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Memorial Day Weekend - need help!

Jeserf Mar 2, 2012 06:40 AM

Planning two nights in Chicago before heading to Milwaukee. This will be our first vacation as a married couple (after our first anniversary, but he was deployed to AFG for most of the year).

I want to have GREAT food planned out because I'm a foodie and he has been 8 months without anything tasty.

We're going to stay at the Hotel Monaco. I'm looking for afternoon snack spots, anything not fancy (I don't want to pack "nice" clothes). He doesn't like mexican/latin food (lame!) and we tend to stick to vegetarian options, though he'll eat fish and I'll eat what sounds good. He LOVES breakfast and is a big snacker. Yes, we'll be getting some Garrett's popcorn :)

We live in DC, and for reference points, we love Rasika, Dino, and I LOVE Birch and Barley/Chuchkey (he's never been).

So far, I know I'd like to hit Bongo Room and Mindy's Hot Chocolate. Last time we were in Chicago, we had the cafe at Spagia and loved it.

Help me make our only vacation as a married couple filled with excellent food!

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  1. q
    Querencia RE: Jeserf Mar 2, 2012 06:16 PM

    For breakfast extravaganzas: 1) Eggsperience, near Ontario & State. 2) Yolk, 747 N Wells or 357 E Ohio. 3) Wildberry, East Randolph about half a block east of Michigan Avenue. All of these are primarily breakfast places with many varieties of eggs, pancakes, waffles etc. 4) Heaven on Seven, Rush & Ohio (Near North) or Wabash behind Macy's (Loop) is a Cajun restaurant with New Orleans breakfast things like Shrimp Creole Omelet and Bananas Foster Pecan Pancakes. Any of these has a website that can show you menu and more detail.

    1. g
      GourmetWednesday RE: Jeserf Mar 2, 2012 08:18 PM

      Arguably our best "mostly vegetarian" restaurant is Green Zebra. They offer dinner or Sunday brunch. It would be a short cab ride from Hotel Monaco.

      1. chicgail RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 05:21 AM

        Some breakfast ideas you might want to consider.
        The Publican has a great and fun brunch. It's one of my absolute faves.

        If you're willing to take a taxi outside the main tourist area to hip Logan Square (about 15 minutes) you should consider Jam or Longman & Eagle. L&E has a well-deserved Michelin star and if the weather is nice (iffy on Memorial Day wknd) they have a nice outdoor area. Jam is about a block away. Both of them take breakfast to a new level.

        The Publican
        837 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

        Longman & Eagle
        2657 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

        Jam Restaurant
        3059 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago, IL

        1. j
          Jeserf RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 12:49 PM

          I should clarify somewhat that we won't be there over the weekend - Thursday and Friday nights is all.

          Publican's menu online looks pretty limited to the quasi-vegetarian (he doesn't meat, but will eat fish, not seafood and I eat SOME meat). Is what's posted online not really true to their offerings (I know that happens)?

          Also, still interested in "snack stops".

          One more thing! Weather permitting, I'd like to walk around Bucktown to see the shops (been to Chicago twice, never been there) - if there is a nice lunch cafe for Friday that would be great.


          6 Replies
          1. re: Jeserf
            chicgail RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 01:45 PM

            Hot Chocolate is a good lunch option in Bucktown. So is Big Star for its amazing tacos and Margaritas if your guy will consider something Mexican. Or there's Francesca's Forno (Italian). Then there's Jerry's, a little south in Wicker Park, with a huge array of killer sandwiches. Feast isn't going to knock anyone's socks off, but it's very good with a big range of choices.

            Hope that helps.

            Hot Chocolate
            1747 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

            Francesca's Forno
            1576 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647

            Feast - Bucktown
            1616 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

            Jerry's Sandwiches
            1938 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622

            Big Star
            1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

            1. re: chicgail
              Jeserf RE: chicgail Mar 3, 2012 02:23 PM

              Thanks! I was going to do Hot Chocolate for dinner -are Friday nights there (neighborhood wise) a good time to walk around (open shops, fun bars?)

              We don't drink really, but we do people watch!

              Any experience with Girl and the Goat? Hubby is a big top chef fan and I thought it'd be fun to go there if it's actually good!

              1. re: Jeserf
                kathryn RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 02:49 PM

                Girl and the Goat is great (one of my husband's favorite Chicago places, he whines if we don't go when we're in town, 3-4 times a year) but they book up pretty quickly.

                I looked on OpenTable just now that I see an 8:45pm table for 2 on Thursday, 5/24.

                I would grab that NOW.

                I've called them months in advance, before, and only gotten a 4:45pm or 10:15pm table.

                Seriously. Grab the table NOW. You can always cancel later.

                And don't miss the shishito peppers with parmesan and miso.

                1. re: Jeserf
                  chicgail RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 03:53 PM

                  Love Girl and the Goat and Kathryn is right: grab it fast but check the menu. It changes but can be a little challenging. Fabulous treatments of veggies. Another Top Chef restaurant he might really like is Dale Levitski's Sprout. Deconstructed classics.

                  1417 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

                  Girl and the Goat
                  809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

              2. re: Jeserf
                kathryn RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 02:55 PM

                Publican's online menu is pretty representative of what they do. Local produce, raw bar/oysters, pork, charcuterie, beer... If one of you doesn't eat meat or shellfish, maybe it is not the best place for you guys.

                1. re: Jeserf
                  danimalarkey RE: Jeserf Mar 5, 2012 08:53 AM

                  In Bucktown/Wicker Park, I really enjoy Birchwood Kitchen (2211 W. North Ave). Great selection of sandwiches and sides with a nice back patio (in case you're here when the weather cooperates). Service is exceptionally friendly, too (I tried to go for brunch once but found the line too long -- one of the servers comped my friend and I piece of banana bread so that we wouldn't starve while heading to another restaurant).

                  But I agree with chicgail about Big Star -- the food is great and the lunch specials they always have sound very interesting (if only my office weren't so far away...). And it probably allows the best people-watching in the neighborhood.

                2. j
                  Jeserf RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 07:11 PM

                  So based on this, I did snag the 845 Thursday reservation at the Girl and the Goat - it MIGHT be a little late for us, but like you said, I can always cancel it.

                  I also made a 7:30 Friday reservation for Hot Chocolate.

                  Any word on weather lunch at Floriole is worth it? It might be out of the way....but it looks good.

                  Thursday - lunch (Floriole? or...?) Dinner - girl/goat
                  Friday - breakfast: bongo room lunch: something light where ever we are dinner: hot chocolate
                  Sat breakfast - someplace quick near hotel Monaco (or Union Station, where we'll grab the train to Milwaukee)

                  feel free to add!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Jeserf
                    kathryn RE: Jeserf Mar 3, 2012 07:34 PM

                    Hotel Monaco is a ten minute walk to Xoco. Mexican, yes, but their breakfast has churros, French toast, hot chocolate, pastries. Surely your husband will be OK be with this? :)

                    1. re: kathryn
                      Jeserf RE: kathryn Mar 4, 2012 06:19 AM

                      Oh, he'll eat anything! I just feel like I need to find stuff I know he'll love because of his almost 8 months eating horrid things in Afghanistan! Which, to circle back, is proof he'll eat anything :)

                    2. re: Jeserf
                      jbw RE: Jeserf Mar 4, 2012 02:53 PM

                      Like most of us who are getting on in years, the Chicago classic Lou Mitchell's, across the street from Union Station, has its good days and its bad days. You might want to stick to the eggs and omelettes to raise the odds in your favor, and the last time I was there, it reminded me of the good ol' days. Anyway, they get crowded on Saturday mornings, but if you're open to getting there really early (they open at 5:30), you shouldn't have a problem, and there's usually seating at the counter for people in a rush. www.loumitchellsrestaurant.com/

                      1. re: jbw
                        Jeserf RE: jbw Mar 4, 2012 04:46 PM

                        neat! I don't know what time we'll be leaving, but the trip to Milwaukee is so short, we might just live off the crazy dinner and wait until we get there for continue the great food fest :)

                    3. m
                      mrsdebdav RE: Jeserf Mar 4, 2012 05:30 PM

                      Sable Kitchen and Bar is less than a mile from you, at The Hotel Palomar. Coincidentally, Palomar and Monaco are both Kimpton properties. I've stayed at both hotels, among many in Chi, and I'm heading back to Palomar in mid-May, primarily because of Sable. It's chef, Heather Terhune, was also on Top Chef (never saw that show, but if it makes hubby happy to know this, great!). I'm veg and this place is VERY veg friendly, very casual, very small plate/snack oriented. Check the menu:
                      If you do go, please order the deviled eggs. I swear that dish is one of best things I've ever had. Also try the veg sliders. Killer. Corn creme brulee has sometimes been good and sometimes just so so, but last time I was there (January) it was fab.
                      Even if my daughter didn't live in Chi (I live in NY), I would travel for those eggs.
                      Green Zebra is very good, but it is rather remote, and on the dressier side of casual (altho in Chi you can pretty much wear whatever you want in most places).
                      Please thank your husband for his service and I hope you have the most wonderful time in Chicago!

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: mrsdebdav
                        Jeserf RE: mrsdebdav Mar 5, 2012 05:41 AM

                        Thanks, deb! We actually got married at the Hotel Palomar in DC, so we're very familiar! I picked the Monaco but haven't booked yet - do you think the Palomar is a better location? I'm partial to Kimpton's, but if the Palomar is a better location (they aren't far, but a mile can make a difference in some cities!)

                        And yes, Heather was on Top Chef but not sure he'll have caught up on Top Chef Texas by then! We'll definitely check it out, though - I LOVE that at any kimpton, the restaurants are great!

                        I liked the menu at Green Zebra a lot, but I think he'd like Hot Chocolate better (he loooves mac and cheese).

                        Curious as to your opinion on the difference in where we stay!

                        1. re: Jeserf
                          kathryn RE: Jeserf Mar 5, 2012 07:54 AM

                          We have stayed at both the Monaco and Palomar in Chicago; we prefer the Palomar due to Sable's excellent cocktails, and its proximity to the Rick Bayless restaurants, Purple Pig (despite its name, they have excellent vegetable dishes), and Magnificent Mile. It is further from Millenium Park, Art Institute, etc though.

                          The restaurant in the Monaco is kinda blah. Edible but not noteworthy at all, and we had to teach the bartender how to make a negroni. Which would NEVER have happened at Sable. Our bartender pretended he knew how to make a negroni, and then continued to screw up the drink even AFTER receiving directions. How do you screw up a 3 ingredient, equal parts drink? By forgetting one entire ingredient.

                          Depends if your priorities are food/shopping or not, I guess!

                          1. re: kathryn
                            Jeserf RE: kathryn Mar 5, 2012 09:16 AM

                            Definitely food first, then shopping, then tourism - we're looking to relax and try to be married again :)

                            The price difference between the Palomar and Monaco is pretty significant, which is why I'm considering the Monaco. I'd rather be closer to the water, too. Sable looks delicious, but we do have our two dinner reservations.

                            I'll have to explore a map more closely - if we have 8:45 reservations at The Girl and the Goat (for now, anyway), and the following night at Hot Chocolate, I need to figure out where to spend our days. I THOUGHT I wanted to hit Second City, but it's only Friday night and we have to wake up early on Sat to get the train to Milwaukee.

                            Is Sweet Mandy B's worth it? I'd like to bring stuff to my friend in Milwaukee...

                            Also - my husband doesn't drink, but I like a cocktail. I know, how did I marry THE Marine who doesn't eat meat, drink, or curse? It makes life odd, I tell ya! I'll repost when I've figured out some stuff on scheduling.

                            I'm still conflicted about Girl and the Goat just because there are not many choices for main courses - are they accomodating if you have a dietary restriction?

                          2. re: Jeserf
                            mrsdebdav RE: Jeserf Mar 5, 2012 01:32 PM

                            I like Palomar's location better than Monaco. I'm sure that accounts for the price dif. Bear in mind that a mile in a cab can make a LOT of difference, especially in rush hour. Monaco is fine, and I enjoyed my stay there. I just like to be a little further north.
                            As far as Sable, you mentioned afternoon snacks and I think Sable would be perfect for that. You can sit at the bar or at a table and it's really casual. And the drinks are really good.

                            1. re: mrsdebdav
                              Jeserf RE: mrsdebdav Mar 5, 2012 05:28 PM

                              Thanks for the info! I'm still not sure the price difference is worth it (a mile walking is nothing for these DCers!) but we'll see - Sable does look like a very "us" menu.

                              Any input on Girl and the Goat's dietary restriction accommodations?

                              Or Sweet Mandy Bs?

                              1. re: Jeserf
                                mrsdebdav RE: Jeserf Mar 5, 2012 05:48 PM

                                Never went to Sweet Mandy - it's a bakery and that's the last thing I need!
                                A far as G and G, I had res on one of my previous trips and daughter who is veg, vetoed it. She knows me very well. At this point in my life, I'm much happier going to casual, veg friendly places, and Chi has so many. You can check out the menu and prices on menu pages and decide for yourself. http://chicago.menupages.com/restaura...

                                1. re: mrsdebdav
                                  Jeserf RE: mrsdebdav Mar 6, 2012 04:06 AM

                                  yeah, you might be right - the starters look amazing, but the main courses look like we'd struggle - oh, we're an annoying couple with our food preferences! :)

                                  I'll check out menupages for other options - Chicago loooves its meat! But I've read the Jungle!

                                  1. re: Jeserf
                                    camusman RE: Jeserf Mar 6, 2012 07:14 AM

                                    In addition to Green Zebra, another good vegetarian option is Mana Food Bar. It would be especially good for one of your "snacking" afternoons; it also has some interesting drink options.

                                    1. re: camusman
                                      mrsdebdav RE: camusman Mar 6, 2012 02:05 PM

                                      You are not annoying at all in your food choices. Why do you think these blogs exist? It's for crazies like us who live to eat!!
                                      FYI, there are three Native Food Cafes (vegan) in Chicago.
                                      I thought the food was ok; certainly snack-worthy.
                                      You might want to check out Big Bowl, which is not strictly veg but has really nice veg offerings, and interesting drinks, alcoholic and non. I love me some Big Bowl and never miss an opportunity to snack up there. I especially like the one on State and Cedar.
                                      As far as Sable, I've never ordered a main dish/entree there. That's one of the reasons I love the place - I'm far happier with a bunch of small plates. I much prefer to have an assortment of stuff to pick on, and they accommodate that exceedingly well.
                                      Bon voyage!

                                      1. re: mrsdebdav
                                        kathryn RE: mrsdebdav Mar 7, 2012 06:16 AM

                                        We typically use Sable for an appetizer or two, and drinks, before dinner elsewhere, similarly. If you LOVE cocktails, though, I can see having more of a liquid dinner there. Oh, and some bites. :)

                                        (BTW, Chowhound is a message board/online community, not a blog...subtle differences between the two.)

                                2. re: Jeserf
                                  chicgail RE: Jeserf Mar 6, 2012 05:17 PM

                                  We are omnivores and thought that the veggie dishes at GATG were the best we ate. The menu does have "entrees," but it's mostly small plates and IMO perfect for vegetarians.

                                  And I wouldn't worry about The Jungle. I read it, too, but it took place about 100 years ago and those stockyards have long closed. We have our steak joints, but Chicagoans and our restaurants are pretty sophisticated. I can't think of one (even a steakhouse) that can't hold its own with non-meat.

                                  As for Sweet Mandy B's, it's going to be a little out of your way, even in Bucktown, but they do have wonderful cupcakes and a cafe to eat them in. I try to avoid it for that very reason.

                                  And, again, Sable has great cocktails and really good bar food. You could eat dinner there, but you could do much better elsewhere.

                                  Keep asking questions!

                                  1. re: chicgail
                                    Jeserf RE: chicgail Mar 6, 2012 05:21 PM

                                    I actually ended up cancelling our reservation at GATG because 1) it's late - normally that would be fine, but we'll be traveling and coming from a later time zone that day (it'll be like 9:45 for us), and if we want to get up relatively early to sight see, 8:45 is pretty late. 2) It's more my speed of restaurant - he would be fine there, but maybe on our next trip it'll be something we do.

                                    I'm considering Sable. I hope to have a list of all the spots next week to repost for feedback! I need to check out my guide book from our last trip!

                            2. re: mrsdebdav
                              chicgail RE: mrsdebdav Mar 5, 2012 07:37 AM

                              Sable is a great place for creative drinks (the menu has chapters!) and great bar food (yes to the deviled eggs and the veggie slides!), but I wouldn't rush there for a meal when there are so many other good choices in town.

                            3. l
                              lbs RE: Jeserf Mar 6, 2012 02:23 PM

                              You may want to check ouit the French Market for some of your snacking needs. It is in the basement of Oligive Transporation (which - hold the phone - you should go to this before going to Milwaukee because the Amtrack station is adjacent to it). Anyways, the F.M has a whole mess of food options (Pastoral for bread and cheese to Vanille for baked goods).


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: lbs
                                delk RE: lbs Mar 6, 2012 07:26 PM

                                Technically it is on street level. And you catch the Milwaukee Amtrak at Union Station, not Olgive. That said, the French Market does have RAW that has 100% organic raw vegan food.

                                Also, when you get to Milwaukee, their Public Market is a short walk from the train station.

                                1. re: lbs
                                  Jeserf RE: lbs Mar 7, 2012 04:13 AM

                                  Hm...that looks REALLY cool - is it worth it (and somewhat convenient - we're public transportation savvy being DCers) to go a different day? The train we're going to book leaves before 8:30 on Saturday, before the market is open, it seems :(

                                2. j
                                  Jeserf RE: Jeserf Mar 6, 2012 05:36 PM

                                  So what's the deal with The Office? I just read about it - how do we get in for drinks and a sundae?!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Jeserf
                                    kathryn RE: Jeserf Mar 6, 2012 06:13 PM

                                    Make a 6pm reservation for the Aviary & request the Office when you get there. However, Next season ticket holders get first priority and the Office only holds 16 people, including the seats at the bar. So you might not be able to get in at all.

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