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Taste of Chicago? Weekend recs needed

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Coming to Chicago for the 4th of July weekend. Will arrive on Friday, July 2 about noon. Should we do Taste of Chicago Friday afternoon and evening to avoid the weekend crowds? Our other plan is to do ToC on Saturday and spend the day there - people watching, wandering around, and eating our hearts out! Some have said to skip ToC entirely and spend the time touring. What do you think? If we go to ToC, which booths are worth standing in line for ? If we do ToC on Friday, we'll do brunch at Bongo on Saturday morning, followed by a city tour with a local tour guide. Having been to Lou Malnati's and Uno/Due, should we try Pizano's for pizza Sat night? We tend to like good tasing food and a place with real character. On this trip we won't care about service, inventiveness, or presentation in food as long as we're not paying for those things. We are staying near John Hancock building downtown and will be going to the Cubs game on Sunday. I also need a recommendation for a hearty breakfast/brunch (as opposed to the sweeter variety at Bongo). Then, after the game.......we'd like an authentic cubby fan experience, but not being able to get a drink due to crowds, being heaved upon by drunks, and having to witness fist fights is not what we want! (I have read that the Wrigley area after games can be like this???) So, where would you go?

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  1. If you really want to know, I wouldn't go to Taste. Period.

    I know there are some people who love it, but ToC is crowded, hot, messy, nowhere to sit and unless you are dying for beer, ribs and pizza that you eat as you walk, fagetaboutit. It's not where the good food is.

    If you are a chowhound, there are too many wonderful restaurants in Chicago with extraordinary offerings at virtually any price point to waste your time there. And if you're not interested in crowds, being heaved upon by drunks and having to witness fist fights, you're much better off in Wrigleyville than at ToC. There I've said it.

    1. Every year people ask about Taste of Chicago. Have you read the previous discussions about it? Here's the one from last year:

      Taste of Chicago 2009 - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/613855

      Here's what I wrote:

      "This discussion from 2007 pretty much sums it up:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/394355

      All the negatives are stated there. However, it's in downtown Chicago, probably walking distance from your hotel. You can walk there, and leave at any time. (Admission is free; you buy tickets to exchange for the food.) So why not go check it out? If you try a few places and decide that most of the food isn't that great, you can always leave - and if you're having fun, you can stick around as long as you like.

      What I wouldn't do is to go more than one day (maybe if there's a music group you want to hear, but not for the food). And as lbs says, go early in the day - not only to avoid the crowds, but also so your intinerary doesn't sacrifice a dinner elsewhere in order to eat at ToC."

      I stand by those comments (as well as what chicgail wrote above). I've been mostly disappointed every time I've gone, because the food just isn't that good. But if you want to try it out, go! Just be prepared for the possibility of disappointment, and don't devote a lot of time there if you really want to experience Chicago's best foods. Personally I think spending about 90 minutes there at lunchtime one day is plenty.

      As for the rest of your plans/questions...

      >> If we go to ToC, which booths are worth standing in line for ?

      I suggest looking through the city's ToC website to see which restaurants are serving which foods, and pick out the 3-6 items that sound best to you:
      www.explorechicago.org/city/en/things...

      >> Having been to Lou Malnati's and Uno/Due, should we try Pizano's for pizza Sat night?

      Pizano's is similar to Malnati's and Uno/Due. (This is not coincidence; the Malnati family was/is heavily involved in all three.) If you liked Malnati's and Uno/Due, you could choose any of them. However, if you'd be interested in choosing the other popular variety of deep-dish pizza, the double-crust "stuffed pizza", consider going to Giordano's this time around.

      >> I also need a recommendation for a hearty breakfast/brunch (as opposed to the sweeter variety at Bongo).

      How about either location of Deleece? Both are a ten-minute walk from Wrigley, both serve brunch on Sundays, and both accept reservations on Opentable.com so you don't have to worry about long waits. Deleece ( www.deleece.com ) is a bit more upscale and is half a mile north of the stadium, whereas Deleece Grill Pub ( www.deleecegrillpub.com ) leans more towards comfort food and is half a mile south of the stadium. Check out their brunch menus on their websites.

      Another place that does an excellent brunch on Sundays is Hearty, and it too is walking distance from Wrigley and accepts reservations on Opentable.com Check out their brunch menu on their website at www.heartyboys.com/hearty

      I don't know about where to go for your "authentic cubby fan experience", sorry!