NYer coming for the weekend - please help
I did a bit of research on the boards and elsewhere and here is what I came up with so far. Please let me know suggestions/changes/etc. I have always been excited to come to Chicago for the food. Can't wait.
Friday - we get in late (about 9). Not sure what's still available for a quick bite. Thinking Chicago hot dog or Italian beef. Any recs on the way from O'Hare to the hotel (Westin - Michigan Ave)? Anything around the hotel? Doesn't have to be hot dog or beef, just don't want to make a huge to do.
-Lunch we were thinking Hot Dougs or Lou Malnati's. Is Malnati's the best place to try Chicago Pizza? Never really had it other than Uno in NY (which I wasn't thrilled with).
Dinner - Heard so many great things about Gibson's I think we have to try it. Agree?
-Need breakfast, a market, or something.
-Lunch - Purple Pig? We may also go to the Sox/Cubs game at US Cellular. Anything good around there?
Dinner - Needs to be an early one. Any suggestions?
Thanks in advance guys. The main point is that I want hot dogs, pizza and Italian beef because they all look awesome and are so different from what we get in NY. Please let me know. I look forward to getting this info!!!!!
3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Friday -- on your way to the hotel, have your driver stop at the drive-through at Portillos on Ontario. You can get a decent Italian beef and/or hot dog there and enjoy it when you get to your room. Alternately there are a couple of Italian beef places in the central area -- Mr. Beef and Al's, but neither has a drive through. You'll see debate about who is better, but if you've never had one and just want to enjoy it for the first time, Portillo's will do you just fine.
Saturday -- Hot Doug's is going to be mobbed on Saturday because, well they're always mobbed and on Fridays and Saturdays they have duck fat fries. Plan to get there early. Like maybe 10:30 and expect a line at least out the door and down the block to the alley. Just so you know you will need a car or taxi to get there. Public transportation is a little complicated and probably not worth your time.
If you've had an Uno's pizza in NY, just be aware you haven't had a real Uno's pizza. A totally different recipe; a totally different product and I think it's horrendous. The national chain and the frozen version of the Uno's pizza is NOTHING like the real deal at the original location. Malnati's is good and a very similar recipe, but if it were me, I'd go to the original location or its sister restaurant, Due, which is pretty much kitty-corner from the original.
You'll hear some debate about Gibson's. The steaks are good, but I think it's got an attitude. It has a reputation and tourists do seek it out. Know that its in the center of the Viagra Triangle with everything that that implies. Could be good for people-watching, but I find the middle-aged guys with flashy broads on their arms, spending too much money alternately amusing and annoying. If its steak you want, a lot of people prefer David Burke's (and other people don't). Check out this thread:
Sunday -- try breakfast at Fox and Obel's cafe. F&O is a gourmet food market with a delightful sit down cafe.
Re the Purple PIg, I haven't been there yet, but have heard good things and it's on my must-try-soon list. As far as restaurants around "The Cell," I can't help you. I'm a nort-sider so I'll leave that to someone who knows.
Have to add my admonishment for your setting foot into Uno in New York - it's no better than Pizza Hut. Where's your self-respect? New York has a fine pizza heritage that doesn't need to be sullied by the presence of Johnnie-come-lately chain restaurants.
I will second the recommendation for Portillo's. Not the "best" but certainly a very good example in the vicinity of your hotel.
Kudos to you for recognizing that what is sold at those dreadful franchised "Uno's Chicago Grill" places is not representative of our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza! When the widow of the founder sold the business, the CEO of the acquiring business promised not to change the recipe at the original Uno and Due here in River North, but elsewhere, fageddaboutit! Deep-dish is the preferred pizza by most Chicagoans (as you can see, there are always a few in the minority). And kudos for wanting to try the real thing, which you can't get anywhere but here in Chicagoland. The original Uno and Due in River North are a great place to try it. So is Lou Malnati's, although its downtown locations, in the South Loop and way over on Wells, may not be convenient. And so is Pizano's, which has a location on State near the "Mag Mile" of North Michigan Avenue and another on Madison in the Loop near the Art Institute. (That these three are all good is not coincidence; Pizano's and Malnati's were both founded by sons of one of the principal players in Uno's early days.) Wherever you go, you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for it to bake.
For the hot dog or Italian beef, Portillo's is a great suggestion by chicgail. Yes, there are some other places too, but you can't go wrong with Portillo's. Depending on where your hotel is, you may find it easier to drop your bags there and then walk over to Portillo's.
As for steaks, I haven't observed the "Viagra culture" that she describes at Gibson's - it's been mostly men when I've been there, making it seem like a boisterous men's club, which may or may not be a good thing - but I really prefer David Burke's Primehouse for their steaks. However, unless you really prize steaks above all other foods, I would suggest something other than a steakhouse for your visit. Why? Because you can get good steaks at home too, whereas there are some kinds of food that Chicago does better than New York (and some that Chicago does and New York doesn't). It's the same reason I don't generally recommend Italian restaurants to visitors from the Big Apple. It's not that we don't have excellent ones; we do. But our best isn't going to be different from, or better than, the ones you have back home. There are other types of food which we do exceptionally well, and I would recommend one of those instead. Check out this discussion of foods that Chicago does unusually well:
first time Chicago - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693477
As you can read about in that topic, some of the places I would recommend for your itinerary are our creative provincial Mexican restaurants, including Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, and North Pond for contemporary American food in its lovely, unique setting in the middle of the park. Topo and North Pond both book up in advance for dinner (as you can see on Opentable) but lunch is often easier to book. Other types of food worth considering include tapas (Mercat a la Planxa), Latin fusion (Carnivale, Nacional 27), and pan-Asian (Sunda, Red Light, Aria, Opera).
Fox & Obel, which chicgail mentions, offers breakfast but it's not particularly unusual. Don't get me wrong; I love F&O for so many things - it's our equivalent of Balducci's, Dean & Deluca, or Zabar's, and I love their baked goods, such as their yummy cinnamon swirl rolls, croissants, etc - but the breakfasts aren't all that unique. (I do enjoy their Cobb omelet though.) Here are a few additional suggestions for breakfast, that are different from the conventional. The Original Pancake House on Bellevue Place is a short walk from your hotel; don't miss the huge, puffy, cinnamony apple pancake! Another unusual place is Bongo Room, which has two locations, one two miles south at Wabash and Roosevelt, and another two miles northwest in Bucktown. Their specialty is unusual pancakes and sauces, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. A standard portion size is three ENORMOUS pancakes, but you can get one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at a reduced price, so you can try more than one dish. Another interesting breakfast place is Orange, which has pancake "flights" and customize-your-own fresh juice blends. There's one a few blocks from your hotel on Clark just south of Chicago. Also walkable is Frontera Grill, which serves Mexican brunch on Saturdays (closed Sundays).
As for US Cellular, Han 202 is about a 15-minute walk from the ballpark and serves pan-Asian small plates. There are other good places on the South Side, notably Nightwood and Mundial Cocina Mestiza in the Pilsen neighborhood and Amelia's in the Back of the Yards, but they are not within walking distance. For more recommendations near the Cell, see the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/627359 What do locals do? When I went to a game at the Cell last year, I got a carry-out downtown (at Steve's Deli, if you're interested - although that also falls into the "you have good ones in New York" category) and took it with me to the ballpark.
Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!
The others have made some excellent suggestions, so I'll keep my comments brief. Skip Gibsons - it would be fun if you spend lots of time here, but you have limited time, so don't waste a meal there. Definitely go to the Purple Pig - it is near your hotel and great. You could do a late dinner Friday (It serves food until midnight or later), Sunday lunch or Sunday dinner. Don't miss the red gravy with pork neck bone meat and ricotta calabra. Lou Malnati's is great - my favorite deep dish, but the original Uno's and Due's are fantastic as well. If you have time, try The Gage - across the street from Millenium Park. Great gastropub with creative food and nice atmosphere. Enjoy your trip!