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Apr 18, 2011 08:37 AM

Easy lunch in Chicago from O'Hare to South Bend


Will be passing by Chicago and would like to do a yummy sit down lunch somewhere that has easy parking on a Saturday (do not want to pay for garage).

I've searched the boards and came up with Urban Belly & Hoanh Long. It doesn't need to be Asian food. I will be in the area around 10am, not sure if parking in the morning is easier in the city.

Thanks in advance!

3053 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

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  1. First, let's talk about parking. Chicago has a new on-street pay parking system which replaced its parking meters, and parking rates were increased substantially (much to the consternation of many locals). The pay parking system is clearly marked, and you need to pay at a kiosk found in those areas. Credit cards are accepted, and be careful to check for what hours it's enforced. Thanks to the higher rates, on-street parking has become significantly easier to find. Last night (Sunday night) I had dinner in the West Loop in the hot "restaurant row" on Randolph Street and there was plenty of on-street parking a block away (and it was still only $3 for 2 hours). The only areas where it's really hard to find on-street parking now are the Loop and River North/Mag Mile. Once you get away from downtown, you can usually find free parking on the side streets pretty easily. For those willing to park in pay lots and garages in the downtown areas (Loop and River North) you can go to this website and enter an address and the times you'll be arriving/departing and it will show you the rates for all the lots and garages nearby:

    You don't mention which route you'll be taking from O'Hare to South Bend; you can take I-294 around the city, or I-90 through the city and they take roughly the same amount time (I-90 is shorter but there's a greater chance of traffic, hopefully not on Saturday morning though). Both routes have toll portions.

    If you're going through the city on I-90, here are a few additional recommendations of good places not far from I-90 and not River North/Streeterville, open for lunch on Saturdays. Obviously if you want to eat at 10:00, you won't be able to do so at places that aren't open till later than that, so I'll indicate the time that each opens on Saturdays: Mundial Cocina Mestiza (opens at 11:00 a.m.) or Mexique (10:00) for Mexican, Bongo Room (both locations at 9:00) for creative pancakes, Smoque (11:00) for barbecue, Lula (9:00) for local/seasonal, Podhalanka (9:00) or Red Apple Buffet (11:00) for Polish, and Lou Malnati's (11:00) at 8th and State for deep-dish pizza. You can also go to the French Market, which has a lot of stalls where you can eat there as well as get stuff to go; it opens at 8:30, has a free 30-minute parking area and offers free validated parking for an hour in the covered parking lot north of there. Urban Belly opens at 11:00 and Hoanh Long at 10:30; also note that Hoanh Long is a lot further from I-90 than these other recommendations.

    If I had to choose only one of these for the "yummiest" food, it would be one of the Mexican places (I've eaten at Mundial for Saturday brunch and it's awesome, but it's slightly further from I-90 than Mexique). The food at our creative provincial Mexican restaurants is totally unlike what you find elsewhere, and I strongly encourage you to check out the menus on their websites if you're not familiar with it. Although if you enjoy sweeter dishes, Bongo Room is great too!

    Website links:
    Mundial Cocina Mestiza -
    Mexique -
    Bongo Room -
    Smoque -
    Lula -
    Podhalanka -
    Red Apple -
    Lou Malnati's -
    French Market -
    Urban Belly -
    Hoanh Long -

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

    1549 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60642

    1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

    Red Apple Buffet
    6474 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60631

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      After further research and taking your suggestions into consideration, I've narrowed my choices down to the following; M Henry, Lula and Tweet. Which should I choose? I noticed M Henry is out of the way, but have heard many good things and wouldn't mind going out of my way if its worth it.

      Recs for Bongo room comes up alot, but mostly because of their pancakes. Pancakes aren't really my thing, but are the other items just as good? If so, then should I choose Bongo over the others?

      Also, thank you for the detailed responses nsxtasy. I've been perusing the Chicago board this past week and your knowledge and participation is unparalleled. Keep it up!

      M. Henry
      5707 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60660

      1. re: mgcmonkey

        Ah! I see you're leaning towards breakfast-type places rather than lunch-type places!

        Regarding your question about Bongo Room, unlike the other breakfast places, Bongo Room is really all about the pancakes. Not that the other stuff - egg dishes, as well as sandwiches, salads, etc - is bad; the other stuff is just fine, but it's really not all that unusual. If you enjoy sweeter breakfast dishes - say, if pretzel pancakes smothered in white chocolate caramel sauce sounds great to you - then by all means go to Bongo Room. But if you don't and it doesn't (and it sounds like this might be the case), then you would probably be better off with one of the other places. Hope that makes sense.

        As for the other three...

        Geographically, M. Henry is indeed out of the way. So is Tweet. Lula is right off the expressway.

        I haven't been to Tweet. A quick look at the menu on their website makes me think that it's very conventional breakfast fare, stuff that you can probably get back home. But again, I haven't actually been there.

        I really love M. Henry. Check out the menu at They have a nice variety - savory egg dishes, sweet dishes like their "blisscakes" (pancakes with fruit and mascarpone) and their "out of this world bread pudding" (it's only on the brunch menu which is served on Sundays but they usually have it as a daily special on Saturdays). When I'm there a little later in the morning I've also enjoyed their soups and salads. I should mention that on Saturday mornings between 9:30 and 12:00, you'll probably be waiting 20-40 minutes to be seated. They also recently opened a second restaurant with a virtually identical menu called M. Henrietta, and I haven't been there but the waits might be shorter; it's no further out of your way than M. Henry.

        Lula leans a bit more towards local and seasonal ingredients, and it has a slightly hipper vibe (although M. Henry is pretty hip too). Like M. Henry, they have savory and sweet dishes too. They have some outdoor seating which is very pleasant if the weather is nice. Waits to be seated on a Saturday are likely to be similar to M. Henry.

        Since we're talking about breakfast places now, I'll throw one more place into the mix: Jam. Jam is another one of our best breakfast places, and it's in the West Town neighborhood, very close to the expressway. And it's a lot like M. Henry and Lula - savory as well as sweet dishes, a hip vibe, similar waits to be seated on weekends, etc.

        So aside from Tweet, which I haven't been to, we're talking about three places - M. Henry/Henrietta, Lula, and Jam - that have a lot in common. They're all really good places with nice folks and great breakfast specialty food, regardless of whether you lean towards the sweeter dishes or the savory ones. If you've looked at their website menus, and one sounds better to you than the others, then that's where you should go. I like all of them and am happy going to any of them. Sorry if this doesn't help make up your mind!

        P.S. Thanks for the kind words!

    2. If you want to do dim sum, you can go to Furama on Wentworth and about 30th street. It's on the far south end of Chinatown (sort of). You take the Kennedy past downtown and onto the Dan Ryan. You get off on 31st street (I think that's correct), in any case if you pass whatever they call the old Comiskey Park (Sox park) you went too far. After you get off, you will see Furama just to the right of the off ramp, but you can't get directly there, because it's a one way. Take a right at the light and then another right at the next block (residential neighborhood) for about 3 or 4 blocks, make another right to Wentworth and down to Furama's parking lot (it's in a strip mall, parking lot is at the south end of the mall).
      Good dim sum and will be busy by the time you get there.
      Easy access to the Dan Ryan expressway from Furama to help you get back on the road to SB.