Looking for Litlle Known Food & Fun
Hi I'm interested in finding places that aren’t commonly known about and if it possible, off the beaten path. I’d like to stay away from big-box businesses, and focus on independently owned businesses. in the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs. It can be a great restaurant, place to party, brunch specialty or dessert only. my only criteria is that is not "tourist-ee" I'm a native Chicagoian and want to step out of the box for food and fun!
Wow, breakfast/brunch and desserts - two of my favorites to satisfy my sweet tooth!
For breakfast/brunch specialty places - the places that are open for breakfast all week long (not places that only have brunch on weekends) - here is how I would rank the best ones around Chicagoland, starting with the very best:
1. Walker Brothers (six locations in the north and northwest suburbs)
2. M. Henry (Chicago/Andersonville) and M. Henrietta (Chicago/Edgewater)
3. Bongo Room (Chicago/Wicker Park and Chicago/South Loop)
4. Jam (Chicago/Logan Square - re-opening this coming Monday)
5. Marmalade (Chicago/Lakeview)
6. Southport Grocery (Chicago/Lakeview)
7. Meli Cafe (Chicago/Greek Town and Chicago/River North)
8. Over Easy (Chicago/Lincoln Square)
9. Lula (Chicago/Logan Square)
I've posted detailed reports of breakfast/brunch at most of these places in the big brunch discussion at www.chow.com/topics/364403
I don't know of any restaurants that serve "dessert only" - coffeehouses are the closest, I guess - but there are two places that have the very best dessert experiences. TRU offers their dessert tasting menu. Note that TRU is formal (jackets required) in the main dining room, but you can sit in the bar if you're dressed more casually (figure business casual). Another option for a Friday or Saturday night is the Chocolate Bar in the Lobby (that's the name of the restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel - same hotel as Shanghai Terrace); they have an all-you-can-eat buffet of around 40 different chocolate-based desserts, all in small portion sizes so you can try a lot of them.
Other than those two, I think your best bet is to go to our very best bakeries, the ones that have the best desserts in town. Most of these are either carry-out only, or have very limited seating. Again, here is how I would rank the very best in Chicagoland:
1. Three Tarts Bakery (Northfield)
2. Gourmet Frog (Highwood)
3. Floriole (Chicago/Lincoln Park)
4. Gerhard's (Lake Forest)
5. Vanille Patisserie (Chicago/Lincoln Park)
6. Alliance Bakery (Chicago/Wicker Park
7. Toni Patisserie (Chicago/Loop and Hinsdale)
8. Fox & Obel (Chicago/River East)
9. Swedish Bakery (Chicago/Andersonville)
I've posted detailed reports on most of these in the big pastry discussion at www.chow.com/topics/542316
As for restaurants for dinner - hey, you can't eat ONLY sweet dishes - there are so very many throughout the city and suburbs that do a great job. Many of them are very well known. Some of them are not. If I had to recommend just a few restaurants that are fantastic, relatively inexpensive, and not very well known, my list would include, in no particular order:
Deleece on Southport (Chicago/Lakeview - they just moved down the street to 3747 N. Southport)
Inovasi (Lake Bluff)
Mundial Cocina Mestiza (Chicago/Pilsen)
Han 202 (Chicago/Bridgeport)
So that ought to give you a bunch of places to think about (unless you've been to all these places, of course).
Fox & Obel Food Market
401 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611
Mundial Cocina Mestiza
1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
5348 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
676 North Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611
2537 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647
108 E Superior, Chicago, IL 60611
Southport Grocery & Cafe
3552 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
815 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60202
Meli Cafe & Juice Bar
301 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661
Deleece Restaurant (on Southport
)3747 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657
316 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, IL 60040
1006 S State St, Lockport, IL 60441
5707 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60660
4943 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
108 E Superior, Chicago, IL 60611
28 E. Center Ave, Lake Bluff, IL 60044
605 West 31st Street, Chicago, IL 60616
1969 West Montrose Avenue, Chicago, IL 60613
2229 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Floriole Cafe and Bakery
1220 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
1133 West Granville, Chicago, IL 60660
Meli Cafe & Juice Bar
540 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654
3059 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago, IL
Toni Patisserie & Cafe
65 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
Three Tarts Bakery
301 Happ Rd, Northfield, IL 60093
Gerhard's Elegant European Desserts
720 N Western Ave, Lake Forest, IL 60045
1736 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
You have made my night! Thank you, I've only been to a few places that you mentioned and I've had my eye on only one or two the others. Some many of these are new to me! This list is incredible and I look forward to introducing my friends to something new. Our old haunts are getting.... well old lol! Can't wait to try some and report back! Thank you again!
The breakfast/brunch places I listed above are the ones with the best, most creative food. But I'd like to add one more place, in the category of "little known and fun" - Kappy's, in Morton Grove. It's your basic "Greek diner" but the food is excellent and I love the way George, the owner, treats every customer like a regular (which many of them are). I guess that's why they are always doing such a good business, even though it's a fairly big place. I posted a detailed report at www.chow.com/topics/364403#6681888 and it was just reviewed by Morton Grove cable TV at www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8-776QtyJU
Kappy's Restaurant and Pancake House
7200 Dempster St, Morton Grove, IL 60053
I notice that this is your first post on CH and we would be happy to help you, but can you provide more information?
It's pretty unclear what you are looking for. Say more about the "box" you mention that you want to step out of "for food and fun." Where do you normally go? "The Chicago area and surrounding suburbs" covers enormous real estate. Can you narrow it down a bit?
Are you a "native Chicagoian (sic)" who no longer lives here and is visiting or do you live here?
And what do you mean by "big-box businesses?" Do you mean restaurant chains like McDonalds or Denny's?
Thanks for you reply, to answer your questions in order I "normally" go to (or have been or several occasions to places like Carnivale, LoKal, Over Easy, Ms. Biscuit places that are now becoming to familiar to me and too crowded. I can't narrow it down too much because I'm willing and wanting to go all over Chicago! I will say that unless it FABULOUS I'd like to stay away from the far suburbs (Downers Grove, Aurora etc.) but other than that I'm a foodie willing to travel!
I am a "native Chicagoan" who lives here.
And "big box business" aren't necessarily cheap chains like McDonalds or Denny, but would also inc. Giordano's Pizza (my fav), Gino's East, The Rainforest Cafe, Sushi Samba etc. I'm not saying anything negative about any of these places, just that I'm looking for something different.
I hope this helps you, help me.
4943 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
702 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60661
I don't know if this would qualify as "not commonly known about," or "off the beaten path," but for an independently owned restaurant that doesn't get as much attention as some others on this board and others, I'd highly recommend Saigon Sisters on Lake. It started as a booth in the French Market and branched out to a full-service restaurant. It is owned by two Vietnamese sisters along with their mother.
The food is modern takes on classic Vietnamese cuisine, and everything I've tried has been fantastic. They also have an incredibly talented mixologist/sommelier, that does great wine pairings with the food, and some of the best hand-crafted cocktails I've had in Chicago.
In my opinion this place is extremely underrated.
567 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661
That's great- I really hope you enjoy it. If you like vodka-based cocktails, ask the bartender (he's usually waiting tables as well) to make you an off-menu drink based on flavors you like- he's made me a few amazing drinks with his yuzu and cactus pear purees. He is also really helpful with choosing the best dishes on the menu and wine pairings if you are interested. I'm sorry I don't remember his name, but if you tell them you heard about the great mixologist and want to try his cocktails, they will know who you are looking for. Try the grilled confit octopus if you like seafood, and also the green papaya salad with pork belly and shrimp is awesome.
The restaurant Bdav mentioned sounded really interesting, so I followed the link. As too often happens, the link was bad. I don't know why these non-working links occur. Perhaps a kindly CH fan and computer engineer/ programmer can offer some help to the wonderful CH team.
This is the correct link to Saigon Sisters:
Let's hope this link actually works in CH Land!
And while I'm standing on this soapbox, why do some restaurant links not appear, when they, in fact, exist? I often have to search for a restaurant 's website which, for whatever reason, does not have a link on CH. I'm not a programmer, so I have no insight into this, but I gotta believe an easy solution exists!
The link in Bdav1818 works correctly. It is an auto-inserted link that goes to our CHOW Place pages. On those pages, you can include the URL, hours of operation or any other info you'd like to add about a restaurant. If you choose "This is a review of a specific restaurant" on a post, it will also include your review in the review section on the CHOW Place page.
Head on over to the Site Talk board and post a new topic if you've got other questions... the Chowhound Engineering Team monitors that board and can respond if there are problems with the site's technology.
>> why do some restaurant links not appear, when they, in fact, exist? I often have to search for a restaurant 's website which, for whatever reason, does not have a link on CH. I'm not a programmer, so I have no insight into this, but I gotta believe an easy solution exists!
There are several possible situations when a link doesn't get auto-inserted as described by the Chowhound Team, and there are things you can do to manually insert the links, but only within the two-hour window when you can edit a post. (It is no accident that all the places I mentioned in my posts here have links to entries in the Chowhound restaurant database.)
Basically, there are two possible situations: either it is in the Chowhound database but an autolink is not being created, or the restaurant isn't in the Chowhound database so no autolink is possible. You can search the Chowhound database for a restaurant by clicking on RESTAURANTS in the very upper righthand corner of any Chowhound page (including this one) and filling in a name and location to run a search to see if it's there.
There are several reasons why a restaurant can be in the Chowhound database, without a link being created. One is when you don't mention the full name of the restaurant; for example, you can mention Fox & Obel, but it won't create a link unless you mention the full name in the database, Fox & Obel Food Market. Similarly, it won't recognize it if you don't type it and spell it exactly the way it appears in the database. Another instance is when there are several entries for that name; for example, you can mention Gibsons Steakhouse, but there are three locations, and it won't create a link automatically.
If the restaurant for which you want to create a link is in the database but an autolink isn't created, you can then create one manually. To do this, you have to edit your post, which means you must still be within two hours of creating it. Right after you create your post, at the bottom right of the post it says "Permalink | Edit | Thanks for posting!". You can't add a manual link yet, due to a glitch in the Chowhound software (which I reported as #1 in www.chow.com/topics/804726#6790423 ). You need to refresh the topic in your browser first. When you do, it then says "Permalink | Report | Edit | Reply" on the bottom right. At this point, you can edit your post to add a link to the restaurant in the restaurant database. When you edit your post, underneath it it says, "Type the name of the restaurant or bar you wish to add". Here, you can start typing the name of the restaurant for which you want to add a manual link. It will then offer a list of up to ten possible choices. Click on the one for which you want to create the link, and then save your post; it should show it as a link underneath your post, as well as in the list to the right after you refresh the topic.
If the restaurant for which you want to create a link isn't in the Chowhound database, you can add it to the database. When you search, if you only get a few results, it usually says "Don't see the restaurant you are looking for? Add a Restaurant or Bar". You can then click on "Add a Restaurant or Bar" to create the restaurant. If you get a lot of results, it may not say that; re-run the search more narrowly (such as with a particular zip code rather than the name of a big city). Once you've added the restaurant to the database, you can then edit the entry to add information like phone number, website address, etc. It takes a little while - as little as a few minutes, sometimes up to 20-30 minutes - for the new entry to propagate to the database so that you can create a link in your post. Then you can edit your post as noted above to add the link to the restaurant.
For additional explanation of some of the quirks and workarounds when creating links to restaurants in the Chowhound database, see this discussion:
Linking to Restaurant Listings - Problems and Workarounds - www.chow.com/topics/804726
None of that was the issue- the link I posted was correct and working when mrsdebdav posted, but it seems like Saigon Sisters' website was actually just down at the time. They are now up and running with a brand new website! Sorry for the confusion- hope everyone can check out the site now.
567 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661