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Sep 22, 2010 08:36 PM

Please help critique my list ....is there anything missing or should we cross anything off?

Our group of four is coming to Chicago for the first time and I have read all your reviews and menus. Two of us are foodies and two are not. I guess our goal is to go to places that Chicago is known for or either we saw on Unique Eats or any show on Food Channel....

Table Ten (Art Smith) for dinner.
Hot Chocolate for dessert

M. Henry's and Bongo Room for breakfasts.
Kuma's on the Corner for dinner

Lou Malanati's for deep dish pizza or should we pick Giorduano.

Drinks to celebrate a birthday....suggestions????

Garrett Popcorn.

There are so many choices and I wanted to really try to go to a Rick Bayless restaurant.

Bongo Room
1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

Hot Chocolate
1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Garrett Popcorn
625 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

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  1. Would definitely help to know which days of the week you'd be looking at
    re: a Bayless restaurant - Frontera would likely require setting aside some time (either for arriving early or for braving the absurd waits); Topolobampo, on the other hand, has ample reservations for lunch on OpenTable for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, if you are able to do that.

    1 Reply
    1. You don't say where you will be in Chicago and your list includes restaurants that cover a fairly wide area across the North Side so I assume that you will have a car to get around.

      I'm not always impressed by the places featured on those Food Network shows or Anthony Bourdain for that matter, even though they look good on TV. I think we have better options. If you give us a little more direction in terms of location, food style, atmosphere, price-point we might be able to make other suggestions.

      I've never been to Art Smith's place -- it's southern cooking as I'm sure you know. Hot Chocolate is good for dessert,but I like it for dinner, lunch or brunch as well.

      M. Henry (which is pretty far north) is good, as is the Bongo Room. Be prepared for long waits (upwards of 45 minutes not unusual) at both places if you go on weekend mornings.

      Similarly Kuma's Corner is very hard to get into and doesn't take reservations. The best advice is to go early (like before 6 pm).

      Lou Malnati has traditional Chicago-style deep dish pizza, very similar to the originator of that pizza, Uno and Due. The biggest difference is that Lou Malnati has locations all around the city and Uno and Due are just in the central city. I love deep dish pizza with its crispy crust, whole tomato topping and sausage patty that covers the whole pie.

      Giordano serves a different kind of Chicago-style pizza: it's stuffed. That means it is deeper and has two layers of crust. As with deep-dish pizza, a thin layer of dough forms a bowl in a high-sided pan and the toppings and cheese are added. Then, an additional layer of dough goes on top and is pressed to the sides of the bottom crust. It can be soggy, but Giordano's does a pretty good job. I am not a fan of stuffed pizza, but to each his/her own.

      A great place to go for drinks is the Velvet Hour in Wicker Park. Again, you are likely to find yourself standing in line to get in.

      And lunch at Topo is a good option.

      Bongo Room
      1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

      Hot Chocolate
      1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

      Kuma's Corner
      2900 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

      1. I agree with almost all of chicgail's comments. Especially with her comments that we often have better food options than those portrayed on those television shows, and that your itinerary covers a wide area, perhaps needlessly. Here are a few more.

        Art Smith's restaurant is named Table Fifty-Two, not Table Ten. I haven't been there, because I've found the menu on its website very unappealing.

        I have not been impressed with Hot Chocolate for dessert. If you want a great dessert experience, go to TRU for their dessert tasting. Or, if it's a Friday or Saturday night, go to the "Chocolate Bar", the all-you-can-eat buffet of chocolate desserts (in smallish sizes so you can taste more of them) at the Lobby restaurant at the Peninsula Hotel. Both of which you can walk to from Table Fifty-Two, unlike Hot Chocolate.

        M. Henry (which is indeed rather far from downtown) and Bongo Room (two locations) are great for breakfast. I have not been to either for breakfast on a Saturday, but I suspect that those long waits are primarily on Sundays rather than Saturdays. There are rarely any waits during the week.

        M. Henry opened a second restaurant recently, and it too is rather far from downtown, although it is more convenient to public transportation. It is called M. Henrietta and is very similar to M. Henry for breakfast and lunch, but also offers dinner.

        If you've never had our delicious deep-dish pizza before, I too recommend the single-crust version. Great examples can be found at the original Uno/Due, Lou Malnati's, and Pizano's; the latter two chains were started by sons of one of the original players in the early decades of Uno/Due.

        Ramenbound is correct with the comments about the Bayless restaurants. Topolobampo books up 2-3 months in advance for dinner, but you can often make reservations for their weekday lunch a week or two in advance; check on Opentable.com Frontera Grill accepts only a handful of advance reservations over the phone and keeps most of the place available for walk-in customers; it won't hurt to try calling them to see if you can get one of those reservations. Frontera Grill is open for brunch on Saturdays, so that may tie in well with your plans.

        If I were in Chicago for only two dinners, neither one would be at a place known primarily for burgers (Kuma's Corner). If you want a good burger, go to one of the good steakhouses for lunch (e.g. David Burke's Primehouse). I'd save the dinners for something more special and more unique to Chicago.

        If you want to know what Chicagoans think are choices that are unique to Chicago and representative of our best, see this discussion:

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

        Enjoy your visit, and feel free to ask more questions!

        6 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          I agree about Kuma's. While their burgers are really, really great, the 2 hour wait is not so great. There are other great burgers to be had that won't take so much effort.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I found the menu at Table 52 appealing, it just didn't live up to it. Deviled egg for an amuse-bouche! Really, a deviled egg? Where am I? Grandmas? My starter was decent as far as I can remember and my entree...um...sucked. If you do go, take a lifesize shoehorn because the tablesarethisclose. Won't go back

            Table fifty-two Restaurant
            52 West Elm Street, Chicago, IL 60610

            1. re: hoppy2468

              Hmmmm...Table 52 appears to not be anyone's favorite. So with that said...I need to look for another dinner...trying to please everyone is hard....and I know that there are so many choices......so I am up to any food, midrange price, and of course, food that is delish. I would love to go to Avec...but my traveling companions would never pay that much for such an experience....

              1. re: Pinkwasabi

                I'd go to North Pond. The contemporary American cuisine is excellent and its setting in the middle of the park is exquisite and unique. Reserve in advance - they accept reservations on Opentable.com - as they do book up in advance for desirable days and times. There are other good contemporary American restaurants, including Cafe des Architectes, MK, Naha, Sable, and Atwood Cafe, but they don't have the unusual location. If price is a factor, go to Cafe des Architectes on a Sunday through Tuesday when they offer their "neighborhood friends menu", 3 courses for $32.

                Our creative provincial Mexican restaurants are terrific. These are NOT your standard enchiladas type places (check out the menus on their websites to understand what they offer). Topolobampo is great for lunch, but is a bit pricy for dinner; Frontera Grill is a good choice if you can get one of their handful of reservations, or if you can arrive 20 minutes before they open the doors. Salpicon is near the downtown hotels. Mundial Cocina Mestiza offers a bistro version of Mexican food and is my favorite of all of these. Mexique has a French-influenced style of Mexican food. All of these are excellent and all (except Topolobampo at dinner) are moderately priced.

                >> I would love to go to Avec...but my traveling companions would never pay that much for such an experience....

                I am guessing that this comment was intended to refer to Alinea, not Avec. Alinea is regarded by many as the best restaurant in the country, and is expensive ($300+ per person, inclusive). Avec is a moderately-priced Mediterranean-focused restaurant which has its downsides - no reservations accepted, long waits to be seated, uncomfortable seats, communal-only seating - but a high price is not one of them.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  In any case Avec may not reopen in time. Crain's reported on Thursday that Avec still has only three of the five permits it needs to make repairs following the fire on August 9. They hope for an October opening, but that may be optimistic.

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

                2. re: Pinkwasabi

                  Blackbird - you get to experience one of the city's most celebrated chefs at a mid-range price point, and the food is fantastic.