Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Dec 5, 2009 11:03 AM

Four nights in Chicago. Need advice on these dinner possibilities.

My husband and I will be in Chicago next week Dec 09-13 (Weds-Sun) and will be staying at The Avenue Hotel dowtown. This is my first time to Chicago. We will not have a car. He will be attending some classes during the day so I'm on my own during the day. I'm looking for good food where we don't have to dress up or spend over $100.00 or so. These are some possibilities:

Weds night: Avec (They are open late. We arrive at the airport at 7:15pm)

Thursday night: Cafe Spiaggia or Coco Pazzo Cafe

Friday night: Cafe Des Architetes or maybe Shaw's

Saturday night: Due's or Lou Malnati's

Thanks for your help, Kathy

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. >> Weds night: Avec

    Good choice for a place open late.

    >> Thursday night: Cafe Spiaggia or Coco Pazzo Cafe

    Both good choices, depending on what you're looking for. Cafe Spiaggia is better, IMO, and well within your budget. Coco Pazzo Cafe is a bit less expensive and is closer to your hotel (2 minutes walk vs 8 minutes walk).

    >> Friday night: Cafe Des Architetes or maybe Shaw's

    CDA is one of our best contemporary American restaurants, and will give you a Chicago "feel" to it along with the great food and the beautiful room. Shaw's is a very conventional restaurant specializing in fresh seafood. Go with CDA unless you specifically want a wide selection of seafood.

    >> Saturday night: Due's or Lou Malnati's

    Lou Malnati's (on Wells) is a significant distance from your hotel, whereas Uno and Due are much closer, so I would take Due over Malnati's for that reason. Another good choice, about the same distance from your hotel as Uno and Due, is Pizano's, on State. Both Pizano's and Lou Malnati's were founded by sons of one of the main individuals behind Uno and Due in their early days, so there's a reason why the deep-dish pizza is a similar style at all of these places. Wherever you go, you can call ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

    1. I'd like to interject a thought here. I've lived near Coco Pazzo Cafe since it opened, and literally everyone I've taken there has enjoyed it. I go there often. It's a shame it's December, because CPC's outdoor patio is one of the nicest in town.
      Cafe Spiaggia is terrific upscale Italian food, and worth visiting, an elegant place to eat. Both cafes permit casual dress.

      What might be worth considering, perhaps, is going to Cafe Spiaggia one night, and on pizza night, stop by Coco Pazzo Cafe for a glass of wine, skim the menu, and then decide if you'd like to stay.

      The Chicago experience, if you've never been here before, certainly includes pan pizza, however, Due's, Malnati's, and their competitors, are always jammed to the rafters with people, not that it's not enjoyable.
      My only point is that if you wish to stay near the hotel, and within your stated budget, Cafe Spiaggia and Coco Pazzo Cafe are both terrific choices, and it's possible that you'd enjoy both if you have a way to fit them in, perhaps have Saturday lunch at one of the pizza places, or get one of their partially cooked pizzas to take home with you. Movie stars and presidents do that, when they're here.

      The places you're considering are all good choices. Chicago is a welcoming city, and if you mention to people, and waiters, that it's your first visit, they will go out of their way to try to help you enjoy yourselves.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Greg in Chicago

        That's good advice. Lunches do give you a way to experience more of the places you're considering, whether it's both Italian places as he suggests, or say Shaw's for lunch and Cafe des Architectes for dinner, or something along those lines. All of the places you've mentioned are open for lunch as well as dinner, with the exception of Avec. Just don't eat so much deep-dish pizza at lunch that you don't have room for dinner - you can get quite full using their guidelines for portion size; a large pizza really does serve 3-4!

        Also, it's a good idea to make reservations, especially for Friday and Saturday evenings. The pizza places don't take reservations but phoning ahead with your pizza order is like making a reservation - tell them when you arrive that you have a pizza in the oven and they'll make sure to get you seated by the time it's ready. You can make reservations at all the other places (except Avec) at

      2. Thanks for all of the great suggestions. I am really looking forward to my Chicago visit!

        1 Reply
        1. re: kroozn

          Avec is worth the wait. You can't make reservations and it's always packed but the food is fantastic. Another option for you downtown is Sepia.
          The food is excellent and the drinks are fun and creative.
          Someplace fun for lunch if you are out and about or shopping in the Water Tower is "Foodlife"
          Enjoy your trip!