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Oct 3, 2009 06:33 AM

First time visitor-- need rest. info near south loop area

Staying at the Chicago South Loop Hotel near 26th St. & South State St. Don't mind taking a cab but don't want to spend a lot on cab fare. Already have reservations at Mercat a la Planxa on South Michigan Av. Looking for similar upscale rests. along same price range relatively near South Loop. No Mexican or Asian food. Will be there for 4 nights. Can you help me?

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  1. FWIW 26th & State is the South Loop only in the minds of real estate agents and apparently hoteliers.

    Anyway, if youlike Mercat you will also like cuatro which is much closer to you and specializes in Nuevo Latino food at a very high level. I haven't been to Cafe Bionda (Italian) but that's also nearby. In the real South Loop you'll find Gioco (one of my favorites for Tuscan/Italian), and a little bit further north Custom House, one of the better upscale venues in the neighborhood. Pity you're cutting out Mexican and Asian, because you will be close to both Pilsen and Chinatown.

    By the way, you'll also be close to some great cutting=edge Chicago jazz at the Velvet Lounge.

    1. Cafe Bionda is an old school Italian place catering to a yuppie crowd. Think chicken parm the size of the plate, pasta, and tomato sauce. That kind of place.

      If you are already venturing to Mercat, also try The Gage a few blocks north. It is an Irish gastropub with very creative comfort food. Great atmosphere. It is excellent either for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

      The Gage
      24 South Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

      1. jbw-- Ok I'll bite:
        Tell me about nearby Mexican and Asian restaurants; my wife is not a fan of either cuisine but perhaps I can persuade her into trying one.
        BTW-- I know this board is not a travel service but can someone explain what the heck is the Chicago Loop? My AAA area maps and tour book mention it but do not give any type of geographic description or limts of the North or South Loop.
        Thanks for the recommendations, any others?

        3 Replies
        1. re: jaun

          At Mercat, prepare for a LONG wait. No matter that you have a rez. And a big fat check.

          If you are in over the weekend, you can take the CTA red line to chinatown and eat at lao szechwan in the chinatown mall. NOt upscale, but terrific and authentic. then take the water taxi to downtown (weekends only), see sights, and walk, train, or cab back to hotel. In the other direction (north), the japanese resto Oysy is at Michigan and 12th. Great food, relaxed but hip atmosphere.

          The Loop is a circle of elevated CTA train track that runs on Van Buren to the South, Lake to the north, wells to the west, and wabash to the east. It sits in the south side of downtown, and is where many banks, courts, law firms, and corporations are located. north of the chicago river is north michigan ave and finer shopping, some fun restos, etc.

          1. re: jaun

            Chicago was divided into official community areas in the 1920s with some modifications since then. Many of these communities have unofficial segments where the areas may be ill defined. Real estate people and other marketers are notorious for playing fast and loose with boundaries per jbw's first sentence above. The official communities can be quite useful in getting a sense of where things are and often show up in posts here. Tye Loop community is bounded by the Chicago River on the north and west, Lake Michigan on the east and Roosevelt Road (1200 south) although many people also refer to only the area bounded by the loop elevated tracks. Official map for Loop community :
            The City of Chicago page with links to overall and single-community maps:
            The city frequently jerks around where pages are on the city web site so who knows how long the links will work.

            South Loop has no legal standing and has been abused a lot ranging from most of the Near South Side community to more properly the portion of the Loop community south of Congress Street to Roosevelt Road.

            Chicago street numbering is based on 800 per mile using State and Madison as the origin. The exceptions are 1200 for the first mile south of Madison, 1000 for the second and 900 for the third. This means that Cermak Road (2200 south) running through Chinatown is two miles south of Madison Street.

            River North, Streeterville, Gold Coast and Magnificent Mile refer to portions of the Near North Side community.

            Not too many years ago much of the area south of Congress Street and west of Michigan Avenue was largely industrial, railroad yards and slums but has since been redeveloped into a vibrant area with a lot of restaurants.

            1. re: jaun

              You won't find any "upscale" Chinese restaurants in Chinatown as mentioned above, but some good examples of regional cuisines like Lao Szechuan (also mentioned above and a favorite of mine, too), a good example of Szechuan cooking. Also for Szechuan cuisine (warning: the good stuff can be hot) try Double Li. For more traditional Chinese try Moon Palace (good potstickers).

              Mexican cuisine is one of the "stars" on the Chicago culinary scene. Most of the more upscale versions (primarily Bayless and his progeny) are on the north side, but there is one in Pilsen that I recommend: Mundial Cocina Mestiza. I haven't been there since its owners split up, but it's offshoot, Amelia's (at 46th & Halsted) is not too far from you, altho definitely a cabride away. Minimal decor but an excellent dining experience. It's a byo, and be sure to reserve at prime hours since it's starting to become popular. For inxpensive, family-friendly, tamales and refried beans style food, try Nuevo Leon, also on 18th St. in Pilsen.

            2. WhiIe I also would definitely not let the wife write off Mexican food, (PLEASE LOOK AT MUNDIAL'S MENU BEFORE YOU SAY NO!!!!!!!) you might wanna look at The Firehouse:

              1 Reply
              1. re: gordeaux

                gordeaux-- thanks for the link to Firehouse;menu looks yummy!