bostonian in chicago, January 15-20
as the topic suggests, I shall be in chicago from january 15 to 20 and i am soliciting suggestions for some good meals. about me, i'll be staying in both evanston and hyde park. no car, but willing to travel for delicious and/or distinctive dining. i'm already planning on a epicurean feast night on saturday, starting at the violet hour for drinks, the bristol for dinner and hot chocolate for dessert.
i'm wondering about edzo's, the green zebra (especially if the vegetarian fare can stand up to the arctic temperatures) and cafe spiaggia. i'd like a suggestion for good lunch in hyde park, a place for lunch or dinner near the art institute and sunday brunch in belmont or wrigleyville. i'd also love suggestions for cheapish places for more than one meal around evanston and anywhere (bar or restaurant) with a cocktail program that is not-as-fancy as the violet hour, but where they still know their stuff.
i'll try anything once (seriously, anything) and my favorite cuisines include contemporary american/local-oriented, 'non-traditional' french & italian, and anything african (especially ethiopian or senegalese). if the menu offers offal, there is at least an 85% chance i will order it.
finally, budget-wise, i'd like to spend no more than $15 on lunches and $30 (excluding beverage) on dinners, though i'd be willing to spend more on one other Really Good dinner.
thanks a lot!
Wow, you're asking about a lot of different kinds of food in a lot of different neighborhoods at a lot of different price points. Entire books have been written to answer such questions!
I'll take a stab at answering two of your questions, while leaving the others for other folks to address (other than noting that Cafe Spiaggia is an excellent choice).
For lunch or a light dinner around the Art Institute, places to consider include:
Terzo Piano - Italian - inside the museum itself, although museum admission is not required to get there - open for lunch daily, but only on Thursdays for dinner - www.terzopianochicago.com
Park Grill - American - just north of the museum at the Michigan Avenue entrance to Millennium Park - www.parkgrillchicago.com
Pizano's* - deep-dish pizza of the single-crust "pizza in the pan" variety - on Madison - www.pizanoschicago.com
Here are some recommendations in Evanston:
Chef's Station - one of the two best contemporary American places in Evanston, just fantastic food - www.chefs-station.com
Oceanique - the other of the two, with an emphasis on seafood, and equally fantastic food - www.oceanique.com
Campagnola - moderately-priced Italian - www.campagnolarestaurant.com
The Stained Glass - Not exactly cocktails, but it's a wine bar/restaurant with good food - www.thestainedglass.com
Lulu's Dim Sum - Pan-asian - If you want value, go on a Monday or Tuesday evening (also lunchtime Saturday or Sunday) for their "munch a bunch" special; for $17.95 you can order as much as you want of almost anything on their menu. www.lulusdimsum.com
Al's Deli - sandwiches, lunchtime only, don't miss the chocolate chip cookies - www.alsdeli.net
Addis Abeba - Ethiopian - www.addis-abeba.net
Thai Sookdee - Thai - don't miss the Tom Kha Gai (chicken coconut soup) - www.thaisookdee.com
Lou Malnati's* - deep-dish pizza of the single-crust "pizza in the pan" variety - www.loumalnatis.com
Giordano's* - deep-dish pizza of the double-crust "stuffed pizza " variety - www.loumalnatis.com
*At all of the deep-dish pizza places, phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.
I'm with nsxtasy on most of the recommendations Evanston wise.
I'd disagree with Addis Abeba though. I think there are much better ethiopian restaurants in the city - Ras Dashen being my favorite. http://www.rasdashenchicago.com/
I'd also highly recommend Cross Rhodes for a very tasty and inexpensive lunch/dinner : http://www.crossrhodes.biz/
For lunch, Al's deli (not the same as Al's italian beef) has great $9ish sandwiches and sugar cookies - http://www.alsdeli.net/
In the area (skokie) Pita in is cheap and wonderful middle eastern food. The $5 business lunch is the best deal anywhere http://pita-inn.com/
As to your questions:
edzo's has good burgers - not the most amazing burger I've eaten, but solid
green zebra is amazing, you'll never think about the lack of meat (although there's usually something meaty on the menu too
)I've never eaten at cafe spiaggia but the main restaurant was one of the best meals I've ever eaten.
Other rec's in the city:
An inexpensive but shockingly good place for lunch or dinner is Urban Belly. Don't be fooled by the location in a tiny strip mall. http://www.urbanbellychicago.com/
That's about all I've got off the top of my head.
Just FYI - The reason I mentioned Addis Abeba is that it's African and it's in Evanston. Since you will be without a car, it will be up to you to decide whether to go to a place that's close by, rather than a place that's better but takes an hour to get to via public transportation. That's why I didn't mention places in Skokie (I'm not much on African or Middle Eastern food like Pita Inn, but if your friends have a car, check out Yolo, a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Skokie that opened a few months ago). You can get just about anywhere in the city or suburbs by public transportation, but unless you're going to places near the el lines, it will be time consuming. The main public transportation agencies in the area are the CTA for the el/subway and buses in the city and nearby suburbs ( www.transitchicago.com ), Metra for commuter trains ( www.metrarail.com ), and Pace for suburban buses ( www.pacebus.com ). There's one website www.goroo.com which you can use for information on all of these, but its routing function only works for some addresses and not others, in my experience.