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Chicago Weekend Trip - First Timer

t
tleea Nov 12, 2010 07:07 AM

We are planning a weekend trip in the beginning of December and my husband has never been. He is looking for a great Chicago pizza experience. We are hoping to find unique places to eat that are convenient to get to from our hotel -

HOTEL ALLEGRO CHICAGO
171 W. Randolph Street

We are trying to stay on a budget and love to find cheap places that really stay true to the culture. Any Asian recommendations for us, Korean, and Thai, Szechuan? Would love to take him to a Ramen house or Dim Sum. Street food would be a fun experience for us too...

We'd like to splurge on a meal too (for us thats up to $100-150 for the both of us). Any recs out there?

Thank you!

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  1. nsxtasy RE: tleea Nov 12, 2010 07:36 AM

    >> We are planning a weekend trip in the beginning of December and my husband has never been. He is looking for a great Chicago pizza experience.

    Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and the original locations of Uno and Due in River North, all do an excellent representation of our delicious deep-dish pizza. I think the closest of these to the Allegro is Lou Malnati's on Wells Street, so that's where I'd go (although Uno and Due, and Pizano's on Madison, are all walkable as well). Phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

    >> We are trying to stay on a budget and love to find cheap places that really stay true to the culture. Any Asian recommendations for us, Korean, and Thai, Szechuan?

    Ethnic foods such as the Asian cuisines you mention are easier to find away from the downtown area. Chicago has an excellent public transit system (see the CTA website at www.transitchicago.com ) which will take you to other neighborhoods. Using a fare card rather than cash will enable you to transfer between els and buses. For Thai food, take the CTA Red Line north to the Sheridan stop to eat at TAC Quick. For Szechuan, take the CTA Red Line south to the Cermak/Chinatown stop to get to Chinatown; for Szechuan, Double Li is my favorite, and Lao Sze Chuan is also good. You'll find some places doing dim sum in Chinatown as well. For Vietnamese food, take the CTA Red Line north to the Argyle stop, and you'll find many Vietnamese places along Argyle. Indian/Pakistani restaurants are concentrated along Devon Avenue (6400N) between Western (2400W) and Sacramento (3000W); take the CTA Red Line north to Loyola and transfer to the southbound #155 Devon bus.

    I would also recommend our creative provincial Mexican restaurants, where you'll find Mexican food unlike that sold elsewhere this side of the border. I recommend Topolobampo for lunch (reserve at Opentable.com , walkable from the Allegro). For dinner, consider Mundial Cocina Mestiza (near the 18th Street stop on the CTA Pink Line), Mixteco Grill (near the Montrose stop on the CTA Brown Line), or Mexique (take the CTA Blue Line to Chicago and transfer to the #66 bus westbound).

    You'll find lots of recommendations for inexpensive lunches in the Loop, where the Allegro is located, in the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/527275

    >> Street food would be a fun experience for us too...

    Not here, not yet. Chicago only recently started allowing vendors to sell food on the street, and there still isn't much. Sorry.

    As a good alternative, though, you can walk west from the Allegro about 8-10 minutes west to get to the French Market, which has lots of inexpensive local specialties. www.frenchmarketchicago.com

    For sandwiches (and cheeses), Pastoral has a booth in the French Market. Or, if you're headed in the opposite direction (east towards Millennium Park), they have another location on East Lake Street, about 5-8 minutes from the hotel. www.pastoralartisan.com

    >> We'd like to splurge on a meal too (for us thats up to $100-150 for the both of us). Any recs out there?

    See the above recommendations for Mexican food. For delicious contemporary American food at a bargain, go to Sable in the Hotel Palomar in River North, walkable from the Allegro. www.sablechicago.com For another bargain, Cafe des Architectes has their "neighborhood friends menu" Sundays through Tuesdays, three courses for $32, one mile north of the Allegro. www.cafedesarchitectes.com

    I also recommend taking a look at this topic for more recommendations on getting the best value for your dining dollar in Chicago:

    Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697829

    as well as this topic about what foods and specialties are unique to Chicago:

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

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

    1. l
      lbs RE: tleea Nov 12, 2010 08:28 AM

      Nsxtasy's recommendations for pizza are good. I would like to offer a piece of advice when it comes to deep dish and stuffed. The simpler the toppings, the better the pizza. When people pile on the toppings the whole flavor balance of the pizza is off. I always go for one or two tops.

      6 Replies
      1. re: lbs
        nsxtasy RE: lbs Nov 12, 2010 10:03 AM

        >> I would like to offer a piece of advice when it comes to deep dish and stuffed. The simpler the toppings, the better the pizza. When people pile on the toppings the whole flavor balance of the pizza is off. I always go for one or two tops.

        This is good advice!

        1. re: lbs
          chicgail RE: lbs Nov 12, 2010 10:37 AM

          And unless you are fond of deep-dish sog, go easy on the veggies. For deep dish, I'm a sausage fan. Maybe 'shrooms. But that's it.

          1. re: chicgail
            nsxtasy RE: chicgail Nov 12, 2010 10:50 AM

            We all have our preferences! My most recent deep-dish (a few days ago, from Lou Malnati's) was pepperoni and onion.

            1. re: nsxtasy
              f
              ferret RE: nsxtasy Nov 12, 2010 11:12 AM

              There isn't a pizza option at Malnati's that can't be improved by adding garlic. I love that it's in slivers and not chopped.

              1. re: ferret
                nsxtasy RE: ferret Nov 12, 2010 11:32 AM

                >> There isn't a pizza option at Malnati's that can't be improved by adding garlic.

                Eww.

                1. re: nsxtasy
                  t
                  tleea RE: nsxtasy Nov 18, 2010 11:25 AM

                  thanks everyone!

                  ps -love garlic on pizza too!

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