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Aug 16, 2011 11:01 PM

First time in Chicago in October...Suggestions are welcomed!!

Just booked 4 nights to attend Bears vs Vickings game with husband- I'm just excited to eat...he's here for football and to eat!!

We are in our mid 30's, leaving the 3 kids at home in Los Angeles area. Just me and the husband.

Staying at the River Hotel, East Wacker Drive. No rental car. (I know but it was a package deal)
I know this doesn't pertain to food, but what is the weather like in mid October? It might affect walking, I suppose, to destinations.

We are very casual people, do not like to dress up ( we will be in jeans) love LOVE to have drinks and eat too.
Looking for places in the vicinity, easily accessible by foot or short taxi ride. Looking for casual, kick back type places-
1. Irish pub
2. Places to have drinks and listen to music (other than the Irish Pub)
3. Late night drinks/snacks (no clubs please; we are leaving L.A. for a reason!! age appropriate for us mid-30's married people ;))
3. Pizza
4. Good Meat (Prime pref)
5. Breakfast? If we make it!! LOL ( I love breakfast, just don't know if we'll be waking up that early, but just in case to have all bases covered.)
6. Anything that is just worth going to!! We like all types of food or interesting places...
7. What is Italian Beef that I keep reading about in the blogs? hummmm...sounds interesting.

Thank you in advance. Everyone seems so informed... off to reading more on this Chicago Board

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  1. >> Staying at the River Hotel, East Wacker Drive. No rental car. (I know but it was a package deal)

    You don't need a car when staying in or near downtown Chicago. A lot of places are within walking distance, as you'll see below. You can catch shuttle buses to Soldier Field. And we have excellent public transit, including buses for short hops, a subway system to get to outlying neighborhoods, and commuter trains to get to most suburbs.

    >> I know this doesn't pertain to food, but what is the weather like in mid October? It might affect walking, I suppose, to destinations.

    Very pleasant! Average high 64, average low 46. It can rain but it's not likely on any given day. (We don't really have dry months and wet months, but October tends to be slightly drier than other months.)

    >> We are very casual people, do not like to dress up ( we will be in jeans) love LOVE to have drinks and eat too.

    Go to Sable. You'll love it. It's a five-minute walk from your hotel. They serve outstanding contemporary American food, with many dishes available in half portions so you can try a lot of things. (I love the sweet corn creme brulee, a savory riff on the classic dessert.) They also have amazing artisanal cocktails.

    Other places you might like that are a five-minute walk away include Quartino, which specializes in Italian small plates; Bin 36, a wine bar; and Pops for Champagne, also a wine bar. The Wit Hotel is a block or two from your hotel and features Cibo Matto, which is an excellent contemporary Italian restaurant, and the Roof, a rooftop bar.

    >> 3. Pizza

    Deep-dish is our specialty. The original Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due are a five-minute walk from your hotel. Unlike their dreadful corporate clones, they still use the original recipe at those two locations and it's still excellent.

    >> 4. Good Meat (Prime pref)

    David Burke's Primehouse is perhaps our best steakhouse and is a five-minute walk from your hotel.

    >> 5. Breakfast? If we make it!! LOL ( I love breakfast, just don't know if we'll be waking up that early, but just in case to have all bases covered.)

    A block from your hotel is South Water Kitchen. 3-4 blocks walk will take you to Heaven on Seven, a cajun/creole restaurant whose Wabash location is on the seventh floor of a downtown office building. A ten-minute walk will take you to LB Bistro, where a two-time World's Best Pastry Chef winner is running the restaurant inside the Sheraton, and Fox & Obel. Fox & Obel is our premier gourmet food store, with the best of everything. Their baked goods are fantastic, including their rich cinnamon swirl rolls, brioche, croissants, etc. In the rear they have a cafe where you can order anything from a cup of coffee to a complete meal, cooked to order.

    If you're interested in one of our more unusual breakfast specialty restaurants - analagous to the Griddle Cafe in L.A. - hop on a bus going down Michigan Avenue and take it 1.5 miles to Roosevelt Road (12th Street) and walk one block west, where you'll find Bongo Room. They have unusual pancake creations such as pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. The standard portion size is three GIGANTIC pancakes; you can also order one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at a reduced price, which lets you try multiple dishes.

    >> 6. Anything that is just worth going to!! We like all types of food or interesting places...

    We have some great creative provincial Mexican restaurants. I know L.A. has a few too, like Guelaguetza and Moles de Tia, but ours are equally good. I recommend making a reservation at Topolobampo for lunch or dinner; do it NOW as they fill up well in advance, especially for dinner. It's a ten-minute walk from your hotel, closed Sundays and Mondays.

    >> 7. What is Italian Beef that I keep reading about in the blogs? hummmm...sounds interesting.

    It's a sandwich served hot with lots of au jus. You can read more about it at From your hotel, you can walk 10-12 minutes to Portillo's, which has good ones, as well as Chicago-style hot dogs.

    I've created the links to the listings in the Chowhound restaurant database so you can see all of these places on the map to your right, and the listings have links to the restaurants' own websites where you can see menus, etc.

    I recommend making reservations in advance (the sooner the better) at places you'd like to go; if your plans change later, you can always change/cancel them. Most of our nicer places accept reservations on as well as over the phone; sometimes you can find an opening over the phone when Opentable doesn't display any.

    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 -

    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? -

    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

    Bongo Room
    1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

    David Burke's Primehouse
    616 N Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611

    626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

    445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

    100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654

    Bin 36
    339 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60610

    South Water Kitchen
    225 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL 60601

    Heaven on Seven
    111 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60602

    Cibo Matto
    201 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601

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

    Pops for Champagne
    601 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654

    LB Bistro
    301 E North Water St, Chicago, IL 60611

    8 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      ">> 7. What is Italian Beef that I keep reading about in the blogs? hummmm...sounds interesting.

      It's a sandwich served hot with lots of au jus. "

      For LA-ers, it's an Italianized French dip (different roll, different spices - otherwise same idea).

      1. re: ferret

        And as an FYI, depending on where in the LA area the OP lives, there's a Portillo's outpost in Buena Park.

      2. re: nsxtasy

        Thank you for your post. Doing a lot of research ( so much fun!) we have come to a few conclusions...David Burke's for the dry aging experience. Based only on that feature- for my husband's sake. It is very intriguing to us as our only prime steak experience here in southern ca is Flemming's (chain) and LG's ( also a chain, we go to when in Palm Springs) we live about 45 min. outside of L.A., so our choices are pretty slim. I am looking forward to the asiago truffle fries and a glass of cab and all my husband has to do is pick the "days" for his steak.
        Totally excited to hit up Sable. Where has this place been all my life???!! The cocktails sound amazing...I will be there for a few hours sipping away... and I will be stopping by the F&O food market because I am always in the mood for a pastry. The only thing I am concerned about is the pizza uno/duo- it seems so mainstream. From a traveler's perspective it seems that we are being steered into another pizza hut. I suppose we have to trust that they are the original. Thanks again! Looking forward to the experience in Chicago.

        1. re: melcooks

          There is a horrendous chain and a frozen pizza being marketed under the UNO name. It shares nothing but the name of the original Uno (originating here in the 1940s) pizza joint in Chicago and it's sister restaurant, Due, less than a block away.

          Unos and Dues use the original recipe for making legendary Chicago-style deep dish pizza. This is no chain. It's unique and the real deal.

          Alternately, similar recipe pizzas are available in Chicago at Pizanos and Lou Malnoti (a chain, but consistent in quality). There is a family relationship between the Uno/Due group, Pizanos and Malnoti, so any one of them will provide an authentic and delicious deep dish pizza. [I happen to be a lifelong fan of Uno and Due because they really are the original, even in location.]

          1. re: chicgail

            Thank you for expanding on the uno/due mystery ( from my perspective) It is much clearer now. My husband was worried... there's a pizza uno somewhere in south central L.A. and there was some concerns that they might be connected. For me, it is a must to have "chicago style" pizza, since I am here. But, in reality, pizza is so complex, that it really is in the eye (or mouth) of the beholder. Honestly, I live in a suburb area 45 min outside of L.A. (I don't care to go into the city, for anything) but we live in the mecca of fast food, and commercialized food chain restaurants- southern california. Authentic? Original? Historical? Interesting? What? What does that mean? Rarely...a few mexican restaurants. That's why I am on my lifelong journey to be an amazing home chef to my family. At least I can try to bring a little variety to my husband and children. I am from Montreal-originally so I have experienced awesome food. But I am so envious of your city... from what I have seen at least from the culinary perspective.

            1. re: melcooks

              Delighted to be able to clear that up and share the experience to you. I was introduced to Uno/Due pizza as a child. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted before that was called pizza. Deep dish pizza may be the first and most lasting example of food that has made Chicago a food mecca. I was visiting another city back east when I excitedly tried one of UNO chains - only to be horrified by the drek I was served there.

              Let us know if you have any other questions or if we can point you in any other directions.

          2. re: melcooks

            If you're at all into cocktails check out The Aviary.

            Sable is excellent, too, but more "traditional" classic cocktails. I'd also recommend the Violet Hour (some of the bartenders at Sable at ex-VH).

            Other options are The Whistler, The Drawing Room, Maude's Liquor Bar.

            If you're curious about the Uno/Due/Malnati's vs Uno Chicago Grill relationship:

            The Drawing Room
            937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

            Violet Hour
            1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

        2. Michael Jordan's Steakhouse opens this month so if your into sports you might want to consider it as well as Ditka's. All the Chicago steakhouses are fairly equal.

          6 Replies
          1. re: hoppy2468

            >> All the Chicago steakhouses are fairly equal.

            I don't consider the Chicago steakhouses to be equal at all. At some of them, the steaks are great; at others, nothing special. For example, the steaks at David Burke's are dry aged and available with different aging durations, unlike most other steakhouses. Some steakhouses have greater variety on the menu for those not interested in steaks. Also, the atmosphere differs from one to another; some are "old school" (e.g. Gene and Georgetti's), some are like men's clubs (Gibson's), and some are more contemporary (Burke's).

            1. re: nsxtasy

              And to expand on this slightly, most steakhouses source beef from Allen Brothers (which is a great purveyor, but it also means that most steakhouses are cooking the same product) -- David Burke's Primehouse owns a bull and all of their beef comes from cattle sired by this bull.

              Whether or not that difference is important or worthwhile (or tasty) notwithstanding, it is one reason Primehouse sets itself apart from other steakhouses in the city.

              David Burke's Primehouse
              616 N Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611

              1. re: danimalarkey

                Any views on this place called N9NE Steakhouse on West Randolph ( that was referred to by an OP on another thread, and which seems to be some sort of "scene" currently - including visits by Barack Obama, it seems? (Appears to be a Las Vegas transplant...razzle-dazzle, that sort of stuff?


                N9NE Steakhouse
                440 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60606

                1. re: danimalarkey

                  Totally agree...this was another factor in our decision to go to Burke's. It's all about the meat, especially when paying big bucks for one piece of steak. Attention to detail. Why not? Why not have a "complete" experience? From others' reviews, the meal could go either way...we just want to try it for ourselves and we'll see if the details in the aging and the raising of his bull set this steak house apart! Seeking for the foodie high!!

                2. re: nsxtasy

                  True. I was speaking in the broadest of terms, generally that you're not going to get a bad meal wherever you go. The only place I would steer(pun intended) someone away from is Gene and Georgetti's which I just hated. It really was mediocre and no customer should be treated by the staff like they tend to do unless you're the Mayor, an Alderman or John Kass.

                3. re: hoppy2468

                  Not sure that "sports" is the theme. The MJ Steakhouse in NY is on the balcony of Grand Central Station and relies on that ambience. No sports memorabilia or theme in existence.
                  Last time I ate there was more than 10 years ago, but it was very good and will be a nice alternative to the new wave of way too over the top places.

                  I also agree with nsxtasy, not all places are created equal.

                  Grand Central
                  950 W Wrightwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

                4. I would go to the Clark Street Ale House for good beer (I wouldn't exactly call it an irish pub though but it has that feel). The Bongo Room is great for breakfast. I've had good luck with the Purple Pig for nighttime snacking and drinks, but they would be a good choice for dinner as well. Regarding pizza, since I know the deep dish suggestions are in good hands, I would check out Piece Pizza (take the blue line, not too far) in Wicker Park. Great New Haven style pizza in my opinion, but more importantly they are also a brewery that makes great beers.

                  Purple Pig
                  500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Shaggy

                    Sounds great... I really would like to try the Purple Pig...I would really like to try the pork belly- I keep ready about this item on several different menus in the city. Pork belly is not something that is served up here where I live!

                    1. re: melcooks

                      A few good things to know about Purple Pig. One, they don't accept reservations, and waiting times at prime dinner times can be two hours or more. Two, they are also open for lunch, and serve the same menu all day long. So you can avoid those long waits, without any less of an experience, by going there for lunch or mid-afternoon, or else late in the evening (the kitchen is open till midnight during the week, 1 on weekends; waits tend to disappear after 10 or so).

                      Purple Pig
                      500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                  2. Emerald Loop is near your hotel and it's a great pub. Food is really good. Can't say I have noticed the crowd (I live in NY so I've only been to Emerald a few times and I'm almost twice your age) but the place is always hopping.

                    Emerald Loop
                    216 N. Wabash

                    Emerald Loop
                    35 E Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601

                    1. For something Irish, consider The Gage. Good food with updated versions of English pub classics. Theif scotch egg is killer. It's also a decent place to hang out at the bar and ordering off their small plates/snacks menu.

                      In River North, there's a bar across the street from the already mentioned Clark St. Ale House called Celtic Crossing. It's pretty traditional-feeling (or authentic, or however you want to word it) and they bring in live music on Fridays and Saturdays (schedule here:

                      The House of Blues has a smaller stage in addition to their main stage, better suited, I think, to hanging out and having some drinks. Their schedule is here: Fair warning if you try some of the food here - I don't think you'll be impressed.

                      One of the city's better cocktail bars is The Drawing Room, in the Gold Coast. This is kind of an oasis in the Gold Coast where you can get seriously great cocktails. I also want to mention Sable again since they do amazing cocktails, as well (I'm personally less enamored with the food, but that's just me).

                      The Purple Pig is open pretty late and would work well for a few glasses of wine and some small plates. The food is Mediterranean-inspired and certainly picks up the 'nose-to-tail' mantra that's becoming increasingly popular. Their slogan is Cheese, Swine and Wine for a good reason. It's often crowded, though, and even late at night, you might wind up with a wait. They do not accept reservations.

                      I'm a big a fan of the Publican, just to the West of your hotel. It's a European, brasserie/beerhall with a focus on pork, shellfish and beer (they operate under the mantra, "Pork, Oysters and Beer"). Very creative taplist with some rarely seen kegs compliment the seasonal menu. Lots of meat on the menu, though much of it pork-based. The Publican is often mobbed, but they do accept reservations. Some people find the communal tables and lack of sound-proofing more trouble than they're worth - I've never felt that the noise and seating take away from the food. Your mileage may vary, of course.

                      The Drawing Room
                      937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

                      Celtic Crossings
                      751 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                      House of Blues
                      329 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60654

                      Purple Pig
                      500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: danimalarkey

                        I'd also add on that Purple Pig is open continuously -- perfect for a mid-day snack. Try weekday lunch to avoid the crowds.

                        Publican is excellent and bookable on OpenTable. They are also open for Sunday brunch.

                        Purple Pig
                        500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                        1. re: danimalarkey

                          Briefly, I should qualify my suggestion for The Gage. It's definitely more restaurant than bar/pub (the actual bar area notwithstanding). If you're looking for something really lowkey/casual, it may not be the best fit, after all. I wouldn't call it upscale, per se, just moreso than what many might think of when they hear 'Irish pub'. Food is very good, though, taking a lot of the 'usual suspects' from pub menus and updating and refining them with nice results. The room is very nice, too.

                          1. re: danimalarkey

                            Yes, the bar area (and spill-over) is LOUD. Really loud. General scene there strikes me as mostly youngish (30's or so - the OP's demographic) yuppie types/"beautiful people" types (or wannabes). Bar area slammed even in mid-afternoon (weekday), very energetic. Just my experience. ::shrug:: (Yes, yes, one could argue a similar scene can also be found in other gastropubs)