coming to Chicago with my sister for the Chicago Marathon - 3 nights. Looking for a fun place on Friday night - food important, not ambience. Saturday evening - good, non-controversial (digestively speaking) food in a sane setting. Sunday night - celebration meal! We're staying at the W nearest Grant Park and expect to be joined by my sophomore at U Chicago nephew. Also looking for lunch places. Typically we like the small BYOB's Philly is known for, but we're open to any special experiences that Chicago has to offer. Any rec's?
I'm a bit confused in trying to understand what you're looking for.
>> We're staying at the W nearest Grant Park
There are two W hotels in downtown Chicago and they are about equal distances from Grant Park. One is called the W Lakeshore and is located north of Grant Park, across the Chicago River on Lake Michigan. The other is called the W City Center and is located in the middle of the Loop.
>> Looking for a fun place on Friday night - food important, not ambience.
A "fun place" sounds like you're looking for a certain fun ambience, but you say the ambience isn't important.
>> Saturday evening - good, non-controversial (digestively speaking) food in a sane setting
I don't understand what you mean by "non-controversial" food. By a "sane setting" I assume you mean a place that isn't REALLY LOUD and doesn't have a rather frantic air about it, which rules out a few places, but not many.
So that's why I'm having trouble trying to come up with recommendations that would be particularly suitable to you, without just spewing out the name of every restaurant in downtown Chicago worth recommending, which would probably total in the hundreds.
Perhaps it might help you get an idea of what Chicago has to offer by reading through two other discussions. The first one elaborates on foods that are unique to Chicago and/or that Chicago does particularly well:
first time Chicago - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693477
and the second one discusses how to get the most value for your dining dollar:
Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697829
Again, I'd like to provide recommendations of places you would enjoy; help me understand what you're looking for and I'll be happy to do that!
W City Center
Whiskey Blue, Chicago, IL 60607
Getting back to the board after some delay. When I say fun, I mean I don't need a fancy place atmospherically, just great food, and it can be unusual food - like Jose Garces' Chifa in Philly, which is argentinian chinese street food. The W City center. The next posting is right - if you are going to run a marathon, easy on the stomach is the byword, and by a sane setting, I mean that I just can't stand outside for 90 minutes waiting and don't want to be exhausted by the experience by extreme din or crowds. The postings you mentioned have been helpful. I've been to some of the big ticket places, I can't bear a chain and probably don't want a steakhouse. I'm not averse to traveling around the city either by cab or public transit. Maybe not huge walks, though. Is this helping?
You may want to check out Caro Mio. It is a BYOB Italian restaurant in the Ravenswood area of Chicago. 1.5 blocks away from the Brown line stop of Montrose. The Brown Line is only 4 blocks away from the hotel. Would take you about 30 mins and the ride is all above ground so it is a really pretty way to see the city. I've been to Caro Mio several times and their pasta is really good especially the simpler, more rustic entrees. Also - and this sounds dumb - but the portions are huge. You can take some back and eat later on the evening (which is recommended anyway for marathons. Eat the bulk of your carbs in the later afternoon and not the later evening so you aren't sluggish). The waiters are very friendly and the atmosphere is electic but not sensory overload. If you do go, I'd call for a reservation. Even on non-marathon Saturdays, it is pretty crowded.
For Saturday, you'll probably want Italian for the carbs. (Nsxtasty - non-controversial for a marathon runner means nothing overly spicy, pungent, oily, or anything that is going to fight with you during the run the next day. You don't want to have acid reflux during a 26.2 mile run. It is hard enough to begin with LOL). I like Quartino's for the small plates of pasta. It is lively but not crazy loud. The Italian Village has 3 restaurants in it and I think The Village would work for you. I ate there a couple of years ago so it may have changed. I'm sure other people will have more responses for Italian. NOTE: You will want to make your recommendations ASAP for Saturday night. Even the Italian places in the neighborhoods are jam packed the night before the marathon.
if you are picking up your race packet on Saturday, you may want to check out Chinatown for lunch (you can get a shuttle bus from McCormick to the Red line stop of Chinatown so it is an easy option). Or check out the Bongo Room for a good brunch.
Friday and Sunday - you will have to narrow it down a bit. What exactly are you looking for and how far are you willing to travel after the race?
1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654
Here's a list of the BYOB's restaurants in Chicago regulated by neighborhood. See if any catch your eye and we can let you know how easy they are to get to and what people think of them. I'd concentrate in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area as that is pretty easy to get to from downtown and a lot of them are true BYO's.