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Jan 12, 2010 07:51 PM

Need Help Chicago !

Hello i will be going to Chicago in March, I would like to know 5 Restaurant/bar recommendations, 3 fine dining and 2 whatever...

i have these Restaurants in mind

L20 or Alinea

A Rick Bayless restaurants, but i dont know which one, (help)

Hot Doug's for a (good hot dog)

and that's all i have, please help me find the best restaurants and bars in Chicago, I'm coming form San Diego CA, and I'm staying in Downtown Chicago (HardRock hotel). I'm also looking for a good place to dance to Chicago house music.

If you need help for Restaurant/bars in San Diego i can help!!!!

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  1. Alinea rather than L20--reserve now

    Topolobompo for your Rick Bayless fix--it's the only place of his that takes reservations

    Definitely Hot Doug's--avoid Friday or Saturday if you can--if the weather's nice walk your dog down to the river a block away.

    North Pond Cafe for another high end dinner with a great location

    Kuma's Kafe for heavy metal burgers

    The best dance places change from week to week--currently it's a thing called 'rehab' on Monday nights.

    Bring your weather with you!!!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: beanbreath

      Thank You, that helps so much, yeah i wish could bring my weather, its like summer here right now.

    2. Definitely go to Alinea rather than L2O, as noted in the discussion at (where you posted a reply). Alinea is amazing; L2O is not. If you want to add a second high-end restaurant in addition to Alinea, consider Everest, Avenues, or Tru, or if you'd like a high-end Italian place, Spiaggia. These are our most expensive ($150-300+ per person including alcohol/tax/tip) and most formal (jackets required for gentlemen) restaurants; see below for casual fine dining recommendations which are not as expensive.

      Reservations at Alinea are not THAT hard to come by (not like California's the French Laundry where you have to call the first hour they accept reservations for your date or you're out of luck). They start accepting reservations for each date two months ahead of time. For Saturdays and, to a lesser extent, Fridays, it's a good idea to call the first couple of weeks they take reservations; for Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, you can generally get reservations for several more weeks thereafter. But if you already know your dates, you may as well call sooner rather than later, to avoid disappointment.

      Rick Bayless has three restaurants. Xoco is an inexpensive carryout restaurant, so the sit-down choice is between Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. Topolobampo is more upscale, and offers reservations for all the tables there. Frontera Grill is a bit more casual, and although it accepts a small number of reservations, most of the restaurant is not available to reservations and instead set aside for walk-in traffic. Locals headed to Frontera Grill try to arrive 15 minutes before they open, to avoid long waits to be seated. Topolobampo is significantly more expensive for dinner, but prices are a lot closer for lunch. Frontera Grill is open for brunch on Saturdays. You can check out their menus with prices on their website at

      Hot Doug's is located in a city neighborhood far from downtown, so you will be facing significant travel time to get there as well as significant waiting time once you get there. Bring a book. Or, if you're just looking for Chicago hot dogs rather than the more exotic encased meats/sausages that Hot Doug's sells, you can avoid the lines and travel time by going to Portillo's or Al's Beef on Ontario downtown.

      There are many, many more restaurants of all kinds in Chicago, so it all depends on what you're looking for. A brief list of the best would include Alinea for a high-end splurge, Cafe des Architectes and North Pond for contemporary American casual fine dining, Cafe Spiaggia and Vivere for mid-priced Italian, David Burke's Primehouse for steaks, Shaw's Crab House for seafood, and Frontera/Topolobampo and Mundial Cocina Mestiza for Mexican.

      For casual food, don't miss our delicious local specialty of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. For single-crust "pizza in the pan", go to Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, or the original downtown locations of Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due. For double-crust "stuffed pizza", go to Giordano's. Wherever you go, you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

      Enjoy your visit, and feel free to ask more questions!

      8 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          at Alinea, will we i get full with the tasting menus?

            1. re: Cjposada06

              Just to add to chicgail's reply (with which I agree)...

              Some months ago I ate at Alinea, and ordered the smaller of the two tasting menus (approximately 12 courses rather than 23, currently $150 vs $225). The portion sizes varied; some were small, while others were not so small. (If you look at the sample menus on their website, the size of the circles next to the items indicates the relative portion size of each course.) The courses were nicely timed over the course of three hours, without excessive waiting. At the end I was comfortably full but not overstuffed. Also, I was entirely satisfied with the smaller tasting menu rather than the larger one that some adjacent tables were ordered. I mean, I'm sure the additional courses were equally delicious, but I didn't feel as though I was getting any less of an Alinea experience with the smaller, less expensive menu.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Thanks for adding the explanation, nsxtasy. At 3:24 am, I seem to be a woman of few words.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  nsxtasy and chicgail you ROck!!!!! I made my reservation for Alinea, one last thing how about the wine? is there a wine pairing or a full bar with "out of this world" cocktails??

                  1. re: Cjposada06

                    Both are available, as well as a complete wine list. If you have any teetotalers in your party, they even offer a non-alcoholic beverage pairing.

                    1. re: Cjposada06

                      I would suggest the wine pairing. It's thoughtfully designed for the meal and, if there is something you don't like they will replace it. If you wish, you can also share a single pairing with your dinner companion.

              2. Beanbreath and nxstacy gave you very good feedback.

                The only thing I would add is that Hot Doug's is not strictly a hot dog place. If what you want is just a good Chicago dog, there are plenty of places all over town that can do that. Hot Doug's is famous for it's extraordinary exotic sausages and (on Fridays and Saturdays) its fries cooked in duck fat. That's why people go out of their way to go there.

                Options on today's menu include
                * Antelope Sausage with Bacon-Garlic Mayonnaise and Trilogy Cheddar Cheese,
                * apple Pork Sausage with Sweet Curry Mustard and Creme de Brie Cheese,
                * Spicy Pork Sausage with Spicy Mango Mayonnaise and Smoked Gouda Cheese,
                * Tequila and Black Bean Chicken Sausage with Jalapeno Mayonnaise, Pinto Beans and Habanero-Jack Cheese
                * Saucisson Alsacienne: Bacon Sausage with Creme Fraiche, Caramelized Onions and Camembert Cheese
                * Spicy Thai Chicken Sausage with Thai Peanut Sauce and Toasted Coconut

                You get the picture.

                Hot Doug's
                3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

                2 Replies
                  1. Definitely Alinea over L2O.

                    But do not dismiss L2O entirely. For your other fine dining options, I'd say L2O or Avenues. I think Tru's service is a bit too stuffy, and Everest's seats are a bit cramped (but their food is great, especially Everest!).

                    For Rick Bayless, I'd definitely pick Topo. The food at Topo best captures Bayless' talent. If you can't get a reservation at Topo, go for lunch and line up outside of the door 20 min. before it opens - this has always worked for me.

                    For casual places, my favorites are Avec, Province, and The Gage. Blackbird's $22, 3-course prix fixe during lunch on weekdays is the best deal in town. Yoshi's Cafe's Sunday brunch serves a "Japanese Breakfast" that is simply delightful.

                    For drinks, The Violet Hour in Wicker Park has a hidden and cool venue. The Signature Lounge on 96th floor of John Hancock has an awesome view. I also like the Roof lounge at the Wit Doubletree Hotel. If you want to pre-game in a downtown bar before clubbing, Pippin (across from Park Hyatt) is a cozy, hole in a wall bar - affordable and strong drinks.

                    Sorry I can't help you with house music clubs =)

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: mountsac

                      Thank you, Avec or Blackbird are now on the list for lunch, Its to bad i only have 4days and 3 nights i must choose wisely,

                      .... Is "Hot Chocolate Desert Bar" recommended?

                      So far on the list for sure is..
                      Thursday (day ) ?
                      Thursday night Alinea
                      Friday ( Day) ?
                      Friday (Night) Muse concert United Center, where do people go before Concerts
                      Saturday (DAY) Hot Doug's
                      Saturday (Night) ?
                      Sunday (day) ?
                      Sunday (night) need to be at airport be 5pm

                      What Would You Do? not just mountsac,

                      1. re: Cjposada06

                        Try to work in a place called The Purple Pig, probably for lunch--it's a new near Mag Mile resto w/ associations w/ Heaven On Seven--they are getting great reviews so far. It supposedly opens for lunch starting 1/18 and since it's new & good, I'd expect it to be pretty packed. An off hour visit would probably be best. The same holds true for Kuma's Korner--go for a two o'clock nosh.
                        North Pond would be best in the daytime--I think they do a Sunday brunch.
                        I'd work in Avec or Blackbird for Sat. PM.

                        Let us know what you end up doing & how you liked it; enjoy!

                        1. re: Cjposada06

                          >> Avec or Blackbird are now on the list for lunch

                          Avec is not open for lunch. And I'm not particularly fond of it. I might excuse the long waits, the no-reservations policy, the uncomfortable seats, and the communal seating if the food were unusually good, but I've found the food to be disappointing as well.

                          Blackbird is a good choice for lunch, though. In fact, I think it's a better choice for lunch than for dinner. (Why? The food is outstanding, but the seating is cramped, the restaurant is noisy, and the portion sizes are somewhat small - all of which is not a big deal at lunchtime, but I would go elsewhere for dinner.)

                          >> Its to bad i only have 4days and 3 nights i must choose wisely,

                          Don't worry. There's such a huge number of great places in Chicago that we locals can never get to every good restaurant here, either. :)

                          >> .... Is "Hot Chocolate Desert Bar" recommended?

                          No. I've found Hot Chocolate disappointing. I mean, it's a cute little restaurant if you happen to be in Wicker Park anyway, but it's not worth a special trip. In particular, I was not impressed by the desserts at all. If you really want a dessert experience that will blow you away, consider the Chocolate Bar at the Lobby (that's the name of the restaurant) in the Peninsula ( ). It's on Friday and Saturday nights, and they have an all-you-can-eat buffet of chocolate-based desserts for around $32. They're in small portion sizes so you can try a lot of different things. They have maybe 40 or so different items, and while not all of them are exceptional, there are enough that it's the ultimate dessert experience in town. The dinner food and service at the Lobby is also excellent, if you decide to have dinner there, but otherwise, you're welcome to go only for the Chocolate Bar.

                          >> So far on the list for sure is..

                          Your posted itinerary does not include the Rick Bayless meal. Note that Frontera Grill is open for brunch on Saturdays, and both it and Topolobampo are open for lunch during the week. The prices are rather similar at lunchtime, so I would consider making Topolobampo one of the lunches. You should also be aware that, while Topolobampo accepts reservations in advance (for the entire restaurant, not just a handful like Frontera), it has been booking up well in advance lately. If you want Topo as part of your itinerary, I recommend making your reservation now. They accept reservations on If for some reason that doesn't work into your itinerary, another wonderful restaurant serving provincial Mexican food is Mundial Cocina Mestiza ( ) in the Pilsen neighborhood three miles southwest of the Loop, easily accessible by cab or by subway (at the Pink Line elevated 18th Street stop).

                          You don't mention our delicious Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, and this would be a suitable lunch stop. See pizza suggestions above.

                          >> Friday (Night) Muse concert United Center, where do people go before Concerts

                          You can go anywhere before concerts. The United Center is 2.5 miles west of the Loop, and you can get there by cab from anywhere downtown in no more than 10-15 minutes. The restaurants along the "Randolph Street corridor" are in the West Loop so they're already in the right direction; in addition to the previously mentioned Blackbird, good places along there include La Sardine (French bistro), Red Light (pan-Asian), and Carnivale (Latin fusion).

                          >> Sunday (day) ?
                          >> Sunday (night) need to be at airport be 5pm

                          You don't have time to do dinner, so I recommend a nice Sunday brunch to cover you for the day. Here are two brunch suggestions. In particular, I love the "American dim sum" brunch at David Burke's Primehouse ( ). They serve around 25 different items in about 8 courses, only two courses from rolling carts and all the others are cooked to order. Many of the items are unusual. And it's quite the bargain at $35 including unlimited seconds, and for $10 they also have mimosas or bloody marys with unlimited seconds. I posted a detailed report of brunch there in the brunch discussion topic at As a second possibility, I previously mentioned North Pond ( ), which serves an a la carte Sunday brunch. It's noteworthy not only for its creative local/seasonal contemporary American cuisine, but also for its exquisite location in the middle of Lincoln Park - the park itself, not just the adjacent neighborhood of the same name.

                          I would be reluctant to spend a big chunk of your time here going to restaurants in outlying, inconvenient neighborhoods that take a while to get to and that also require a long wait before eating. You already have Hot Doug's on the itinerary and adding Kuma's to it would be doing the same thing all over again.

                          One final word - making reservations in advance is generally a good idea, especially on Saturday night, when many of the better places book up. Most of our better restaurants accept reservations on

                          1. re: Cjposada06

                            I have never had the savories at Hot Chocolate. Their dessert is good, if you like chocolate. Not bad, just not worth a special trip IMO.

                            Blackbird's lunch prix fixe is only for weekdays. So maybe that is good for Friday lunch. For Thursday, I'd get hearty, comfort food because you're having Alinea later. So if you are doing deep dish pizza, that'd be a good time to do it. Uno or Due would do the trick.

                            After Hot Doug, Saturday night is good time to do another fine dining dinner. Depending on what price range you are willing to dish out I'd recommend different restaurants. Maybe L2O, Avenues, or the cheaper Topolobampo?

                            For Sunday brunch, I recommend Yoshi's Cafe. David Burk's deal is a steal. But from my visits there (not for brunch), I would say the level of cooking is below par for the price charged. I would not recommend that place.

                            1. re: mountsac

                              I think David Burke's brunch is fantastic. With 25 or so different food items, not every single one of them is superb. But some of them are, and most are interesting in some way - things like house-cured salmon, oatmeal creme brulee served in an eggshell, etc. It's a wonderful experience. It will also be quite filling and satisfying for the rest of the day for the trip to the airport. And it's a five-minute walk from the Hard Rock Hotel (unlike Yoshi's, which is four miles away in the Lakeview neighborhood on the north side).

                              If you're already going to Alinea, I suspect you won't want to hit a second expensive high-end restaurant while you are here. We have so many different kinds of restaurants in the "casual fine dining" arena - contemporary American, Mexican, Italian, steakhouses, seafood, etc - that there are plenty of kinds of places to choose from that will add variety to your itinerary.

                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                Just a comment on David Burke's brunch- I used to also be a huge fan of the dim sum brunch- many of the items were delicious and it was a fun experience to take out of town guests. Unfortunately, the last time we went, we found the experience and food had gone downhill. They made several changes to the menu offerings and some of our favorites- like the eggs benedict and fried chicken- had been replaced with less tasty items. They also changed the bottomless drinks for $10 to apply only to mimosas and not bloody marys. We also found the manager that day to be quite rude. Unfortunately we had friends who went on a different time and had a similar experience. It's probably been a couple months- so I'm not sure if the menu changes were a permanent change or not, but the brunch isn't quite as good as it used to be.

                                1. re: ms. mika

                                  I most recently had brunch there Thanksgiving weekend, which is less than two months ago, and ate there earlier this past year as well. The menu is still excellent, and is still very similar to the one I had when I posted the report in the brunch topic over a year ago. The service was excellent too. I don't know why you had a bad experience but I've enjoyed it every time I've gone. It's every bit as good as it used to be!

                                    1. re: delk

                                      Well, that's interesting. Hmmm...

                                      If you want to go elsewhere, there are hundreds of restaurants that do brunch in Chicagoland. Here are several places to look for more information.

                                      1. The Chowhound discussion topic for which I posted a link is one source of information:

                                      2. Metromix is constantly doing articles about places for brunch:

                                      3. has information about brunch for many of the restaurants which accept reservations there:

                                2. re: nsxtasy

                                  yes, only one high end restaurant on this trip, but
                                  I just made my reservation for Topolobampo for Saturday !
                                  David Burke Brunch looks good.. i may have to check it out,
                                  thanks for the feed back

                                  1. re: Cjposada06

                                    Is bonsoiree a good place to go before a show at the united center, BYOB sounds fun....

                                    1. re: Cjposada06

                                      It depends on what you're looking for. Bonsoiree is indeed BYOB, but it is not inexpensive (aside from the money you'll save on the alcohol you bring with you). They offer tasting menus of 5, 8, or 13 courses for $55, $85, or $135. It's in the Logan Square neighborhood, which means it's significantly out of the way going to the United Center from your hotel in the Loop. There are lots of places close to your hotel or in the West Loop that would be more geographically convenient. But if the menu on their website ( ) sounds especially good to you, you could certainly consider it.

                                      Also be careful with your timing. The concert starts at 7:30, and you'll need to allow time to catch a cab there (or, if you have a car, to park). Even if you're seated at Bonsoiree when they open at 5:00, I'm not sure whether the 13 or even 8 course menus could be served in time for a comfortable meal without watching the clock. You could always call the restaurant and let them know your time constraint and get their advice about how much time to allow.