My wife and I come to Chicago once a year, and eating out is our favorite activity. Have been to Alinea, Bayless's places, and some others. We were looking at lots of places -- Schwa, Sprout, El Ideas, Graham Elliot, L20 -- and we just don't feel like spending another $300 on one of these concept places. No doubt they are amazing, but we are looking for something more reasonable and laid back. We had lunch at Xoco last time and loved it. That's the kind of place we prefer now -- not fancy, not expensive, but a damned good sandwich, more satisfying than any course at Alinea. Quartino's is another one we like. Any recommendations for dinner would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Since you put it that way, how about a "Polish smorgasbord"? This is very Chicago since we have more Polish people here than in any other city but Warsaw. Twenty kinds of meat, pierogies, sauerkraut, dumplings, potatoes, potato pancakes, many more things, a salad bar, desserts. The food is home-cooked and constantly brought out steaming by nice Polish kitchen ladies. Price for all-you-can-eat ranges from $10 to $15 depending on hour and day (there's even more food on weekends). If you're driving, the Red Apple, 3121 N Milwaukee, has a free parking lot in back. If not driving, take Milwaukee 20 bus from northwest corner of State and Madison and ask driver to call Hamlin. An adventure. More details on their website.
The Ahogada @ Xoco? C'mon, it's outstanding.
Here are some others:
Lillie's Q (Top Notch BBQ)
Balena (a little higher price point, but excellent food)
Publican Quality Meats
Telegraph Wine Bar
Don't forget to enjoy an outstanding hot dog anywhere you get a rec, there are many, many great places.