Torontonians in Chicago for 3 nights
Hi there Chicago Chowhounders,
We'll be down in Chicago for the first time next Thursday to Sunday. I've been doing some research on restaurants so that we don't end up at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. We already have 1 reservation at N9NE Steakhouse that my mom researched and found out she wanted to try.
We will be staying at the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker. I have read a lot about Rick Bayless' restaurants. They sound great but my parents aren't Mexican fans. I am interested to try the original Pizzeria Uno. but other than that I'm slightly slumped on other places to go that are somewhat nearby or easy to get to by transit. We generally like all cuisines (except the fussy non Mexican eaters in our party). Generally hoping to spend max $20-$30/pp for entree. We get a lot of Asian cuisine in Toronto so we can probably skip on that.
Looking forward to reading your suggestions
29 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611
440 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60606
>> We'll be down in Chicago for the first time next Thursday to Sunday.
Many of our best and most popular restaurants fill up with reservations in advance. I suggest making reservations as soon as possible for the places you want to go. Many of our nicer restaurants accept reservations on Opentable.com as well as over the phone (and sometimes you can get a reservation over the phone when Opentable says there is no availability).
>> I've been doing some research on restaurants so that we don't end up at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. We already have 1 reservation at N9NE Steakhouse that my mom researched and found out she wanted to try.
That's rather an odd selection. N9NE isn't what comes to mind when people choose a steakhouse here. When people want a great steak, they are more likely to pick David Burke's Primehouse, or maybe Gibson's or Joe's Steak and Seafood or Chicago Cut Steakhouse. All of those are also closer to your hotel. But hey, maybe it's good...? If you go to N9NE, let us know how it turns out, because for many of us locals, it's a bit of an unknown.
>> We will be staying at the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker. I have read a lot about Rick Bayless' restaurants. They sound great but my parents aren't Mexican fans.
It's not really a problem that your parents aren't fans of Mexican food, because the provincial Mexican food served at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo (and some other places around town) is absolutely NOTHING like what they have had before. You'll have to look at the restaurant menus to understand the difference. Maybe they will like it - or at least will tolerate it if it's something you really want to try.
However, the bigger problem with Bayless's restaurants are that Topolobampo books up three months in advance for dinner, and weeks in advance for lunch. Frontera Grill only accepts a handful of reservations, and keeps most of the dining room available for walk-in traffic; however, if you don't arrive 15-20 minutes before they open, you'll wait 90-120 minutes to be seated. They are closed Sundays (and Mondays).
If you'd like to try our creative Mexican cuisine - and trust me, it's really great and it's something you can't find in most cities this side of the Mexican border - there are other options if you don't want to eat really early and you don't want to wait forever for a table at Frontera Grill. Mexique is a terrific Mexican restaurant about two miles west of your hotel, and it's not difficult to make reservations there, either on Opentable.com or over the phone.
>> I am interested to try the original Pizzeria Uno.
Great choice! So is the original Pizzeria Due, a block away. They're an 8-10 minute walk from your hotel.
>> other than that I'm slightly slumped on other places to go that are somewhat nearby or easy to get to by transit. We generally like all cuisines (except the fussy non Mexican eaters in our party). Generally hoping to spend max $20-$30/pp for entree. We get a lot of Asian cuisine in Toronto so we can probably skip on that.
For dinner (or lunch), here are some of our best places that are not terribly expensive.
Sable has contemporary American food (and remarkably inexpensive), and many of the dishes are available in half portion sizes, so you can try lots of stuff. I love their sweet corn creme brulee, a savory riff on the classic dessert. They also have amazing artisanal cocktails. It's a ten-minute walk from your hotel.
North Pond is another restaurant featuring excellent contemporary American food. It's more expensive than Sable, and it's further (about 2.5 miles north of your hotel), but what makes it unique is its exquisite setting. It's in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, rather than the adjacent neighborhood of the same name), facing its namesake pond with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. The front room has full-length windows facing the pond; the rear room has an open kitchen that is also fun.
We have several terrific contemporary Italian restaurants. Cibo Matto is just a couple of blocks from the Hyatt Regency and is excellent. Piccolo Sogno is further, about a mile west, and may be our best mid-priced Italian restaurant in the city right now.
Mercat a la Planxa is a festive restaurant featuring excellent Spanish tapas. It's about a mile south of your hotel on Michigan Avenue.
If you "lose the battle" and don't get to try our unusual Mexican restaurants, another alternative is Latin fusion cuisine, which offers a mix of various foods from Latin America. Nacional 27 is a 15-minute walk from the hotel; Carnivale is a little over a mile.
Steve's Deli is an excellent Jewish deli about a 15-minute walk from the hotel.
Now, let's talk about breakfast and Sunday brunch.
About a mile and a half south of the hotel is a breakfast specialty restaurant called Bongo Room. They feature unusual pancakes, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. A standard order is three GIGANTIC pancakes, but you can get one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at a reduced cost, which lets you try more things.
For other (and closer) options for breakfast, South Water Kitchen is a block from the hotel. You can have breakfast in the cafe at Fox & Obel (see below). For more nearby options, see this discussion:
River North Breakfast Ideas - www.chow.com/topics/693985
For Sunday brunch, it's essential to go to a place that accepts reservations (which Bongo Room doesn't); those that don't get mobbed on Sundays. If you don't get to Mexique for dinner, it would be a great place for Sunday brunch, to experience the creativity of their cuisine. Another great place for Sunday brunch is North Pond, described above (it's the place in the middle of the park). Cafe des Architectes is in the curving modern facade of the Sofitel off the Mag Mile, about a mile north of the Hyatt. They do a very elegant brunch. I love the complimentary basket of French breads and pastries, and they have a brunch sampler with mini-portions of ten different items that is fantastic. Finally, if your family loves seafood, Shaw's does an outstanding all-you-can-eat buffet. It includes the usual breakfast foods - they have great thick-cut caramelized bacon - as well as lunch/dinner type dishes, including hot or cold Alaskan king crab leg "bites" (cut so it's easy to eat - yes, all you can eat), best crab cakes in town, beef tenderloin and turkey at a carving station, and great desserts such as creme brulee and pots de creme. Shaw's is about a five-minute walk from the Hyatt.
While you're here, go to Garrett's Popcorn. There are several locations in the Loop and one on Michigan Avenue, all within a 5-10 minute walk of your hotel. They have caramel popcorn (with or without cashews or pecans), cheese popcorn, or a mix of caramel/cheese. Yum! www.garrettpopcorn.com
Fox & Obel is our premier gourmet food store, with the finest meats, cheeses, and other basics, as well as the finest baked goods and other prepared foods. Don't miss the yummy cinnamon swirl rolls at the bakery counter! There's a cafe in the rear if you want to eat anything on the premises, from a cup of coffee to an entire meal prepared to order. It's on the other side of the Chicago River a short walk from your hotel; you can either walk over to Michigan Avenue to cross the river, or go down inside the hotel to the lower level and cross the river on Columbus Drive. www.fox-obel.com
I'm going to try to make sure there are links to the corresponding restaurant listings in Chowhound so that they show up on the map to your right.
Finally, here are links to two discussions that will give you an overview of what Chicago has to offer. This discussion tells what foods and places are unique or specialties in Chicago, foods that Chicago is particularly good at:
first time Chicago - www.chow.com/topics/693477
This discussion has an overview listing some of our best in various food categories, as well as advice for getting the best value for your dining dollar:
Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? - www.chow.com/topics/697829
Enjoy your visit, and feel free to ask more questions!
619 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
29 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611
Fox & Obel Food Market
401 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611
1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
David Burke's Primehouse
616 N Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611
Joe's Seafood Prime Steak & Stone Crab
60 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614
325 W. Huron, Chicago, IL 60610
440 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60606
445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610
Mercat a la Planxa
638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605
Cafe des Architectes
20 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60611
Steve's Deli Chicago
354 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654
1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Shaw's Crab House
21 East Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60611
464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622
South Water Kitchen
225 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL 60601
Gibson's Bar and Steakhouse
1028 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611
702 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60661
201 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601
Sable Kitchen & Bar
505 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60654
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
300 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL 60654
Thank you nsxtasy for your detailed advice! I'm not sure where my mom found N9NE but we'll give it a whirl. I wanted to try Joe's Stone Crab in Miami but it wasn't in season when we were there. I went on their site and saw their great prix fixe lunches so we booked that for Thursday lunch. Thank you again :)
Joe's Stone Crab
60 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Thank you Nsxtasy! You are a very helpful member of the Chow community!
We had a fabulous time in Chicago! First thing we did was stroll around Michigan Ave and we smelled something fabulous to find the Garrett's! We thought cheese and caramel would be weird but it was delicious!
Our first meal was at Joe's Stone Crab and we had the prix fixe lunch. The prix fixe came with a crab bisque (soo tasty!) and some of us had the filet mignon and some had the 6 stone crabs. Meal ended with key lime pie and banana cream pie.
Later after an afternoon of shopping and a boat cruise (beautiful city!) we put our name down for a table at Uno. We loved the pizza and loved that it wasn't too salty or greasy. We tried the spinocolli (very good!) and the traditional Uno. We were pleasantly surprised with this since we generally don't eat pizza for dinner
Ack battery dying. Will write about N9NE later!