Lunch, beer, and local THIS Thursday or Friday?
Sorry for the late notice, but I would welcome suggestions for a lunch spot for my time in Chicago tomorrow and Friday. We're staying at the intersection of E. Illinois and N. Columbus and will be spending time at the Art Institute and possibly walking up to the Lincoln Park area, so the location could be anywhere near those things.
My traveling companions chose the two dinner locations (French bistro and Mexican), so I'm trying to put in a plug for a lunch place to get good beer (preferably with some local microbrew options) and light lunch fare (salads/sandwiches) I'd like to try out some new beers (whether local or not) and lunch might be my only option for a time to do that. I also like local food and farm-to-table kinds of places, but I realize it might be hard to find all of these things in one place in the right location.
>> will be spending time at the Art Institute and possibly walking up to the Lincoln Park area
You should keep in mind that the heat wave here will continue through the weekend, with temperatures in the mid to high nineties and uncomfortable humidity. You're considering a walk that's three miles long. Public transportation by bus or el are easy. 'nuff said.
Since you'll be at the Art Institute, go to the Gage. It's a gastropub, across the street and one block north. Plenty of brews to choose from, and good food to go with them!
Sadly, I don't think the River North/Loop areas have any places that are both local/farm-to-table and known for a quality craft beer list.
For really good beer, there's Jake Melnick's (41 E. Superior). Great selection of beer but the food is only a step above TGIF-levels (their chicken wings, though, are pretty killer -- but I doubt they came from local, pasture-raised chickens!). Rick Bayless serves a lot of great (and local) beer in his restaurants, but it seems like you're already doing Mexican for one dinner. Clark St. Ale House (742 N. Clark) has a great tap list but they don't open until 4pm and don't serve any food. Miller's Pub (134 S. Wabash) has been serving pretty decent beer lately, but you're not going to get the kind of food you're looking for.
The Gage (24 S. Michigan) is often described as a gastropub but the beer selection isn't great. The Publican (837 W. Fulton Market) is a favorite of mine, and would meet your needs for local food and great beer. Sadly... they don't open until 3:30pm (and even then, the menu is pretty limited until 5:30pm).
One option is to visit Pastoral (53 E. Lake or near Ogilvie Transportation Center, 131 N. Clinton). This is one of the city's premiere cheese mongers and they make killer sandwiches and salads. Their beer selection is usually pretty interesting, as well. Sadly, you can't drink in the store but you can bring your food and drinks to the Great Lawn at Millennium Park (the Great Lawn is BYO -- though it might be during concerts only, now that I think about it).
If you don't mind a 10 minute L ride, you can take the Red Line to the Goose Island brewpub (1800 N. Clybourn -- take the red line to the North/Clybourn stop and then walk ~5 minutes to the brewpub). Goose is the city's oldest brewery still in operation and their menu is committed to local, seasonal ingredients. The production facility is elsewhere, but this is where the company started 23 years ago. I don't think the food is amazing, but it's hardly bad. While Goose is distributed pretty widely, you'll find a large number of beers on tap that are never seen anywhere else. They also have a couple of cask conditioned ales available (usually), something which you don't see too often. It's not clear on their menus, but you can order a flight of 4 4oz. pours for $8 -- it's a great way to try a lot of their options.
Also, be careful if you plan on walking from your hotel up to Lincoln Park later this week! Temperatures are still sky-high with plenty of heat advisories and warnings. 2ish miles in this weather sounds brutal (to me, at least, though I'm a bit of a wimp)!
134 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
Check maps if you're not sure of distances. For example, the Publican is in the West Loop, quite a distance from where you'll be (about a mile and a half from the Art Institute). Similarly, Lincoln Park (the neighborhood) is spread out, so that the Goose Island is well over a mile from the zoo and other places in and around Lincoln Park (the park).
Goose Island is a great suggestion- as danimalarkey said, they serve lots of beers that aren't sold in other places- there is always something interesting to try there... definitely have them do a flight for you if you go. Food isn't anything too special, but solidly good- much better than you'd think and the prices are decent. I also agree, the commute on the red line is short and super easy.
If you want to stay really close to the Art Institute, The Gage makes sense, but really, everything there is overpriced and not as good as it should be.
The others are right- don't try to walk from the areas you mention to Lincoln Park, especially in this heat.
I would head over to the Custom House, which is less than a mile away from the Art Institute, is open for lunch, and has a very good beer list representing not only Chicago (Metropolitan, Goose Island), but Illinois (Two Brothers), and the great beers of Michigan and Indiana(Three Floyds, Bells, Founder's). While Chicago has a lively beer scene, and many newly opened breweries and brewpubs within the city, most of the really great beers available here are from other parts of the Midwest.
Custom House Tavern
500 S Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60605
Martial Noguier at bistronomic is a great supporter of local farmers. I used to work farmers' markets, and he was there every week paying retail. that's putting your money where your mouth is.
Thank you, belatedly, for all the recommendations. Multiple airline snafus made me miss lunch on the first day entirely, sadly. We did really enjoy dinner at Frontera Grill, though, and I managed to also try Goose Island beer there. On my next trip I'll explore some of the other great recommendations.
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654