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Jan 2, 2012 06:56 PM

Weekend trip.

We are visiting Chicago from Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th. We only have two places set for food, Moto and Hot Doug's. From reading previous blogs and other sites, The Purple Pig will probably be another stop. We are trying to get into Next and would cancel Moto at that point. We would like to find an Asian place with soup dumplings if possible. Belly Shack looks good too. Girl and Goat sounds intersting. Xoco will be a brunch. Any hidden jems that we are missing. We are staying at the Hotel Palomar. We will travel for a great plate of food.
Thanks for the help.
Rick from Texas

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  1. Sounds like you're determined to spend much of your trip waiting hours in lines at places that don't take reservations. There are so many other places, places that are better and where you can make reservations. That way you won't spend your trip waiting around, and can see more of the city. Skip Hot Doug's; it's not worth the long wait or the travel time. The Girl and the Goat is another place where you'll wait a long, long time to be seated, if you don't already have a reservation. As a replacement, I recommend Sable, inside your hotel; the contemporary American cuisine in a "small plates" format is fantastic, and so are the craft cocktails. Make a reservation NOW. If you want to do the Purple Pig, since they don't take reservations, do it for lunch, not dinner. For Asian, Sunda is near your hotel (pan-Asian) and accepts reservations, or you can go to Chinatown (about three miles south). Skip that brunch at Xoco, which is nothing great; if you want a great Mexican brunch, instead consider Mexique or Mundial Cocina Mestiza, both of which take reservations. There are lots more great places, depending on what you're looking for. For example, GT Fish is a good one, with small plates seafood; again, make a reservation NOW. Most of our better restaurants accept reservations free at including Sable, Sunda, Mexique, Mundial, and GT Fish. Have a great time!

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      There are a couple of reasons why I recommend against Xoco for brunch. First, their menu is VERY limited. Also, the items they serve can be found at many restaurants throughout Texas. This is NOT true of our creative provincial Mexican restaurants (including Xoco's siblings, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, as well as Mexique and Mundial Cocina Mestiza), whose brunch and dinner menus are totally unlike the conventional Mexican food found in most cities this side of the border. It's not that Xoco is bad; it isn't, but I find the other options better and far more interesting. But this is your decision to make. I strongly advise you to check out the menus on all of their websites to help you understand the differences in cuisine and what each has to offer, to help you make your decision. You can use the links below to look at the Chowhound listings, which have links to the individual restaurant websites where you can find their menus.

      As a practical matter, the Bayless restaurants (Xoco, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo) are closed Sundays. They serve Saturday brunch at Frontera, but unless you have a reservation or can get there when they open, 90+ minute waits to be seated are typical. Mexique and Mundial Cocina Mestiza are both open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and advance reservations for both are easy to get, either on or over the phone. And even without a reservation, you probably won't have much of a wait at either one.

      The brunch suggestions below by Gonzo and Siun are also good ones. Note that most of them serve brunch only on Sundays, so you might want to consider doing one of those for brunch on Sunday, and Mexique or Mundial on Saturday.

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

      Frontera Grill
      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

      445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

      Perennial Virant
      1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

      1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

      110 W. Illinois St., Chicago, IL 60654

      449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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

      Purple Pig
      500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

      GT Fish and Oyster
      531 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL

      1. re: nsxtasy

        I love how your Sunday links came out! LOL

        1. re: delk

          Yes, the software thinks that Sunday is supposed to link to Sunda... :)

    2. nsxtasy made some great selections. A couple of additional venues to consider outside of the downtown area (and well worth traveling a bit for) are Chris Nugent's new restaurant - goosefoot. goosefoot is in the Lincoln Square neighborhood and features a tasting menu of seasonal cuisine. I found this to be one of my best meals ever (and my wife thought it was her best meal ever). It is new, but receiving rave reviews so far. Also, if you are in town Sunday long enough for brunch, consider North Pond in Lincoln Park. Outstanding food and beautiful, scenic setting in the midst of Lincoln Park overlooking the pond and the Chicago skyline.

      1. Soup dumplings are hard to find in Chicago. Your best bet would be a Chinatown place called Tao Ran Ju (also known as T Tasty House).
        Xoco has its supporters and detractors. I'm a supporter, especially for breakfast.

        1. You've got a great list - well done! If you can't get a table at Next, email Acahtz' The Aviary for a reservation for a drink before your Moto dinner - they're all in the same block and the drinks are fun! And enjoy Moto - I loved my meal there and grinned throughout.

          Count me in the Xoco fan club - and while there are lines, they move things along well and it's a fun place and actually my favorite Bayless.

          Another nice Brunch option is Perennial Virant which is just 10 minutes north of your hotel by bus.Paul Virant's doing great things there. Also great is Dale Levitski's Sprout and, as others have mentioned, Sable in your hotel ... I eat there at least once a month and really enjoy it.

          1. My recommendations will depend somewhat on what you're looking for. Seeing as you're from Texas (and this isn't meant to be disparaging), are you looking primarily for foods & experiences you simply couldn't--or wouldn't likely--find there? Or are you simply looking for excellent versions of any/all types of cuisine?

            If you're looking for novel food types / experiences, you may consider the following:

            - The Violet Hour for craft/specialty cocktails.
            - The Aviary for craft/speciality cocktails.
            - Chinatown for authentic chinese cuiside -- Lao Sze Schuan & "Go 4 Food" are particularly good.
            - Lou Malnati's for authentic Chicago-style Pizza
            - Kuma's Corner for a bizarre but delicious hybrid of burgers & metal music. (I realize you no doubt have had great burgers elsewhere, but the overall experience is unique. Note that they do not accept reservations. I would recommend going either when they open or after 9PM.)
            - Mariscos El Veneno for exceptional mexican seafood--very spicy, in the Nayarat style-in an extremely low-key, informal atmosphere.
            - Chicago Bagel Authority for lunch-time steamed bagel sandwich. These are delicious, and as far as I know are unique to this restaurant.

            This is a wide-ranging list, but hopefully provides a few options you perhaps hadn't considered.

            As for your existing itinerary:

            Moto - Not recommended; many other better options are available at a similar price-point.

            Purple Pig - Good, but hugely crowded. Not worth it in my opinion, but others would probably disagree.

            Girl & the Goat - Also good & hugely crowded. That said, I've brought two groups of out of town guests in the past 12mo, and both called it "one of the best meals they've ever eaten." Their combination of bold flavors, heavy salt/seasoning, small plates, and use of funky/offal-ish cuts of meat has become fairly commonplace in Chicago, so perhaps I've just grown a bit tired of it. Unless you've been travelling to a lot of big cities recently, it will probably be relatively fresh to you. I agree with Nxtasy that Sable is a good alternative if you'd prefer not to brave the line.

            Belly Shack - good for a casual meal, usually not much wait.

            Xoco - Never been.

            Hope this helps! Feel free to respond with any particular questions.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Possumlad

              I will say out of different city posts for help, Chicago has been the most heplful. We are looking for both unique places and food we don't have here in Dallas.
              Kuma is on the list, but not 100%.
              The wife doesn't like mexican food, but likes Blayless and is open to one of his places. I've explained his isn't the Tex-Mex at most places.
              And one good hot dog....we do not have any goods one here.
              We prefer one nice full meal and small plates/bar/app's at others so we can try more places.

              1. re: Bigr72

                >> Kuma is on the list, but not 100%.

                That's another place where you'll wait up to two hours to be seated. Plus the travel time to and from.

                If you want a really great burger, one of the best in Chicago is at Bandera, only a few blocks from your hotel. Between the travel time back and forth and the time you'll spend waiting to be seated at Kuma's, a trip to Bandera will save you as much as three hours over Kuma's. And Bandera's burgers are the best in town, according to the Tribune's burger expert at

                >> The wife doesn't like mexican food, but likes Blayless and is open to one of his places. I've explained his isn't the Tex-Mex at most places.

                Well, Bayless does provincial Mexican food at his restaurants. The menus are indeed not your standard Mexican. Same for the ones at Mexique and Mundial.

                If you want to do one of Bayless's restaurants while you're here, I recommend making a reservation for lunch at Topolobampo. Topo's lunch reservations are easy to make on and aren't too hard to snag (unlike dinner, which books up months in advance, or Frontera, which allows only a handful of reservations). Topo is also priced similar to Frontera at lunchtime, unlike dinner when it is considerably more expensive.

                If you don't have a reservation, I recommend going to Frontera Grill about 15-20 minutes before they open the doors, to avoid a long wait to be seated. Otherwise you're better off going elsewhere if you don't like standing around for 90+ minutes. One other tip - if you eat at the bar at Frontera, you can order off either menu, Frontera's or Topo's. But willingness to sit at the bar won't get you seated any quicker.

                Note that all his restaurants are on vacation through January 9. This doesn't affect the dates of your trip, but it's possible that if you phone for reservations, no one will answer. You can make reservations for Topo on but not for Frontera, which only accepts them by phone.

                >> And one good hot dog....we do not have any goods one here.

                Hot Doug's is not a place for a good hot dog. They specialize in more exotic sausages. For a genuine Chicago-style hot dog, I recommend Portillo's. Their location on Ontario is just a few blocks from your hotel; between the travel time back and forth and the time you'll spend in line at Hot Doug's, a trip to Portillo's will save you roughly three hours over Hot Doug's. (Sound familiar?) And Portillo's serves a better Chicago-style hot dog, too.

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

                100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654

                Bandera Restaurant
                535 N Michigan Ave Ste 208, Chicago, IL 60611

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Nxtasy's correct about Kuma's -- if you go at anywhere near peak time (6-8:30PM on a Friday or Saturday), you should expect to wait a couple hours. If you're interested in the experience--and I would be if I visited--I would treat Kuma's much like Nxtasy suggests you treat Frontera. Go either 15-20 minutes before they open for lunch, or get cocktails/drinks somewhere else and go at 9:30 or 10PM for a late dinner. My personal trips to Kuma's are invariably at ~11:30, when they open, on weekends for a hearty "brunch."

                  I agree with Nxtasy as well about Hot Doug's. If you're looking for interesting/exotic sausages, it may or may not be worth your time. But if you're simply looking for a great Chicago hot dog, look elsewhere. As mentioned, Portillo's is a great option. Wiener's Circle in Lincoln Park is another.

                  As for Bandera: the burgers are great, but the restaurant's certainly not worth a stop on a short weekend trip to Chicago. You'll no doubt find similar overall experiences elsewhere around the country (and in fact Bandera has four other locations, most out West).

                  1. re: Possumlad


                    If you'd like to substitute a local specialty instead of burgers, you haven't yet mentioned our delicious local deep-dish pizza. The original locations of Uno and Due are right near the Palomar, and they still use the original recipe, not the dreadful one at their franchise locations. Lou Malnati's on Wells is a 10-minute walk west, and Pizano's on State is a 10-minute walk north. With Malnati's and Pizano's (but not Uno/Due), you can phone ahead with your pizza order so you don't have to wait 30+ minutes while there for your pizza to bake.