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Places for a visitor to eat at the bar?

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Hi there!

I am visiting Chicago for the first time next week, for a conference, and am looking for suggestions of places to eat on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I am late 30s, female, and want to find places with great food but also fun, bustling atmospheres where I can just wander in and eat at the bar. I'm definitely not looking for anything fancy, though I am not trying to stay within any particular price range, either. I live in Boston and love smaller, more casual neighborhood-y places (I eat mostly in the South End, for anyone familiar with that area of the city), but since I'll be by myself I also want the atmosphere to be comfortable and entertaining. Probably not looking for "off the beaten path" places, or anything too specifically ethnic (though I understand there is a lot of good regional Mexican, and I would be open to sushi). I am staying somewhere around the city center but would be willing to hop a cab if necessary. Sorry for the lack of specifics re: type of food -- for this trip, someplace I'll have a good time at the bar and eat great food, whatever the style, is most important.

Many thanks!!

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  1. Some of the places I'd recommend, for a lively atmosphere and eating at the bar, include Quartino (Italian small plates), Mercat a la Planxa (tapas), Frontera Grill (Mexican), Nacional 27 (Latin fusion), Sunda (pan-Asian), David Burke's Primehouse (steakhouse), and Shaw's Crab House (seafood).

    Keep in mind, downtown Chicago covers a huge area, as much as three miles from the Gold Coast to the South Loop. May I ask where you're staying (the name of the hotel or a nearby intersection)? That way we can direct you to places that are close by. Or, at least, tell you how far away places are.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks!

      I don't have my hotel booked yet, but it will be somewhere close to the conference, which is being held at the U Chicago Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive.

      1. re: anneclark

        The Gleacher Center is east of the "Mag Mile" (North Michigan Avenue) and just north of the river. It is a 5-10 minute walk from all the places I mentioned above except Mercat a la Planxa, which is more like a 15-20 minute walk. It is especially close to Fox & Obel, our premier upscale gourmet food store with the finest of everything. I recommend going to Fox & Obel on your way to the Gleacher Center if you want to pick up some of their wonderful baked goods (their yummy cinnamon swirl rolls, world's best bran muffins, and other great stuff) and/or have breakfast in the cafe in the rear of the store (I recommend the cobb omelet).

    2. The bar in the Atwood Cafe in the Hotel Burnham at State and Washington in the Loop would be a terrific place to eat. It is more upscale than casual, but not intimidating; the food is regional American and quite good. But the atmosphere and the view are fantastic, and it is in a beautiful historic building, the Reliance Building, one of the early Chicago skyscrapers. It's about a half mile south of where you are staying; it's a pleasant walk, or you can easily take a cab, or a bus south on Michigan or State.

      1. I would also recommend the bar at Frontera Grill - I believe you can order form the menus of either Frontera Grill or Tomplobompo - both are excelent

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        Frontera Grill
        445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

        3 Replies
        1. re: weinstein5

          It's true, you can order from either menu. Just know that, unless you get there really early, you'll encounter the same waiting time for seating at the bar as you would for a table, typically an hour on weeknights.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thanks, everyone! I am thinking I will try Frontera -- looks delicious and seems a shame not to check out a Rick Bayless restaurant on my first trip to the city -- and Girl and the Goat, which looks loud and boisterous and sounds great, if slightly adventurous -- but that will just make it more fun! Won't be able to try as many things as if I were with a group, but that's all right -- it seems unique enough that I want to check it out anyway. I can get there early both nights, and it will just be me at the bar, so I think it will work out even if they're crowded. Oh -- and that Fox and Obel sounds perfect for breakfast (and maybe lunch too) and you're right, it couldn't be more convenient.

            One more quick question -- I hate to sound typical, but any place to get a quick deep dish pizza lunch around the Gleacher Center? I love pizza of almost all varieties and still have cravings for the (supposedly authentic) deep dish from a little place in my college town in NH -- am imagining that the real deal would be even better.

            Very much looking forward to eating in your fair city! Thanks again.

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

            1. re: anneclark

              >> I am thinking I will try Frontera -- looks delicious and seems a shame not to check out a Rick Bayless restaurant on my first trip to the city -- and Girl and the Goat, which looks loud and boisterous and sounds great, if slightly adventurous -- but that will just make it more fun! Won't be able to try as many things as if I were with a group, but that's all right -- it seems unique enough that I want to check it out anyway. I can get there early both nights, and it will just be me at the bar, so I think it will work out even if they're crowded.

              Sounds good. I know the bar gets crowded at Frontera, so if you can arrive shortly before they open at 5:00, it will increase your chances of not having a long wait. At G&TG, you can walk right in at 4:30, but you may have a long wait if you get there much past 5:00; however, sometimes when you're dining solo you can luck out and get seated immediately because there is a single open seat at the bar. I've posted my G&TG review at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/742267

              >> One more quick question -- I hate to sound typical, but any place to get a quick deep dish pizza lunch around the Gleacher Center? I love pizza of almost all varieties and still have cravings for the (supposedly authentic) deep dish from a little place in my college town in NH -- am imagining that the real deal would be even better.

              No worries, I think our deep-dish pizza is wonderful and one of the top "do not miss" foods here. The closest good deep-dish to the Gleacher Center is/are the original Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due, where deep-dish started way back in 1943 and 1955. Uno is a block closer than Due. If you want it quick, you can phone ahead with your pizza order so it's just coming out of the oven when you get there, and they'll seat you immediately that way. (It normally takes 30-45 minutes to bake, although I'm not sure of the time for their small personal deep-dish for one person.)

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              Pizzeria Due
              619 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

              Pizzeria Uno
              29 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611

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