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Torontonians Touching Down In Chi-Town, Looking For Serious, Real-Deal Recs!

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The wife and I are planning a trip to Chicgo in the early days of summer. It has been on our to do list for far too long and we are finally crossing it off the list. We are both serious about food and serious about having a solid time during our stay. I work as a Chef in Toronto so I know all about the Trotter's, Alinea's, Moto's et al. Not coming for a over-wrought, cliche gastronomique experience, I am coming for what has sustained your city as a food destination for decades ie. the pizza, the dog, the italian sandwich and of course the steak. Not that we are looking to avoid any decent/solid contemporary restaurants, we definitely want to drop some coin on a couple quality meals and are planning on hitting Frontera for 100%. So if there are any hot new contemporary spots that are grinding out solid food please share. Not interested in pompous molecular crap, more along traditional, comfort treasures from Chefs who know food culture front to back and are cranking out timeless dishes without all the trappings of old school, fusion or whatever hot food trends the groupies are currently jizzing in their dockers about.

We will also be travelling without our newborn son for the first time so we will be also looking to tie one, two or several hundred on during our stay. We are both in our early thirties so we would like to frequent some spots that have an air of cool but aren't trying to hard, that aren't too douche-baggy(read no chi chi martini lounges), that aren't too hipstery(read no one under 25) and definitely not touristy. We both love wine and I have a serious penchant for the classic cocktails so some spots that perhaps do these things well and that manage it without pretension would be great. They can be classic or recent, as long as their good then we are good.

We will be staying in the dowtown core and plan on doing a lot of walking and soaking it in so please fill us in on places to hit on foot during the day and/or late at night for some gluttony of epic proportions. We also love to shop and love music of all kinds as long as its good and timeless, so please share some of your favourite areas to spend money you don't have. Also nice spots for pre or post dinner conversation, music and of course booze.

I know that there are as many different opinions as there are personalities so please share, just want to make the most of our trip.

Thanks to all in advance and can't wait to reach there, cheers!

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  1. This is a really daunting task so I'll at least get you started.
    The basics: Hot dog...Gene and Judes
    Hot Dougs(an encased meat emporium)
    Pizza...Lou Manati's
    Pizzeria Uno
    Burgers...Kuma's Corner
    Italian Beef...Johnnie's
    Steak...this is a pickem. There is no Five star steakhouse. I have never been but the Saloon gets a lot of love on this board. I really liked Keefer's when I was there. I would also avoid Gene and Georgetti's like the swine flu.

    Quality meals...MK
    Blackbird
    North Pond
    Naha
    Croften on Wells
    Graham Elliot's

    Can't help with cool cocktail lounges. Sorry. If beer is your thing...Hopleaf

    Not open yet but sure to be by your arrival will be The Drunken Goat with Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard.

    Haven't been but you should check out Publican.

    Also, across from the "Bean" you'll find The Gage, the city's best gastropub.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hoppy2468

      CroftOn on Wells.

      Hoppy regrets the error.

    2. Nice suggestions from hoppy. I would add the following:

      Publican and The Gage are awesome choices. Whether Gage is the city's best gastropub may depend on you visiting Publican. My reaction to Publican was a little like going to the dentist -- when we got up to leave I said, "we can't go until we've made another reservation for the next time."

      Also, to our Toronto friends: At one time many years ago when the stockyards were functioning, Chicago earned a reputation as a steak town. Chicago hasn't been a destination city for steak for more than 40 years. Steaks in Chicago are fine. You can get them dry aged and delicious. They're expensive and very much like steaks in any other big city. Unless steak is a must-have for you, I wouldn't bother.