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Good food options near tourist traps?


In mid-July I'll meet up in Chicago with family (including kids 10 and 9) from England. We'll spend 3 days with a CTA pass visiting the downtown tourist locations (Willis and Hancock towers, Field Museum, Art Institute, Navy Pier, etc.) before we head to Union Station for an Amtrak ride to southern Illinois and elsewhere.

It's the first time in the US for the kids, so the tourist locations will restrict our willingness to travel a long way for lunch or a snack (dinner should be no problem as most tourist sites close by 5pm). But with a CTA pass I'm happy to ride a few stops for a "must do" food stop :-)

What good food options are available within a 10 minute walk of some tourist locations? We are up for any type of food, for both lunch or a snack. And pizza is top of our dinner list.


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  1. Willis Tower is in the business district, so immediate vicinity is more chain restaurants than local hotspots (there's even an outpost of Pret A Manger across the street). Greek Town is about a 10 minute walk West, though and there are a number of good restaurants there (although you'll be walking away from the touristy spots, so you'll have to walk back (or take public transportation) to get to back on track.

    The Hancock has better options nearby and as others will no doubt chime in, you can forego the admission fee and get a passable lunch with the same view at the restaurant one floor below the observation deck.

    1. Inside the Art Institute is Terza Piano, a lovely Italian cafe.
      I agree re: Willis Tower/Greektown. Kids love the display of flaming cheese that is saganaki. Greek Islands is a good family place. For real Chicago atmosphere, start the day with breakfast at Lou Mitchell's; omelets are especially good.
      Chinatown is just a few stops down the Red Line subway train. Chinatown Square mall has many good places.
      Good Chicago-style pizza at Pizzano's in the loop.

      1. On the way to the Hancock building, you could stop in at Xoco (Tues-Sat) or Purple Pig for lunch. I assume you'll be on foot coming from the Loop. Also hit up Do-Rite Donuts for a snack (Mon-Sat).

        Not a lot by the Field Museum, it's a long walk to non-museum restaurants. More like a 20 min walk? I hope the weather is good that day!

        Near the Art Institute is the Gage and Mercat a la Planxa. Mercat has a takeout window now, too.

        Not a whole lot near Navy Pier that isn't touristy, I'd plan around that.

        1. About the Hancock and Sears/Willis Towers: if you visit their observation deck you will pay an admission fee of about $15. As an alternative, you can have lunch on the 96th floor of the Hancock (Signature Room) for about $20, an ad-lib buffet, and enjoy the same view, so for $5 more you get a meal. I think they serve Mon-Sat but you'd better check.

          Also near the Hancock (Ohio & Rush just past the Harley-Davidson store) is Big Bowl which has excellent Pan-Asian stir-fries for about $12. If you want to be a bigger spender, Spiaggia is nearly across the street from the Hancock. For the pizza, Pizzerias Uno and Due, also Lou Malnati's, are a 15-minute stroll from the Hancock. You might also want to try another Chicago speciality, Al's Italian Beef (a glorious sandwich)---various locations, google for details.

          The children may enjoy Millenium Park, especially Crown Fountain and the "Bean". Just across Randolph from the park is Wildberry, a good place for breakfast or brunch with lots of pancakes etc.

          1. By Millineum / Grant Park is the Park Grill. Across Michigan Ave by the Art Institute is The Gage or Russian Tea Time.

            Not too far from Field Museum is Eleven City Dinner (above average Jewish Deli) on South Wabash, there's also a branch of Yolk (breakfast and lunch) on South Michigan.

            1. For pizza, Pizzano's is close to the Art Institute & Millienium Park. There is a Giordano's on Jackson, near the Sears (now called "Willis") Towers.

              Also close to the Art Institute is a Cuban-style sandwich place, called Cafecito, at the corner of Congress Parkway & Michigan Avenue. It is very popular with the local college students.

              4 Replies
              1. re: masha

                Cafecito is popular with anyone who's been there. Highly recommend it for great Cuban-inspired sandwiches (it shares an entrance with the Loop's Family Hostel).

                1. re: ferret

                  Agree as to popularity and the quality of the sandwiches. Didn't mean to suggest that it was exclusively a college hangout, although it seems to me that's the predominant mix of the clientele.

                  1. re: masha

                    With the hostel next door and Uniiversity Center across the street it has a disproportionately large college-age population nearby.

                    1. re: ferret

                      For a quintessential Chicago snack, hit any location of Garrett's Popcorn, even the one at O'Hare airport, and get the "Chicago Mix" of caramel corn and cheese popcorn. Be advised, however, that it does not hold up well the next day, although most people finish it quickly and don't have to worry about that.

              2. Thanks to all of you for your suggestions.

                I intend to go to at least four of these :-)

                1 Reply
                1. re: rikmac78

                  Well I actually ate a sandwich at the Signature Lounge it was delightful. I know, I know others will sneer but so what. Having been born and raised in Chicago I am so grateful to be able to now vacation there and not work and enjoy things tourists do while there! So I had the BLT which was Niman Ranch bacon, great lettuce and thank god, they did not use the horrible tomatoes everyone else did while I was there, what a tragedy. They used very nice sun-dried tomatoes and well toasted bread. Chips (very good ones) were on the side. It went very well with my Chopin martini(s). Service was great. The woman next to me had the guacamole and chips which looked and smelled great too.