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Lunch between Midway and Museum for a group?

One more question about eating in Chicago with a group of 40 high schoolers: We will be traveling from Midway on a chartered bus on Saturday around noon and are looking for an interesting place for lunch. Our headmaster doesn't want to eat at the museum but is hoping for a fun first meal in the city that is not too far off our route. What do you guys think about Chinatown? Is it relatively close? Ideas about good restaurants that could handle a large group?

I appreciate everyone's help-your assistance is invaluable. You will be glad to hear that in our planning meetings I often say "my friends from chowhound have suggested" this restaurant or that.

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  1. Chinatown is about a mile and a half southwest of the Field Museum, so yes, it's close and convenient on your way from Midway.

    Lao Sze Chuan is one of our best Szechuan restaurants and I know they have a banquet room. Warning, many of their dishes are VERY spicy.

    Some of our best-known Cantonese (mild) restaurants include Three Happiness and Phoenix, but I do not know about their ability to accommodate a group your size.

    Contact info for the restaurants in Chinatown is at www.chicagochinatown.org/cccorg/resta...

    Another idea for your group is to have lunch in Greek Town, at a Greek restaurant like Greek Islands, the Parthenon, etc. Greek Town is just west of the Loop, and the Field Museum is just southeast of the Loop, so it's not all that far out of your way. (You will be approaching the area from the southwest when coming from Midway.) Most of the restaurants in Greek Town have a lot of rooms for groups, and the prices are moderate. You can find links to websites for all the restaurants in Greek Town in the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/119233 and some of those websites show banquet menus. (Don't go to Costa's, which was destroyed by fire a few months ago.)

    4 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      I would call Lao Sze Chuan and make sure they have reopened after their fire.

      -----
      Lao Sze Chuan
      2172 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

      1. re: delk

        Good point; I don't know their current status. But I would call ahead to *anywhere* you're planning to go, rather than just pulling up and walking in with 40 people. ;) Unless you know for sure that it's the kind of place that can handle that many people at a time on a walk-up basis (e.g. Portillo's).

        1. re: delk

          As an alternate to Lao Sze Chuan, I'd recommend Moon Palace in Chinatown. You should definitely call in advance.

          -----
          Lao Sze Chuan
          2172 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

          Moon Palace Restaurant
          216 W Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60616

          1. re: masha

            I like Moon Palace but it might be a tight fit. I was there a couple weeks ago and there was a large party but because the tables are round they sort of made an amorphous shape when pushed together that made it look sort of uncomfortable.

            Evergreen might be the better sized place.

            Funny though, if I was chaperoning 40 high school students, I'd be asking for bar recommendations! :-)

            -----
            Moon Palace Restaurant
            216 W Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60616

      2. I don't know which "Museum" you'll be hading for - on your way into the city from Midway Airport, so . . . here's a thought, assuming you'll be headed for the lakefront:

        Stop for a lunch of Chicago-style Italian Beef sandwiches at Al's Beef on Taylor Street, followed by, dessert of home-made Italian Ice's at Mario's, directly across the street. Al's is a short detour off of the Stevenson Expressway which you'll use to travel into the city. One catch: eating is almost entirely outdoors - in the parking lot, standing/sitting on the sidewalk, etc. You'd be treating the students to an excursion many Chicagoans never make, except those "in the know."

        If you've set your sigts on Chinatown, the Evergreen at 24th and Wentworth is a favorite of mine and the restaurant can accommodate a group as large as yours with ease; just give them some advance warning! The restaurant offers inexpensive lunches. Afterwards, the students can take a walk down historic Wentworth Ave., window shop in the Chinese stores and even stop at one of the Chinese bakeries for dessert.

        7 Replies
        1. re: gomexico

          >> I don't know which "Museum" you'll be hading for - on your way into the city from Midway Airport

          The Field Museum, according to the topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/703220

          >> eating is almost entirely outdoors

          And if it's raining...? Just askin'. ;)

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Yes, nsxtasy, rain looks like a decent possibility this weekend. We may be a bit constrained by the weather but we'll manage a great time anyway. We're from New Orleans so a little rain won't slow us down. The temp looks pretty warm (50s to low 70s) but I am guessing it will be overcast and there might be some wind so it might feel a little cooler? It's so warm here already that I have trouble gauging the "feels like" temp.

            1. re: GTCmom

              Don't worry, we don't usually have the heat or the humidity that you do. Our spring and summer are very pleasant, in contrast to our winters. The current forecast for Saturday-Monday has a chance of showers and thunderstorms each day with a high in the lower 70s, which is 10 degrees above normal. Making arrangements with restaurants with seating indoors would be a good idea. ;)

          2. re: gomexico

            As much as I love the Al's and Mario's combo - I don't think it would work for a group of 40 coming in all at once. When I go during the work week, it is pretty crowded and seating is tight.

            However, GTCmom, you mentioned that you and your son will be dining just the two of you for part of the trip. I would recommend going to Al's and Mario's then (and Mario's opens on May 1st for the season)

            1. re: lbs

              Thanks, lbs, for pointing-out that Mario's opens for the season - May 1st. If the group is looking for something different to do on Sunday - a visit to the Maxwell St. Market could be very interesting, during which the group could sample down-home Mexican cooking while wandering about.

              1. re: gomexico

                The reaction to a visit to the flea market by most of the high-school-age kids I've taken on trips would be "So why did you decide to bring us HERE???" and a lot of rolled eyes and snickering. But it's your group, GTCmom; if you really think they would enjoy it instead of your plans for the Cubs game, Navy Pier, the Museum of Science and Industry, etc, go for it.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  I think that people who've been to Maxwell St. Market and who understand the cultural differences in urban areas and who and enjoy different food types do appreciate such environments, one which is so much more than just a "flea market." But, life is what we see it - and not all of us appreciate the same things.

          3. May I reiterate my suggestion for Connie's on Archer? No, I wouldn't go there for my anniversary but:

            1. They are right off 55 on your way into town from Midway
            2, They have a huge parking lot that can handle several charter buses
            3. They have a dining room for 400 and are used to handling large groups, including students.
            4. They specialize in Italian comfort food that appeals to a wide variety of tastes, along with a reasonable version of Chicago deep-dish pizza among other things.

            Far from the best restaurant in Chicago, but if you want a place to relax from an early morning plane ride and a drive into the city with three dozen teenagers, before heading out to the museums and all the wonders of Chicago, you may find this preferable to winding your way through the tight crowded streets of Chinatown or Greektown (which can certainly be on your schedule but perhaps more appropriate after you've settled down and oriented yourselves a bit to the city.)

            4 Replies
            1. re: jbw

              I agree about Connie's.

              1. re: jbw

                So here's my quandry: we currently have plans for pizza at Giordano's near Wrigley on Sunday after the Cubs game. They have us on the book for the banquet room at 4:30 and we are planning on pre-ordering and then going to Blue Man (the Headmaster wants to do it all). If we stick with the original plan then I'm still searching for lunch on arrival-possibly in Chinatown. I could switch pizza to our arrival day but that leaves me with a hole between the Cubs game and Blue Man-and not alot of time to work with. What do you guys recommend?

                1. re: GTCmom

                  I wouldn't switch on Sunday, since that will cause all sorts of problems and it sounds like a pretty good schedule. . The Connie's suggestion was based more on convenience than anything else. It just depends on how important that is to you, and whether you don't mind Italian with an emphasis on pizza twice (Giordano's doesn't have much else beyond pizza, altho Connie's does have a pretty full Italian menu}. One other interesting alternative would be one of our great Polish sausage makers, Bobak's, whose outlet/grocery store is right near Midway. They have an in-house buffet "eatery" which is quite good, but you'd have to call in advance to see if they could handle a group of your size:

                  http://www.bobak.com/?co=store

                  1. re: jbw

                    I agree with jbw. I would leave the Giordano's plans as is; they're perfect for your schedule and locations.

                    You've still got plenty of non-pizza options for your Saturday lunch. Restaurants in Chinatown or Greek Town will still work. I'm not familiar with Bobak's but it sounds like that's a possibility too.