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5 day/4 night trip - where 'must' I eat??

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Planning an early October trip, Thursday thru Monday. Will be calling Aug 1st for a reservation at Alinea (fingers crossed!!). Are there other restaurants or bars or pubs that are a must visit??? I've a list so long I don't know how to cut it down to 3 meals a day - help!!!

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  1. Great - you'll get to try a lot! However, you didn't indicate whether price or geography were issues, so I'll assume they are not. There will be MANY opinions on the subject, but here are my two cents:
    - Dinners: North Pond, Graham Elliott, Frontera Grill, Takashi
    - Lunches: Purple Pig (could also do dinner here), The Gage, Xoco

    Enjoy your trip!

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

    North Pond
    2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

    1 Reply
    1. re: vrollings

      thanks!!!

    2. This discussion provides a lot of suggestions for the "musts", places that are unique to Chicago and otherwise very special:

      first time Chicago - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693477

      >> I've a list so long I don't know how to cut it down to 3 meals a day - help!!!

      The Chicago restaurant scene has so many great places, and so many different kinds of great places, that's not surprising. One of the things that helps is to think about your objectives - what kinds of food you like best, if there's a certain kind of place you want to specialize in or whether you're just looking for some variety. For example, some people might want to try 3-4 fine dining places, but many others want more diversity - for example, one dinner at an haute cuisine place (e.g. Alinea), one dinner at a casual contemporary place (e.g. North Pond), and one dinner with interesting ethnic food (e.g. Topolobampo), along with one lunch of deep-dish pizza (Pizano's) and another of Italian beef (Portillo's). If you really love one particular kind of food, there is probably a great place for it that you will want to include in your stay here.

      You may also want to give some consideration to where you're staying. There's excellent food all over the city as well as in the suburbs, and while some places are worth traveling to, there may be others just as good that are close to your hotel or where you're spending time. Let us know where you'll be and we can tell you what's special AND nearby.

      Fortunately, this is a good time to plan for October, because the places that book up in advance (like Alinea and Topolobampo) are probably still available for the dates you want. Make your reservations NOW; you can always change/cancel them if the need arises.

      Feel free to ask more questions, and if you put together an itinerary of your meals, we'd be happy to take a look at it and give you feedback.

      7 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        nsxtasy - thank you for the info & the offer to take a look at my list!!!!

        not really an itinerary as I’m flexible with the days, but I have noted the meal time (or food item!) I was thinking of for each:

        Bongo Room - Breakfast
        Orange - Breakfast
        Blackbird - Lunch
        Hot Dougs - Lunch
        The Silver Palm - Three Little Piggy Sandwich
        Alinea - Dinner
        Spring - Dinner
        The Publican - Drinks, Pork Rinds
        Avec wine bar - Drinks, small plates, cheeses, etc
        Bin 36 wine bar - Wine, Cheese
        Purple Pig - charcuterie, cheeses

        Nothing above is set in stone other than Alinea (providing I can get a reservation) so please feel free to provide your opinion on the places listed!
        Definitely have a passion for cheese and pork products of all kinds.
        I'm staying in the theater district at the Wit but am open to traveling.
        Might try to catch a White Sox game on Saturday so any suggestions for around the ball park would be greatly appreciated!!!

        Thanks so much for your help!!!!!!

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

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

        Avec Restaurant
        615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

        Bin 36
        275 Parkway Dr, Lincolnshire, IL

        Bongo Room
        1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

        Silver Palm
        768 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

        1. re: pjens01

          >> Bongo Room - Breakfast

          Great choice.

          >> Orange - Breakfast

          Orange is good.

          >> Blackbird - Lunch

          Great choice.

          >> Hot Dougs - Lunch

          I went on a weekday a couple of weeks ago and the wait when I arrived was one hour and twenty minutes, and when I left it was close to two hours. Plus it's not very conveniently located. So that's a lot of inconvenience and time. If you feel like it's a "can't miss" after looking at their menu and considering the time needed, then go. If you're dead set on sausages, you might consider Franks 'n' Dawgs as an alternative that's closer to downtown and without the wait.

          >> The Silver Palm - Three Little Piggy Sandwich

          Never heard of this.

          >> Alinea - Dinner

          Great choice.

          >> Spring - Dinner

          Good choice.

          >> The Publican - Drinks, Pork Rinds
          >> Avec wine bar - Drinks, small plates, cheeses, etc
          >> Bin 36 wine bar - Wine, Cheese
          >> Purple Pig - charcuterie, cheeses

          All of these are good choices for drinks, although they can involve long waits if you want to sit and eat. Also, they are similar to each other. I know you said you like cheese and pork, but you may or may not want to do so every night.

          >> I'm staying in the theater district at the Wit but am open to traveling.

          You're staying in the Loop at the Wit. Their rooftop bar, the Roof, has gotten some notice. Recently I ate at Cibo Matto, their contemporary Italian restaurant, and liked it.

          >> Might try to catch a White Sox game on Saturday so any suggestions for around the ball park would be greatly appreciated!!!

          There's really nothing around the ball park. Eat around your hotel, in the Loop or River North, before going to the game. Get a carry-out if you like; that's what I did the last time I went there, got a carry-out from Steve's Deli in River North.

          Still thinking about one or two more dinners, huh? :)

          1. re: nsxtasy

            nsxtasy, Three Little Pigs/Silver Palm was on Bourdain's No Reservations Chicago Episode. It's on Milwaukee, Odgen and Chicago, next door to Matchbox and across the street from D'agostino's.

            It's actually an old railway diner car, so not many seats and usually a wait. Three litttle pigs is breaded pork tenderloin with ham and bacon, covered in cheese with two sunnyside up eggs.

            1. re: delk

              Thanks. Sounds like something you'd find in the rural Midwest!

              1. re: nsxtasy

                that's where I heard about it - and since it has pork products AND cheese I thought I'd check it out! I'll let you know if it's any good! Does sound like it might cure a nasty hangover pretty well.

            2. re: nsxtasy

              Thanks for the feedback! and yes - I'm a little light on the dinner choices. I do love pizza (originally from NY) so there will need to be an add on for that but I'm open to any suggestions! Love italian & french!

              if you had to choose two for the drinks/cheese - which two would you pick?

              And any additional suggestions for brunch or breakfast?

              thanks!!!

              1. re: pjens01

                >> I'm a little light on the dinner choices.

                There are lots of places to choose from. I mentioned Topolobampo above. It, and Frontera Grill, are so different from ordinary Mexican food as found throughout most of the United States, and I don't think people realize what they're like. Check out the menus at www.rickbayless.com/restaurants and you'll see what I mean. If you want a reservation, make it NOW for October because they do book up this far in advance.

                North Pond is also very special, not only for its delicious contemporary American cuisine, but also for its location in the middle of the park. I would choose it over Spring (both are contemporary American places, so I'm not sure I would do both); Spring is good, especially if you would enjoy its seafood-focused menu, but North Pond's setting makes it unique.

                >> I do love pizza (originally from NY) so there will need to be an add on for that

                We're known for our delicious deep-dish pizza, another thing you can't find elsewhere. Uno and Due's original locations are in River North, Pizano's has locations in the Loop and off the Mag Mile, and Lou Malnati's is not quite as convenient for downtown, but has locations around the city and suburbs. All of these are excellent representations. Wherever you go, you can phone ahead to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

                >> Love italian & french!

                For Italian, if you want a high-end haute cuisine experience (and don't mind the high price or dressy attire), then go to Spiaggia. For more casual, moderately-priced Italian, consider Cafe Spiaggia at the north end of the Mag Mile, Coco Pazzo in River North, or Vivere or Cibo Matto in the Loop.

                For French, for a high-end haute cuisine experience, go to Everest, in the Loop. For more moderately priced French, we have numerous French bistros; La Sardine in the West Loop is a good one.

                >> if you had to choose two for the drinks/cheese - which two would you pick?

                The Publican would be good. I would NOT choose Avec; their no-reservations policy means you can encounter long waits to be seated (even at the bar), the NOISE, the uncomfortable seats, etc. I haven't been to the Purple Pig but I hear they have long waits at dinnertime. Bin 36 is known more for wine, not as much for cheese or charcuterie.

                >> And any additional suggestions for brunch or breakfast?

                For breakfast, go to Bongo Room, in the South Loop, for their pancake specialties. For Sunday brunch, a lot of places are open, including North Pond (see above). A lot of detailed reports are posted in the breakfast/brunch topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403

        2. The Tribune has an ongoing article about Chicago's must-try dishes: http://www.chicagotribune.com/enterta...

          4 Replies
          1. re: rubinow

            Just looked at your link. Interesting.

            What struck me about it was that it was a lot of sandwiches and fried stuff (potatoes, mystery dog, chicken, bacon) largely at places I'd never been to or even heard of. I'm not saying that it's not tasty stuff, just a really surprising compilation of foods I wouldn't ever have thought of as being representative of the best of Chicago. My guess is that they tried to be inclusive of a lot of suburbs and neighborhoods.

            1. re: chicgail

              It sounds to me like they were looking for foods that were DIFFERENT. Yes, batter-fried bacon is different. Must-try? That's another story...

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Not much "different" about french fries or a BLT. I can't figure it out beyond an attempt at geographic inclusiveness.

              2. re: chicgail

                I think that's a good thing.

                The series adds a new item every week. Lots to explore.

            2. Do you know what time reservations open at Alinea?

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

              5 Replies
              1. re: saeyedoc

                I'm not sure. when I called last week for the weekend of 10/01 they told me to call back August 1st... so maybe 2 months in advance is the earliest they accept them?

                1. re: pjens01

                  I believe they start accepting them on the first of the month for the entire month two months later.

                  Alinea is NOT like the French Laundry, where you absolutely MUST call within the first hour after they start answering the phone (and all you get is a busy signal). It's a good idea to call the first day, but don't go crazy trying to phone them as soon as they open; you'll get your date and time.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    thanks - happy I don't need to get stressed over it!

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      It's definitely the first of the month for the entire month two months later, was just wondering what time they start, I have only one day with some time limitations.

                      1. re: saeyedoc

                        called August 1st & was told they are delaying taking reservations until around the 16th due to changing of the summer to fall menu? seemed a bit odd...

                2. pjens - I'm reading your post and replies with interest, because I'll be visiting chicago over the weekend of Oct 1st as well, and the Wit is on my short list of hotels, although I've yet to decide.

                  All the "hot" restaurant recs seem to be very pig-centric. I'm cool with that for one meal, but I too wanted to do something a little more haute for one of my 2 dinners (I have to head out to the burbs for a family thing on Sat night.) Having been to Alinea the first year they were opened, I'm coming up confused on that score. Spring was so fantastic last time I was in Chicago that I am tempted to go back, but I hestitate not to try something new.

                  Good luck w/ your Alinea reservations. They were very nice on the phone when I made mine, strikingly different from calling certain popular spots in NYC. The place is an experience.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: danna

                    >> All the "hot" restaurant recs seem to be very pig-centric. I'm cool with that for one meal

                    Yes, this is the year of the pig. And while the Publican and the Purple Pig have gotten the most press, the Piggery and the Pork Shoppe are also opening.

                    >> I too wanted to do something a little more haute for one of my 2 dinners (I have to head out to the burbs for a family thing on Sat night.) Having been to Alinea the first year they were opened, I'm coming up confused on that score.

                    I'm not sure why you're confused; you would probably find different dishes but a similar style and overall experience to your previous visit. But there are other choices for haute cuisine, too. Charlie Trotter's, Everest (particularly for an emphasis on contemporary French cuisine), Spiaggia (for Italian), TRU, Avenues, and NoMI lead the list after Alinea.

                    >> Spring was so fantastic last time I was in Chicago that I am tempted to go back, but I hestitate not to try something new.

                    This is actually the same predicament we locals face all the time. There are always so very many great places to choose from.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      by confused, I just meant i don't know where to start deciding . I'm sure I don't want to go back to Alinea. (long story) I've been to Charlie Trotter and will pass on a return visit. Been to TRU and loved it, is it still on the top of it's game? It seems i've read some bad reviews on Spiaggia, your thoughts? And when I say haute, I don't have to have super-haute, and would really rather stay away from jacket-required places...but we DO like seafood centric, muli-course creative stuff. I'll look up Avenues, not familiar w/ that one. thanks.

                      1. re: danna

                        >> Been to TRU and loved it, is it still on the top of it's game?

                        Yes.

                        >> It seems i've read some bad reviews on Spiaggia, your thoughts?

                        It's excellent - excellent food, excellent service, and in a class by itself as the only Italian haute cuisine place in town. (One poster here repeatedly slams it because something spilled at his dinner, but don't be misled by his solitary experience. Hey, mistakes can happen anywhere.)

                        >> And when I say haute, I don't have to have super-haute, and would really rather stay away from jacket-required places...

                        That's fine, there are plenty to choose from without the dozen or so dressy places around town.

                        >> but we DO like seafood centric, muli-course creative stuff.

                        Then you would probably enjoy L2O, the new high-end restaurant from Laurent Gras. Although it's jackets preferred, so there's that (and I wasn't overwhelmed when I ate there, but others like it). Spring, you're familiar with. Oceanique in Evanston continues to specialize in it too, and serves some of the very best seafood (and some of the very best of any kind of food) in the Chicago area. Of course, you can find excellent seafood at just about any really good restaurant, but there aren't a lot of places that actually specialize in it. You might want to also consider the new place, the Girl and the Goat, since Stephanie Izard specialized in seafood at her previous place, Scylla.

                        >> I'll look up Avenues, not familiar w/ that one. thanks.

                        Avenues is a high-end fine dining restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel. I haven't been to it since Curtis Duffy took over the kitchen from Chef Bowles, but reports are good.

                        1. re: danna

                          Have you considered Schwa? Getting a reservation there is hit or miss, but it's certainly features multi-course creative stuff (some seafood, some not) with an atmosphere that is not "haute" in any sense. Here's the link: http://www.schwarestaurant.com/

                      2. re: danna

                        Consider checking out Bon Soiree for your other dinner. Prix fixe and BYOB, so you don't have to break the bank. You can choose from 5, 8 or 13 courses. It's fine dining in a more relaxed setting. Do a search and you'll read some great reviews.

                        1. re: geg5150

                          I second Bonsoiree and Spring. Also Naha and Blackbird, which I don't think anyone mentioned. Like Spring both have very fine food; and casually elegant atmosphere. Blackbird is small and tables are a little close together, but food doesn't get much better. And as mentioned earlier in the thread, but Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and North Pond are also not-to-be-missed.

                          -----
                          Bonsoiree
                          2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

                          Frontera Grill
                          445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                          North Pond
                          2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                          Topolobampo
                          445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

                          Naha
                          500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610