Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Apr 17, 2010 05:26 PM

First timers - 3 meals - moderate budget

Hello there - my husband and I are travelling to Chicago from Toronto in a few weeks for our first trip 'without kids' since we've had them... and we are looking forward to a few nice meals in a great city. We're looking for moderate pricing but some unique places, we're open to pretty much any style of food - we'd like to have 2 romantic dinners and maybe the other night have some traditional deep dish Chicago pizza.
Suggestions welcome - thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are many places where you don't have to spend a fortune for a nice meal.

    My favorite "casual fine dining" restaurant in Chicago is Cafe des Architectes ( ), in the curved glass facade of the Sofitel. Everything I've had there has been amazingly delicious. And I like it regardless of price, but it happens to be one of the least expensive nice restaurants in Chicago. Every night they have a prix fixe menu with selections for 3 courses for $42, and Sunday through Tuesday evenings they offer their "neighborhood friends menu", 3 courses for $29. It was on the cover of Chicago Magazine's recent article "30 for $30", describing 30 restaurants where you can get a nice dinner for $30; you may want to review that article, which you can find at

    I'd also recommend Cafe Spiaggia, for moderately-priced Italian food (entrees in the mid-twenties). If you check out their website ( ), make sure to click on CAFE so you don't get info for their big-bucks sister restaurant next door.

    For another uniquely romantic restaurant, consider North Pond, for dinner or perhaps for Sunday brunch. The food is excellent and it's located in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, not the adjacent neighborhood of the same name). However, it's a bit more expensive than the two previous recommendations, with entrees in the thirties.

    For our authentic, delicious deep-dish pizza, there are two main styles: the single-crust "pizza in the pan" of Uno and Due, Lou Malnati's, and Pizano's, and the double-crust "stuffed pizza" of Giordano's, Bacino's, and Edwardo's. If you let us know where you will be staying, we can tell you the closest locations to your hotel.

    5 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thank you so much! We are staying at the Conrad Hilton which apparently is right beside Nordstrom's... if that helps. Your recommendations look great. There are so many to choose from! I think our first evening in we will do the pizza thing - what do you recommend of the two styles?

      1. re: withoutkids2010

        >> We are staying at the Conrad Hilton which apparently is right beside Nordstrom's... if that helps

        I assume you mean the Conrad Chicago Hotel at 521 North Rush Street, which is not a Hilton (it's part of the Le Meridien hotel group). It's indeed right next to Nordstrom in River North. (FWIW, Hilton has several properties in Chicago. The Hilton hotel at 720 South Michigan Avenue a little over a mile south of the Conrad Chicago Hotel is currently called the Hilton Chicago but was formerly known as the Conrad Hilton, so I can understand the confusion.)

        Of the places I mentioned earlier, Cafe des Architectes and Cafe Spiaggia are both easily walkable about half a mile north of the Conrad Chicago Hotel, and North Pond is about three miles north of the hotel.

        For pizza, I love both styles, and in fact I prefer the double-crust stuffed pizza at Giordano's. However, if you've never been to Chicago before, I think the single-crust pizza in the pan is a great place to start, because it's a bit more well known and it was the first deep-dish in Chicago. Stuffed pizza was introduced in the early 1970s; pizza in the pan was introduced by Pizzeria Uno in 1943. The Conrad Chicago hotel is only a block from Pizzeria Uno, still operating in its original location, and its sister restaurant across the street, Pizzeria Due, which opened in 1955. Both Uno and Due are still excellent (unlike their dreadful franchised clones operating as "Uno's Chicago Grill") and that's where I recommend going. If you decide to try stuffed pizza (also or instead), Giordano's on Rush is about five blocks north of the hotel, and Bacino's on Wacker is about five blocks south. Wherever you go, you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes after arriving for your pizza to bake.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          The Conrad is not a Hilton? That's a first. Every other one I've stayed in is.

          1. re: ferret

            Oops, I stand corrected. A website I was looking at implied otherwise, but the Conrad Hotels chain is indeed part of Hilton Worldwide (a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group). I apologize for the error! (It's still called the Conrad Chicago, though, not the Conrad Hilton, the former name of the hotel further south.)

          2. re: nsxtasy

            Is Due's the only one where the sausage deep dish is one huge patty that covers the whole pizza? If so, go there. BUT, ordering ahead, even if you plan to eat there, can be helpful. Cafe Spiaggia and Cafe des Architectes are great suggestions. We stopped at the latter not too long after the chef there arrived from OneSixtyBlue, but I recall it being a brunch time of day, and not being overwhelmed. But a dinner try seems in order. Cafe Spiaggia used to be unparalleled in service, was a little soft on that last time, but the food has always been a great moderate-priced alternative. As it happens, we're going to be eating hot dogs at the Cub game today, and may have to consider North Pond for a dinner stop. BTW Michael in Winnetka was very good. Your rec's are consistently excellent.

            North Pond
            2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

            Cafe Spiaggia
            980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

            Cafe des Architectes
            20 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60611