Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Feb 9, 2010 04:36 PM

Road trip to Chicago (again) looking for some help this time.

So I took my wife to Chicago for her visit in October and needless to say we are going back in March for a weekend. 3 of us this time in our late 20's and we don't like touristy if possible. We like real people and good food. We drive in from St. Joseph, MO so we have a vehicle if we need to travel, but parking is pricey and going in and out is worse. We are staying Thurs/Fri off Michigan Ave and Sat. in the Loop. So here is what I've done and my plans for next time:

Last Time:
Kuma's on the way in
Lou M's Pizza
Tecalitlan Restaurant

I am thinking this time around:
Kuma's is in again
Portillio's is a convienent good Chicago Dog (this is late night after dinner and some bar time for us)
I really enjoyed Wildfire. The atmosphere, the price, the service, and the food. I don't know for the money if David Burke's would be that much better? I also looked at The Drawing Room with the $25 gift cert for $2. Sounds like they have great drinks.

I think it's time for a Rick Bayless experience so I'm thinking Frontera one day or night.

Friday night we are going to Lincoln Hall for some rock and roll so I need an idea for dinner around that area. ( Lincoln Ave and W. Fullerton)

The Gage looks pretty good so that is in the mix as well.

I looked at Heaven on Seaven for brunch before we head out.

Lastly, we thought about doing some cracker thin crust this time. Maybe Vito and Nicks or Coalfire (seems a long ways away even with the car) If I'm talking stupid let me know and we'll hit Giordano's this time for some stuffed action.

Any good mom and pop home cooking or great eats on the cheap ideas are more than welcome. Bar food and Dives are always appreciated. Thanks and I love this site way too much.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Most of the plan sounds okay. Of course, it's always easy to come up with alternative suggestions because there are so many good places in Chicago. I'm not telling you something you don't already know, LOL!

    One thing you may not have considered is that you're repeating much of your earlier itinerary, instead of trying all new places. Obviously there are some places you liked before, but FWIW, my general preference is to try new places, unless there's something I MUST have again. So Kuma's, Portillo's, and Wildfire... anyway, it's something to think about. As an example of an alternative to consider - since you're willing to go to less convenient parts of the city and you don't mind a long wait to be served (such as with Kuma's), why not Hot Doug's instead?

    Also, I guess I'm missing something, because I really don't understand what's so special about Wildfire. I mean, I've eaten there a bunch of times, and it's a pretty good steakhouse, and the prices are pretty reasonable... but it just doesn't strike me as special in any way, or different from a good steakhouse that you'll find in other cities. I like David Burke's a lot more, for all kinds of reasons - the steaks are better, their non-steak menu items are more creative, the decor is more contemporary/hip, etc. OTOH I feel as though steakhouses are the one type of food we have that most other places have, so they are less different/special than other places. But if you really MUST have a steak, then I'd recommend David Burke's over Wildfire.

    Frontera Grill is a good call. I assume you know that they only accept a handful of reservations, and most of the place is first come, first served. To avoid long waits to be seated, arrive 15-20 minutes before they open the doors. If the timing and possible wait is a problem for you, consider one of our other creative provincial Mexican restaurants, like Mundial Cocina Mestiza.

    Pizza, it all depends on what you want. If you want cracker crust, or if you want stuffed pizza, well, they're both good, and you've named the places to consider. So that's just a matter of what you're in the mood for.

    I don't know of anything particularly good in the immediate vicinity of Fullerton and Halsted. But about a mile west of there on Fullerton is Sweets and Savories, a very good contemporary American restaurant behind an inconspicuous, nondescript storefront. And it's very affordable, $29 for any 3 courses on the menu. Another possibility that's down Lincoln at Webster is Bacino's for stuffed pizza, instead of going to Giordano's (both are good with similar stuffed pizza). Phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake, so you don't miss the show.


    1. Thank you for the advice! I know some of it is repeated and I'm trying to get over the want to go back to some places. Sweet and Savories looks like a great place and it's byob I believe, so that will be perfect. Wildfire might be out, and I'm looking at Café des Architectes or DB's Primeouse. We also started looking at some Italian. Thanks again

      5 Replies
      1. re: Smavo

        I think CdA and Burke's are great choices for contemporary American and steakhouse, respectively.

        We have many very good Italian places. My two favorites (aside from the ultra-expensive Spiaggia, which is in a class by itself) are Cafe Spiaggia, at the north end of Michigan Avenue, and Vivere, in the Italian Village complex in the Loop. I ate dinner at Vivere a couple of weeks ago and had the most amazing roast duck. Other very good places include Coco Pazzo and Coco Pazzo Cafe, and Pane Caldo.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Coco Pazzo is very good - we had a very enjoyable lunch there this summer.

          The Gage is fun - a bit of a bar atmosphere, with good service. I had poutine the last time - my first but hopefully not last!

          For pizza, you might consider Piece Brewery for thin crust pizza and house-made brews. We took the younger cookiefiends there and it was a big success. I ate too much pizza though...

          1. re: Cookiefiend

            If you are in your late twenties give Piece a chance.Good pie, good beer and a young hipster crowd.I think you'll like it.Rick Neilsen from Cheap trick is one of the owners.You can also take the blue line train to Damen and Piece is about a block from the stop. You can hit all the bars and don't have to worry about driving. There is music,clubs and lots of younger crowd spots in this wicker park area. Four blocks south is Division St. lots of the same there.If I was still in my late twenties I wouldn't miss this area. I live a block from there if you want I'll give you a parking pass on the house.

        2. re: Smavo

          Sweets & Savories is a good choice for the area (and definitely one of the better values in the city -- consistently good scallops, if they're on the menu). It's small tho, so be sure to reserve. If it is booked, walk in the other direction, and just north of Fullerton on Clark you'll find the newly opened Nella Pizzeria Napolitano, with one of the better Neapolitan-style pizzas in town:


          1. re: jbw

            Reservations in advance are always a good idea, for restaurants that accept them.

            Sweets and Savories has some deals on certain weekdays that can fill them up, so don't assume you will necessarily be able to be seated immediately without one. Like most of Chicago's upscale restaurants, they accept reservations for free on

        3. OK I am 100% in on Piece and Wicker Park. I am staying on Grand off the Mag Mile that night so I take the blue line right there. Perfect! The parking pass would be great but I won't need it if I blue line right?
          Couple more quick questions:
          Is Club Lago worth looking into or is it not on the same level as Cafe Spiaggia
          Next, do you get any of the Bayless experience from FRONTERA FRESCO
          or is Fronterra the way to go
          Last, Friday night I have to be at a show at The Bottom Lounge at 7 so I was wondering if there is a good happy hour downtown/loop area I can hit before hand. You all are incredible. Thanks again

          1 Reply
          1. re: Smavo

            Club Lago is an old school southern Italian restaurant that has been around forever. I wouldn't tell you not to go there, but if you're looking for high end Italian, Lago is not it. Decent spaghetti or chicken/eggplant Parmesano but it doesn't begin to be in the same category as Cafe Spiaggia. You can get Club Lago-like food in virtually any city. The price point at Lago will be lower than Cafe Spiaggia if that makes a difference for you.

            Frontera Fresco is good fast food by the Bayless team. I've been to the one in the Old Orchard mall in the suburbs. You order at the counter, find a place to sit or carry it out. A higher quality McDs. Nothing wrong with it, but it is no substitute for the dining experience at Frontera Grill, but again, significantly less expensive.

          2. You have all been a great help! My trip is set:
            Kuma's and Piece the first night
            Sweet and Savories the second night
            and CdA the last night with Chicago Dogs after the bar
            My lunches are still a little in the air and I'm now trying to do them a little more on the cheap.
            One of them might still be Fronterra but I need at least one, maybe two cheap good lunches. Here's a couple thoughts I had:
            Perry's Deli
            Poag Mahone's
            La Cantina
            Wow Bao
            La Cantina in the Italian Village
            Courtway or Marquette Inn
            Any other cheap eats or diner's would be great.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Smavo

              Sounds good.

              There's a huge discussion of lunch options in the Loop, where many of the possibilities you have listed are located: Keep in mind that lunch places in the Loop are open during the week to service the office worker market, and some of them are not open weekends.

              I'd also toss one more suggestion for lunch. They recently opened a new French Market in one of the commuter train stations just west of the Loop, with several dozen stalls, including some from some of our top food purveyors. More info at