charming. My favorite place to get coffee as well.

                      Dinner:
                      NoMi - expensive but very well executed spanish/asian influenced menu. One of a kind view of Michigan Avenue (place you take someone to impress). I've celebrated birthdays, get togethers there....always relaxed, enjoyable dining.

                      Lula - Best dining spot for seasonal, inventive meals. Period.

                      1. good call on Le Creperie.
                        also try:
                        Matisse
                        Half Shell
                        Maeve
                        Tavish