Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Jul 3, 2010 08:37 PM


Going to Chicago on Tuesday, and besides Hot Doug's, I have no plans for good dining places. Any good suggestions? And hopefully quality restaurants without the Alinea prices?

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Chicago has a plethora of excellent restaurants in every price range and in virtually every neighborhood.

    It would be helpful if you would say more about what you mean by "quality restaurants." Can you also provide some more information like where in Chicago you will be (it's really big), what you like/don't like (ethnic, American, modern, etc.), your price range (big difference between Hot Dougs and Alinea -- huge), how you will be getting around town (car, on-foot, public trans.), whether you are coming alone or with other people?

    You might also want to search this board to see what has been recommended to other people coming to Chicago on visits If you say what interests you, we might be able to suggest other similar places.

    6 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      Well by quality I mean someplace with great fresh ingredients. I will be staying right near the John Handcock building, and will be without a car. I'm just planning on Hot Dougs because I lust after anything fois gras and am dying to try their duck/fois dog...
      Thanks for your reply, I have boon scanning through the other topics, I'm sure I'll find some great places. But if you have any ideas, let me know! I am open to eating virtually anything...

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

      1. re: hungryman0930

        Ok then. Thanks for the direction.

        First know that Hot Doug's is not close to where you are. It'll be a good 20-minute taxi drive or 2 buses and about 45 minutes. HD opens at 10:30 am and you can expect at least a 30-minute wait in a line out the door, down the block at least to the alley. And there is no guarantee that they will have the fois gras dog. You can check the website that week for specials.

        Regarding places with great fresh ingredients in your area, there are lots of options. You might like Cafe Spiaggia (the cafe, not Spiaggia -- same kitchen, location and website; very different prices), Naha, Perennial (not really walking distance -- it's a little north on Lincoln Ave at Clark St., directly across from the site in Lincoln Park that houses the Green City Farmers Market on Saturday and Wednesday mornings -- but worth mentioning), Province, Bistro 110, or Coco Pazzo Cafe. Many of those might also offer fois gras if HD's isn't offering it.

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

        Bistro 110
        110 East Pearson Street, Chicago, IL 60611

        Cafe Spiaggia
        980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

        Coco Pazzo Cafe
        636 N St Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

        500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

        1. re: chicgail

          Seconding Naha, Province and the rest of this list. All great choices and easy to get to. It's actually quite easy to get around Chicago to most spots you'd be likely to eat at ... so don't feel too limited by locations esp in River North, West Loop and the Loop.

          I'd add Mercat a la Planxa, Sable, Xoco and Sprout as Chicago stars ... in fact, Sprout does a Foie first course that is quite tasty - as is the whole menu. The $60 Prix Fixe is a bargain given the 3 courses plus intermezzos, the quality of the food and the smart cooking that Levitsky and Nguyen do.

          Mercat a la Planxa
          638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

          500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

          1417 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

        2. re: hungryman0930

          The suggestions above are good ones. Check the sample menus on their websites, as some of these suggestions are more expensive than others (although none of them are Alinea-like in price).

          Cafe des Architectes, a couple of blocks from the Hancock, is also worth considering. It has the very best contemporary American food in the city, a place where I've consistently found that every dish is just incredibly delicious. The service has always been decent in my numerous visits there, although a couple of people here have had service problems in single visits. The room is beautiful; it's part of the curved glass facade of the Sofitel. It's also an incredible bargain; half of their menu every night (lots of selections) is a three-course prix fixe for $42, and Sundays through Tuesdays they have a limited three-course "neighborhood friends menu" for $29. And they usually have seared foie gras on the menu, although not usually as part of those deals of course (they may just hit you with a supplement to the $42).

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I know nsxtasy has had wonderful experiences at CdA and I respect his opinion and we even agree about most places, but I'm one of those people who has had poor -- even weird -- service there which is why I didn't recommend it in spite of it's conveiient location to you.

            If we thought the food was fabulous we could have overlooked the service problems. We found the food was perfectly acceptable, but not outstanding. On the other hand, the Chef's Seasonal Menu is unquestionably a great deal for the location just off the Magnificent Mile and what you get and, even more so the weekday neighborhood friends menu.

            It all becomes a matter of priorities. Sometimes saving money for a good, but not spectacular meal is the right choice. Sometimes it's worth putting out a little bit more for something memorable.

            1. re: chicgail

              >> Sometimes saving money for a good, but not spectacular meal is the right choice. Sometimes it's worth putting out a little bit more for something memorable.

              And sometimes you can get a memorable, spectacular meal at a savings. Every meal I've had at Cafe des Architectes has been a memorable, spectacular meal, worth lauding even if it didn't have the bargain price. I've LOVED the food there, better than any other moderate- or mid-priced restaurant in Chicago (including the others mentioned above). I wrote a detailed report on one of my fantastic dinners at Cafe des Architectes, in which they had a Restaurant Week menu that was virtually identical in selections and price to their "neighborhood friends menu". I urge you to read it ( ) to get a better idea of what this very special (and affordable) restaurant has to offer. (I've eaten there several times since the meal described there, and it was equally amazing each time.)

              This is indeed one of the few instances in which chicgail and I disagree, and I don't know what was going on the particular night she visited Cafe des Architectes. All I can tell you is that I have loved it every time I've been there, and I give it my strongest and most enthusiastic recommendation.

              P.S. Their seared foie gras is great... you know you love it... mmmm...

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

      2. If I might make one other suggestion, since you love foie gras...

        One of the best preparations of foie gras I've had is at Michael, in north suburban Winnetka. They serve seared foie gras over a foie gras and mushroom filled strudel. It's delicious. In fact, the entire meal I had the other night was one of the very best I've had the past few years. I reported on it in the topic about Michael at

        It's not as close and convenient as Cafe des Architectes, but it's still feasible. The easiest way to get there if you don't have a car is to take a cab or CTA bus to the Ogilvie Transportation Center on the west side of the Loop, and then take the Metra commuter train (Union Pacific North line) for the 35-minute ride to the Indian Hill station. The station is only about a block from Michael. Trains run on an hourly basis well into the evening, as you can see on Metra's website at

        1 Reply
        1. re: nsxtasy

          thank you everyone for the great responses! i'm leaving on a plane tonight, hitting Chicago tuesday with a (food) vengance!! i'll keep you updated on my dining expirences, thanks again all!!