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Jun 20, 2010 02:34 PM

Coming back to Chicago July 4th weekend

We're Texans coming back to Chicago for our third visit over July 4th. We were coming to see U2 at Soldier Field, but that went kaput when Bono's back crapped out. sister in Cleveland is joining us for this trip, so we're coming as planned for a few days of fun. We're all three foodies, so we're looking forward to trying lots of good food.

We plan to hit our favorites: Giordano's for stuffed pizza, dinner at Frontera Grill, hot dogs at Portillo's, etc. But...we're looking for some new adventures as well. We're staying at the Comfort Suites, a couple of blocks from Michigan Ave. So...what are some MUSTS that are walking distance and/or easily accessible via the El?

A friend recommended Vermillion, so think that might be our other "nice" meal. We're on a bit of a tight budget after our recent trip to New York, so any advice for good, cheap eats is greatly appreciated.

Also plan to hit Vosges Chocolat...and I heard about some really great pie place on Travel Channel recently. Can't remember the name, though. Thanks in advance!

Frontera Grill
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

551 S Bolingbrook Dr, Bolingbrook, IL 60440

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  1. >> We're staying at the Comfort Suites, a couple of blocks from Michigan Ave. So...what are some MUSTS that are walking distance and/or easily accessible via the El?

    I assume this is the one at 15 East Ohio Street. Right in the middle of River North. You couldn't pick a better place for restaurants!

    You're just a couple doors away from the original Uno and Due, if you'd like to try the "pizza in the pan" style of deep-dish this trip. Although I can understand if you can't miss Giordano's and their "stuffed pizza"! You're also close to Pops for Champagne, the wine bar specializing in you-know-what. You're a block from Quartino, a lively and moderately-priced place specializing in small plates of Italian food (it's not just for pizza, don't worry). And David Burke's Primehouse for steaks. India House is nearby for moderately-priced Indian, although that sort of overlaps with Vermilion, which combines Indian with Latin American cuisines. Rockit Bar & Grill serves moderately-priced American food, a fun/festive place. Shaw's Crab House has seafood. Heaven on Seven (Rush St location at Michigan and Ohio) has cajun/creole cuisine. All of these are within a couple of blocks, which is why I said it's a great location!

    There are SO MANY more places to eat, within walking distance as well as near the el, that you'll need to narrow things down! What would you like - tapas? (Cafe Iberico) Pan-Asian? (Sunda) Latin fusion? (Carnivale, Nacional 27) Italian? (Cafe Spiaggia, Coco Pazzo) French bistro? (Brasserie Jo) Whatever you like, you can probably find a great example within walking distance.

    I'll put in another plug for my favorite contemporary American restaurant, Cafe des Architectes, which has amazing food from Chef Martial Noguier; it's part of the curved glass facade of the gorgeous Sofitel, a 5-10 minute walk north of your hotel. Every night they have a 3-course prix fixe menu for $42, and Sundays through Tuesdays they have their 3-course "neighborhood friends menu" for $29, an amazing bargain. For more recommendations on places to eat without spending a fortune, see this discussion:

    Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? -

    That mentions tips like eating out for lunch when prices are cheaper, going to ethnic neighborhoods (e.g. Chinatown for Szechuan at Double Li), etc.

    >> Also plan to hit Vosges Chocolat...and I heard about some really great pie place on Travel Channel recently. Can't remember the name, though.

    It was probably Hoosier Mama Pie Company, which has not thrilled me (high prices, nothing special about their pies). You can't get pie in Texas? :)

    Seriously, have a great time, and if there is anything specific you're interested in, let us know and we'll try to help!

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Wow...thanks for the great info!
      I ADORE champagne...especially champagne cocktails! The happy hour special at Pops looks fantastic: half-price cheese and charcuterie plates + bubbly cocktails. How dressy do we need to be to go here? Don't want to stand out as tourists if we can help it :lol:. If we do happy hour there, then we can get a Chicago dog at Portillo's for a late dinner and still stay within our daily food budget. Our hotel includes breakfast each morning, so we're allotting $50/person per day for lunch and dinner. Give or take...

      Husband wants an Italian Beef...I know there's a big rivalry re: who's best. From the map I have in my Fodor's, it looks like Mr. Beef might be the easiest one to get to without a car. As far as what kind of food we like? We're pretty open and flexible...we like most kinds of food. Cheaper is better on this trip. We just got back from a week in New York, where we dropped quite a bit of money on food. With this trip just 2.5 weeks later, we only have room in the budget for two "nice" dinners. Frontera Grill is one, and I think Vermillion will be the other. Have you tried it? If so, would it be as good as the $29 prix fixe special at Cafe de Archetects?

      Frontera Grill
      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

      1. re: wendytexas

        Champagne and hot dogs, I love it!!! Hot dogs so you can stay within your budget while drinking champagne. Kind of like putting low-calorie sweetener in the coffee you have with your French pastries, LOL!!!

        Pops is pretty casual. Like many of the best independent and local-based places in the downtown neighborhoods, the clientele is a mix of tourists and locals, and you would be hard-pressed to tell one from the other. (If you're looking for non-foodie tourists, go to the national chains like California Pizza Kitchen in downtown Chicago, LOL!)

        Get the Italian beef when you're at Portillo's. They do a very good one, no need to create a separate stop for another meal.

        I have not been to Vermilion, so I can't say anything about the quality, but it's going to be significantly more expensive than the 3 courses for $29 at CdA, based on the menu on their website. If you'd like to read more about the latter, read my report at (Their "neighborhood friends menu" is almost identical to the Restaurant Week meal I reported on.) It's also described in the "30 for $30" magazine article for which you'll find a link in that "best dinner values" discussion I mentioned in my previous post.

        Again, there are lots of ways to economize on food. Going to nicer places for lunch (or brunch) is one way. Ethnic food, especially in outlying neighborhoods, is another way (although keep in mind that you'll be paying for cabs or public transportation to get there, partially offsetting the difference in cost). Some of the less expensive ethnic foods and neighborhoods you might consider are Chinese food in Chinatown, Vietnamese food along Argyle Street, Mexican food in Pils... oh wait you've got that covered, Indian/Pakistani food along Devon Avenue, Greek food in Greek Town, and Polish food at Podhalanka in West Town.

        However, many of the places I mentioned in my post above are not all that expensive either - Quartino, Cafe Iberico, Cafe Spiaggia, India House, Brasserie Jo, etc. and they're within walking distance. When in doubt, check out the restaurant websites; most have sample menus with prices indicated.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          I'm no food snob :lol:! I love my high-end food, but I also appreciate a good hot dog if it's made well. My sister wants to try dinner in Greektown one night...have read good things about Santorini and Greek Islands, so we'll most likely end up at one of those. Don't regret a penny of the money I spent on food while in New York, but am bummed that I have to penny-pinch a bit on this Chicago trip since it's only two weeks between vacations!

          Santorini's Restaurant
          138 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661

    2. I think Hoosier Mama still sells pies at our all organic, outdoor Green City Market in Lincoln Park. Maybe not since she opened her own space. Anyhoo, its held on Wed & Sat mornings and you can buy a lot of great pastries there from various bakeries. Also a fab burger done by the Sunday Dinner Club folks. Its a medium walk from the el, but very easy trip by bus.

      Green City Market
      1750 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614