Dual personality food recs for first timer
Looks like we might actually snag a three day getaway for the first time next month. We are foodies with split personalities, meaning we love tasting menus and molecular but equally enjoy little hole in the wall or neighborhood joints where a sandwich juice drips down your arm!
We adore most kids of foods but are partial to small plates, french brasserie, greek, italian, spanish and mexican and are crazy for good sandwiches, hot dogs and pizzas.
We'll take any recs you have - have the longshots covered (Aviary, Next and Alinea) in case a miracle happens and we do actually get in.
There are a lot of great ethnic stuff but it's mostly in neighborhoods. You don't say where you are staying, what your budget is or how you will be getting around but Chicago covers a lot of real estate so that matters.
Here are my initial thoughts:
Small Plates - The Publican; Purple Pig
Drippy Sandwiches (and hot dogs) - Portillos for Italian Beef (a Chicago specialty)
Spanish - best tapas at Mercat a la Planxa
Mexican - regional upscale Mexican (another Chicago specialty) at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill, XOCO and Topolobambo - or Mexique (Mexican/French fusion) in the West Town neighborhood - or Mundial Cocina Mestiza in the Pilsen neighborhood. There's also Nuevo Leon in Pilson that is more of what most people expect in Mexican food (tacos, enchiladas, etc.)
French Brasserie - not so sure of brasseries, but for bistros I would try Le Sardine in the West Loop or its sister restaurant, Le Bouchon in Bucktown.
Italian - my favorite is Spiaggia Cafe, little (less expensive sister) to Spiaggia. it's authentic slow food as you'd find it in Italy, but there are plenty of more traditional pasta places (e.g. Antico or Ripasso also in Bucktown).
Pizza - you do want to try our deep dish invented here in the 1940s: Uno, Due, Lou Malnoti or Pizanos are easiest to find, especially if you're staying in the central tourist area.
Budget...pretty open (not crazy though). Will have car. Not sure where we are staying; for us, we don't care where we're staying but were thinking of somewhere by the water (have no idea yet of Chicago neighborhoods). Portillos for beef; have that on my list. Too bad about brasseries. I am liking the Cafe idea more than Spiaggia. Pizza...as much as we LOVE wood fired pizza, IF there is a VPN place, we'd consider it, but wouldn't want to come without trying a great deep dish.
Aviary takes walk-ins, and it's not too hard to get a regular (non Kitchen Table) reservation.