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Nov 29, 2009 05:25 PM

First visit to Chicago

Wife and I are visiting Chicago for the first time in late December and wondering if there are some recommendations? We will be staying at the James Hotel. So, ideally the eating establishments would be on that side of the city.

We currently have a reservation at Graham Elliot. Good idea? We'd also love to try an authentic Chicago style pizza and we are big fans of breakfasts. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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  1. For deep dish pizza, I like the spinach and broccoli at Pizzeria Due's in the Water Tower area. Baccinos in the Depaul/Lincoln park area is also good. There's an outpost downtown too, I think. And, Giordano's is pretty good too.

    For breakfast, in the Water Tower area is the International House of Pancakes (the Dutch baby pancakes are really delicious) and Tempo (traditional diner with very good omelets, hash browns, etc.). If you feel like a short cab ride, my fave is Milk and Honey in Wicker Park. I also like Orange in Lakeview. You might also enjoy strolling around in those neighborhoods. Lots of good boutiques.

    All the above restaurants are very popular, so plan accordingly.

    If you can fit it in, you might also try a Mexican restaurant, steak house, soul food restaurant, or BBQ joint. These are what Chicago does best, in my opinion.

    1. You're right in the middle of River North and close to Michigan Avenue, perfect place for dining.

      One place you shouldn't miss is David Burke's Primehouse, right in the James. For dinner, they have some of the best steaks in the city. And their "American dim sum" Sunday brunch is one of the best and most interesting brunches in town. (In fact, I just ate there again today!) I write a detailed description of a previous visit in the brunch topic at

      Another good option in that area for breakfast is Fox & Obel, our upscale gourmet grocery store, a long walk southeast of the James. They have a cafe in the rear where they have lots of breakfast items to order. Another place close by for breakfast is South Water Kitchen,

      For authentic deep-dish pizza, the hotel is right around the corner from the original locations of Uno and Due, where it all began and it's still good and authentic (unlike the other Uno's locations). You can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

      Here are a few more good places within a few blocks of the James:

      Quartino (Italian small plates) -
      Coco Pazzo Cafe (Italian) -
      Shaw's Crab House (seafood) -
      Vermilion (Latin-Indian) -
      Rockit (American bar/grill) -

      And, if you don't mind spending a lot of money for a high-end dining experience:

      Tru -
      Avenues -
      NoMI -

      I haven't been to Graham Elliot, so I can't comment on that.

      If you have anything else in particular you're wondering about, feel free to ask. Enjoy your visit!

      2 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Another fun breakfast idea, this one about 6 blocks from the James at the Sheraton (on the river a block east of Michigan Avenue). LB Bistro & Patisserie has a special deal, a flat $22 for all the breakfast you can select or concoct from all the chef stations---everything possible is there, all for one price. See Sheraton website for details. This is 7 days a week.

        1. re: Querencia

          I'm intrigued by LB Bistro, but I have not yet had a chance to go there. I've checked out their menus and info on their website at I'm curious as to what kind of items they have - are they only breakfast items (eggs, bacon, pancakes), or do they also have lunch-ish (?) savory items (meats, fish) and/or dessert items (cakes, pastries, etc)? I'm particularly interested in the latter, and whether he (LB = Laurent Branlard) is fully utilizing his pastry background that twice earned him the world pastry team championship. I know, I gotta go there, but perhaps you can provide a bit more detail in the meantime?

      2. Re breakfast, if you are going to be here over Saturday or Sunday your hotel is one block from Heaven on Seven which on weekends has big New Orleans breakfast/brunches with unusal things like Shrimp Creole Omelet and Pecan French Toast. Go to "chicago restaurant menus" and write Heaven on Seven in search box to see complete menu. From James walk south one block along Rush to Ohio---entrance is on NE corner, take escalator to 2nd floor.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Querencia

          Hey there,
          Thanks for the tips. we don't arrive until later in the month. So, if anything else comes to mind, please feel free to pass along. we will certainly be trying a pizza at UNO and i will be ordering up a dutch baby at IHOP or Original Pancake House(any preference for either?) Fox & Obel will be visited a time or two. Unfortunately, we aren't there over the weekend. So, we will have to come back for a long weekend to enjoy the American dim sum or Heaven on 7. i would love to try one of the Mexican places. So, i'll do some research. maybe XOCO for lunch?

          1. re: Eatertainer

            DON'T go to IHOP. It doesn't have the "dutch baby" and it's not any different from any other IHOP like the ones back home. You want to go to the Original Pancake House, not IHOP. They have the "dutch baby" (small German pancake) as well as the large German pancake. Their most spectacular creation is the apple pancake, which is baked and puffed up with cinnamony goodness - but it's very sweet. If too much sweetness is too much for you, then the German pancake (in either size) might be a better bet.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              OPH it is. i can handle the sweetness of the apple pancake...just add a strip or two of bacon on the side.
              Thanks for the advice.

        2. TEMPO for breakfast or lunch ---just dont go on the weekends between 3 and 6 am ---clubheads and drunkos everywhere---including myself.

          MATISSE- 674 w. diversey --cajun tilapia atop garlic mash potatoes, BEST baked brie w/fruit and flatbread appetizer, good wings and filet
          LA PASADITA---wont tell u where it is cuz u will increase the line ---for when i get there- basic awesum tacos. best in the city or my top3
          ROADHOUSE 66 --- awesum wings ---- 25 cents 2
          COZY NOODLE on sheffield --- pad see ew- best peanut sauce ever, good crab rangoon -- all entrees are good
          HOUSE OF SUSHI/NOODLE ---- if u want sushi and your poor
          PEQUOD's PIZZA on clybourn ---carmelized crust kicks ass
          TOKYO LUNCHBOX in the loop - ODON soup, dumplings, sushs good
          SAN SOO GAB SAN --- korean bbq-open till 5am, kick ass ---seriously
          Soupbox - they deliver soup and u only havta order 10bux to get delivery
          PingPong----good appetizers
          USAGI Ya ---good sushi-cute date spot and fun decor
          FLAT TOP --- classic make ur own dish fun- close to my house---everyone loves the flat bread
          DE CERO- they make their own tortillas, try the duck nachos and awesum drinks
          MARKET- kick ass appetizers half off on mon