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3 1/2 days in Chicago - Please review my plans!

m
monamiestephanie Jun 24, 2010 12:47 PM

I'll be visiting Chicago this October to run the Chicago Marathon! I'll be staying at the Westin Chicago River North. This'll be my first time visiting, and I'd like to try a bit of everything--from the low-end to the high.

Can you please review my plans? Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

THURS 10/7:
Dinner - Frontera Grill (or is Topolobampo a must?)

FRI 10/8:
Breakfast - Hot Doug's
Lunch - Blackbird
Dinner - Alinea

SAT 10/9:
Breakfast - XOCO
Lunch - French Market (I'll be walking along the Magnificent Mile though, so do you have any other recommendations?)
Dinner - Marathon club dinner

SUN 10/10:
Lunch - Lou Malnati's Pizzeria
Dinner - Cafe des Architectes? The Publican? Arun's? (Please help with this final dinner!)

-----
Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

Frontera Grill
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Topolobampo
445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

Cafe des Architectes
20 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60611

French Market Cafe
1973 W 111th St, Chicago, IL 60643

  1. nsxtasy Jun 24, 2010 01:47 PM

    >> Can you please review my plans? Any feedback is appreciated.

    Sure!

    >> Dinner - Frontera Grill (or is Topolobampo a must?)

    I don't think Topo is a must; you can find excellent food at Frontera Grill. Since this is for a weeknight rather than a weekend night, waits for a table shouldn't be too bad, hopefully. You can call to try to get one of their handful of reservations, but don't rule it out if you can't; they hold most of the dining room available for walk-in customers.

    >> Breakfast - Hot Doug's
    >> Lunch - Blackbird

    Hot Doug's isn't open for breakfast; they start serving lunch at 10:30. I think you can do either of these, but doing both is probably a bit much, in terms of amount of food, as well as the amount of time needed for eating and travel. Especially when you're going to Alinea for dinner the same day.

    >> Breakfast - XOCO

    Although XOCO's food is different from Frontera Grill's, this means you are planning two Mexican meals in the weekend. Which may be just fine, but it's worth pointing out.

    >> Lunch - French Market (I'll be walking along the Magnificent Mile though, so do you have any other recommendations?)

    The French Market is not within walking distance of the Mag Mile. There are plenty of places near the Mag Mile that are open for lunch, depending on what kind of food you like - for example, Cafe Spiaggia or Coco Pazzo Cafe for Italian, David Burke's for steaks or burgers, Heaven on Seven for cajun/creole, Bistro 110 or Brasserie Jo for French bistro, Hugo's or Shaw's for seafood, Sunda for pan-Asian, Cafe des Architectes or Naha for contemporary American.

    >> Dinner - Cafe des Architectes? The Publican? Arun's? (Please help with this final dinner!)

    I really love Cafe des Architectes - it's my favorite contemporary American restaurant in the city, with absolutely FANTASTIC food; their $29 "neighborhood friends menu" Sundays-Tuesdays is an incredible bargain. I've also had very good service in all of the numerous times I've been there, and have never experienced problems. OTOH I'm not crazy about the Publican, for various reasons (it's LOUD, the seats are uncomfortable, I hate the risk of communal seating, and the desserts are dreadful although they recently hired a new pastry chef), and there are just a lot of other places I like better that don't have those downsides. I absolutely DO NOT recommend Arun's; the food is comparable to other Thai restaurants around town but the prices are about three times higher. (It's also not convenient to downtown at all, but that's secondary.) There are a lot of other great places to eat, including all the places I mentioned above as possibilities for Saturday lunch near the Mag Mile. Some additional places I would consider, not near the Mag Mile, include Mercat a la Planxa for tapas, Carnivale for Latin fusion, Red Light for pan-Asian, and Double Li for Szechuan. But I think Cafe des Architectes is a terrific choice.

    Hope this helps - feel free to ask more questions!

    1. l
      lbs Jun 24, 2010 02:21 PM

      Hi! Have you run marathons before? I've run 6 - start training for my 7th on Monday - and I ask because you have a lot of heavy, big, and somewhat greasy meals prior to the race. If you are experienced and you know how your body will react to these food groups, then please disregard this. But my advice would be to simplfy and unforunately take some of them out of the equation. For the past several years (not last year tho), marathon Sunday has been hot. Keep that in mind for your Saturday. Will you be picking up your gear at the Expo* on Saturday? If so, I'd recommend breakfast places by McCormick - which I think is the Bongo room.

      For Sunday after the race, bear in mind that after running 26.2 miles, your body will dicate what it wants to eat. Definitely make reservations in the downtown area because it will be crowded. Lou's is always good for pizza - good choice there.

      For dinner - I love love LOVE the Publican.... but.... will not recommend it for you mainly because the seats are slightly uncomfortable and your will need some comfort. Cafe Des Architectes is my least favorite place on your list. Boring bland food with laughable service. You may want to pick a place within walking distance of your hotel and go there. For some reason I'm blanking on places...

      * Not food releated but pick up your stuff on Friday night if you can. Easier and less crowded.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lbs
        nsxtasy Jun 24, 2010 03:32 PM

        >> You may want to pick a place within walking distance of your hotel and go there. For some reason I'm blanking on places...

        The Westin Chicago River North is right by Marina City. There are TONS of places nearby, but it sounds like you haven't put any priority on proximity to your hotel in your choices. (Arun's and Hot Doug's are both quite some distance and not particularly convenient to get to.) The places you have mentioned that are close to the hotel are Frontera/XOCO and Lou Malnati's (on Wells), both about a 5-minute walk, and Cafe des Architectes, about a 10-minute walk. For another recommendation close by, consider Coco Pazzo for Italian food (marathoners like to load up on pasta/carbs, no?). For more recommendations close to your hotel, see:

        Recommendations near Westin River North - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/515651

      2. m
        ms. mika Jun 24, 2010 02:27 PM

        Also to add on a couple comments- if you're doing dinner at Frontera- I would recommend calling now for reservations. They do take a limited number of reservations, so if they take them this far in advance, it would be worth it.

        Also- on mag mile lunch recommendations- for lunch or dinner I would recommend The Purple Pig. It's right on the mag mile and is great, small plates of seafood, cheese and of course pig! Fun place, really great food, but it does not take reservations, so that may be the only hitch.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ms. mika
          nsxtasy Jun 24, 2010 03:03 PM

          Beware, the Purple Pig is experiencing long, long waits for tables, at least for dinner - not only on weekends, but also during the week.

        2. m
          monamiestephanie Jun 25, 2010 10:04 AM

          Thanks for all your feedback!

          @nsxtasy—
          I’ve already booked a reservation for Frontera Grill, just in case. I’ll also re-think my plans to eat at Hot Doug’s, Blackbird and Alinea on Fri. Perhaps, we’ll do Hot Doug’s and Alinea that day, and possibly move Blackbird to dinner on Sun night, although I really wanted to take advantage of their special weekday lunch prix fixe. I’ll opt out of the French Market on Sat, since it’s not near the Mag Mile, and look into your other recommendations.

          @lbs—
          Thanks for your marathon-related suggestions! I’ve run 5 marathons, and am currently training for both Chicago and NYC. I do tend to be a bit overzealous when it comes to food, so hopefully cutting out Blackbird lunch and choosing less greasy items will help! I’ll be picking up my gear at the Expo on Fri, in hopes that it won’t be as crowded. Thanks for the comment on the seats at the Publican—the legs will definitely be aching.

          @ms. mika—
          Thanks for the recommendations!

          -----
          Alinea
          1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

          Frontera Grill
          445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

          French Market Cafe
          1973 W 111th St, Chicago, IL 60643

          7 Replies
          1. re: monamiestephanie
            nsxtasy Jun 25, 2010 11:11 AM

            >> possibly move Blackbird to dinner on Sun night

            Blackbird is closed on Sundays.

            1. re: nsxtasy
              m
              monamiestephanie Jun 25, 2010 11:12 AM

              Ah. There goes that idea. Thanks!

              1. re: nsxtasy
                l
                lbs Jun 25, 2010 11:26 AM

                Honestly if you want to go Blackbird, I'd skip Hot Doug's. Also, H.D might even be closed due to the holiday weekend (Columbus Day). H.D is a hike from downtown and if you are trying to squeeze going all the way north to H.D. (which will take about an hour or more round trip via public transporation plus the wait in line plus the eating), then hoof it all the way south to McCormick for the Expo and then go to Alinea, it could be an exhausting day.

                NYC and Chicago marathon in the same year? Color me impressed! Good luck on both of them. I love the Chicago marathon - it is super flat!

                -----
                Alinea
                1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

                1. re: lbs
                  m
                  monamiestephanie Jun 25, 2010 11:49 AM

                  Thanks again, lbs, and good luck to you too on your training! Are you running Chicago or another race? I look forward to both the running and dining in Chicago!!

                  1. re: lbs
                    nsxtasy Jun 25, 2010 12:30 PM

                    >> H.D might even be closed due to the holiday weekend (Columbus Day)

                    Not many places close for Columbus Day. Regardless, though, Hot Doug's is really, really good about keeping its website at www.hotdougs.com updated whenever they go on vacation (which they usually do for a week or two at a time).

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

                    1. re: nsxtasy
                      l
                      lbs Jun 25, 2010 01:25 PM

                      H.D was closed in 2008 for Columbus Day so I thought it would be fair warning (also an easy decision maker if it was). Like you said though - they keep their website really current so just check that week.

                      monamie - training for Chicago. Got injured last Sept and had to pull out so I'm excited for this year. I always take that Monday off to treat myself and I may just be a tourist in my city and go a restaurant I'd never been to. The Purple Pig has been calling my name......

                      1. re: lbs
                        m
                        monamiestephanie Jun 28, 2010 09:42 AM

                        Thanks again to you both.

                        @lbs--
                        I also got injured last Sept, and had to pull out of NYC. Hopefully, we'll have better luck this year! Enjoy the Monday after, and the Purple Pig =).

              2. m
                monamiestephanie Aug 10, 2010 11:45 AM

                I've ironed out my dining plans for the trip, thanks to you all!

                The only meal I'm missing now is a quality one I can take with me on the flight back to NYC, since I'll be leaving the hotel by cab at 5PM.

                Fox & Obel sounds like a good suggestion. Anything hot you can recommend?

                THURS 10/7:
                Dinner - Frontera Grill

                FRI 10/8:
                Breakfast - XOCO
                Lunch - Blackbird
                Dinner - Alinea

                SAT 10/9:
                Breakfast - XOCO (or something else near the hotel)
                Lunch - Café des Architectes
                Dinner - Marathon club dinner

                SUN 10/10:
                Lunch - Lou Malnati's Pizzeria

                -----
                Alinea
                1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                Frontera Grill
                445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                5 Replies
                1. re: monamiestephanie
                  nsxtasy Aug 10, 2010 01:56 PM

                  >> Fox & Obel sounds like a good suggestion. Anything hot you can recommend?

                  They have a lot of prepared foods you can get. They can heat foods up for you, but I'm not sure of the point of doing so, if they will cool off by the time you will be eating them on the plane. Anyway, items they typically have at the prepared foods counter include crab cakes, various preparations of chicken, fish (sometimes ahi tuna, sometimes sea bass), etc. They also have great smoked fish (particularly their kippered salmon, which is priced less than at local Jewish delis). If you go to the cafe in the rear, they can prepare anything to order; see the cafe menu on their website. They also have a prepared foods case to the right of the fish department. It has soups, but you might not be able to get them through security, since they're liquids; salads, although you might have a problem with the dressings; and sandwiches. Their baked goods and pastries are wonderful, too, not to be missed. www.fox-obel.com

                  I just thought of another suggestion, another place where you can get carry-out food near your hotel. Steve's Deli is a Jewish deli and it's just a few blocks away. Items I recommend there for carry-out include the usual deli sandwiches (corned beef, pastrami, etc); they have great stuffed cabbage (get the beef version, not turkey), although it could be sloppy; knishes; and chicken pot pie. www.stevesdeli.com

                  1. re: nsxtasy
                    l
                    lbs Aug 10, 2010 02:13 PM

                    Honestly, I would order extra pizza to go! Pizza, and IMO, Lou's , is excellent hot, great luke-warm/room temp and pretty good cold! Eat your heart out at Lou Malnatti's for lunch and order a small to go. Maybe I'm crazy..... (60 days)

                    1. re: lbs
                      nsxtasy Aug 10, 2010 02:36 PM

                      If you don't mind room temp pizza (after having hot pizza earlier in the day), this would save you a stop. Don't forget that their pizza can take 30-45 minutes to bake, so order it early enough in your visit, allowing enough time for its preparation so that it's ready at the time you plan to leave.

                      1. re: lbs
                        l
                        lbs Aug 11, 2010 08:06 AM

                        I was thinking of this last night and I want to make sure you have enough time on Sunday. Even though the race starts at 7:30, you probably won't end up crossing the start line until 8ish. If you plan on running a 4 hour marathon*, you won't be done til noon or thereabouts. It is going to take you some time to clear the finish line and meet up with your people. Cabs are scarce after the marathon. Honestly, your best bet is to walk (/take the el if possible) pretty much close to your hotel and try and grab one on the way. You won't get back to your hotel until probably 1 pm. I would imagine that you'd be doing lunch then at 2ish. Try and order the pizza when you leave the hotel if you don't want to wait so long at L.M, but if you just want to order apps, some drinks, and wait for the pizza - do that and relax!
                        Nsxtasy - would Steve's Deli be on the way to the airport? I know Smoque would be on the way if you wanted ribs.
                        * if you are running a under 4 marathon, I bow down to you!

                        1. re: lbs
                          nsxtasy Aug 11, 2010 09:27 AM

                          >> would Steve's Deli be on the way to the airport? I know Smoque would be on the way if you wanted ribs.

                          Steve's is about half a mile west of the hotel (two blocks north, six blocks west). If I were the OP, I would walk over there and back, without luggage, although if you have a cab you could stop there on the way if you wanted.

                          The reason I thought of Steve's is that their deli sandwiches (as well as the sandwiches and salads from Fox & Obel) can be eaten at room temperature (they can actually be served hot or cold or anywhere in between) and might not lose as much as food that's normally served hot, like pizza or barbecue. But of course this is a matter of taste, and some people might like pizza or barbecue and not mind when it's at room temperature.

                          I think lbs mentioned in the other topic that Fox & Obel is a bit of a hike from the hotel, and that's true - it's roughly 3/4 mile (three blocks north, eight blocks east), so it's a bit further than Steve's.

                          A few other things to consider - I see you live in NYC, and while I think Steve's is an excellent Jewish deli, it's not like you don't have that at home. Fox & Obel isn't all that different from options you have at home, either. Smoque, maybe. But the downside with Smoque is that you will be hitting them at dinnertime. The normal procedure is to wait in line before giving your order, and that line can be out the door and take 30 minutes at dinnertime. I don't know whether you can phone ahead with your order and walk to the front of the line to pick it up as a carry-out; maybe someone here knows, or you could call them to ask. But otherwise you could be paying your cab for waiting that long, or looking for another cab from there, which could be iffy, particularly if it's raining. Walking to the el from Smoque is also a possibility. For all these reasons, Smoque is a bit risky time-wise, so if you decide to go there, I would advise allowing extra time to do so.

                          Hope that all makes sense.

                  2. m
                    monamiestephanie Aug 11, 2010 12:08 PM

                    So much to consider. Many thanks to the both of you for all your help again!

                    Speaking of the marathon, lbs, I ran the KeyBank VT City this past spring in 3:58. I'm shooting for 3:40 to qualify me for Boston at Chicago! Ahh! =)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: monamiestephanie
                      l
                      lbs Aug 11, 2010 12:38 PM

                      My fingers will be crossed tha tthe weather will be perfectly cool with no head winds for you! Post back on your food and race results!

                      1. re: lbs
                        m
                        monamiestephanie Aug 12, 2010 10:28 AM

                        I certainly will! Same with you regarding your race results! =D

                    2. m
                      monamiestephanie Aug 11, 2010 12:38 PM

                      What do you think about brunch in River North, and then buying Lou's for dinner on the flight? I don't mind eating lukewarm pizza, by the way.

                      Are there any other good brunch spots in River North other than Frontera Grill? I'm going to Frontera Grill for dinner on Thurs night, and don't want to overdo it...or do you think that it's so good that I should go for it anyhow?

                      -----
                      Frontera Grill
                      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: monamiestephanie
                        nsxtasy Aug 11, 2010 01:08 PM

                        Frontera Grill is closed on Sundays, although they serve brunch on Saturdays. If you want to do a Mexican Sunday brunch, Salpicon isn't far.

                        There are a lot of good brunch spots in River North, but I haven't found one that's head and shoulders above the others. I've heard people praise the huge seafood-focused buffet at Shaw's, but I haven't been there for that; that's one possibility, and it's right near your hotel. There's information about brunches on Opentable.com and an advantage of looking at their listings is that all of their places accept reservations, so you don't have to worry about a long wait to be seated. (Shaw's is on Opentable.) See www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?m=3&...

                        One thing to be careful of with transporting hot pizza is the possibility that it can drip and/or the sauce can slide off. If you do that, you might want to bring a large plastic bag with you for the pizza, so that any spills are contained.

                        1. re: nsxtasy
                          d
                          delk Aug 11, 2010 07:10 PM

                          What about Pastoral on Lake for take out on Sunday? You can pre-order the day before or even earlier to have it ready, and I bet if you asked they could make it airplane ready.

                          1. re: delk
                            nsxtasy Aug 11, 2010 07:20 PM

                            Pastoral specializes in cheeses and sandwiches. The Lake Street location in the Loop opens at 11 a.m. on Sundays. From the hotel, it's two blocks south, then two blocks east. www.pastoralartisan.com

                            1. re: nsxtasy
                              m
                              monamiestephanie Aug 12, 2010 05:50 AM

                              Thanks for the suggestion, delk, and the warning on transporting pizza, nsxtasy! I appreciate the help!

                        2. re: monamiestephanie
                          l
                          lbs Aug 13, 2010 08:19 AM

                          If you never had Chicago deep dish pizza before, do yourself the favor of eating it fresh and hot out of the oven. Then if you want, bring some back to eat at room temp.

                          1. re: lbs
                            m
                            monamiestephanie Aug 13, 2010 11:42 AM

                            That's exactly what I decided. I'll probably go with Lou's for lunch, and Pastoral for dinner. I'm a sucker for European meats, cheeses and baguettes.

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