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Mar 7, 2010 04:52 PM

North Pond vs Il Mulino - Which to Choose?

I'll be in Chicago in two weeks and only have 3 nights - 2 are with my wife, 1 alone. I've got some great advice so far and have confirmed David Burkes for dinner the first night.

I'm deciding between North Pond or Il Mulino for the second night and really can't decide. I know Il Mulino is ultimately a chain restaurant but I've heard great things and they don't have one in Toronto. What do you suggest?

Also, looking for a suggestion when I'm alone for one night - somewhere near the Hilton hotel preferably. Thinking Sushi, Mexican etc. Somewhere I won't feel too awkward alone - that's why I thought sushi bar...

And, finally, what's the best deep dish pizza near the Mile? Somewhere near all the shopping/dept stores if possible....


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  1. I'd definitely choose North Pond, because of its setting in the middle of Lincoln Park, facing its namesake pond with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. That's unique to that one restaurant and is pure Chicago. And the food is excellent as well.

    Which Hilton are you referring to?

    The Palmer House Hilton - 17 East Monroe Street
    Hilton Chicago - 720 South Michigan Avenue
    Hilton Suites Chicago/Magnificent Mile - 198 E. Delaware Place
    The Drake Hotel - 140 East Walton Place
    Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport

    For deep-dish pizza near North Michigan Avenue, I recommend the original Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due, where it all started. Just a couple of blocks away.

    4 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy


      Hotel is Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Ave.

      Does that change your recos?

      1. re: kosherdill

        I still recommend North Pond. I also recommend Uno/Due if you're around North Michigan Avenue; however, if you'd like deep-dish near your hotel, I recommend Lou Malnati's, whose location at 805 S. State is a block from the Hilton Chicago. And wherever you go for deep-dish, keep in mind that you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

        As for restaurants right near your hotel, here are other choices in addition to Lou Malnati's:

        Custom House Tavern - this was a contemporary American restaurant. They changed chefs in January and they don't yet have a new menu posted on their website at but there's an updated description in their Metromix listing at

        Mercat a la Planxa - our best and most creative tapas restaurant -

        Oysy Sushi - just okay by most accounts -

        Bongo Room - for creative pancakes at breakfast or lunch, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate sauce - a full order consists of three enormous pancakes, but they also offer one-third and two-third portion sizes at reduced prices -

        Hackney's - if you're in the mood for a burger and/or onion loaf -

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Thanks very much. I think I'm sold on the following:

          Dinner Night 1 - David Burke
          Dinner Night 2 - North Pond
          Dinner Night 3 - Either Lou Malnati's or Mexican - unless someone can reco a good sushi spot near Hilton Chicago

          I'm definitely going to hit Bongo Room for brunch one day.

          Thanks very much!! If anyone has other ideas, please pass them on...I haven't been out for a good dinner in a while, so I need these picks to be great!

          1. re: kosherdill

            Sounds great!

            You can't go wrong with Lou Malnati's or Mexican, and they're both pure Chicago places with food you can't get most other places. For Mexican, I recommend the Rick Bayless restaurants (Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, and XOCO), which have the most creative provincial Mexican food in town. They are in River North, a mile and a half north of your hotel. Topolobampo has been booking up for dinner well in advance so they probably won't have openings, but they don't book up badly for lunch. Topolobampo is more expensive than Frontera Grill for dinner, but priced similarly for lunch. Frontera Grill holds most of the room for walk-in traffic; waits to be seated for dinner can be lengthy on weekend evenings, but are not too bad during the week. Frontera Grill is also open for brunch on Saturdays. XOCO is Bayless's take on "Mexican street food" and I love it for a light snack, just excellent. If you want to try something other than the Bayless restaurants, you can take a cab or the CTA Pink Line (18th Street stop) about three miles from your hotel to Mundial Cocina Mestiza ( ). I had a wonderful dinner there not long ago, and particularly recommend the steamed mussels slathered with chunks of bacon and poblano pepper.

            I don't eat sushi, but there is a sushi place near the Hilton called Oysy ( ). It's generally considered "just okay", at least as far as I can tell based on the discussion at It's open for lunch, so that might be a good way to work it into your itinerary.

            Beware long waits at Bongo Room at prime times late mornings on Saturdays and especially Sundays. (They don't take reservations.)