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Mar 27, 2011 07:08 PM

Must know ...WHERE do we eat?

Heading to Chicago for the first time. Need to know the must eats. I know we want to have deep-dish pizza, Italian beef, hot dogs but we are foodies as well and are wanting to know where would we eat that if we never return to Chicago we would have had the best.

A few things, its 2 adults and 1 child, 8yr old, I am not worried that somewhere will be unchildfriendly but let me know....we are in on a Saturday morn and out on a Tuesday afternoon. We are staying Mag Mile/downtown..we are not renting a vehicle .

Please give me ideas.

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  1. Before Nxtasy responds--and gives the best, more comprehensive review--I wish to issue a few brief suggestions.

    Make sure you go to Garrett's Popcorn for gourmet popcorn. It is worth the money and the wait.

    Also Lou Malnati's is the #1 deep dish. People will advocate for Uno's or Duo's or other places, but really Lou's is the best--in my original North Shore perspective.

    If the restaurant at the courtyard of the Art Institute is still open, then consider eating there.

    Food Life is OK in a pinch if you are stuck at Water Tower place.

    Someone else will have to provide the rest, but enjoy. You can't go wrong in Chicago.

    2 Replies
    1. re: GraceW

      The Courtyard is no longer there...thank goodness. I had one of the worst meals in my life there.

      The other recommendations are good. Pizzeria Due's is also a good place for Chicago Pizza.

      You might want to look this one over too.

      Pizzeria Due
      619 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

      1. re: GraceW

        Let me expand on something GraceW said. FoodLife is a food court in a shopping mall but it is NOT what you're thinking---a collection of fast food joints. It is run by Lettuce Entertain You, an outfit that runs some of the best restaurants in Chicago, so the food is very good, as food courts go. FoodLife is set up with chef stations. When you go in they give you a ticket then you get what you want from Asian, Barbecue, Italian,Mexican, Salad, Desserts, Comfort Food, Soup etc stations and they punch your ticket. If you want a drink tell the person you get your food from then you help yourself to that too. The whole thing is quite a few cuts above most food courts. The second thing you need to know about FoodLife is that it is hard to find. It's on the mezzanine of Water Tower Place Mall but in the rear---go all the way through American Girl or Macy's and come out the back in the rear lobby then take the escalator up to FoodLife. BTW behind FoodLife is Mitey Nice Grill, also run by Lettuce, but it's sit-down and more expensive than FoodLife and doesn't offer the variety.

        Also, another suggestion for families---Buca di Beppo, because many dishes are available family style. Go to "chicago restaurant menus" to see menus FoodLife, Buca, and 3000 other Chicago restaurants.

        Lettuce Entertain You
        2171 Northbrook Ct, Northbrook, IL 60062

      2. These are great recommendations from GraceW and twodales.

        Regarding the places for deep-dish pizza, Lou Malnati's, the original Uno and Due, and Pizano's are all great and very similar to each other. That's no coincidence; Lou Malnati's and Pizano's were both founded by sons of Rudy Malnati Sr. who worked with their dad at Uno and Due in its early decades. If you're near the northern half of the Mag Mile, Pizano's on State is closest to you; near the southern half, Uno and Due are closer. (The closest Lou Malnati's is on Wells, a bit further than the others.)

        Our specialty in provincial Mexican food is mentioned in that other topic to which twodales provided the link. However, because of the days you'll be visiting, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo may not be the best choice, since both are closed on Sundays and Mondays, and Saturday is a choice between a horrendous wait at Frontera and probably an entirely booked Topolobampo. But we also have some other great Mexican places. Salpicon is near the north end of the Mag Mile and is excellent, open for dinner and Sunday brunch. Two miles west of the Mag Mile is Mexique, open for lunch, dinner, and Saturday/Sunday brunch.

        I'd also consider North Pond, an upscale restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine. What makes North Pond unique is its exquisite setting in the middle of the park facing its namesake pond, with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. It's about two miles from the north end of the Mag Mile, an easy cab ride.

        You might also check out Fox & Obel, our premier upscale gourmet food store, near the Mag Mile. They have the best meats, fish, prepared foods, etc. Of particular interest for those visiting from out of town is the bakery counter. The breads are fantastic, which is why it was named by Bon Appetit magazine among the ten best bread bakeries in the United States.

        There are lots more places. If you'd like to let us know which hotel you're staying at, or a nearby intersection, we can give you some recommendations that are within a few blocks of it.

        Finally, here are links to two more discussions that will give you an overview of what Chicago has to offer, in addition to the link already provided. This discussion tells what foods and places are unique or specialties in Chicago, foods that Chicago is particularly good at:

        first time Chicago -

        This discussion has an overview listing some of our best in various food categories, as well as advice for getting the best value for your dining dollar:

        Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? -

        Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

        4 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          I want to thank you all. I was already planning on Garrett's. I have heard and read many things about Burt's and Gino's East for pizza and Al's for Italian Beef. I am going to try for res on Saturday brunch at Frontera Grill ..we know for sure we want to do a Rick Bayless place and they are only open Tues - Sat... But I did want to try XOCO as well..

          I was thinking about Tru, Blackbird, The Publican , The Girl and the goat, Spiaggia, Sprout and Alinea or Moto... We cant really decide about our dinner choices.. Plus we dont want to be out of place because we will have a child with us .. hoping at the high dollar joints he can share with us..

          1. re: Lyn7279

            Another thought if you're a bit nervous about dinner... not a gourmet place but good solid food and not overly grown up for an 8 year old: Bandera on Michigan Ave. Food choices are pretty straightforward: beef ribs, roasted chicken and grilled fish, steaks and good burgers. I've never been disappointed there. If you sit by the window you will have a good view of Michigan Avenue with a little soft jazz trio to serenade you.

            Also, there are several options for tapas downtown as well.

            Have a great trip.

            Bandera Restaurant
            535 N Michigan Ave Ste 208, Chicago, IL 60611

            1. re: Lyn7279

              With an 8-year-old child I would skip Spiaggia, Alinea, Tru as these are long formal affairs where men are expected to wear jackets. Food is great, but fun factor is not there and I am sure your little guy won't be happy sitting for hours.

              Our next tier of casual fine dining restaurants would all be totally acceptable with a child.

              Some of my favorites where we've been with kids: Carnivale (latin fusion), North Pond (New American-local based), Naha (Med-American), Publican, and Balsan (New American).

              North Pond
              2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

              500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

              702 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60661

              1. re: Lyn7279

                >> I am going to try for res on Saturday brunch at Frontera Grill

                By all means, give them a call. But don't be surprised if you can't get a reservation there. They only take a handful of reservations, and keep most of the dining room available for walk-in customers.

                A few months ago, I had relatives visiting from out of town, and I wanted to show off one of our great Mexican restaurants for Saturday brunch. I had called Frontera Grill two months ahead of time and they were not able to take a reservation. So my plan was, get in the car, call while on the way, and if the wait is too long, go elsewhere. When we called, the wait was 90 minutes. LOL! So instead we went to Mundial Cocina Mestiza, one of our very best and most creative Mexican restaurants, in the Pilsen neighborhood about three miles southwest of the Loop. They serve brunch starting at 11 on Saturdays and Sundays. We got there shortly after 11 and were seated immediately, and although they were starting to fill up by the time we left, no one was waiting to be seated. And we all thought brunch there was fantastic. (Mundial does accept reservations over the phone if you don't want to take your chances.)

                So if you can't get a reservation at Frontera and you don't want to be stuck waiting 90 minutes for a table, that's certainly an option. So is Mexique, which also has brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

                Mundial Cocina Mestiza
                1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

                Frontera Grill
                445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

            2. Thank you all so much for all the ideas. I guess that we will have to save the upscale dining for a romantic couples trip.. but thats okay we need family time too..I am getting excited and nervous. I also have a non food question.

              What would be the ideal transportation from the airport to hotel? Train, cab, van, limo sedan?
              We arent renting a car...

              6 Replies
              1. re: Lyn7279

                >> What would be the ideal transportation from the airport to hotel? Train, cab, van, limo sedan?
                We arent renting a car...

                You don't mention which airport, or exactly where near the Mag Mile you're staying, but the answer is going to be similar regardless. The cheapest way is to take the el (that's our subway system, portions of which are elevated). The fare is $2.25 per adult, $1.00 for kids 7-11. You can transfer from one el line to another for free (at certain stations; see below) and you can pay $.25 extra to transfer to a bus, as long as you're using a fare card rather than paying cash each time. The CTA Blue Line runs from O'Hare to the Loop, and the CTA Orange Line runs from Midway to the Loop. Assuming from your original post that your hotel is near the Mag Mile, you may want to transfer to the CTA Red Line and take it to one of the stops near the Mag Mile (Grand/State or Chicago/State), or it may be easier to transfer to a bus that runs right up Michigan Avenue. (The free transfer from the Blue Line is at Jackson; walk downstairs from the train platform for the tunnel to the Red Line. You need to use a fare card or pass for the free transfer from the Orange Line, which is at Library or at State/Lake.) The total travel time including a transfer will probably be around an hour from either airport. You can find more CTA information at (There's a route planner there and at but I've found problems with it and usually get better results using Google Maps for public transit directions.)

                Of course, there may be a convenience factor to consider when you're traveling to and from the airport. If you have a lot of luggage, using the CTA means you'll need to lug it through the el stations, up and down escalators or stairs, etc, and you may need to walk a few blocks from the el to your hotel. A taxi offers a lot more convenience; if you stand in the taxi line outside the baggage claim at the airport, you can go right to the door, and they will load all your luggage for you. But there is a price to pay for that convenience. I think a cab from Midway to the Mag Mile will run around $30 with tip, and from O'Hare around $40. The travel time in an off hour is around 25-30 minutes, but can be double that or more in prime commuting hours during the week.

                Limos are even more expensive than taxis...

                1. re: Lyn7279

                  There is a subway that goes from the airport to downtown. It depends which end of town you will be staying in and also it depends what time you are arriving. A cab at rush hour can be expensive unless you are promised a fixed rate. Does your hotel have it's own van? Something else to consider.

                  1. re: twodales

                    >> A cab at rush hour can be expensive unless you are promised a fixed rate.

                    In case you're wondering why this is, the cab rate depends not only on distance, but also on standing time. The rates I estimated above assume it's not rush hour; if you're stuck in rush-hour traffic it can cost even more.

                    >> Does your hotel have it's own van? Something else to consider.

                    Good idea, and definitely worth calling the hotel to ask. Even if they charge for it, it might be a better deal than a taxi.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      If the return flight is anywhere near rush hour, I highly recommend the "el."

                  2. re: Lyn7279

                    From O'Hare you take the Blue Line, from Midway you take the Orange Line Both are light railway systems that we call the EL and both bring you to the heart of downtown. If your hotel is still a couple of blocks away and you're coping with child and luggage you can hail a passing taxi which for a couple blocks will run you just a couple of bucks. Google "CTA" (Chicago Transit Authority) for maps, fares, and details.

                    1. re: Querencia

                      ...or see the details already posted above. :)

                  3. I just went past a couple of places on my way home that may or may not have been mentioned in these postings. Harry Caray's which was named after a well known sports announcer here in Chicago. He was mostly associated with the Cubs. The food is mostly steaks, chops, seafood and Italian. Touristy? Yes but if your son likes baseball, he might like this place. The food is decent.
                    If anyone suggests Ed Debevics because of your son...just say no! Maybe 20 years ago the food was decent and it was a fun place... where the staff insults the clients. They will still give you a hard time and throw your straws at you but the food is the worst. Maybe if I ever get dragged there again, I would order a grilled can you ruin that? Shame because it could be a fun place to take kids. We can only hope.

                    Once again, have a great time in our fine city.

                    Harry Caray's Restaurant
                    33 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654

                    1. Thank you all for the great info. To answer some reply questions,...

                      We are flying into Midway.
                      Not sure when rush hour is but, leaving on a weekday on flight at 2:20pm.
                      We are staying at the Hyatt Regency. I dont thik they have a van , but I will call.
                      Some one did tell us about both Ed Debevics and Harry Carays, our son loves baseball, and thanks for the heads up about Eds, I was kinda of thinking about it since we would be dragging him to where we wanted to eat and that might be fun for him but now we wont. I was just trying to squeeze it in anyway.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lyn7279

                        Rush hour in Chicago typically starts 3:00-3:30 and runs till 6-ish. Assuming your flight arrives at Midway at 2:20 pm, traffic probably won't be too bad, even if it's a little late and it takes you a little while to get your luggage. The Stevenson (I-55) is not usually all that bad inbound in the late afternoon rush (unlike the Kennedy - I-90/94 - which gets bad in both directions in rush hour). If you're taking the el from Midway, there's no need to transfer to the Red Line; just get off at State/Lake and it's about a three block walk to the Hyatt Regency. The el is a bit of a walk at the airport end as well; you have to walk through the parking garage to the el station (it's clearly marked). If your luggage is minimal and on wheels, it's easily doable; if you have a lot of luggage and need the convenience, a cab is an option.

                        Of the places mentioned above for deep-dish pizza, the original Uno and Due are the closest to your hotel, about a ten-minute walk.