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A Tip and A Special Request from a Visting Hound

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I was in Chicago last month and will be returning this weekend for a short visit.

Last month, in very limited time I squeezed in trips to The Publican, Avec, and XOCO. While I had many tast y treats, the clear standout was the Chocoflan at XOCO. I am not someone who typically prefers desserts, but this was truly extraordinary. That is my tip.

In exchange for my tip, I am soliciting input for the one morsel of food I absolutely must have during my brief stay this weekend. I have only a few spare hours this Saturday afternoon. I have no boundaries with respect to atmosphere, cuisine, etc. All dives, cuisines, etc, welcome.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Avec Restaurant
615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

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  1. I'd go to the Saturday brunch at Frontera Grill, right around the corner from XOCO. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

    Thanks for the tip!

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks, nsxtasy. I've been to Frontera Grill before, and enjoyed it very much. But, given the size of Chicago and range of options, I am hoping to try something new. The one morsel of food I can't leave without!

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      Frontera Grill
      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

    2. Unsurprisingly, it's hard to pick just one morsel of food that stands far and above the rest, but here are a few dishes that are really excellent, and I'll let you decide what's most your style. There are all places a little outside the downtown area, so they're harder to get to, but well worth the trip.

      For under $20:

      Baladoche @ 2905 N. Clark for the best (authentically) Belgian zucker waffles you'll ever eat. I was in Brussels recently, and theirs were honestly better. Walk a few blocks away for delicious coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee @ 3123 N. Broadway

      La Pasadita @ 1140 N Ashland for tacos. I have a strong preference for the barbacoa, but it's all delicious.

      Spacca Napoli @ 1769 W. Sunnyside for pizza in the style of naples. Their toppings are all delicious, but what makes it great is the dough. Yeasty and tender, it's sort of a revelation.

      Hot Doug's @ 3324 N. California for specialty sausages. Alot of people get chicago style dogs here, but it's a waste when you could be having any of their specialty dogs (think foie gras, antelope, venison, etc.). Best sausage you'll ever eat.

      Kuma's @ 2900 W. Belmont- Burgers served on a pretzel roll. It's something simple, but perfectly executed. I like to splurge on mine, with bacon, cheese, and a fried egg.

      Moving upscale:

      Sola @ 3868 N. Lincoln, get the shortribs.

      Terragusto @ 1851 W. Addison- They do italian tasting menus. It's all good, but the pasta course will surely be among the best you've ever had.

      Volo @ 2008 W. Roscoe - They're known for their Marrow bones, but this is a dish anyone could make at home. The Wagyu beef tartate, however, is the real winner. They also do really good wine flights that the server will help tailor to your meal.

      Hot Chocolate @ 1747 N. Damen. Some of the best desserts in the city. I like their shakes or Chocolate #1.

      Of course, if you're really looking to splurge, then Tru, Moto, Alinea, or L20 are the way to go.

      That's alot of information to throw at you, but I hope it makes your trip to Chicago more enjoyable.

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      Alinea
      1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

      Hot Doug's
      3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

      Spacca Napoli
      1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

      Terragusto
      1851 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613

      Moto Restaurant
      945 W Fulton, Chicago, IL 60607

      Hot Chocolate
      1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

      Intelligentsia Coffee
      3123 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60657

      Baladoche
      2905 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657

      3 Replies
      1. re: bcommand

        Thanks for this excellent info. Your recs that particularly interest me are Baladoche and Spacca Napoli. I am really searching for food that is transporting, in a way, and those two sound like that. From my own research, I wondered about Urbanbelly, Smak Tak, and Healthy Food.

        Incidentally, If I hadn't been to Hot Doug's before, that would probably be my choice.

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        Hot Doug's
        3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

        Spacca Napoli
        1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

        Smak Tak Restaurant
        5961 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60646

        Baladoche
        2905 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657

        1. re: John Galt

          I was going to mention Urbanbelly, but I've been to Momofuku Noodle Bar recently, so Urban Belly has lost a bit of its sheen.

          I really like the Cinnamon Sugar Waffle at Balladoche, though the Nutella seems more popular. Last time I was in they had a feraro rocher take on Nutella that's even better than the original, so that may be something to think about too.

          At Spacca Napoli I usually get the Prosciutto e Rucola, but they're all delicious.

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          Spacca Napoli
          1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

          Urbanbelly
          3053 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

          1. re: John Galt

            Healthy Food closed last year.

        2. Since you're only going to be here briefly on a Saturday afternoon, you're not going to be able to go to the above suggestions that are closed at that time of day (Terragusto, Volo, Tru, Moto, Alinea, L20). The only really high-end restaurant open for lunch on Saturdays is NoMI, which is very good (although if the suburbs works for you, Le Titi de Paris in Arlington Heights is also open and excellent). Also note that some restaurants are open for lunch and for dinner but not in between, all afternoon long, so if you hit town mid-afternoon, that may rule out some options.

          Given your time constraint, you may want to avoid places where a long wait is going to be required (Hot Doug's, Kuma's Corner). I also don't think it's worth spending your only stop at Spacca Napoli, when there are over three dozen restaurants nationwide that are also certified for the same neopolitan pizza they serve there (see list at www.anticapizzeria.net/vpn/members.html ).

          If I didn't live here and were just passing through, here are the places I'd go, in addition to Frontera Grill.

          If you haven't tried our delicious deep-dish pizza, that's always a treat, and one you can't get elsewhere. If you're driving through the city anyway, I'd go to the original Uno or Due in River North. Phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for your pizza to bake. www.unos.com

          I've found the desserts at Hot Chocolate highly disappointing. If you want great desserts, go to the baked goods counter at Fox & Obel (don't miss the cinnamon swirl rolls) www.fox-obel.com or stop by Vanille for some entremets www.vanillepatisserie.com What I *would* consider possibly the very best sweet dish in the area is the huge, puffed-up, cinnamony-gooey apple pancake at Walker Brothers, with six locations in the north and northwest suburbs. www.walkerbrosoph.com

          I like the waffles at Baladoche too, but I don't know that I'd consider them the best snack in the city. My favorite snack is at Garrett's. You can get the caramel popcorn with or without pecans or cashews (my personal favorite), the cheese popcorn, or a caramel/cheese mix. www.garrettpopcorn.com

          1. Stop by Al's #1 on Taylor Street (the one on Taylor Street and ONLY the one on Taylor Streedt) for an authentic Italian beef, a Chicago specialty, then cross the street over to Mario's for a perfect Italian ice (May 1st; it's opening day for Mario's!):

            http://alscatering.com/

            Hot Doug's is also very worth a detour, but that's even more out-of-the-way (unless you're driving on the Kennedy) and waits can be long during prime hours, particularly on a Saturday.

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            Hot Doug's
            3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618