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5 days in Chicago Loop. Suggestions please

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97Sperss Mar 3, 2011 11:41 PM

Hi all,

I am going on a 5 day trip to Chicago March 8-13 and staying in the Loop at the Allegro Hotel. It's my first time to Chicago, and I will be by myself the first two nights, then have friends joining me for the last three.
I will be walking/using taxis and public transit, so don't want to go anywhere super far away from downtown.
I love food of all types, from an $8 bowl of Pho to a $300 tasting menu. I am a also a wine collector, but usually don't drink much at places where the list markup is 200% or more. I like finding places with great, well-priced wine lists (eg. Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas)
I also want to make sure I get a couple of slices of great pizza and a great deli sandwich in addition to all the fancy places I'm going.
The other thing I like are bakeries, and need to bring some baked goods back on the plane for my wife on Sunday when I leave. She's too jealous that I'm going to Alinea without her, so I'll need lots of good baked goods to please her.
My current food itinerary is:

Tuesday: Arriving in the afternoon, need a suggestion for a lunch (Maybe pizza/deli) and/or early dinner spot, and then have a late reservation for dinner at Girl and the Goat. My dinner at GATG is near midnight, so I have room for 2 other meals, like 2 and 6ish.

Wednesday: Thinking of doing breakfast somewhere near the loop (what are the best places), followed by a lunch at Topolobampo and then dinner is between Publican/Blackbird/Sable/Cafe Spiaggia/Avenues. Also open to other dinner suggestions.

Thursday: Was thinking Bongo Room for breakfast, or another breakfast place (more suggestions) and possibly a light lunch (Slice of pizza?)
Dinner at Alinea at 530 so don't want to be too full

Friday: Busy during day, Charlie Trotter's for dinner

Saturday: Busy during day. Les Nomades for dinner, then over to Tru for dessert tasting

Sunday: Leaving around lunch time, so was thinking of Bongo Room for breakfast, or another breakfast place.

I have read lots of the other boards, and would like to hear what people think of this plan and hear some suggestions to fill in the gaps. My food budget is pretty high, so price isn't a big concern. However, location for the breakfast and lunch spots is, as I will just be walking around dowtown all day. I don't have a problem walking a few miles, as I'll need to walk off all this food, just don't want to go through any shady neighborhoods.

Cheers,

97Sperss

-----
Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

Charlie Trotter's
816 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

Bongo Room
1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

Topolobampo
445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

Les Nomades
222 E Ontario, Chicago, IL 60611

Las Vegas Restaurant
914 Main St, Antioch, IL 60002

Chicago Loop
7 W Streamwood Blvd, Streamwood, IL 60107

Girl and the Goat
809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

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  1. nsxtasy RE: 97Sperss Mar 4, 2011 06:43 AM

    Sounds like you've already done a lot of research, which is terrific. Your plan sounds fine, and I'll answer your detailed questions. The one comment I'll add, though, is that your itinerary is currently heavily weighted towards high-end restaurants, with Alinea, Trotter's, and Les Nomades booked. I assume that's what you're looking for, and that's fine - it just creates less opportunity for diversity among your choices. I certainly would NOT add another high-end place like Avenues. And it's not that those high-end places aren't good - they are - or that they're identical to each other - they're not; it's just that it's a lot of high-end and I wouldn't add still more.

    Now, on to the specifics, and I'll try to help! Let's take this comment first, even though it came before the details of your itinerary:

    >> I also want to make sure I get a couple of slices of great pizza and a great deli sandwich in addition to all the fancy places I'm going.
    The other thing I like are bakeries, and need to bring some baked goods back on the plane for my wife on Sunday when I leave. She's too jealous that I'm going to Alinea without her, so I'll need lots of good baked goods to please her.

    You have options for all of these not far from your hotel.

    For our delicious deep-dish pizza, go to Lou Malnati's on Wells Street, about four blocks north of your hotel. www.loumalnatis.com If for some reason you happen to be walking east towards the Art Institute, Pizano's on Madison may also be convenient. But Malnati's is slightly closer to your hotel. www.pizanoschicago.com Wherever you go, phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while there for your pizza to bake. Follow their advice on how much to order for how many portions.

    There's a great Jewish deli called Steve's Deli. From the hotel, it's four blocks north and two blocks west. The usual deli sandwiches are excellent. They also do an excellent chicken pot pie, and beef-stuffed cabbage. www.stevesdeli.com

    For baked goods - and a WHOLE lot more - walk three blocks west of your hotel to the French Market. www.frenchmarketchicago.com This is a market of various vendors inside one of our commuter train stations. Two places there stand out for baked goods. Vanille Patisserie is one of our very best pastry shops. Their entremets (individual size mousse cakes) are outstanding, but because of their need for refrigeration, they unfortunately may not travel well. They also have excellent croissants. Delightful Pastries also has a stall in the French Market. Their stuff is a bit more conventional and may not "knock your socks off" the way Vanille's will. Personally, there's one item at Delightful I absolutely adore, and that's their "rainbow cookies", made with almond paste. If your wife loves almond flavored pastries, they will be a big hit. They also travel well.

    I would also consider a stop at Fox & Obel for pastries. Unfortunately, it's not as close to your hotel as the French Market is. But their baked goods are IMHO the very best in the entire city. Fox & Obel is our premier gourmet food store, with the best of everything - prepared foods, meats, fish, etc. They do an outstanding job at breads as well as pastries. My favorites among the breads include their cinnamon swirl rolls (not overly cinnamon-y, using a very rich dough); brioche loaf; rustic bread with pecans and dried apricots (I forget the exact name); croissants; etc. Among the pastries, the selection varies day to day, but they have some things I love, notably their tres leches cake, fruit tarts, etc. I think it's worth it to make the trip there (it's about 1.3 miles from your hotel, so it's a long walk or a short cab ride). www.fox-obel.com

    One more item in the "snacks" category is Garrett's Popcorn, another local specialty. They sell caramel popcorn (with or without pecans or cashews), cheese popcorn, and the "Chicago mix" of cheese and caramel popcorn. My favorite is the caramel with cashews, but they're all good. There's a shop at State and Randolph a few blocks east of your hotel. But if you're flying out of O'Hare and you want to take some home with you, get it at the airport. They have shops in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 where they make it fresh, just like they do downtown. www.garrettpopcorn.com

    One more pastry I really love is the cream puffs at Beard Papa, which is also about three blocks from your hotel. It's located downstairs in the "Block 37" indoor mall between Dearborn and State, between Randolph and Washington. www.beardpapa.com

    Okay, now let's take a look at the questions embedded in your itinerary.

    >> Tuesday: Arriving in the afternoon, need a suggestion for a lunch (Maybe pizza/deli) and/or early dinner spot, and then have a late reservation for dinner at Girl and the Goat. My dinner at GATG is near midnight, so I have room for 2 other meals, like 2 and 6ish.

    The pizza and deli suggestions above will work for either meal; all the places mentioned are open all afternoon. Keep in mind that deep-dish pizza can be very filling.

    >> Wednesday: Thinking of doing breakfast somewhere near the loop (what are the best places), followed by a lunch at Topolobampo and then dinner is between Publican/Blackbird/Sable/Cafe Spiaggia/Avenues. Also open to other dinner suggestions.

    With such a late reservation the previous evening, I'm not sure you're going to want a full breakfast, especially with a nice lunch upcoming. I'd suggest getting a croissant or pastry at Vanille in the French Market. I'll make more breakfast suggestions for the next day in a moment.

    For dinner, the places that you mentioned are all good. I really really LOVE Sable and it would easily be my number one choice. The food is fantastic (don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee!) and it's remarkably inexpensive. I also love the fact that a lot of their items are available in half portions so you can try more things. And they have amazing artisanal cocktails if you're into that. As for the others, Publican is good but didn't overwhelm me (they particularly specialize in pork, charcuterie, cheese, organ meats); it's VERY noisy (much more so than Sable, which is rather noisy too). If you go to Publican, when making your reservation mention if you have a preference between their communal seating or a private table. Blackbird too is VERY noisy; the food is outstanding but portion sizes are rather small (and not inexpensive like Sable). Cafe Spiaggia is excellent for moderately-priced Italian cuisine; however, if that's what you're looking for, three other such places are much closer to your hotel: the Florentine, Cibo Matto, and Coco Pazzo. (If I had to choose one right now, it would be the Florentine, where Chef Todd Stein is amazing.) As previously noted, I would not go to Avenues with three other high-end restaurants already on your itinerary. Bottom line, Sable would be my first choice here, and the Florentine my second choice.

    >> Thursday: Was thinking Bongo Room for breakfast, or another breakfast place (more suggestions) and possibly a light lunch (Slice of pizza?)
    Dinner at Alinea at 530 so don't want to be too full

    Although I would not starve myself to "prepare for" a dinner at Alinea, I also would not recommend pizza for lunch. Too heavy. I'd consider doing a mid-morning breakfast/brunch. Bongo Room is a great choice, even though it's not that close to your hotel (the closer one is at Wabash and 12th/Roosevelt, a long walk or a short ride on the CTA Red Line). They specialize in creative pancakes, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. Note that a standard order consists of three ENORMOUS pancakes, but they also offer one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at reduced prices, which lets you try more than one item. Bongo Room on a weekday is great because I've never had to wait to be seated, unlike Sundays.

    Two other places worth considering for a NICE breakfast are Atwood Cafe (in the Hotel Burnham, just a few blocks east of your hotel - www.atwoodcafe.com ), and Sable (see above regarding dinners - www.sablechicago.com ). If their breakfast menus sound similar to each other, it may be because Chef Heather Terhune ran Atwood Cafe for ten years before leaving to open and run Sable. Both accept reservations on Opentable.com

    You can see more mentions of downtown places for breakfast in this topic:

    River North Breakfast Ideas - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693985

    >> Sunday: Leaving around lunch time, so was thinking of Bongo Room for breakfast, or another breakfast place.

    If you go to Bongo Room, go early to avoid long waits for a table. They open at 9, and I recommend getting there around that time. Lines start forming by 9:30 and you can end up waiting 30 minutes or more.

    Other options include Atwood Cafe and Sable, both of which I mentioned above for breakfast. Petterino's is close to your hotel and does a big brunch on Sundays starting at 11:00. www.petterinos.com Note that some places (including Atwood and Sable, I think) have a more robust Sunday brunch menu starting at 11:00 or 11:30 than their earlier breakfast menu. Another possible choice is a little further: Cafe des Architectes, in the Sofitel. They do a very nice brunch (I love their "brunch sampler") and they bring a basket of great French baked goods to the table. www.cafedesarchitectes.com All of these accept reservations on Opentable.com which I STRONGLY recommend doing for a Sunday so you can avoid having to wait to be seated.

    >> However, location for the breakfast and lunch spots is, as I will just be walking around dowtown all day. I don't have a problem walking a few miles, as I'll need to walk off all this food, just don't want to go through any shady neighborhoods.

    All of downtown Chicago - the area including all of these recommendations - is very nice and not at all "shady".

    Hope all of this is helpful. Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

    1. c
      Chihab RE: 97Sperss Mar 4, 2011 09:24 AM

      If you can get a spot at the bar for Avenues on Wed then don't miss out. For a solo diner it is great and would be a bit different to your other high end evenings.
      Earlier on Tues I would recommend either the Purple Pig or Avec. Again these are good for solo diner as it is communal seating - they are also no reservations so you can play it by ear, especially good if you go earlier when they won't be as busy. Also both are small plates so you can eat as much or little as you want with your later dinner at G&G.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chihab
        nsxtasy RE: Chihab Mar 4, 2011 09:54 AM

        Purple Pig would be a better pick for a late lunch rather than dinner. They get really busy with lengthy waits at dinnertime, and you don't miss out on anything at lunchtime because they serve the same menu all day long. Also, Avec is not open for lunch. I'm not all that fond of Avec, for a whole lot of reasons, but it's there and some other people like it. Both are about a 15-minute walk from your hotel.

        The suggestions I made for dinner on Wednesday would also work for Tuesday dinner. In particular, Sable offers the smaller portions I mentioned, so you can do small plates there. I ate there solo and I loved it!

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