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4 nights in Chicago...

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Hello!
We're coming down to Chicago from MI next week...planning the museum touristy thing (w/ hubby and 7 yr old daughter who've never been). It's been about 8 yrs since I've had the pleasure and not sure where to eat. We're staying off Michigan on Ohio...and will be spending our days at the museums, Shedd, Navy Pier, etc. We're driving so will have a car...so any outstanding places that require a drive wouldn't be out of the question. Since we'll have a 7 yr old I'm not sure we're gonna want to go anywhere too fancy not to mention we're not exactly going to be able to reserve a spot this late in the game.

Definetly want to hit up the "best of Chicago"...gotta let them try the pizza - not sure to do Malnati's, Uno, Due or something else? It's been a loooong time and things change, right? Also, Italian beef...where to? I'm really intrigued by Hot Dougs...does it live up to the hype? Easy to find?

We (hubs and I) love all kinds of ethnic foods...definetly not afraid of spice and heat. Kid is a little more into the basics - Italian, Mexican, Greek, etc. But nothing wrong with a little exposure to new things! I know this is a tall order as Chicago is a food lovers paradise and all but any help would be appreciated!!

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  1. I almost forgot, I get way too excited about food...I'm also in search of a good French patisserie as I have hard time in my neck of the woods finding a good pain au chocolat. If I could get my paws on one while in Chicago I'd be verrry happy...

    3 Replies
    1. re: ishongree

      >> We're driving so will have a car...so any outstanding places that require a drive wouldn't be out of the question.

      That's helpful information, but so many of the places you'll be visiting are close by, it may not be worth it to drive there - especially if your hotel does not give in/out privileges so you have to pay for parking every time you go somewhere. Just something to consider.

      >> Definetly want to hit up the "best of Chicago"...gotta let them try the pizza - not sure to do Malnati's, Uno, Due or something else? It's been a loooong time and things change, right?

      Some things change, others don't. The best deep-dish places are still Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and the original Uno and Due. I'd go to whichever of these is closest to where you'll be. Uno and Due are right near your hotel and Navy Pier. Lou Malnati's at 8th and State is closest to the Shedd.

      >> Also, Italian beef...where to?

      Portillo's on Ontario is a few blocks from your hotel, and a fine choice for Italian beef, as well as Chicago-style hot dogs, burgers, etc.

      >> I'm really intrigued by Hot Dougs...does it live up to the hype? Easy to find?

      Some people love the food there; others don't. I'm not impressed by it. I also hate having to take a long time to travel somewhere inconvenient, and then take another long time waiting in line (80 minutes last time I was there, at an off hour). If you understand the few things needed for getting around in Chicago, like the street numbering system and where the expressways go, everything's easy to find, but it's not particularly close or convenient to much. But if you've heard the hype and you want to go and you don't mind the time it will take out of your brief trip to travel there and to wait in line, then by all means try it. If you don't go, don't worry about it.

      >> We (hubs and I) love all kinds of ethnic foods...definetly not afraid of spice and heat. Kid is a little more into the basics - Italian, Mexican, Greek, etc. But nothing wrong with a little exposure to new things! I know this is a tall order as Chicago is a food lovers paradise and all but any help would be appreciated!!

      Mexican is a great choice. One thing Chicago offers that other big cities in the U.S. don't is creative provincial Mexican food. (You'll have to check out the menus on restaurant websites to understand what it is and how it differs from the ordinary enchiladas and stuff.) If you don't mind eating early, you can go to Frontera Grill (a few blocks from your hotel) about 15-20 minutes before they open the doors, and you'll be seated immediately when they do. Otherwise you're looking at long waits (45-60+ minutes for lunch, twice that for dinner). Otherwise, you could take a cab to Mexique (about two miles west of your hotel) or drive to Mundial Cocina Mestiza (about five miles southwest). All these places are very casual and quite inexpensive.

      Other casual inexpensive places with great food near your hotel include Sable for contemporary American, Coco Pazzo Cafe for Italian, Quartino for Italian small plates, and Cafe Iberico for tapas.

      The best Greek places are in Greek Town, about a mile and a half southwest of your hotel. (That's one of those things that don't change.) For recommendations, see www.chow.com/topics/119233

      It's worth going the 2-3 miles from your hotel to either location of Bongo Room to experience their unusual pancake creations for breakfast, like the pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. The one on Wabash is pretty near the Shedd. A standard portion size is three GIGANTIC pancakes, but you can get one-third or two-thirds portion sizes at reduced prices, which are good for children and lets adults try more things.

      All of these restaurants except Cafe Iberico and Bongo Room accept reservations, either over the phone or on Opentable.com (Frontera Grill is another exception; they only accept a handful of reservations, and keep most of the dining room available for walk-in traffic, which is why they have long waits.) Sometimes when Opentable says they're full, you can still get a reservation over the phone. I strongly recommend making reservations in advance, even for a trip so soon. If you get one you can walk right in, and if you can't it will save you the disappointment and trouble of going somewhere to find that they're full.

      >> I'm also in search of a good French patisserie as I have hard time in my neck of the woods finding a good pain au chocolat. If I could get my paws on one while in Chicago I'd be verrry happy...

      From your hotel, you can walk about 1/2 mile east to Fox & Obel. It's our premier gourmet food store, with the best of everything: meats, fish, prepared foods, sandwiches, salads, etc. In the rear is a cafe where you can get anything from a cup of coffee to a complete meal prepared to order. Their bakery is one of the best in the city, with excellent croissants, yummy rich cinnamon swirl rolls, brioche (rolls and loaf), and lots more.

      For an authentic French bakery with outstanding croissants (also great entremets - individual-sized mousse cakes), I recommend going to Vanille Patisserie. You can go to their booth at the French Market, about a mile southwest of your hotel in the commuter train station just west of the Loop, and enjoy them along with other great stuff including Pastoral for cheese and sandwiches, and Canady for artisanal chocolates. If you are driving anyway, they offer free validated parking. You could also drive to their primary location on Clybourn; if you do, there's another excellent authentic French bakery a few blocks east of there called Floriole.

      Also don't miss Garrett Popcorn. They have great caramel popcorn (with or without cashews or pecans), cheese popcorn, or a mix of the two. They a location on Michigan Avenue right near your hotel. There's also one on Navy Pier.

      The locations of all these places are shown on the map on the right of this page, and you can click on the links to their listings where you'll find links to their websites.

      Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

      -----
      Pizzeria Due
      619 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

      Pizzeria Uno
      29 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611

      Fox & Obel Food Market
      401 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611

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

      Mundial Cocina Mestiza
      1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

      Cafe Iberico
      737 N Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60654

      Bongo Room
      1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

      Bongo Room
      1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

      Frontera Grill
      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

      Quartino
      626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

      Portillo's
      100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654

      Garrett Popcorn
      625 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

      Lou Malnati's Pizzeria (South Loop
      )805 S State St, Chicago, IL 60605

      Coco Pazzo Cafe
      636 N St Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

      Mexique
      1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

      Sable Kitchen & Bar
      505 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

      French Market
      131 North Clinton, Chicago, IL 60661

      Vanille Patisserie
      2229 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

      Floriole Cafe and Bakery
      1220 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Wow...excellent recs. I know that Bongo Room is definetly getting a visit after checking out their site. Vanille Patisserie...thank you thank you. I feel like a junky in search of that "first high" after returning from France...MI doesn't exactly offer much in the line but Vanille looks pretty promising! REALLY looking forward to going to the French Market now, I've never been! Provincial Mexican is a must have for sure...I have wanted to try Frontera or something similar...thanks for the tip on that as well. I just wasn't sure if it was a place to bring a kid or not. It's also good to have a couple of different options if Frontera doesn't pan out. All of the other places you mentioned...oye I almost want to extend my trip now to get a taste of everything! As for Greek...I remember Santorini being pretty decent. Is Chicago's Greek Town easy to just walk through and decide on a restaurant once you're there or is it a pretty busy/make reservations type area? It seems we just sort of stumbled on Santorini...I could be mistaken with a different Greek Town though.

        -----
        Bongo Room
        1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

        Santorini's Restaurant
        138 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661

        French Market
        131 North Clinton, Chicago, IL 60661

        1. re: ishongree

          >> Vanille Patisserie...thank you thank you. I feel like a junky in search of that "first high" after returning from France...MI doesn't exactly offer much in the line but Vanille looks pretty promising!

          Yes, it's very authentic. I believe the couple who run it are from France. In addition to the croissants and entremets, they also have excellent French macaroons. (Note that the "French Market" is not all French food; in fact, Vanille is the only booth there whose food is French. But it is owned by a company in France who also owns similar markets in Europe.)

          >> I have wanted to try Frontera or something similar...thanks for the tip on that as well. I just wasn't sure if it was a place to bring a kid or not.

          You can bring a child to any of the places I've mentioned here. Even Sable, which offers artisanal cocktails, but also has terrific food and is a hotel restaurant, so it's very family-friendly.

          >> As for Greek...I remember Santorini being pretty decent. Is Chicago's Greek Town easy to just walk through and decide on a restaurant once you're there or is it a pretty busy/make reservations type area? It seems we just sort of stumbled on Santorini...I could be mistaken with a different Greek Town though.

          No, that's a good description of our Greek Town so that's probably what you're thinking of. All the restaurants in Greek Town are on or just off a stretch of Halsted Street that's about three blocks long. And many of them are large restaurants. It's easy to go there without reservations, read the menus outside the places, and pick one. Santorini is still there. The only two places that are gone are Venus, which recently closed, and Costas, which burned down about a year ago.

    2. Nsxtasy is right that the wait at Hot Doug's can be lengthy and with a young child it might be a bit much. If you do go, it's not that hard to find and if you've got a smartphone with a map app, it's easy. Also keep in mind that if you do go, it will be time consuming b/w getting there, waiting, eating and then getting to whatever you're doing next. If your trying to fit in a bunch of stuff, it might not be the best option. One last bit of advice, don't succumb to the Ferris Bueller syndrome and try to fit in a weeks worth of stuff each day!

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

      3 Replies
      1. re: hoppy2468

        Haha...Ferris Bueller syndrome! Nah we've got it spread out fairly well I think...we don't do Griswald vacations. Thanks both of you for the bit on Hot Doug's...I'd hate to waste a bunch of time on a dog when I could be dragging my family through a museum at warp speed. I just don't want to end up eating mcfood during my time in Chicago. When I go to a city, I like to eat something that's unique to the area. Anything good near the MSI for a quick lunch or would our best bet just get a good breakfast do the museum and have a good dinner after? (We'll be spending a whole day there, I'm the food nerd and they're the science nerds.)

        1. re: ishongree

          >> Anything good near the MSI for a quick lunch or would our best bet just get a good breakfast do the museum and have a good dinner after?

          You could do either. For example, you could do the Bongo Room in the South Loop on the way to the museum. If you want to do lunch near the museum, I've heard that La Petite Folie is a good place (open for lunch Tues-Fri). Otherwise you could check the recommendations in these topics:

          What's Good To Eat Near The Museum of Science & Industry - www.chow.com/topics/724417
          Near the University of Chicago - www.chow.com/topics/658548

          -----
          La Petite Folie
          1504 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615

          1. re: ishongree

            Sadly, Hyde Park doesn't have that many restaurants that I would consider destination-worthy (unless there's really been a sea change in the past couple of years). Just West of the MSI is Cafe Medici -- there are much better bakeries in the city, but if you want a quick snack after the museum, you could do much worse. They have a full-service, sit down restaurant, as well, of which I have many fond memories -- mostly from nostalgia, though, rather than because the food was great (it's not bad but, again, not really destination-worthy).

            Located in the Hyde Park Arts Center, Istria Cafe does great sandwiches and pastries - better than the Med, but possibly not as convenient. I always enjoyed their gelato, too.

            http://www.istriacafe.com/about_istri...
            http://www.medici57.com/

        2. If you are going to be around Millenium Park, I would recommend the Pizano's on Madison/Michigan. I've been there probably more than it is good for me in the past years and always have had a consistently good pizza. I would go after a morning/afternoon spent at the Museum Campus (go to the Shedd FIRST thing in the morning or else the lines get crazy long, then the Field Museum and then stroll down the lakefront path to work up some hunger and you'll end up in Millenium Park) and have a late lunch/early dinner. The place will be active but not the long waits if you went during the lunch or dinner rush.

          I really loved Hot Dougs but since you have a child and a limited time frame, it really isn't worth it this trip. I totally second Garret's popcorn and you should get that for the road trip home. Bring napkins!

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