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Fill in the blanks - inexpensive, distinctive food

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Hi,

We are going to be in Chicago for three and a half days (May 23-26) without our kids, and we love to eat. I've done a lot of research, and we have some meals chosen. I still need to fill in some of the blanks. We would really prefer not to spend too much (Sable is our upper limit price-wise), and want to eat things we cannot find back home in Ottawa. We are big walkers, and will use public transportation to get around. We're staying at the Day's Inn Lincoln Park. We also love baked goods and other sweets. Cakes, high-quality donuts, cupcakes, ice cream, etc. We are into exploring a neighborhood if it has a good concentration of delicious bakeries to try.

I was hoping to fit bbq in, as we can't find that at home. I read about Smoque, which has good brisket (important as I don't eat pork, and love bbq brisket), but it seems far from everything.

What about pizza? We are reluctant to try deep dish as we are not fans of super-cheesy pizza, and love either NY or Neapolitan-style pizza. Is it worth a meal here?

I was intrigued by Beograde for their burek - we love burek and haven't had any since we were in Turkey, but it too seems like a hike.

Hot Doug`s is appealing, but sounds super-unhealthy, as we like to consume some sort of vegetable with a meal.....but I could be convinced, as we will be on holiday.

So far, here is our schedule. All recommendations are welcome, and feel free to recommend we remove something and replace it with something else.

Monday dinner - Sable

Tuesday breakfast - Bongo Room
(activity - Art Institute)

Tuesday lunch - ___________
(activity - wander around Loop, Michigan Ave etc)

Tuesday dinner - Papa`s Casche Sabroso for Jibaritos

Wednesday breakfast ____________ (possibly Xoco)
(activity - CAF walking tour in Loop)

Wednesday lunch - ___________
(activity - need a good neighborhood for wandering and eating in bakeries etc - perhaps Bucktown and Wicker Park)

Wednesday dinner ______________

Thursday breakfast Fox and Obel for cinnamon swirls
(activity - need another fun neighborhood, hopefully not too far from either Fox and Obel or lunch on Goose Island)

Thursday lunch - Kendall College
Fly home.....

Thanks so much for your help!

-----
Hot Doug's
3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Bongo Room
1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

XOCO
449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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  1. The more specific the question, the easier it is to answer. And yours are very specific - very well done!

    Incidentally, the Days Inn Lincoln Park is along the northern border of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and the southern border of the Lakeview neighborhood (home of Wrigley Field).

    >> We also love baked goods and other sweets. Cakes, high-quality donuts, cupcakes, ice cream, etc. We are into exploring a neighborhood if it has a good concentration of delicious bakeries to try.

    These are IMHO the very best pastry shops in the Chicago area (as I've described in extensive detail in the discussion on best bakeries for sweets at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/542316 ). I'll indicate distance from the Days Inn Lincoln Park for those close by:

    1. Three Tarts Bakery (north suburban Northfield, www.threetartsbakery.com ) - Their quality is uniformly excellent, but the variety of pastries is somewhat limited. Great eclairs. Great pear almond tart. They have a variety of small cookies (linzer, etc) that are excellent. My personal nominee for the best pastry shop in the Chicago area.

    2. Gourmet Frog (north suburban Highwood, www.froggysbakery.com ) - They have a variety of cakes available by the slice. A few are great; most are good. Best French macaroons in town, great cookies, and great soups. They're the carry-out adjunct of Froggy's restaurant.

    3. Vanille Patisserie (Clybourn Corridor 1.8 miles southwest of Days Inn Lincoln Park, and French Market on the west side of the Loop, www.vanillepatisserie.com ) - I really love their entremets. And their croissants are excellent as well. Not a lot of variety, but what pastries they do, they do exceptionally well.

    4. Floriole (Lincoln Park 1.5 miles southwest, only about six blocks from the Clybourn location of Vanille - www.floriole.com ) - Great French macaroons, great mousse-type desserts like panna cotta and pots de creme. Also great at puff pastry, with marvelous galettes.

    5. Alliance Bakery (Wicker Park 3.3 miles southwest, www.alliance-bakery.com ) - Great French macaroons, nice assortment of fine pastries named after women.

    6. Fox & Obel (River East just northeast of the Loop, www.fox-obel.com ) - Their quality is consistently excellent. Their tres leches cake is excellent, and I love their bread pudding, as well as their chocolate version that they call chocolate brut. Best bran muffins and best cinnamon rolls ("swirls") I've ever had.

    7. Swedish Bakery (Andersonville 3.5 miles north of the Days Inn, www.swedishbakery.com ) - I love their marzipan roll - one of the few cakes anywhere with both whipped cream and pastry cream, in different layers - and I love their marzariners, small almond paste based tarts.

    I've tried most of the other bakeries around the city (including Selmarie and Lutz), and take my word as a fellow dessert-lover - these seven are the best of the best, BY FAR.

    >> I read about Smoque, which has good brisket (important as I don't eat pork, and love bbq brisket), but it seems far from everything.

    It is. But it's near an el stop on the CTA Blue Line, which helps.

    >> What about pizza? We are reluctant to try deep dish as we are not fans of super-cheesy pizza

    I don't know who told you deep-dish is super-cheesy, but it's just not true. To me, it has the perfect balance among the cheese, sauce, crust, and toppings, without an overabundance of each. The balance actually has LESS cheese than "foldable" New York-style pizza. Since you've never had it, you should really give it a try and see why so many of us love it. Great places to get it include Lou Malnati's, whose location at Wrightwood, Sheffield, and Lincon is about a 10-12 minute walk from the Day's Inn. Just do it!

    >> I was intrigued by Beograde for their burek - we love burek and haven't had any since we were in Turkey, but it too seems like a hike.

    Yes, it is.

    >> Hot Doug`s is appealing, but sounds super-unhealthy, as we like to consume some sort of vegetable with a meal.....but I could be convinced, as we will be on holiday.

    Well, between the healthiness, and the inconvenient location, and the length of time you'll have to wait on line once you get there, it has a lot of negatives. But Franks n Dawgs has similar fare (exotic sausages) and it's only 1.8 miles southwest of the Days Inn, and doesn't have the crazy waits either. www.franksndawgs.com

    >> Tuesday lunch - ___________
    >> (activity - wander around Loop, Michigan Ave etc)

    Someone else just posted asking for lunch suggestions near Millennium Park, which is across Michigan Avenue from the Loop, and here are the places I recommended:

    Terzo Piano is Tony Mantuano's Italian restaurant in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. You don't have to pay for entry to the museum in order to eat there. www.terzopiano.com

    Park Grill has lighter American fare (burgers, salads, etc) at the entrance to Millennium Park. www.parkgrillchicago.com

    The Gage is a gastropub and Henri is its French bistro sister restaurant next door. www.thegagechicago.com and www.henrichicago.com

    If you want to switch things around (or have deep-dish twice), Pizano's on Madison has deep-dish pizza and you can call ahead with your pizza order to keep things quick. www.pizanoschicago.com

    >> Tuesday dinner - Papa`s Casche Sabroso for Jibaritos

    I haven't been there. But it's very inconveniently located from your hotel. Furthermore, I think you're really missing something if you don't get to try one of our restaurants specializing in creative Mexican cuisine, and this isn't one of them. Our creative Mexican restaurants are not terribly expensive (less than Sable, which is quite a bargain itself), and the food is just fantastic, and you won't find it almost anywhere else this side of the Mexican border. I recommend Mixteco Grill (2.5 miles northwest of the Days Inn) and Mexique (3.7 miles south).

    There's also a pretty good deal on Tuesday nights at Le Bouchon, a French bistro 2.7 miles southwest of the Days Inn, with any three courses for $25. I know, coming from Ottawa you're probably not interested in French food, but it's one of the better deals in town.

    >> Wednesday lunch - ___________
    >> (activity - need a good neighborhood for wandering and eating in bakeries etc - perhaps Bucktown and Wicker Park)

    See above for bakery recommendations. If you want to read about what our various neighborhoods have to offer food-wise, you might also check out the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/437740

    >> Wednesday dinner ______________

    Here are some possibilities, keeping in mind your desire to watch your budget:

    Tapas - Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is a mile south of the Days Inn.
    Italian - Riccardo Trattoria is a mile south of the Days Inn.
    Contemporary American - Deleece on Southport is two miles northwest of the Days Inn
    Jewish deli - Steve's Deli is three miles south of the Days Inn and right near the Merchandise Mart stop on the CTA Brown Line

    >> Thursday breakfast Fox and Obel for cinnamon swirls
    >> (activity - need another fun neighborhood, hopefully not too far from either Fox and Obel or lunch on Goose Island)

    Fox & Obel is close to Navy Pier, which has some entertainment options. Goose Island has two locations - one on the Clybourn Corridor, which is sort of a small "pocket neighborhood" with some good food and two of the pastry shops I recommended above. The other is in Lakeview near Wrigley Field, a neighborhood with a lot of bars, and taverns, and a ballpark, and lots of drinking establishments (and also a half mile from Deleece, recommended above).

    Speaking of Lakeview, which is right near your hotel, Lakeview has its own food highlights! Intelligentsia Coffee, our premier hometown coffee roaster, has a coffee house on Broadway about a 5-8 minute walk north of the Days Inn. www.intelligentsiacoffee.com About halfway in between is Pastoral, as noted above our leading purveyor of cheeses as well as sandwiches etc. www.pastoralartisan.com

    Another fun "neighborhood" for food is the Ogilvie Transportation Center, a commuter train station just west of the Loop. It's the home of our French Market, a market with stalls of various food vendors, including some of our very best: Vanille Patisserie for pastries, Canady Le Chocolatier for artisanal chocolates, Pastoral for cheese and sandwiches, etc. www.frenchmarketchicago.com

    Whew! Hope this helps - and feel free to ask more questions!

    1. OK, here goes:

      >I was hoping to fit bbq in, as we can't find that at home. I read about Smoque, which has >good brisket (important as I don't eat pork, and love bbq brisket), but it seems far from >everything.

      BBQ is not a big strength of Chicago's. While Smoque has good brisket, the neighborhood is relatively uninteresting. The best BBQ in my opinion is at carry-out joints in modest neighborhoods on South and far north sides.

      >What about pizza? We are reluctant to try deep dish as we are not fans of super-cheesy pizza, >and love either NY or Neapolitan-style pizza. Is it worth a meal here?

      Yes. Deep dish pizza at Malanatis might be a better option for you than stuffed pizza at Giordano's, but Chicago pizza is a unique tradition and can be very good.

      >I was intrigued by Beograde for their burek - we love burek and haven't had any since we >were in Turkey, but it too seems like a hike.

      I live not too far from Beograde, if you mean the place on Irving Park. I would not recommend it to a visitor to Chicago. There are better options.

      >Hot Doug`s is appealing, but sounds super-unhealthy, as we like to consume some sort of >vegetable with a meal.....but I could be convinced, as we will be on holiday.

      Well, stuffing bakery goods is not all that healthy either, but i hear you. Hot Doug's is off by itself and at the end of the day is a hot dog joint. You did not schlepp all the way from Ottawa for this.

      So far, here is our schedule. All recommendations are welcome, and feel free to recommend we remove something and replace it with something else.

      Monday dinner - Sable

      >Tuesday breakfast - Bongo Room
      >(activity - Art Institute)

      How you plan to have breakfast out, and see the Art Institute -- one of the top museums in the world -- before lunch is something I do not get.

      Tuesday lunch - ___________
      (activity - wander around Loop, Michigan Ave etc)

      Lunch near the Art Institute could be Benjyehuda in south central loop -- fast, inexpensive middle eastern. or Cafecito, cute cuban sanwich place just south of the loop.

      >Tuesday dinner - Papa`s Casche Sabroso for Jibaritos

      Have not been, but Jibaritos are delicious (had elsewhere) and distinctive.

      >Wednesday breakfast ____________ (possibly Xoco)
      >(activity - CAF walking tour in Loop)

      CAF walking tour is terrific. Manny's Deli is a classic Chicago place. Old world cafeteria style service with great pastrami. 30 minute walk from south loop.

      >Wednesday lunch - ___________
      (activity - need a good neighborhood for wandering and eating in bakeries etc - perhaps Bucktown and Wicker Park)

      >Wednesday dinner ______________

      Many good options here. My neighborhood, Lincoln Square, is on the north side of the city and is off the Brown Line train at Western. The bakeries include Cafe Selmarie and Lutz. Restaurant options include terrific inexpensive Thai at Opart, excellent casual Mexican at Los Nopales, fun (though a bit out of the way) Peruvian at Ay Ay Picante, and for real Chicago food, honest to God burgers at Bad Apple. Lincoln Avenue has a variety of shops and boutiques, and Gene's is a old world grocery with lots of European goods (including baked items).

      >Thursday breakfast Fox and Obel for cinnamon swirls
      >(activity - need another fun neighborhood, hopefully not too far from either Fox and Obel or >lunch on Goose Island)

      You could walk Michigan Ave and check out the skydeck up top on the Hancock Bldg. Be sure and walk along the Lakefront if the weather is nice. If you are really outdoorsy, you can rent kayaks and tour the Chicago River under your own power (Chicago Kayak).

      >Thursday lunch - Kendall College
      >Fly home.....

      A few other thoughts: Chinatown is fun, and Lao Sze Chuan has very good and authentic food. A true Chicago original is Cemitas Puebla, a unique Mexican sandwich, although you would have to bus or cab to an otherwise bland area. Also consider a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio (and/or a walking tour of Wright's homes) in Oak Park. Reachable by Blue Line train.

      Near your hotel in Lincoln Park is a terrific little place, Del Taco, with a Korean take on tacos (and great dumplings, etc). The LP zoo is free and worth a visit in nice weather, if you like that sort of thing.

      Another nice neighborhood for walking, shopping, etc, is Andersonville. They have classic breakfast like Tre Kroner, Ann Sather's. Also, a great and unique sandwich place, Gaztrowagon. I cannot vouch for the Swedish American Museum. I am not going into too much detail because you can look all these up on Yelp.

      Consider also seeing some music performances -- folk and more at Old Town School, jazz at Green mill (adorable little Dib restaurant is nearby), blues and rock at numerous spots. Check out the Chicago Reader for shows. And Second City is deservedly famous and is close by your hotel.

      Avoid eating around Navy Pier, as it is predictably touristy. Have a great visit. Canadians are much loved here (except when the Blackhawks are playing one of your teams).

      -----
      Hot Doug's
      3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

      Cemitas Puebla
      3619 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

      Lao Sze Chuan
      2172 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

      Bongo Room
      1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

      Cafe Selmarie
      2327 W Giddings St, Chicago, IL 60625

      Cafecito
      26 E Congress Pkwy Ste 1, Chicago, IL 60605

      Del Taco
      9507 S Cicero Ave, Oak Lawn, IL 60453

      XOCO
      449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

      1. For lunch on Tuesday, consider picking up a sandwich from Pastoral and eating in Millennium Park. The weather might be nice enough in late May that eating outside would be possible (fingers crossed, at any rate).

        As far as Wicker Park / Bucktown goes, consider Big Star for lunch. The menu is limited to tacos and tostadas but they're very, very good tacos and tostadas. The drink program is also top notch, though mixed drinks are limited to whiskey and tequila. There's a brewpub in Wicker Park that serves 'New Haven' style pizza (I just see it as thin crust - you might enjoy it since a traditional New Haven pizza only has a little bit of grated cheese) called Piece. At lunch, the place is very relaxed and the beer they make on site is very good, albeit not as exciting/different as what you might find at Revolution of Goose Island (ie. other Chicago-based brewpubs).

        For Smoque, if you're willing to travel out to Beograde, Smoque really isn't much farther (1.6 miles). I don't know if you would want to make that trip twice, though, or would be able to combine them into one (sounds like a lot of food).

        Thursday morning before your lunch at Kendall College might be tough - Goose Island (the location, not the brewpub mentioned above) is all light industry and manufacturing (well, and a culinary college). There's really nothing around it. There might be a good exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art or you might grab a drink at the Signature Loung in the Hancock Tower (95 stories up - no admission cost required with the purchase of a drink (can be non-alcohlic)).

        3 Replies
        1. re: danimalarkey

          Thanks for the great information. I have added Benjyehudah as we love good falafel and can't get it here. We're also seriously considering Ricardo Trattoria for a dinner. I am crossing Smoque off the list as it is too far away, and I will just have to perfect my own bbq brisket this summer. We'll also pick up sandwiches from Pastoral for our airplane trip home.

          I am now going to plot all of our restaurants and activities on a map, and figure out which bakeries we can reasonably hit without going too far out of our way.

          Regarding pizza, I am really unsure. I don't know when we'll make it back to Chicago, so I am inclined to try deep dish, but honestly, it sounds very heavy. With all of our bakery stops, we might not feel like it.

          Thanks again for all of your help.

          1. re: hwertheim

            >> We're also seriously considering Ricardo Trattoria for a dinner.

            Ricardo Trattoria is a good neighborhood Italian restaurant, about a mile from the Days Inn. Not our best, not our most creative, but quite good. If you're looking for our best and most creative and willing to go a little further (downtown), I would choose from Cibo Matto, the Florentine, and Piccolo Sogno. I went to Piccolo Sogno for the first time last night and LOVED it.

            >> Regarding pizza, I am really unsure. I don't know when we'll make it back to Chicago, so I am inclined to try deep dish, but honestly, it sounds very heavy.

            It's really not all that heavy. Again, foldable "New York City" style pizza is generally heavier than deep-dish (due to New York's high cheese and oil content). I still think deep-dish deserves a try, while you're visiting the home of deep-dish.

            Wherever you wind up going, enjoy your visit!

            1. re: hwertheim

              If you are concerned that a deep dish pizza may be heavy, but still have some interest in trying it, I'd recommend Malnatti's. I find the pizza there to be lighter, for example, than Giordano's. But, unlike other contributors to this Board, I don't think you'll be missing a great culinary experience if you skip the pizza. But that's just a matter of taste; I know many others think it's our signature dish.