Unexpected long weekend in Chicago!
An unexpected opportunity to visit Chicago this weekend just came up! The majority of the time will be spent River North and The Loop. We'll have a few hours between meetings to explore, but will want to stay fairly close to the hotel (timewise).
Quick, casual meals look like Fox and Obel (room provisions too), L'Appetito and Steve's Deli. I know Steve's is a bit further, but good Jewish deli doesn't exist in our area and I've had nice experiences at Steve's near Dearborn. Dinner on Monday will be at Aria – took advantage of the recent Groupon after seeing good reports on this board!
*We'll be staying River North around Michigan Ave. and Walton. Often my travel companion wants a quiet night in the hotel and just wants a pizza delivered. Hopefully this won't happen, but in the event it does I'd love to have suggestions for a great place that delivers to the area.
*I suspect one night we will want something cozy and homey, maybe a pub with shepherds pie or great burgers in the area or an easy commute by public transportation. Any thoughts?
*I will have most of Sunday on my own and hope to hit the architectural salvage places on W. Grand Ave and W. Hubbard St. Are there any good lunch options in this area?
Open to suggestions! Unfortunately my friend grew up with Polish/German food and is not a fan. Not too interested in BBQ.since we live in the thick of it. I'm always game for a great banh mi! Diners, ethnic, nothing really noisy though. We are pretty open to dining style, although my friend is easily freaked if the area lends toward sketchy. Budget doesn't allow for the wonderful higher end options you have and it's probably too late to arrange that anyhow.
It has been a joy reading threads on such a vibrant board. I appreciate how many detailed, generous posters contribute here! Your posts made my last minute planning so much easier - thank you!
Edit: Thanks to nsxtasy for correcting my dyslexic butchering of neighborhoods!
875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Here's a quick review. I brought home a nasty cold, so details are escaping me...
Started with drinks at the Knickerbocker. Hotel bar had a a nice selection of nibbles. We never tried, but surrounding tables seemed to be enjoying. Someone suggested going to Fred's above Barney's for more drinks and appetizers. We had a meat and cheese plate. Generous portion, speck was very good. Cheese selection was a bit strong for eating out of hand. One of the group felt Fred's dirty martini was the best she had ever had! Continued to Cafe Spiaggia for dinner. We ordered light, so much of the menu wasn't experienced. My friends had pastas, one with clams the other with butternut squash. Both felt they were ok, but not good enough to order again. I had a house cured sardine appetizer which was very tasty and a simple side salad. The two sardines were served atop toasted raisin fennel bread covered with a caper/almond pesto. The sweet and savory combination worked well. I returned to the room and they continued to close down the bars.
Sunday the friend from Madison decided to come along for my excursion. The Mexique recommendation near my destination didn't appeal to her, so we went to Steve's Deli. This was her first experience with Jewish style deli and she enjoyed it. Their roast vegetable were fantastic. My tongue sandwich was quite good and the rugala
was outstanding. They also served one of the best sweet potato fries I've had. We later returned for takeout matzoh ball soup to cure the hangover our third had awoken with – seemed to do the trick! I tried the soup, nice flavor, terrific matzoh ball, lots of carrots and tiny bits of skinny pasta.
Sunday night my friend opted for pizza! I was happy to be prepared and we ordered from Malnati's. They delivered exactly when promised and the pizza was delicious. We had forgotten how filling a Chicago style pie was and over ordered! Two slices of their Chicago Classic and we were done for the evening. I was glad I thought to pack several Chinet paper plates for this possibility!
Monday we wandered over to Fox and Obel's for breakfast. The weather was turning and a strong wind blew down Columbus, but we persevered. We ordered an omelet and an eggs Benedict. Each dish came with a tasty home fry rendition and a good sized fresh fruit salad. We were both well satisfied and browsed through the shop. Nice selection and the prices weren't bad. Purchased some gelatin sheets (hard to find in my area) and rugala. The rugala had wonderful flavor but too much of a slightly dried out dough. Steve's dough with Fox and Obel's filling would be perfection! Breakfast was filling and I was starting to feel under the weather so we skipped lunch. I napped, she shopped.
Our dinner (thank you Groupon) at Aria was the dining highlight of the trip. Our reservation was on the early side and we arrived to an empty restaurant and were seated immediately. It stayed empty for a while and we felt a tad nervous about our choice. As soon as the food started coming we knew we had picked a winner. They brought a basket of toasted flat bread and four toppings , yogurt based, cilantro, a mild red pepper and a lentil IIRC. Very tasty. We shared an appetizer – pan fried pork and shiitake dumplings served with broth. My friend ordered venison and I ordered a flat iron steak. Both were wonderful. The venison was juicy and flavorful. The flat iron was absolutely fantastic. Perfectly prepared and the accompaniments of pickled shallots and an especially yummy long bean dish bumped the flavors up several notches. A side of asparagus was shared. It had a good amount of little peppers, such a good amount that we assumed they were probably quite mild. Wrong assumption! The peppers packed a bit of heat. For dessert we shared a goat cheese cake with a beet sorbet – my friend looked at the dessert menu, so I don't recall the details. Each aspect was interesting on its own with the combined flavors working really well when eaten together. The level of sweetness worked for me, I prefer less sweet desserts than most. As with the rest of the meal, the dessert was lovely to look at and delicious to eat. Service had just the right level of attentiveness. Atmosphere was cozy, intimate and very red! This could be a great Valentines day venue. Valentines or not, we would return in the future. Note, we did walk through the bar area and the sushi looked wonderful.
Next day the weather was worse, I felt worse so we skipped breakfast plans and headed to the airport a little earlier. Picked up some Garrett's caramel popcorn . Wow that's really good! Had an adequate sandwich at someplace in terminal C and eventually boarded the plane for home.
I appreciate all the tips and advice! Only wish there had been time to try more of them. The Chicago board really helped make this trip a success!
980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
>> We'll be staying North River around Michigan Ave. and Walton. Often my travel companion wants a quiet night in the hotel and just wants a pizza delivered. Hopefully this won't happen, but in the event it does I'd love to have suggestions for a great place that delivers to the area.
I don't know of a great place that delivers, but I would just walk over to Pizano's on State. It's only about three blocks away. You can phone ahead with your pizza order so it's ready when you get there, and you can either eat it there, or take it back to your hotel. www.pizanoschicago.com
>> I suspect one night we will want something cozy and homey, maybe a pub with shepherds pie or great burgers in the area or an easy commute by public transportation. Any thoughts?
I'd go to Cafe Spiaggia for moderately-priced Italian food. It's only a block away. If you look at their website at www.cafespiaggia.com make sure to click on CAFE, because they share the same website with their big-bucks sister restaurant next door, Spiaggia.
>> I will have most of Sunday on my own and hope to hit the architectural salvage places on W. Grand Ave and W. Hubbard St. Are there any good lunch options in this area?
This is the first I've heard of them, but after a quick web search, it appears you're referring to places along the 1800 blocks of both streets. A ten-minute walk will take you to Mexique, one of our best, most creative Mexican restaurants, and they're open for lunch/brunch every day except Mondays. www.mexiquechicago.com
>> I'm always game for a great banh mi! Diners, ethnic, nothing really noisy though.
There's a lovely, very good Vietnamese restaurant only a block from your hotel, called Le Colonial. www.lecolonialchicago.com Chicago also has a bunch of storefront-type Vietnamese restaurants along Argyle Street, about five miles north of your hotel and right at the Argyle station on the CTA Red Line, if you want to take an excursion up there.
>> Budget doesn't allow for the wonderful higher end options you have and it's probably too late to arrange that anyhow.
Actually, it's not too late to arrange that; it's easy to check Opentable.com where you can see, at a glance, which restaurants have availability for the day/time you want. Opentable.com is a free website where you can make reservations at hundreds of nicer restaurants - not just the most expensive ones, but also moderately-priced ones, including Cafe Spiaggia, Mexique, and Le Colonial.
Thanks for the correction - I think between my being rather verbally dyslexic and moving too fast it was inevitable!
Your suggestions look really on target. I'm very excited about my Sun. excursion - I think it will be difficult to decide what to order. The photo's look like a solo can dine easily at the counter?
Cafe Spiaggia and Le Colonial being so close by the room offers up some very appealing options!
We may have a friend coming in from Madison on Saturday. She'll have a car, so that may open up a wider range of options for dinner that dinner that night. I'm usually fine on walking forever, but I'm a little worried my thin southern blood may wimp out with your famous winds during the winter chill!
I used open table for the Aria reservation. I tend not to use it much, so appreciate the reminder of what a useful tool it is.
980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
>> I think it will be difficult to decide what to order. The photo's look like a solo can dine easily at the counter?
I've only eaten there for weekend dinner, when the bar has been occupied with people getting drinks while waiting to be seated. At a less busy time, I'm sure they'll be happy to seat a solo wherever you want.
Also note that you can use the #66 Chicago Avenue CTA bus to get back to your hotel from Mexique, if you don't want to take a cab. www.transitchicago.com
>> We may have a friend coming in from Madison on Saturday. She'll have a car, so that may open up a wider range of options for dinner that dinner that night.
That's possible, although there are a lot of options walkable from your hotel. But if you have something else particular in mind, just ask! If your friend needs to park nearby, I've found this website where you can enter your address and arrival/departure times and see parking rates at all the garages in the vicinity: http://chicago.bestparking.com
You're right; according to their website, the delivery zone for the River North location on Wells Street shows that Walton and Michigan is included. It may take a little while, though. If you order from there, ask for the pizza UNcut (i.e. not cut into slices) which will help it stay fresher while traveling.
I order delivery from this malnati's all the time. While nsxtasy may have an idea about ordering uncut, i never do and it always arrives piping hot and in perfect condition. Also, you'll be in a hotel without a proper knife. They put a wax type paper over the top (inside the box) that keeps it fresh and steamy. Do be aware that delivery ranges from 1 hour to 1:15.
As a little treat, the cookie pizza also delivers well.
That all being said, the place is a pizza joint--you could wear sweats there (of course I don't) and not be under dressed.
Good point about no knife! I usually travel with some food tools, but we are just doing carry-on for the flight.
My friend and I traveled for work together for several years. I can't tell you how many wretched pizza's we had across the country on the nights she didn't want to leave the room! Now that I'm prepared years later she'll probably want to go out...
I got the advice about getting pizza uncut from the folks at my local Malnati's. It keeps the crust from getting soggy. I can understand not being able to bring a knife in your carry-on (but you might borrow one from your own hotel).
Still, I think your best bet is to walk over to Pizano's, which is equally ultra-casual.
FWIW, both Pizano's and Lou Malnati's were founded by two sons of one of the main players in the first few decades of Uno and Due, and both sons spent many years working there before striking out on their own.