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Apr 9, 2011 10:53 AM

restaurants/diners/cool little places ....

in Chicago for 1st time this July 30/31 - staying at Hyatt Regency - love to get referrals to one of a kind, great finds - overall something different. Would like to stick to walking distance of hotel but will travel. Want pizza for sure - other than that - taking all suggestions.
thanks -

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  1. Here's what I would make sure to hit, with an emphasis on places unique to Chicago. All of these are walkable from the Hyatt Regency Chicago (I assume you mean that one downtown on Wacker Drive, and not the Hyatt Regency O'Hare):

    Deep-dish pizza - in River North, ten minutes walk from the Hyatt Regency, you can go to the place where it all started - Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due. They're still there, and they're still excellent. Phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for your pizza to bake.

    Chicago hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches - Also in River North on Ontario Street, about a 15-minute walk, you can get both of these local specialties at Portillo's.

    Rick Bayless's restaurants (Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, XOCO) - Chicago has a collection of wonderful restaurants specializing in creative provincial Mexican cuisine, which is difficult to find almost anywhere else this side of the border. Rick Bayless is widely recognized for bringing this trend here, and his restaurants are still excellent and providing the most creative Mexican food in town. Topolobampo is the most expensive, although it's surprisingly affordable at lunchtime, and accepts reservations up to three months in advance (on as well as by phone) and fills up quickly for dinners, not quite as much for lunch. Frontera Grill is not as expensive, but accepts only a handful of reservations (by phone only) and keeps most of the dining room available for walk-in traffic. Without a reservation, waits for a table can be lengthy on weekends and at lunchtime. XOCO is his take on Mexican street food and although it's good, I think the other two are more unusual featuring food you're not likely to find elsewhere; beware long lines at lunchtime. They are all at the same location, in the middle of River North, about a 15-minute walk from the Hyatt Regency. My advice for Topolobampo is to hop on at the end of April when your dates become available, or try calling now if you want a reservation at Frontera Grill. Both are closed Sundays and Mondays; Frontera does brunch on Saturdays (but again, don't go without a reservation).

    Contemporary American cuisine and artisanal cocktails - that's what you'll find at Sable, in the Hotel Palomar about a five-minute walk from the Hyatt. The food from Chef Heather Terhune is spectacular (don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee!) and it's remarkably inexpensive. Plus many of the dishes are available in half portions so you can try more things; just don't make the mistake I did and order so much that you don't have room for dessert (I stuffed myself on $30 of food). And the cocktails are amazing! Great for dinner or lunch or Sunday brunch, too.

    Fox & Obel is our premier gourmet food store, with the finest meats, cheeses, and other basics, as well as the finest baked goods and other prepared foods. It was recently listed by Bon Appetit among the top ten bread bakeries in the country. ( ) Don't miss the yummy cinnamon swirl rolls at the bakery counter! There's a cafe in the rear if you want to eat anything on the premises, from a cup of coffee to an entire meal prepared to order. It's across the river from the Hyatt, a five-minute walk.

    While you're here, go to Garrett's Popcorn. There are several locations in the Loop and one on Michigan Avenue, all about a ten minute walk from the Hyatt (and you can hit their shops at O'Hare on your way home). They have caramel popcorn (with or without cashews or pecans), cheese popcorn, or a mix of caramel/cheese. Yum!

    French Market - located just west of the Loop in one of the train stations a mile west of the Hyatt, is worth a visit. Keep in mind that it just opened a couple of months ago, and it's not fancy. However, it has several dozen food booths and these include some of the very best that Chicago has to offer. Highlights include the croissants, entremets, and French macaroons at Vanille Patisserie; the artisan chocolates at Canady Le Chocolatier (whose main shop is in the South Loop, also not far away); the cheeses at Pastoral; and the rainbow cookies at Delightful Pastries.

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Those suggestions are good, though (and I'm picking nits here) I prefer Lou Malnati's to Uno/Due. Also, Intelligentsia is one of the country's best coffee shops, and it's a 5-minute walk from the Hyatt.

      I agree with Fox & Obel, though I'm surprised they cracked the nation's top ten. I don't think it's in the same league as Tartine or Sullivan St.

      1. re: Bone Thug n Hominy

        >> I prefer Lou Malnati's to Uno/Due.

        They're both good. However, it's a matter of distance (convenience). Lou Malnati's is quite a distance from the Hyatt Regency, whereas Uno and Due are a short walk away. If someone had asked about pizza near, say, the Chicago Hilton and Towers in the South Loop, I would have recommended the nearby Lou Malnati's rather than the more distant Uno and Due.