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Mar 12, 2010 07:10 AM

Best Places for Lunch? Open on locations

My mom and I will be visiting the city for a very long weekend and we will be doing some shopping. Can you please recommend some great places for lunch, we will be staying downtown but we are open to other areas also. I guess we are more interested in the food then shopping! :) We prefer moderately priced places if that helps.

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  1. Here are a couple of lunch discussions you'll want to check out:

    Lunching in the Loop -
    Fun & trendy lunch spot, still a bit casual -

    Lunch is almost always moderately priced, even at nicer restaurants. The first of these two topics, though, has more advice about the cheapest places.

    On weekends, many restaurants serve Sunday brunch. You'll find a lot of advice and detailed reports in the brunch topic at A few restaurants also serve brunch on Saturdays, including Frontera Grill, the famous Mexican restaurant from Rick Bayless.

    1. Chicago might be a much, much bigger city than you think.
      Are there any specific types of food you are interested in to narrow this down in any way? As it stands now, you are asking for recommendations for a moderately priced lunch in any area of the city? Also, what is your dollar value on the word "moderate?"

      I'm not trying to "shoot you down" in any way, just trying to help you out more.
      open for lunch does narrow things down a bit, but there are still hundreds of options to choose from. Add in the fact that you don't have any geographical restraints or types of food you prefer, I'd suggest heading up to Devon Avenue near Western Avenue for Indian food. Check on a map, does that interest you?

      15 Replies
      1. re: gordeaux

        Devon Avenue is really far from downtown, where you will be staying; allow 30-40 minutes to get there by car/taxi, 60-70 by public transportation. There are also Indian restaurants elsewhere around town, including the downtown neighborhoods where you will be staying.

        Where will you be shopping? North Michigan Avenue? If so, I recommend Cafe Spiaggia ( ) for a nice, reasonably priced sit-down meal. For cheaper eats, the food court in Water Tower Place is a good bet, including Foodlife ( ).

        1. re: nsxtasy

          mandrinazd -

          nsxtasy is totally correct that Devon avenue is a bit of a hike, but I would suggest it to visitors as a very "sceney" part of town very unique to Chicago. If you're willing to travel for good Indian food / snack shops, I would still really suggest it. However, if you have a type of food or an area of town you'd like to try to stay near, please let it be known.

          1. re: gordeaux

            Thanks for the help! We are staying near the Water Tower Shops downtown and I am somewhat familiar with the city and prefer to keep it withing a 10-20 minute public trans. commute to places. I was thinking something in the range of 15-30 per person for lunch if that helps. Thanks!

            1. re: mandrinazd

              Then Cafe Spiaggia is a good recommendation. As you can see on the lunch menu on their website, their salads, pastas, and individual pizzas are priced in the mid to upper teens.

              I also like Cafe des Architectes a lot; it's my favorite contemporary American restaurant in the city. It's in the curved glass facade of the Sofitel. Their lunch menu has salads, sandwiches, and entrees in the mid to upper teens. They also have a "30 minute executive lunch" option including appetizer, salad, entree, and mini-desserts for $21.95. It's also an excellent place for dinner, with a 3-course prix fixe menu for $42 every night, and a special 3-course "neighborhood friends menu" for $29 on Sunday through Tuesday evenings.

              One more recommendation is for Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. These are restaurants from Rick Bayless serving creative provincial Mexican cuisine. At dinner, Topolobampo is a lot more expensive than Frontera Grill, but at lunchtime both have entrees in the mid teens. Topolobampo accepts reservations on but Frontera Grill is mostly first come, first served; to avoid lengthy waits, go shortly before they open the doors at 11:30. Both are closed Sundays and Mondays.

              Here are three more recommendations:

              Nacional 27 (Latin fusion) -
              Cafe Iberico (tapas) -
              Quartino (Italian "small plates") -

              All of the above are within a 5 minute walk or so from Water Tower Place. All of these are open for lunch on weekdays, but not all on Saturdays and Sundays, so check their websites for hours.

              1. re: mandrinazd

                I would skip Devon altogether unless you have a particular affinity for Indian/Pakistani cuisine. It's okay but it's not going to "wow" anyone.

                1. re: ferret

                  You are definitely entitled to your opinion, but I know a whole bunch of ppl who would say you are very wrong. I'm not saying they are right, and you are wrong, because it is opinions, but broadly saying that "it is not going to wow anyone" is kinda...we'll have to disagree on that one. I try to take any out of town visitors who have any remote interest in Indo-pak foods up there for a few hours to peruse a few sweet shops, have a few bites, and a stroll through Patel Bros. I have never come across any first timers who were underwhelmed. Of course, it all depends on where they are from, and if they have a moderate Indian population there, but I really think it's a great undervalued neighborhood in this city. It would probably get much more love if it were closer to the touristy areas, but then again, I think it might lose some of its charm.

                  1. re: gordeaux

                    Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I've lived adjacent to that neighborhood nearly all my life and I, too, take visitors through all the time. While they all enjoy it for an hour or so, it gets more than repetitive and it simply doesn't have appeal for everybody.

                    1. re: gordeaux

                      Personally, I think the biggest "downside" to Devon Avenue is that it's only one of many fun and food-filled neighborhoods around the city. If you enjoy Indian/Pakistani food and shops, it's excellent; by all means go visit. If you enjoy Chinese food and shops, Chinatown is excellent. If you enjoy Mexican food and shops, Pilsen is excellent. Vietnamese, Argyle. For Greek food (shops, not so much), Greek Town is excellent. And on and on. So, if you're only in town for a few days, if you really crave one particular kind of food/shopping, you can easily spend half a day in any of these neighborhoods (and getting there and back); otherwise, you may have other places you'd prefer to spend your time and things you'd prefer to do. It's just like with restaurants in Chicago; there are so many great restaurants that you can live here for years and not be able to try every place that comes highly recommended (not even close, for most of us, myself included). So you decide where to spend your time based on your tastes and priorities, for activities as well as food.

                      FWIW, I've found Indian food outside of Devon Avenue to be as good as along that stretch, although obviously without such a concentration of establishments in one place. I don't feel that way about some of our other ethnic neighborhoods, though (for example, I've found the Chinese food in Chinatown to be way better than elsewhere).

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Are you holding out on some hidden gem Indian snack/sweet shop somewhere???

                        Also, ferret, nsxtasy, am I missing something, or do we all agree that if you enjoy Indian food and shops, then Devon for a few hours might be worth the trip? I'm not really sure what we're discussing here anymore. It's a good option if travel time is ok, and you enjoy Indo-Pak shops, snacks/sweets, restaurants.

                        1. re: gordeaux

                          >> do we all agree that if you enjoy Indian food and shops, then Devon for a few hours might be worth the trip?

                          Well, the way you put the question, there's only one way to answer it. Yes, if you enjoy Indian food and shops so much that you're willing to devote half a day during a short trip to Chicago to them, then the obvious conclusion is to spend that time on Devon Avenue. Like ferret, I've been there with out-of-town visitors; we typically have lunch and walk around for 30-60 minutes ducking in and out of stores, and they are ready to move on. And that's for visitors who have access to a car and for whom Devon is ten minutes away, so it doesn't take a lot of time to do so.

                          I love food, although not specifically Indian food. Knowing what I do about Chicago, if I didn't live here but were visiting from out of town for a weekend at a time, I'd spend most or all of my first 3-4 weekends in the downtown area except for a trip to a specific restaurant like Alinea or North Pond. (Like madrinazd, I wouldn't want to spend an excessive amount of time in transit when the activities I would be interested in are all downtown.) After that I'd probably spend parts of my next 3-4 weekends incorporating visits to other neighborhoods with multiple types of food attractions like Evanston, Lincoln Square, Andersonville, or Bucktown. I might hit Devon Avenue on about my 15th or 20th weekend here. However, IF Indian food were my very favorite type of food in the world, far more than any other, then I'd go to Devon Avenue on my first visit to town - which is the scenario you present.

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            LOL -

                            You avoided the first question of my post, I see. You ARE holding out!!

                            1. re: gordeaux

                              If you mean for snacks, I have no idea; I'm really not into Indian snacks and sweet shops (although I love a good kheer, their rice pudding). If you mean for restaurants, in the past couple of years I've had better Indian food at Mount Everest in Evanston and the Curry Hut in Highwood than in the places I've eaten on Devon Avenue, which include Tiffin and Mysore Woodlands.

                2. re: gordeaux

                  In re: Devon Avenue

                  I'm in complete agreement with gordeaux. A trip to Devon is totally worth it and it's totally different than going to an Indian restaurant in the downtown area.

                  This is the chowhound board, right?

                  1. re: rubinow

                    Visitors who want to go to Devon Avenue without driving should do this: take the Red Line subway, which runs under State Street---if you in the Magnificent Mile area you can access the subway at State & Grand or State & Chicago. Travel in the"Howard" direction. Get off at Loyola. Emerge from the station. You will be in front of a McDonald's at a bus stop. Take the 155 Devon bus (ask driver to call Western Avenue). When you get off you will be in India. Walk west (same direction the bus was traveling). Many restaurants, most of which have an ad-lib lunch buffet for around $8. Travel time is 20 min subway and 8 min bus. Devon is a safe area, Loyola transfer is in front of a large university, both areas are bustling with people. Fear not the big city.

                    1. re: Querencia

                      That underestimates the travel time. The el ride alone will take 28 minutes if it runs on time according to the CTA schedule. If you add in the time walking to the train platform and bus stop, it will still take a minimum of 45 minutes on one of those unusual days when the el and the bus both arrive exactly when you do. More likely, you will be waiting a little while for the el (trains run every 5-15 minutes, depending on time of day) and for the bus (every 13 minutes in non-rush periods). I used to do this trip all the time, and most days it would turn out to be in the 55-65 minute range when there were no unusual bottlenecks. That's why I suggested allowing 60-70 minutes for your total travel time.

                      If you want to do it by car or taxi, it's more like 25 minutes in a non-rush period, longer during commuting hours. I'm guessing that a cab might cost $25-30 each way.

                      You can check travel times at Google Maps for driving as well as public transit (it uses the schedules for specific public transit routes) as well as at the CTA's website.

            2. In the midst of Michigan Avenue shopping, here are a couple of possibilities. Go to the corner of Michigan and Ohio and walk west alongside the Eddie Bauer store. At the end of that block you will find Heaven on Seven (Cajun food) up the indoor escalator to the 2nd floor. 2) If you cross the street (Rush).the second business you come to will be Big Bowl, very good for Pan-Asian dishes. Go to "chicago restaurant menus" to see the actual menus of both restaurants. One more: visitors often enjoy the buffet lunch at the Signature Room, 96th floor of the John Hancock Center where the walls are glass and the view is phenomenal.

              Big Bowl
              60 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611

              Heaven on Seven
              600 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

              1 Reply
              1. re: Querencia

                Two good places for ladies who lunch:
                On the other side of Michigan Avenue, between Grand and Ohio if you look up you will see Bandera on the second floor. It is fun, comfortable, friendly and has great lunches. I am especially fond of their Macho salad with chicken, avocado, dates and goat cheese. Also one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had.

                The cafe in Nordstrom (back on the west side of Michigan Avenue) is also worth a try. Good salads, soups, sandwiches.

                Further north, Mighty Nice Grill in Water Tower Place. Last time I was there Jeffy Springer was holding court in the booth next to ours and taking photos with nearby shoppers and diners. Not a reason to go, but certainly amusing.

                A bit ore upscale on Michigan Avenue is Bistro 110, which is a perfect place for lunching ladies.

                Bistro 110
                110 East Pearson Street, Chicago, IL 60611

                Bandera Restaurant
                535 N Michigan Ave Ste 208, Chicago, IL 60611