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Montreal foodie visiting for Easter - breakfast/lunch/wine shop/EL Ideas recommendations needed

Will be visiting this weekend. So far I have booked:
G&T Oyster for lunch, Publican for dinner, EL Ideas for dinner.

Still looking for breakfast/brunch/lunch options. Deep dish pizza seems obligatory. Any good bakeries in River North around our hotel (State/Illinois)?

EL Ideas is BYOB. Where can I pick up a couple of decent bottles of wine (preferably around our hotel)? Also any tips on getting there? We have the 2nd service at 9:30pm. Public transport (seems a bit of walking is involved, not sure how sketchy the area is)? They offer a town car service for $30. Would taking a cab on our own be a better idea?

Also most places seem closed for Easter. So far I have found Vera that is open. Menu looks great and the staff were super friendly on the phone. Any other ideas?

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  1. I think Xoco is great for breakfast, though they are closed on Sundays. Grahamwich, just to the north, might be worth a stop, too.

    Fox & Obel is an upscale grocery store and has a really strong bakery section. It's located about a half mile from your hotel.

    There's a cheese/gourmet foods shop about a half mile from your hotel called Pastoral -- it's not the largest selection of wines, but the wines are all well chosen. I've often gone in and told them what menu I had in mind and how much I wanted to spend and they have always found a couple of options that turned out great. To the west of your hotel is a store called Binny's -- Chicago's local chain of large alcohol retailers. Much larger selection than Pastoral - and probably better prices - but I always find the service lacking. But if you know what you want to buy, that may not be as much of a concern for you.

    Does the $30 fee from EL cover both legs of the trip? If so, then I say go for it. And even if not, actually, a cab wouldn't be that expensive but they may balk at going to somewhere so out of the way (to say nothing of not wanting to come out and pick you up after dinner).

    1. El Ideas is an awesome venue, but is in an out of the way location and the surrounding area is a tad sketchy. As such I do not advise taking public transportation there as a bit of a walk is involved and doing this at night for an out-of-towner would not be advisable. I recommend you take a cab there and do their town car service back. The reason they offer the town car service is they have a hard time getting taxis to pick up from their area. If you are able to get a cab back to the hotel you'd probably save $15, but it might be a hassle.

      For Easter are you looking for brunch, dinner or both?

      1. El Ideas is off of one of the diagonal streets (Ogden) that slice through the Chicago grid. Western is 2400 west, I live near 1500 west Ogden. Every so often, I get off of the L at Clinton to hit Jewel (grocery store). If I'm lazy, I take a cab home. It is about $6.50 US. I give the driver a ten, because I think driving a cab is a rough job. So, my cab ride is about a third of the way that you would be taking. Getting a cab to is easy, getting a cab fro may be tough unless the restaurant calls one for you. I'd go with the town car, you are going to have an excellent meal, let somebody deal with getting there and back.

        I agree that the Binny's (213 West Grand) is probably your best bet for wine and Fox & Obel, although their baker got fired a couple months ago.

        For Vera, take either the Green or Pink line to Ashland, it's a short walk.

        1. 2nd Xoco for breakfast on Saturday. Grahamwich also recently started carrying Bleeding Heart Bakery goods. Additionally, Doughnut Vault is open on Saturdays (but not Sundays) if you can stand the line.

          For Saturday brunch, try Frontera Grill. For lunch on Saturday or Sunday, try Purple Pig.

          For pizza nearby, I think this board's favorite in River North is probably Lou Malnati's.

          1. Thanks for your feedback and tips. Dinner at Vera is not confirmed yet as they do not take reservations. So yes any other lunch and dinner options on Easter are appreciated.

            1. For what it's worth, we had a pretty crappy experience with the town car service after a second seating at EL Ideas. It had to be called after our meal, and we ended up waiting a good 15 minutes before it arrived. Furthermore, the driver was in his first week on the job and had no idea where he was going. The whole time, I wished that I had simply called a cab!

              Since you're going for the second seating, I'd recommend calling a cab at some point after dessert. The staff seemed to be pretty lax about forcing people out the door, so you might as well save some yourself the hassle and about $15.

              As for wine shops, I recently started visiting Perman Wine on Washington Ave. It's probably not within walking distance of your hotel, but, IMHO, it's well worth the trouble. It's a tiny little wine shop run by a dude who is incredibly knowledgeable about vino. He hand selects every single wine that he stocks (mostly interesting stuff you can't find elsewhere in the city) and is very familiar with the BYOBs in Chicago. Tell him where you're going, what your budget is, and let him guide you through your options. Enjoy your trip!

              4 Replies
              1. re: aburkavage

                Have you heard of people being successful with this? My understanding is that the reason Chef Foss arranged for the town car service was because taxis were often not coming to pick up guests after being called.

                1. re: Gonzo70

                  I have not. But if I had to do it over again, I'd roll the dice with calling a cab upon the meal's completion. In my initial answer, I specifically mentioned that I only felt comfortable recommending this course of action for the second seating. I know when we left after our meal, more than half the diners were still hanging around, drinking coffee.

                  If pressed, I might even try to schedule a cab pick-up online. I don't exactly remember how long our meal was, but I'm sure there are others who have more recent experience on that topic. I find it hard to believe that cabs would refuse to travel to 2419 W 14th. After all, EL Ideas isn't THAT far away from downtown.

                  The bottom line is that the $35 price tag associated with the town car seemed grossly over-priced, given that we waited for 15-20 minutes for the car to arrive and were taken on a very scenic/long/roundabout route home. Next time, I'll take my chances with yellow cab!

                  1. re: aburkavage

                    Do not try Blue Ribbon taxi cab - they are off of 1-800-TAXI-CAB. The last three times I've tried to use them, they said they would pick me up and never showed despite me calling back several times. If you use a cab service, use Flash Cab.

                    1. re: lbs

                      Not sure if I want to be the cab guinea pig here. Though when I take a cab from the hotel to El Ideas, I can request to be picked up again around midnight.

              2. BTW: Also any food trucks worth sampling? MeatyBalls from EL Ideas' Foss?

                3 Replies
                  1. re: estilker

                    The issue with food trucks in Chicago is that, under current laws, food cannot be prepared on the truck. So much as squeezing lime over a taco is considering preparation and so cooks and chefs are pretty limited in what they can sell. While some of them sell good food (even if it was cooked/assembled hours ago in a kitchen), I don't know if it's worth seeking out.

                    And, thinking more, they're really only a Mon-Fri thing in the Loop areas. They won't be out on weekends.

                    1. re: danimalarkey

                      Ok, good to know. Sounds the situation is similar to Montreal where they are banned altogether from public property.