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How's My 5 Day Eating Agenda Looking? Help Make My Trip Awesome!

I will be visiting Chicago for the first time 5/11-5/16. I have worked on my eating agenda for months now, but I still have some decisions to make. I figured people as obsessed with eating as I am could help me.
Some Info:
-I can only afford one crazy meal and Alinea is it so no Trotters, Tru, L20 etc :(
-My Fiance and I will be doing CrossFit 2-3 days during the trip to be able to make the biggest dent possible.
-I will be staying at the Dana Hotel in the River North area.
-I can eat silly amounts of food, seriously I have a bottomless stomach.

Friday May 11th(arriving at 10:00pm need a late night spot)
Dinner: Longman and Eagle, Owen and Engine (pub menu), Purple Pig (near hotel)
Avec (close by)

Saturday May 12
Crossfit: River North Crossfit
Brunch:The Publican 1:00 pm reservation (after crossfit)
Snack: Gino’s East (or other Chicago style pizza)
Dinner: Yusho early then Barrelhouse Flat (cocktails/pig face poutine)

Sunday May 13
Brunch: 2Sparrows
Snack: Franks and Dawgs
Dinner: Alinea 9:00 pm reservation

Monday May 14
Snack: Borinquen Jibarito Sandwich (a chicago original)
Dinner: Ruxbin or Frontera Grill (near hotel)

Tuesday May 15
Brunch: Longman and Eagle
Snack: Blackbird (pork belly sandwich/burger) Or Kuma’s Korner
Dinner: Girl and the Goat 10:00 pm reservation

Back-Up Restaurants
The Great Lake (pizza-long lines)
The Bristol (GQ Best)
DMK Burger bar
Telegraph Wine Bar
slurping turtle


Donut Vault
Pleasant House Bakery (mini pot pies)
Urban Belly/Belly Shack

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  1. Couple quick thoughts

    >>Friday May 11th(arriving at 10:00pm need a late night spot)
    Dinner: Longman and Eagle, Owen and Engine (pub menu), Purple Pig (near hotel)
    Avec (close by)
    I assume you are asking for which to go to? Avec is not close by the Dana. I would pick the Purple Pig
    -Frontera (as well as Topo and Xoco) are closed on Sunday and Monday- so those won't work on those days.
    -Another snack/dessert- pick up some Garrett's popcorn- the Chicago mix of caramel and cheese
    -If you want to try a variation of Slurping Turtle and Xoco- try the food court 7 on State at Macy's- they have a Noodles by Takashi- which if you're getting miso ramen- is better than Slurping Turtle- and Rick has a spot there too with tortas. The tortas at Xoco are better but they have a couple good ones here. The atmosphere isn't great - and it is closed on Sunday- but if you're looking for a snack and in the area- might fit
    -I also would skip DMK Burger Bar- not that exciting

    1 Reply
    1. re: ms. mika

      Hmmm. I may have to change somthings around to fit in Frontera. Thanks for your suggestions ;)

    2. You have done some impressive research.
      I would swap Lula for 2Sparrows, but that's a pretty minor quibble.
      I think you will do very well.

      1. Looks like you have done a lot of research and have some great places picked out!

        I agree with the prior poster about not considering DMK Burger Bar; it is a dime a dozen and nothing special or unique. If you want burgers, Kumas is the place to go. Also Schwa would not work as a back up venue as it is one of the hardest reservations to score, and they often cancel day of even if you manage to get a reservation.

        Some other spots to consider:
        My favorite brunch spot is North Pond. It is only served on Sundays and you can make reservations on Open Table. It is a savory rather then sweet brunch (though there is a dessert course) and is in a beautiful setting in the heart of Lincoln Park (literally inside the park).

        El Ideas: Really fun, unique new restaurant with a single tasting menu. Only 16 seats; you are encouraged to hang out in the kitchen between courses. Not on Open Table but there reservations information is on their website; you need to book them soon if you want reservations. Cost is $135, but is BYOB so no bar tab.

        Another great new restaurant (also single tasting menu and BYOB) is Goosefoot; $90 per/person. Also need to make reservations quick if you want to dine there. Not as unique as El Ideas, but amazing food and great service.

        Finally, you should go to the Aviary one evening for cocktails (they open at 6:00pm and are closed Sunday and Monday). Tuesday and Wednesday are there slow nights, other nights I'd advise you to e-mail them for a reservation. Awesome, fun cocktails and excellent service.

        Have a great trip!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gonzo70

          I would quibble about North Pond. It is a beautiful location in the park and is, unquestionably best seen during daylight hours, but the brunch is serviceable, but not outstanding. My brunch suggestions would be Perennial Virant, right up the street from NP or Publican, which is my absolute favorite. L&E, which is also on your itinerary is also spectacular.

          Meanwhile, I love your choices in general and, if you don't mind, I will tag along with you from restaurant to restaurant. :-)

          1. re: Gonzo70

            Just wrapped up an e-mail exchange with The Aviary. I guess if you eat at Alinea you have first dibs there and an easier entry into The Office. I'm going to go there before Girl and the Goat on my last night. Thanks for your suggestions. I actually considered Goosefoot, and El Ideas but considered them to be too pricey (damn you Alinea). We have an amazing underground dinner here in L.A. called Wolvesmouth that is the best meal I have had to date and its in a loft. El Ideas sounds very similar.

            1. re: Gonzo70

              Aviary is an excellent choice. AND they will continue to have an el Bulli section of the menu until the end of May.

            2. You trip sounds awesome! Love Purple Pig, Longman & Eagle, The Publican, Alinea, Jam, Girl and the Goat.

              You should be aware that Xoco is more of a quick service style restaurant. Order at the counter, sit down with a numbered sign, etc., wait for your food. The lines can get pretty long for weekday lunch.

              Doughnut Vault has long lines, too, and is not open Sundays or Mondays as well. From their site:

              "Tuesdays-Friday starting at 8:30am until we run out. And Saturdays at 9:30am until we run out."

              They can start to run out as fast as one hour after they open.

              I liked Do-Rite Donuts much more on a recent trip (sampled both DV and Do-Rite back to back mornings). Do-Rite bakes a batch every hour until about 11am, so less of a chance of standing in a huge line and having a limited selection when you finally get to the fornt.


              1. I think Ruxbin is closed on Mondays. From their website (http://www.ruxbinchicago.com/site/?pa...):
                Tue-Saturday 5:30-10:00pm
                Sundays 5:30-9:00pm

                I wouldn't go out of your way for Kuma's, either. Long waits for a table (though bar seating can be easier to come by) for a burger that... is decent, but also just a burger. It's about the toppings more than the ground beef, I think, in a loud, crowded bar. If you really want a great burger, Bad Apple (Ravenswood) would be a more enjoyable experience (for me).

                Also, as already mentioned, Purple Pig might be your best bet for when you come into town since the travel times to L&E or O&E might push your arrival time too late in the evening.

                4 Replies
                1. re: danimalarkey

                  Ahh if Ruxbin and Frontera are closed Monday I need to figure something out. Probably switch days with Yuzo and Barrel House Flat day. I need to check their hours first though. Looks like I'll be hitting Purple Pig when I get in. Heard really good things so far. Thanks!

                  1. re: vissai

                    Yusho opens daily at 5pm, Barrelhouse Flat opens at 6 Mon-Sat and is closed Sundays.

                    1. re: vissai

                      Also Frontera is very popular, I would say it might be too insane on Saturday night so maybe swap Publican for Sunday brunch, and do Frontera for Saturday brunch.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Hah Done! I changed it. Good idea.

                  2. Schwa is a "back up" restaurant?

                    first time i've heard that.

                    can you get into schwa? been there already?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: FoodHasTheRightToMe

                      It was a back up for Alinea. I'm happy I got in though, the Schwa reservation experiences I've been reading about would put me on blood pressure medication way too early in my life.

                    2. I'd pass on Kuma's, I don't think the burgers are that great and the wait is to long.

                      27 Replies
                      1. re: delk

                        Damn, you're the second person to mention it. The Unique Eats special on them I saw on tv looked so good though! Do you think I should try the Chicago institution that is Blackbird for lunch? I heard their burger and pork belly sandwich are awesome.

                        1. re: vissai

                          I agree on nixing Kuma's.

                          Not sure about Blackbird's burger or pork belly sammy as I've never been there for lunch, but I'd be confident in it being very delicious. That said, Blackbird is on the fancy side of casual and usually caters toward power business lunches.

                          If you insist on burgers, I think the Kobe burger at Paramount Room is fantastic.

                          I'll also throw Big and Littles out there as a funky lunch time option. DDD was there recently, but don't let that color your opinion of the place!

                          Finally, I always recommend Portillo's to visitors for quintessential Italian beef. And if you're a pig like me, you'll get the combo with hot peppers, which is Italian beef plus a grilled sausage - outstanding! It is touristy, but their beef is as good as any other place I've been in the city. If you want great beef without the touristy atmosphere, check out Mr. Beef on Orleans. IMHO, Al's honks compared to the previous two.

                          1. re: aburkavage

                            Big and Littles! First time I've seen it mentioned here. Great Ahi tuna sandwich. Awesome soft-shell crab sandwich. Way too good for DDD.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              The pork belly po' boy is unabashedly over the top, and probably just what DDD was looking for!

                              1. re: chicgail

                                OP should note that they just moved (but only 2 blocks) and are closed Sundays.

                                860 N. Orleans, Chicago, IL

                              2. re: aburkavage

                                I just checked the Portillo's website, and they have locations here in CA. Are we talking about the same place?

                                1. re: vissai

                                  Yup! Like I said, I think it's the best Italian beef available downtown.

                                  If you have any trepidation about visiting a chain, then Mr. Beef would be a better bet as I think it's a close second to Portillo's.

                                  1. re: aburkavage

                                    Cool. I'll check out Mr. Beef, and I'll try Portillos here in CA when I get back to compare the two. Thanks

                            2. re: delk

                              Agreed on burgers at Kuma's, it's a great experience but it's overrated from a true epicurian perspective.

                              I just had a great bacon cheeseburger at Au Cheval last week. It was a simple burger with some of the best slab bacon i've had in a long time. My best description was that it reminded me of and In and Out burger if made by a Top Chef.

                                1. re: jbontario

                                  Kuma has great burgers, but they are just hamburgers. The real reason to go there is for the experience. It is always crowded, with blaring heavy metal music and wierd, violent kung fu movies playing on the TVs. You'll probably wait an hour for a table, then another half hour for burgers, so you'll have plenty of time to drink. Many people love Kuma's just because it is so loud and obnoxious. It might be worth trying just because it is so different from everywhere else you're going.

                                  1. re: kvalentine

                                    Hmm you do have a good point that it would be a nice change of pace. I'll pick between Au Cheval or Kuma's in the last second. 4 days until I'm there!!! Cant Wait!

                                    1. re: vissai

                                      Please don't spend 2 hours of your first visit to Chicago waiting outside of Kuma's, and please don't spend another hour eating there. I find Kuma's to be abrasive, loud, inhospitable, dark, annoying, and unnecessarily snooty. In addition, I think the focus of the restaurant to give you as big and as ridiculous a plate a food as possible. I'm always amazed that people find their burgers good, as the meat tends to be dense, dry, and over-cooked. I'd rather try to gnaw on a hockey puck.

                                      Sorry, Kuma's grinds my gears. End of rant.

                                      I recently tried Au Cheval and found their burger to be fantastic. You won't find 46 different versions named after heavy metal bands, but you will find a tasty tasty meat sandwich. It has my DNS guarantee - does not suck. A guarantee I would NEVER give Kuma's. Sorry, there's that hostility again. I'm done.

                                      1. re: vissai

                                        I'd recommend Kuma's over Au Cheval, if only because--as Kvalentine says--it's quite a bit different than anywhere else I've been. The food is terrific as well, particularly the fried calamari app (the best I've ever had) and the High on Fire burger.

                                        Au Cheval is great, but neither the food or atmosphere are unique. Kuma's waits can be a bit much, but you can avoid that by going either early (say 5:30P on a weeknight) or right when they open for a weekend lunch.

                                        1. re: Possumlad

                                          I have read that the current chef at Kuma's has been working really hard to improve the burgers and make them more consistent -- though, in all the other times I've been, I never found fault with the burgers.

                                          The other thing is that Kuma's is pretty out of the way when you're staying in River North. Aside from the time spent waiting just to sit down at a table or a bar, you're looking at travel time back and forth. For someone's first trip to Chicago, would I say Kuma's -- and the ~2 hours spent just traveling and waiting -- is a must-see? Unless the visitor has a deep affinity to metal and tattoos, I would say no -- save it for a second visit.

                                          1. re: Possumlad

                                            I would say this photo pretty much sums up Kuma's.


                                            If the the OP finds that attractive, by all means, go to Kuma's. On the other hand, if one desires food put together with at least some coherent thought other than excess, go elsewhere.

                                            1. re: aburkavage

                                              LOLLL You guys are hilarious. I really appreciate all the honest feedback I'm getting from everyone.

                                              The only dilemma I have left is where to eat on Saturday night. Originally I was planning on having Frontera but everyone said it would be too busy so I'm having it for brunch instead. I'm stuck between Bristol or Ruxhbin mainly. Although Gilt Bar, Avec, and a few others I'm considering as well. I dont want anything formal or excessive because I'm having Alinea the next day. I think Ruxhbin is in the lead only because Bristols style seems similar to Girl and the Goat and Purple Pig, places I'm already dining,

                                              1. re: vissai

                                                I would absolutely put Ruxbin at the top of your list, but beware that on weekends, you pretty much need to show up at 5:30 to guarantee a table that evening.

                                                I haven't been to Bristol, but both Gilt Bar and Avec are gems. That said, Opentable says no availability at Gilt Bar and the no reservation policy at Avec makes it a tricky alternative to Ruxbin in the event you cannot get a table.

                                                Why did Yusho get nixed?!

                                                1. re: aburkavage

                                                  I'm doing Yusho Monday night followed by Barrelhouse Flat.
                                                  5:30 is a bit early for me to be ready and waiting for dinner, I normally dont eat until after 8 pm when traveling. I'm sure I can put my name down and go to some bars in the area until my time arrives. Decisions Decisions

                                                  1. re: vissai

                                                    Phew, Yusho is not to be missed!

                                                    As far as I know, you don't have too much of a choice when you will be seated at Ruxbin - especially on the weekends. Maybe someone who's been recently can enlighten us about the procedure.

                                                    1. re: aburkavage

                                                      Went to Ruxbin two Fridays ago with a 2-person group. We showed up @ 5:20 (10 min before they open), and found a small line. The entire line was seated during the first seating (right at 5:30), apart from those whose entire party was not present. From there, it appears that they simply start taking down names and phone numbers once the place fills up, and stop once they are full for the night. Didn't seem to be much different than than any other restaurant, just very small and very popular.

                                                      I did hear the waitress mention that if you show up past 7 or 7:30 on a weekend, it's very likely that their waiting list will be full for the night.

                                                    2. re: vissai

                                                      There are plenty of bars in the West Town area where you could wait for the table at Ruxbin -- and if you did show up at ~5:30pm, it's entirely likely you would get a table during the second seating at 7 or 8pm.

                                                      Or if you really did want to eat in that area, you might consider Leopold (Belgian-ish) or Mexique (Mexican/French). I don't think either place will necessarily blow you away with amazing food/drinks but they are both very, very good.

                                                      HotChocolate, in Bucktown, is a few blocks south of the Bristol and its owner (Mindy Segal) just won a James Beard award for Best Pastry Chef. So, yes, the desserts are very good but so are the savory dishes. She's also slightly re-concepting the place to make it more approachable, less fussy, etc. Time Out recently ran this feature on Mindy: http://timeoutchicago.com/restaurants...

                                                      Another restaurant I've really been enjoying lately is Big Jones, in Andersonville (~8 miles to the north). Wonderful Southern/coastal cooking with an amazing bourbon list.

                                                      I would expect that any of these other ideas (Leopold, Mexique, HotChocolate or Big Jones) would have reservations for Saturday, even with this relatively short notice.

                                                  2. re: vissai

                                                    Gilt Bar and Au Cheval owned by same group and have a little bit of overlap, i would forego Gilt for dinner. Frontera does offer up a few reservations each morning for that day if you get lucky. I hate the hard seating and noise at Avec.
                                                    I see one of your alternates is Slurping Turtle and I highly recommend. I've been there a few times (and know the chef from his days in Detroit) and really like it. Also no reservations, but it's casual and quick so the waits don't seem to be too bad.

                                                    1. re: vissai

                                                      I love the Bristol. It is an exceptional farm-to-table gastropub, like Purple Pig. GATG is not a gastropub (although it is farm-to-table). Going to the Bristol, myself, Saturday night myself. It's one of my favorite places in town. Maybe I'll see you there!

                                                      I second danimalarkey's suggestion of Mexique, also. Big Jones is very good, but you might find it heavy if you're trying to take it easy prior to Alinea. And I don't know Leopold at all.

                                                      1. re: chicgail

                                                        FWIW, I'd definitely give Leopold a shot -- especially if you're in the neighborhood. I think they started a little shaky, but recent meals I've had have really been much more... I don't know, confident? Refined? Just 'better', overall? Cocktails were definitely on the sweet side so I'd recommend sticking with beer or wine. They offer single scoops of Black Dog Gelato for dessert, too, which rank among my absolute favorite desserts (which is to say, I'm not really a dessert person so one scoop of great gelato is plenty).

                                                        For a visitor, no, I wouldn't call Leopold a must-eat, dining destination. But if they have a lot of meals available, such as the OP here, or for city residents, I think it's definitely worth a visit.

                                                  3. re: Possumlad

                                                    Sorry so start a conflict, but how can you say that Au Cheval is not unique. I have never been presented a menu where I can get a really good matza ball AND a foie gras accented double-cut pork chop AND split a bacon cheesburger. That and a terrific beer list and you've sold me.

                                                    Then again, I hate burgers covered in so much crap on huge rolls that you can't taste the burger (ala Kumas and most of the others these days). I'm still going with best burger in the country is the chopped dry-aged steak burger with grilled onions at BLT Grill in NY.

                                                    1. re: jbontario

                                                      I really do like Au Cheval, and have been a few times since they've opened. In fact I've been there more times than Kuma's. I just wouldn't call a menu "mash-up" approach necessarily unique, nor would I call the overall experience unique. That said, it's a terrific restaurant and I'd recommend it to anyone. I'm simply saying that I'd personally choose Kuma's if I'd never been to either and could only choose one.