Around Merchandise Mart?
My wife is travelng NeoCon trade show at the Merchandise Mart and is staying just a couple of blocks from there. Looking for recommendations for lunch and dinner for a few nights. She loves salad places, Thai food, prefers locally owned to chain storesand ethnic dishes that are hard to get in Grand Rapids, MI. I'm going to try and get her to go to Topolobampo (assuming a weeknight reservation is possible), but that's a little more than she wants to spend on every meal. Any suggestions?
445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610
Topolobampo is a great suggestion, especially because it's so close by. Just keep in mind that they are running about three months out in filling up with dinner reservations. Getting a reservation for weekday lunch is much easier, especially for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Check on Opentable.com where Topo accepts reservations. Frontera Grill, its sister restaurant, is less expensive at dinner (lunch at both places is relatively inexpensive) but only accepts a handful of phone reservations and keeps most of the dining room available for walk-in traffic. Waits for seating at Frontera can be lengthy for weekend dinner, somewhat less for lunch or weekday dinner. If a reservation doesn't work for you, the best strategy to avoid waits at Frontera is to arrive shortly before they open; another strategy for solo diners is to eat at the bar at Frontera, where you can order off either menu (Frontera or Topolobampo).
Here are some more restaurants I recommend within a short walk of the Mart:
Lou Malnati's (deep-dish pizza) - www.loumalnatis.com
Steve's Deli (Jewish deli) - www.stevesdeli.com
Coco Pazzo (Italian) - www.cocopazzochicago.com
Sunda (pan-Asian/sushi) - www.sundachicago.com
Naha (contemporary American) - www.naha-chicago.com
Brasserie Jo (French bistro) - www.brasseriejo.com
Vermillion (Indian-Latin) - www.thevermillionrestaurant.com
Nacional 27 (Latin fusion) - www.n27chicago.com
Cafe Iberico (tapas) - www.cafeiberico.com
Fulton's (seafood) - www.fultonsontheriver.com
Shaw's (seafood) - www.shawscrabhouse.com
Kinzie Chophouse (steakhouse) - www.kinziechophouse.com
Gene and Georgetti's (steakhouse) - www.geneandgeorgetti.com
Eating at nicer places for lunch rather than dinner will be the easiest way to avoid spendng a lot on food. Virtually everything in that area is open for lunch as well as dinner. For an inexpensive dinner, Malnati's and Steve's are both good choices. At Malnati's, you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for it to bake. At Steve's, in addition to their deli sandwiches, they serve an excellent chicken pot pie and beef stuffed cabbage.
My personal favorite for salads is Maggiano's, which has a location near the Mart. I know, it's a chain, but I really like their salads, for lunch or for dinner. My favorite is their chopped salad; you can ask them to substitute grilled chicken for the diced chicken (boiled?) which normally comes on it. www.maggianos.com
I believe all of the above, with the exceptions of Malnati's, Steve's, and Cafe Iberico, accept reservations on Opentable.com
My wife had terrible service at Crofton on Wells a few years ago. We had been before and loved it. So, we didn't go back for a long time. We tried it again a few months ago and it was very good. I can recommend it again but I do understand the service issue.
Crofton on Wells
535 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60610
While attending NeoCon at the Mart if you just want to get away from the building for a while for a quick lunch in a "neighborhood" environment, nothing fancy, but with indoor or outdoor patio seating ... have a look at The Shamrock Club, on Kinzie St. along the north side of the Mart, across the street. This is a "sleeper" of a place (principally a bar) known mostly to neighborhood residents and folks working at the Mart and nearby. Lunch specials are good ... and for about $8 include a beer or non-alcoholic beverage. You'll be mingling with Mart execs, salespersons, office secretaries, construction workers ... you get the picture.
210 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654
In line with Topolobampo...Xoco is right next door and is Rick Bayless' new concept. I would recommend going there for breakfast, churros dipped in mexican hot chocolate are wonderful, and the breakfast empanadas are incredible. Plus, if you go in the morning, it's not hugely packed.