Traveling to CHI, questions on two specific areas
My husband and I are delighted to be returning to your fair city for four days, and I'd love to get some recommendations from you near the two locations where I know we'll be for sure:
1. Logan Square (we're staying at Longman & Eagle)
2. UIC campus (going to a show at Lincoln Hall)
For Logan Square, I'd like to get recs beyond L&E. We do plan on having a meal and drinks there, but I'm hoping for maximum diversity in a great food town like Chicago.
Budget: For lunch, would like to keep it $10-15 per person. Dinner, up to $20 pp, but under is great. No big if it's a hair over that. I'm looking more for humble places with great food, rather than a design-y dining room.
Preferences: Mexican (if it's seafood, that's a bonus), Turkish, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Central Asian, SE Asian (Northern Vietnamese or Lao would be awesome), Greek, Chinese noodle shops. I'm also always seeking Peruvian rotisserie chicken, chaat and a good Central American breakfast (Guatemalan plato tipico type thing).
Wish to avoid: Chicago style pizza, gastropub overdose, French, Italian. I'm coming from Minneapolis, so I'm not specifically seeking the whole local, farm-to-fork thing, since we're up to our ears in it here.
Transportation: Train, bus, foot
We'll also be in Pilsen, but I figure a search will turn up plenty of results for that.
Just to add information and clarify...
>> You should try to check out Taste of Peru. It's on Clark just north of Devon. I have not been, but I have heard it's pretty awesome.
That will take you a while to get to from Logan Square, over an hour (in MSP terms, sort of like traveling by bus from Edina to University Ave in Minneapolis). Unfortunately, it's not really close to an el stop. You can catch the #82 CTA bus northbound up Kimball near Logan Square, then transfer to the #155 CTA bus eastbound on Devon.
There are some other Peruvian places that would be a whole lot closer, but I don't know anything about them. There's a listing of 13 of them on Metromix at http://chicago.metromix.com/browse/ho... but Metromix's listings are not always totally up-to-date.
>> There is tons of chaat on the Indian stretch of Devon Avenue in Rogers Park... it could take you an hour by bus from Logan Square, though. It's actually straight up Western Avenue on the 82, then East about a mile.
As you have clarified below, the #82 bus runs north on Kimball. Chicago streets run on a grid, with each 800 house numbers spanning one mile. Kimball is 3400 west (3400W). The Indian restaurants run along Devon between roughly Sacramento (3000W, half a mile east of Kimball) to Western (2400W, 3/4 mile east of Sacramento). So when you get off the bus at Kimball and Devon, walk 1/2 mile east and you'll hit the beginning of the Indian/Pakistani stretch.
Woops, sorry - you want to take the 82 up *Kimball* and then head East on Devon on the 155. Yes, that is West of Western Ave.
I love Taste of Peru - it's a bit of a hole-in-the-wall in an unglamorous strip-mall, but you get there and the door is covered in all the articles, awards and recognition they've received. They do a seafood stew in garlic and cilantro broth that my brother adores. It's also BYOB.
Unfortunately there's not much to do in that neck of the woods in between meals. Perhaps you could do Peru for lunch, and on the way back, pick up chaat for your afternoon snack? Make sure to ask them to pack everything dis-assembled... you don't want it getting soggy with the various toppings before you're ready to eat.
If you are going up to that area, by the way, you can pick up paratha sandwiches from Ghareeb Nawaz (a Pakistani place East of Western :)... they are super cheap, I think $3 each, and if you refrigerate or get the veggie ones, you can keep them in your room until you're ready to eat. They're super tasty on the spot or re-heated - great for late night or for some, breakfast :)
In Logan Square area, I really like 90 Miles (http://www.90milescubancafe.com/). It's authentic, well-done Cuban food, BYOB. I believe they do brunch? But double check in case. I also adore The Whistler (http://whistlerchicago.com/). It's a bar, but thought I'd mention it. It's small, with a small cocktail list... but very good. The lines get long and it gets rowdier at night, but in the evening it's a great place for an interesting drink. I also really like Lula but that sounds like something you're avoiding. I second Revolution. For something off-beat you could try Red Apple Buffet (http://www.redapplebuffet.com/)... It's an all-you-can-eat Polish buffet. I think it's $10 or $15. I've done it before and had a great time. Certainly humble and a fun thing to try, and according to one Polish friend, pretty spot-on.
Around UIC there is a breakfast place called Hash Browns on Maxwell Street (http://www.hashbrownscafe.com/) that does a bunch of different kinds of hash browns, including sweet potatoes. Something a little different. You're also not far from Chinatown - Lao Szechuan tends to be a favorite there.
There is tons of chaat on the Indian stretch of Devon Avenue in Rogers Park... it could take you an hour by bus from Logan Square, though. It's actually straight up Western Avenue on the 82, then East about a mile. Being Indian, I can tell you that Uru Swati is my favorite, followed by Annapurna.
I have a few more suggestions of places that you might like. The problem is that they're not really in either area you have mentioned. They're very accessible via public transit, but not without a transfer or two. CTA's network is integrated into Google Maps pretty well and can give you good estimates for time spent traveling, etc. If that doesn't sound like something you'd mind, consider checking these places out.
Semirarmis (4639-41 N Kedzie, http://www.semiramisrestaurant.com/ ) -- Very good Lebanese, and I like their roast chicken quite a bit. They do other standards very nicely, too, such as tabbouleh, fatoush and falafel.
Nhu' Lan Bakery & Sandwiches (2612 W Lawrence, http://www.nhulansbakery.com/) -- Menu is limited mostly to sandwiches, but there are spring rolls and some other things not listed on their online menu.
Tank Noodle, aka Pho Xe Tang (4953 N. Broadway St.,) -- A much more diverse menu than Nhu'lan, plenty of good Vietnamese options here. Across the street is Ba Le, another spot for bahn mi. I prefer the sandwiches from Nhu'lan, but these aren't bad, either.
Around Logan Square, you're likely to find any number of tiny, hole-in-the-wall type taquerias. I can't say there's much to reccomend them, however, especially given the quality of similar restaurants in Pilsen. In addition to Lula's, I really like Revolution (2323 N Milwaukee, http://revbrew.com/). Revolution is a brewpub but I wouldn't think of it as a gastropub. Food is generally very unfussy and simply prepared (burgers, pizzas, fish & chips) and their beer is more or less the best in Chicago right now. I really enjoy their brunch menu though it leans a little on the heavy side and the restaurant can get crowded very quickly.
If you do head down Milwaukee Ave. towards Bucktown and Wicker Park, I really like Belly Shack. BYO, Latin/Korean fusion, it's a very fun place to get some great flavors and smaller meals (1912 N. Western, http://bellyshack.com/). I also really like Irazu, Costa Rican done well and very affordably (also BYO - 1865 N. Milwaukee, http://www.irazuchicago.com/). Sadly, Irazu doesn't open until 11:30, though breakfast is served all day.
I can't tell you too much about Logan Square, because I haven't been all that many places there. I've been to Lula, but it's a local-seasonal type place, which you say you wish to avoid. The one piece of advice I would give is to not rule out Bucktown as well, the next neighborhood immediately southeast down Milwaukee Avenue, and easily walkable from L&E. Hopefully those more familiar with Logan Square (and Bucktown, as well as the UIC area) can fill you in, especially for the specific types of food you're looking for. Oh, and also near Logan Square (about a mile northeast) is Roscoe Village, which is where you'll find Turquoise Cafe, a very good place for Turkish food which you asked about.
Here are some recommendations for Pilsen, though. Mundial Cocina Mestiza has creative provincial Mexican cuisine (unlike what you can get back home). It's FANTASTIC, my favorite Mexican restaurant in the entire city, and moderate in price. It's great for dinner and they also do a great weekend brunch. I greatly prefer Mundial to Nuevo Leon, which is also in Pilsen and while it's cheap and the food is well prepared, it's the same old enchiladas/carne asada/etc you find everywhere. Another excellent place in Pilsen is Nightwood, which serves contemporary American food, again moderate in price, a great place for dinner or Sunday brunch.
Some of the foods you're looking for, you'll need to travel to the appropriate neighborhoods to find. For Eastern European, Podhalanka is great for Polish food, and it's easy to get to from Logan Square; just take the CTA Blue Line to the Division stop and it's right there. For Vietnamese food, you can take the CTA Red Line to the Argyle stop and there are lots of places in that area (although my impression is that this is more widely available back home in the Cities than here). For Greek food, go to Greek Town, just west of the Loop along Halsted Street. For Chinese, go to Chinatown, centered at Wentworth and Cermak (22nd) near the Cermak/Chinatown stop on the CTA Red Line.
Mundial Cocina Mestiza
1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
Nuevo Leon Restaurant
1515 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
2119 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608