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Annual Chicago Conference--any new dining suggestions? And what's near the Palmer House?


This week we will come into town for our annual conference at The Palmer House Hilton. I need a dinner on Wed. for just myself. Adventure lunch with just me on Thursday. Best hot dog within walking distance of the hotel...how far is Portillos?

Saturday brunch is Heaven on Seven on Wabash...I love that place. We'll need a great dinner spot for Saturday night...fun, great food. We like most everything, but are avoiding pizza this year, and not quite the level of hot dogs for dinner. But we are not looking to spend Alinea type money. And we haven't made reservations anywhere. Does Frontera serve food at the bar? I really loved the tequila drinks and selection at Topolobampo last year but made the reservations months in advance. We really just want tequila and seviche. Anything new close to the the Palmer House?

Sunday we are in town til 500, so a lunch/brunch place?

nxstasy has ALWAYS come through for us, and so THANKS in advance to any help any of you can provide!


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  1. For group dining, give Mercat a la Planxa a whirl:


    For a solo lunch, try Oasis Cafe, 21 N. Wabash, for good Middle Eastern.

    1. Frontera serves at the bar. The tables in the bar are now run by the host station, no grabbing when open. (that may not be news to some, but it'd been a bit since we were last there, so new to us this last trip to chicago.)

      1. Go to Max's for a hotdog and fries. 20 E. Adams. Right by the Palmer House. No need to trek over to Portillio's. Also the gyros there are very good. A lot of times they are on GrouponNow too.

        1. For Sunday, I'd consider the Publican for brunch. It runs more savory than sweet (with plenty of pork) and is a great way to enjoy their food.

          At Frontera, you can order from the Frontera or Topolo food menus if you sit at the bar but expect some serious competition for those seats. I've seen people lining up an hour before they open on Saturdays. For a great tequila list, Sable, in the Palomar hotel nearby, should suit you well (http://www.sablechicago.com/files/men... -- pgs 19-21) - it's also a nice place to grab some bites before dinner elsewhere (though I don't see any ceviche on the menu at the moment).

          If you're willing to take a short ride on the city's blue line, or just take a cab, you can hit up Big Star. More great tequila in an oft-crowded, always lively bar in Wicker Park (menu is limited, for the most part, to tacos). Might be a fun option for a Wednesday night dinner - though it wouldn't be crowded at lunch time, too, depending on how much time you have on Thursday.

          1 Reply
          1. re: danimalarkey

            2nd Publican (especially if you like beer), Sable (great cocktails), and Big Star (awesome whiskey list).

            You can also stop into Publican Quality Meats (retail store) after brunch at the Publican, too. They make a lot of their charcuterie: own njuda, morteau sausage, pork pie, and other delicious meats, etc. The amount of love that goes into their housemade cured meats is awesome. They even make their own faux saltines they serve with their oyster platters.

          2. For a delicious, budget lunch, go to Cafecito, which is only a few blocks from the Palmer House (on the north side of Congress). It features Cuban style sandwiches.

            1. Great stuff. Nxstasy, what gives? I look forward to your recs. Everyone else--excellent help.

              I can't help myself tonight--I am getting smelts at Millers and watching baseball at the bar. I can stumble home happy, full, and not broke.

              I think we are going to try late night snacking and drinks at Sable...even though Heather Terhune was sort of annoying on Top Chef. Most Chicago hounds are still big on Sable and the menu looks good.

              We do enjoy The Gage...is it still decent?

              And now we have a Chinese wrinkle. I have always wanted to try Sun Wah BBQ (spelling?) but I have a friend who wants Sichuan food. Any takers on where that might happen?

              We'll do Heaven on Seven for a brunch/lunch. Leaves. So we are eating 3 dinners, 3 lunches and 2 brunches. So far so good....thanks!

              4 Replies
              1. re: chefsalad

                Head to Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown for Sichuan. If it's too crowded there go to Double Li for dry chili chicken.
                The Gage is still decent.

                1. re: camusman

                  2nd Lao Sze Chuan. Twice cooked pork, Lamb with cumin, Tony's chicken with three chili
                  Szechuan, Don Don Noodle, and Chengdu Dumplings so good that we ended up getting 2 orders!

                  1. re: kathryn

                    3rd Lao Sze Chuan. Fantastic recommendations off the menu so far, and I'll add one: boiled beef in a spicy Szechuan sauce!

                2. re: chefsalad

                  Nsxtasy is gone! :-(

                  I've seen him/her posting sporadically on the Florida and Great Lakes boards, but he/she has been inactive here for a number of months now. He/she didn't even say goodbye!

                3. Thursday morning, stop into Do-Rite Donuts. Good coffee, good donuts, some a couple of L2O-honed chefs run it. It's a tiny window just west of Petterino's.

                  In River North, there is also GT Fish and Oyster, might be a good option. Also since you are a chef, have you been to the Purple Pig yet? It's just off Michigan Ave (Mag Mile).

                  3 Replies
                      1. re: camusman

                        I should add that since you mentioned a love for Heaven on Seven. you might appreciate that the main man in the kitchen at Purple Pig is the son of the main man at Heaven on Seven.

                  1. I just had a terrific dinner at Au Cheval last night. This is great for a dinner by yourself at the bar where you can watch the chefs create great french/new american/just interesting "diner" that pairs well with a top notch beer selection and cocktails. If you're with a few others it works too, we squished 5 in a booth but there are a few tables.

                    No reservations but a great staff that kept it well managed. Casual place that ranges from hipster to gold coast with a great soundtrack.

                    We shared most dishes with highlights being the terrine with smoked tart cherry jelly (i think I could just eat that by the spoonful), the porterhouse porkchop with apples and foie gras, and the fried chicken in a sweet glaze. Oh yeah, the slab cut bacon on the cheesburger pushed it up into a top 10.

                    Not the place to go if you are on a diet, but I will back after a trip to the gym.

                    1. Okay, halfway through:

                      Got in late and went to Millers. I am a sucker for the Fried Smelts and they were excellent. Pefectly fried, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a nice slice of greek spinach and feta pie...9.00 BUCKS. And a GREAT pour of Basil Haydens, I was VERY happy to stumble back to the hotel.

                      Hot Dogs at Max's, always good...although they don't spoon out that neon relish that I kind like to see when I come into town.

                      Late night Chinatown run on the Red Line was both delicious and enlightening--the train isTOO easy. And Lao Sze Chuan was outstanding: Boiled Beef in Spicy Szechuan sauce, Ma Po Tofu, Lamb with Cumin, Szechuan Green Beans, and amazing dumplings. GREAT MEAL. Only complaint: the menu is TOO BIG!!

                      Tonight we were too late for The Gage so we went to The Purple Pig. OUTSTANDING. Truly a great meal for us. Lots of small plates...the best were Roasted Marrow bones, a GREAT salad of spring peas and pea shoots, bacon, and mint, some sliced Seranno Ham, and a bowl of Pork Neckbone gravy (like sunday pasta sauce with shredded pork) served with a scoop of fresh ricotta. Great drinks, great service, we WILL go back.

                      Tomorrow will be about lunch and dinner, and then brunch/lunch on Sunday. Thinking Heaven on Seven for lunch (or another good lunch place close) UNSURE about dinner (greek? Sable? Try to eek in the bar at Frontera? other suggestions?) and The Publican for brunch on Sunday (will there be a long wait? Reservations?)

                      Thanks to all you guys so far. If you head to Virginia, we'll let you know where to go!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: chefsalad

                        Glad you liked The Purple Pig!

                        The Publican takes reservations for brunch and they are on OpenTable.

                        1. re: chefsalad

                          Glad things are going well. Sable or Frontera is worth a try. If you decide to try Greek, the Greek Islands has a great Chicago atmosphere, although it can get noisy. Food is solid.