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2 days in Chicago, Hot Doug's is closed, need other recs for (cheap) good eats - please help!

catzuella Aug 17, 2010 11:52 PM

Hello, I will be visiting Chicago in two chunks, first on Thursday (8/19), then on Sunday (8/21). I'm actually in Elgin for something else on Fri and Sat, but I'm sneaking away to Chi to visit friends, then coming back to catch my flight home back to Philly. I was really excited about going to Hot Doug's for some dogs and hopefully trying a foie gras version, but it's closed for vacay, so I need another recommendation for food adventure.

My list isn't very long, I've been to Chi before (tried deep dish twice), which I don't care for, roast beef sammy (which I also don't care for, how can I? it doesn't compare to a cheesesteak!), and I've already had a dog from Portillo's, popcorn from Garretts. I don't have alot of money, plus I will be with some non-foodie friends so I will have to skip Alinea for another trip. So far on my own list of must-try is Spicy Pork Grinds at Publican and a Jibarito at Boriquen. My sorta foodie friend who lives in Chi recommends getting going to one of Rick Bayless' restaurants, getting an oatmeal shake from this Costa Rican joint called Irazu, Bacon Parmesan Sage Popcorn at Revolution Brewery and then Filipino breakfast from Uncle Mike's Place...

I am Lao girl so I am pretty much open to eating anything except insects and worms, and will eat anywhere - dives, hole-in-the-walls, street trucks, bars, etc.

Where shall I start?

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Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

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  1. RealMenJulienne RE: catzuella Aug 18, 2010 12:48 AM

    Hi catzuella, I just learned – to my great dismay – that CND Gyros is closing this Saturday. Just off the Magnificent Mile, it’s a super old-school Greek diner which has stood the test of time for 40 years while the neighborhood has changed all around it. Before I go any further, I can’t give it a superlative recommendation based on the food, which is only above average Greek diner fare (fried chicken, gyros melt, grilled chicken sandwiches, etc.) but for true Chicago atmosphere in an incongruous setting, there is no substitute. I’m out of the country so I can’t go for a farewell meal, but I have to recommend CND for an old-school experience which is soon to vanish forever.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RealMenJulienne
      catzuella RE: RealMenJulienne Aug 18, 2010 01:15 PM

      Maybe I will just drive by and take a photo op? :)

    2. nsxtasy RE: catzuella Aug 18, 2010 06:39 AM

      Franks 'n' Dawgs is the closest thing to Hot Doug's you'll find, with exotic sausages. They just don't have a foie gras dog, or 90-minute waits in line to order. www.franksndawgs.com

      Go to Rick Bayless's restaurants. XOCO serves "Mexican street food" (tortas, churros, etc) and Frontera Grill serves more unusual Mexican dishes. They're right around the corner from each other, so look at the menus, check out the lines, and decide which one is best for you. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

      A block from Irazu is a place called Belly Shack, in which locally-acclaimed Chef Bill Kim serves a combination of inexpensive Latin and Asian cuisines. I haven't been there yet but Chowhound chicgail raves about it and she has always had excellent advice here. www.bellyshack.com

      I assume when you say "roast beef sammy" you are referring to our Italian beef sandwiches.

      Publican has Spicy Pork RINDS (not Grinds) and if that's the only thing you get there, you will be disappointed. (They have a lot of good dishes, but that one... meh.) And if you get more than that, it may not meet your desire for the cheapest eats.

      Don't look for street trucks. They're not legal in the city of Chicago (although they're working on changing that law).

      8 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy
        f
        ferret RE: nsxtasy Aug 18, 2010 07:02 AM

        "Don't look for street trucks. They're not legal in the city of Chicago."

        With one exception (so far):

        http://www.gaztro-wagon.com/Gaztro-Wa...

        1. re: ferret
          g
          gleam RE: ferret Aug 18, 2010 07:44 AM

          they aren't really an exception since they aren't preparing the food on the truck. There are plenty of trucks rolling around with prepackaged food prepared in a commercial kitchen.. the african trucks, the jamaican trucks, the ones slinging pizza and such down by construction sites. Gaztro wagon just has the buzz because they're doing more gourmet stuff, and they're leading the charge to get the law changed to allow actual cooking.

        2. re: nsxtasy
          catzuella RE: nsxtasy Aug 18, 2010 01:14 PM

          nsxtasy, oops on the spelling! my comp shut down and I was in the middle of writing this post, so I when I thought I had to write it all over again, I wasn't even looking at grammar. But what other things do you recommend at Publican? I think I can ball a lil bit.

          And thanks for the recommendations for Franks 'n' Dawgs and Rick Bayless' restaurants. Whatever I don't get to do Thursday I will come back and hit up on Sunday, including the bacon popcorn and Belly Shack.

          1. re: catzuella
            nsxtasy RE: catzuella Aug 18, 2010 01:38 PM

            >> what other things do you recommend at Publican?

            When I was there, I really loved the mussels and the sweetbreads. Warning: It's REALLY NOISY. Tip: About half the seating consists of two long communal tables; the rest is private tables for 2-6 people. If you have a preference for one type of seating over the other, specify it when making your reservation and they will try to accommodate it.

            >> And thanks for the recommendations for Franks 'n' Dawgs and Rick Bayless' restaurants. Whatever I don't get to do Thursday I will come back and hit up on Sunday, including the bacon popcorn and Belly Shack.

            Bayless's restaurants are closed Sundays. F&D is open 11-5 Sundays, and Belly Shack all day and evening.

            1. re: nsxtasy
              catzuella RE: nsxtasy Aug 18, 2010 01:58 PM

              Wait Publican doesn't have a bar? Was thinking of just plopping myself on a stool and grabbing a beer... Oh no, well wish me luck making my res then.

              Oh and um, also... this sounds kinda dumb but how do you turn on notifications to receive new replies by email? I just tried to do it in the "Notifications" section but it only said "You are currently not receiving email updates on any CHOW items" and didn't give me any other options.

              1. re: catzuella
                nsxtasy RE: catzuella Aug 18, 2010 02:13 PM

                >> Wait Publican doesn't have a bar? Was thinking of just plopping myself on a stool and grabbing a beer... Oh no, well wish me luck making my res then.

                I don't *think* so, not a traditional one. In the middle of the main dining room, surrounded by the communal tables, are a few high-tops without any stools around them, so you can stand and drink. There could be a bar in some other room, but I sure didn't notice it. Also the restroom arrangement was interesting, with the sinks located *outside* the men's and women's.

                >> Oh and um, also... this sounds kinda dumb but how do you turn on notifications to receive new replies by email? I just tried to do it in the "Notifications" section but it only said "You are currently not receiving email updates on any CHOW items" and didn't give me any other options.

                I'm not positive but I'm not aware of any way to do it. You might try searching and/or posting in the "Site Talk" forum, which is the forum on this website for questions like that.

                1. re: nsxtasy
                  p
                  pamiam RE: nsxtasy Aug 19, 2010 10:56 AM

                  There is a bar. You can see it in the "gallery" photos on the Publican's site. On the other side of the high-tops, there are seats in a L-shape along the kitchen area/where the taps are. I've eaten at it, somewhat accidentally, as we had planned to stop in just for a drink or two. However, once we were seated at the bar, it definitely seemed like we should order food. If you're only drinking, you'd probably be better off at the high-tops. If you're eating, you can definitely sit there. However, it is equally in demand as the tables, so you might not be able to just "plop down."

                  1. re: pamiam
                    nsxtasy RE: pamiam Aug 19, 2010 11:10 AM

                    Thanks. I guess I didn't even notice it.

                    It's funny - if you were only looking at the photos in their gallery, you might never realize that they have private tables, because the photos concentrate almost exclusively on their long communal tables. They don't show the standalone tables (2- to 6-tops) along the north wall of the dining room, and they barely show just the ends of the "stall" tables (4-tops) along the east wall of the dining room. (I call them "stalls" because of the closable doors; I don't know if they were designed to mimic the gates on livestock pens, but that's what they remind me of.)

        3. draftguinness RE: catzuella Aug 19, 2010 09:12 AM

          Chilam Balam - former sous for Rick Bayless restaurant. A lot cheaper but they're smaller tapas style plates. It's also BYOB. About 6-10 for small plates, 10-20 for larger plates. Could just go with a bottle and get a few plates to check out the food.

          Side note - new to Chowhound, coming over from crappy Yelp Talk

          1 Reply
          1. re: draftguinness
            nsxtasy RE: draftguinness Aug 19, 2010 09:29 AM

            I went to Chilam Balam for dinner a few months ago. In short, I think you can do better elsewhere. I'll start with a caveat - the place is very small (26 seats). They accept reservations during the week, but not on weekends, so if you plan on going, I strongly recommend making a reservation if you can. They get busy with long waits for tables, even during the week. The food is very unusual and very creative. However, I wasn't overwhelmed. The dishes I tried ranged from okay to fairly good, but nothing really impressed me.

            I've had far better meals at many of our other creative Mexican restaurants, almost all of which are just as affordable. I strongly recommend all of these: Mixteco Grill (BYO) on the north side, Mexique in West Town, Mundial Cocina Mestiza in Pilsen, Amelia's (BYO) in Back of the Yards, Yolo (BYO) in Skokie, Don Diablo (BYO) and Fuego in Logan Square, and longtime stalwarts Topolobampo/Frontera Grill in River North and Salpicon in Old Town. All of these accept reservations over the phone, and Fuego, Topolobampo, and Salpicon on Opentable (although Frontera Grill holds most of the dining room available for walk-in traffic).

          2. b
            beanbreath RE: catzuella Aug 19, 2010 10:29 AM

            Don't miss Irazu for cheap eats.
            They do an incredible veggie burrito, though i prefer chorizo.
            Not to dis Bill Kim (because his places put out *great* food) but Belly Shack seems pretty pricey in comparison.

            1 Reply
            1. re: beanbreath
              chicgail RE: beanbreath Aug 19, 2010 11:48 AM

              Irazu is the only Costa Rican restaurant in Chicago. That being said, I don't get it. The prices are definitely low, but I don't think the food is very good. I much prefer Belly Shack. It may seem "pricey" in comparison, but it's hardly expensive and for an extra dollar or two, you do get what you pay for.

            2. nomadchowwoman RE: catzuella Aug 20, 2010 03:22 PM

              I just returned from a trip to Chicago and lots of wonderful food; one of the highlights was a mid-afternoon meal at Urban Belly (very close to Hot Doug's). The lamb dumplings were out of this world as were those of duck w/pho spices. The signature ramen w/pork belly--excellent. And I've never had better kimchi (I think it had zucchini in it that day).
              I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the place reminded me of a college hang-out--it's very casual, you order at the counter--but the food was amazing. And it's apparently BYOB.

              I wanted to try the Purple Pig on Michigan Ave., but it was packed, and we didn't wait. But we ate, as we always do when in Chicago, at Frontera Grill, and we also had a Topolobampo lunch, and they did not disappoint. Xoco looked promising, but it was pretty crowded at lunch time.

              At lunch only, Cafe Spiaggia makes amazing thin-crust pizza.

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

              Frontera Grill
              445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

              Cafe Spiaggia
              980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

              Topolobampo
              445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

              Urbanbelly
              3053 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

              XOCO
              449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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