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Aug 30, 2012 09:16 AM

Looking for input for my eat around Chicago days coming up

Hi! I'm new to this board but have been looking over it and the lth forum to plan my vacation. We love to eat and try new things but we live in a small town where there is not much variety.
Our plans for Chicago are as follow:
Day 1 arrival in the pm
Anywhwere to get a snack on the way in from airport on blue line? Chicago dog or Italian beef maybe?
Violet Hour for a cocktail and snack
Le Bouchon dinner
( is there a whole in the wall bar nearby where the bartender plays vinyl records of alternative bands from the 80's??? It's killing me but I remember something like this from many years ago..)
Day 2
Al' s Beef at 1030?
Trip to spice house? Oil and vinegar place?
Berghof light lunch and check out oktoberfest
Publican around 4pm
aviary ( hopefully kitchen table & hopefully at 6)
Something to eat after? Any late night deep dish pizza nearby? Idk if I'll get a rez, but it could be as late as ten
Day 3
Antojitos breakfast
Nhu Lan snacks
Photo exhibit
Franks n Dawgs lunch
Bristol dinner
Going to a late show near wicker park, where we also stay but thinking of San Soo Gap San for late night?
Day 4
Cemitas Puebla whenever they open- this will be a late am for us
Going to be around Humboldt Park area and looking for late dinner
Rootstock?? Around ten
Day 5
Breakfast near wicker park?
Jibaritos near Humbolt Park again for most of day, looking for late dinner 10ish somewhere close to HP and WP/ Bucktown. This is a Sunday night...was considering:
La Bruquena
Silver Cloud
Small Bar
Tozi (in case we skipped San Soo earlier)
Or even going in to Avec
Day 6
Need an early breakfast before taking blue line to o'hare

List is not complete in any way except that we have obligations near HP for afternoons and evenings days 4 & 5.
Places or food that are must do's:
Deep dish pizza- love manlattis
Hot dog- chi style
Franks nDawgs- we want to try bc we loved hot dougs so much last time
Banh mi- have not had since last time in LA and read Nhu Lan is best??
We are fine with "eatouring" and just splitting one thing or ordering small items so we can sample from more places. In fact would love to take up most of days 2 & 3 doing so.
Some places I've read about and would love to fit in:
Bleeding heart bakery
Pleasant house bakery
Maxwell St market
Sultans Market
Butcher and Larder
Fox & Obel
Green grocer
Grocer and goddess
Cellar rat wine
Jerrys sandwiches
Any suggestions on logistics or additions that are must do are greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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  1. Where are you staying? That affects some of the recommendations below...

    >> Something to eat after? Any late night deep dish pizza nearby? Idk if I'll get a rez, but it could be as late as ten

    You mean, near the Aviary? I don't know of any. But I bet you're not staying in that area (the West Loop - not much in the way of hotels), so you can go to where you're staying for pizza. There are several locations of Lou Malnati's in the areas with the hotels (State and Rush in the Gold Coast, Wells in River North, 8th and State in the South Loop) as well as Pizano's and Uno/Due, and most are open late.

    >> Breakfast near wicker park?

    Bongo Room has a location in Wicker Park. They have creative pancakes, like their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. Milk and Honey Cafe is another decent option in Wicker Park, but not as creative and unusual as Bongo Room.

    Beware long waits to be seated on weekends between 9:30 and 1:00, at all of our breakfast-focused restaurants. If this is a concern, you can avoid them by going to a place that takes reservations for Sunday brunch.

    >> Need an early breakfast before taking blue line to o'hare

    Again - where are you staying? And how early is early? (What time is your flight?)

    >> Bleeding heart bakery

    They have closed. (And IMHO you're not missing anything.)

    19 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      And my flight leaves at ten am so figured I shoul try to be there by 8 am

      1. re: Kchaus

        Just want to chime in that you have done some kickass research and should have a great time. The recs you are getting are very good.
        Since you are staying in Wicker Park, consider Bang Bang Pie Shop.
        I prefer Howard's Wine to Cellar Rat, if you don't mind a small shop piled high with boxes.
        I really think you should hit a Rick Bayless place, even if you've heard something negative.
        I'm a big fan of Bari, which is next door to Damato's, a great Italian bakery.

        1. re: camusman

          Pie shop in!
          D'amato's sounds like a must since we'll be next door.
          Bayliss is a no, no matter how good. Mexican/central American are about our only ethnic choices back home- need different flavor profiles- and we're already going to be In Humbolt Park two days to find lunch..
          Thank you!

      2. re: nsxtasy

        We are staying at Wicker House Inn.
        My concern with a ten pm reservation for the Kitchen Table at Aviary is that we will NEED to eat after drinking and that there won't be much open nearby or on our way back to Damen O'Hare stop. Even with a 6pm I might be a little worried about what will be open when we leave.
        I appreciate any advice!

        1. re: Kchaus

          Do you mean the Wicker Park Inn? If so, Bongo Room is only a block up the street, for breakfast on Sunday. But they open at 8 a.m. on Mondays so that won't work for your early breakfast before your departure. However, you're only a five-minute walk from Alliance Bakery, which is one of the best bakeries in the city and opens at 6 a.m. during the week. That's where I'd go for your early breakfast before heading for the airport. You can see my post about Alliance at

          For nearby deep-dish, Lou Malnati's has a location nearby on Damen. It's carry-out and delivery only. Carry-out is open till 10 during the week, 11 on weekends.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Good call on Alliance! They sound perfect.
            I'll bet I can squeeze a pizza out from that Malnati's location, just not sure when. Will not work after KT at Aviary so I'm looking into that still
            Thank you!

          2. re: Kchaus

            My recommendation would be to dine at a small plates venue after Aviary kitchen table. The kitchen table experience is awesome, but it is a ton of booze (and a fair amount of food paired with it) that by the end I felt stuffed and exhausted and just wanted to go to bed. My wife on the other hand thought she wanted food and we went downstairs to the Office for their ice cream sundae, but after just a couple of bites she realized she was full and exhausted too. If you really think you will be hungry afterwards, I'd recommend making a 10pm reservation at Nellcote (assuming you end up with the 6pm kitchen table). They are a short walk away and have good gourmet pizzas as well as a nice menu of tapas. This assumes you are going on a Friday or Saturday to Aviary though, as on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9:30pm is their last seating; you may still be able to call them and see if they can seat you a bit later as you might not be quite done at Aviary by 9:30, but shouldn't be much past that.

            1. re: Gonzo70

              Ha! I'm afraid the same will happen to us but usually when we get a buzz going we like to eat before going to sleep to sober up some ;) they sound great but we are shooting for a weeknight as we have weekend obligations so I will save the recommendation as a back up plan.
              Thank you!

            2. re: Kchaus

              6pm Kitchen Table at Aviary - you can always have dinner at the Office when you're done, or go to somewhere like Avec, Girl and the Goat, or Maude's afterwards.

              Avec hours:
              sun-thu 3:30p-12:00a
              fri, sat 3:30p-1:00a

              GATG hours:
              Sunday - Thursday 4:30pm - 11:00pm . Friday - Saturday 4:30pm - 12:00am

              Maude's hours:
              kitchen closes at 11pm Sun-Wed, 12a Thurs-Sat

              10pm KT at the Aviary - I'd move dinner at the Publican to earlier in the night, like 7 or 8pm

              Another option might be Au Cheval, here are their hours:
              Mon-Thu 5 pm - 2 am
              Fri-Sat 11 am - 2 am
              Sun 10 am - 1 am

              Or return to Wicker Park and grab some tacos at Big Star:
              Sunday – Friday
              11:30am – 2am
              11:30am – 3am

              The Wicker Park location of Glazed and Infused is also open late on weekends:
              1553 N Damen Ave
              Chicago, IL 60622
              6:30am - 12:30pm (Mon - Fri)
              8:00am - 2:00pm (Sat & Sun)
              Late Night
              11PM - 3AM (Thurs - Sat)

              1. re: kathryn

                Another option is La Sardine, our excellent French bistro. It's a couple of blocks from the Aviary, open till 10 pm weekdays, 11 pm weekends.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  We are already goingto Bouchon, I believe the sister to La Sardine? I don't think it will be late enough though after Aviary on a week night. But definitely along the vein we're looking in.
                  Thank you!

                  1. re: Kchaus

                    Oops, sorry! No, I wouldn't go to both Le Bouchon and La Sardine on the same trip...

                2. re: kathryn

                  Wow! Good call on the late night donuts or maybe as a snack before one of our food treks- sounds wonderful and a definite on the list now. (where I live people get excited about a fresh delivery of krispy kreme to the local gas station)
                  I can't find the website for Maude's- maybe the server is down but I pulled the menu off menu pages. Same for Au Cheval. These sound great and keep the right hours in case we get the late seating.
                  Avec is definitely on my radar.
                  Any of these could also work for a late dinner Sunday too.
                  I'd heard GATG was very difficult to get into last minute especially?
                  Big star would be a last resort. Everyone on here raves about Chicago's Hispanic food an the nicer versions by Bayliss but I feel we'll get enough with our two mornings by Humboldt Park. Unfortunately Hispanic and chinese are the only ethnic food we have back home so looking for ANYTHING else :)
                  I appreciate all the suggestions!

                  1. re: Kchaus

                    It's hard to get a "normal" time reservation at GATG, so trying to get a late table after the KT at Aviary might actually work out if you shoot for after 10pm or so. GATG also takes walk ins, and it is first come first served at their lounge tables and their bar. You might have a short wait. I have been there around 10pm and gotten a seat immediately.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Good to know. I was a fan of hers from Top Chef :)

                      1. re: Kchaus

                        I love GATG. Don't miss the grilled broccoli with blue cheese, shishito peppers with parmesan/miso/sesame, wood oven roasted pig face with egg and tamarind, bourbon butter goat belly and lobster, or the sugo pasta.

                    2. re: Kchaus

                      Maude's site unfortunately doesn't work on my iPhone or iPad, so that might be it:

                  2. re: Kchaus

                    I would go to Au Cheval on Randolph & Halstead. I've raved about it a bunch of times and while selflifhly I don't mind it hasn't caught on here, it's great late night food. Great beer list too. No reservations, but you could always call 10 mins before you leave Aviary (it's about 5 mins walk) to inquire about wait.

                    1. re: jbontario

                      That sounds great and based in the late hours and second recommendation, I think thi wil be he spot. Of course, all hinging on that Aviary rez...
                      Thank you!

                3. A couple other spots to consider: While you are in the West Loop you may want to pop into iNG (sister restaurant of Chef Homaro Cantu's Michelin starred venue Moto). iNG is much more casual (and inexpensive than Moto) and they have a bar area and an outdoor patio where you can order some really fun cocktails and bites. Some of their cocktails utilize Miracle berry to "flavor trip" (the berry temporary causes sour foods to taste sweet, so you consume part of the cocktail, take the Miracle berry and then the second half of the cocktail tastes totally different).

                  A good place to pop in for some dessert would be Black Dog Gelato; they make all sorts of creative flavors and are really good. Lots of the better restaurants in Chicago source their ice cream from them. They have locations in Roscoe Village and Ukranian Village.

                  If you are in the Lincoln Park area, Peasantry might be something you'd enjoy (newer and sister restaurant of Franks n Dawgs). Great craft beers and really creative and tasty foods such as duck wings, bone marrow burgers, octopus gryo, etc. as well as some of the types of items they have at Franks n Dawgs.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Gonzo70

                    Peasantry looks awesome! May have to stop in.
                    Gelato is a great idea too. I'll put on the list for when those areas.
                    Checking out iNG right now- we may be cocktailed out after Aviary, butthen again we don't have anything like this at home. We have not been out to eat for 6 months to save for this, so we don't feel bad about being pigs and splurging! :)
                    Thanks so much forthe advice.

                    1. re: Gonzo70

                      So the menu for iNG in their website- is that the only way to go? Just a tasting menu or are there choices? Sounds good but I imagine if that's the case it changes every day??

                      1. re: Kchaus

                        They have a six course tasting menu that is paired with drinks (combination of beer, wine and cocktails) for $80 (including food and drinks). In the dining room the tasting menu is the only option and changes to a different theme every six to eight weeks (currently it is their 80's Hair Band inspired menu, next month they switch to a Scorsese themed menu). They also have a bar and outdoor patio area where you can order drinks a la carte as well as a couple of food items a la carte.

                    2. If anyone has any advice on how to get a response from Aviary, please help. I put kitchen table in the subject line for my request and have sent four emails since last week. I don't want to seem a stalker but should I be sending in every morning?? I understand aboutthe lottery every day nu was under the impression that KT rez were given in advance?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Kchaus

                        Sometimes they take a long time to respond to reservations requests for the Kitchen Table. Try posting on their Facebook Page?

                        1. re: kathryn

                          I just looked on there and it looks like one person got her rez confirmed that way, but she's also going after Alinea :-/
                          I will try that when I can get to a real computer (not phone) so I can figure out how to hide my post from my husband- trying to make it a surprise fir his bday. Definitely good advice!
                          Thank you!

                      2. ( is there a whole in the wall bar nearby where the bartender plays vinyl records of alternative bands from the 80's??? It's killing me but I remember something like this from many years ago..)

                        Do you mean Danny's? 1951 W Dickens Ave -- just North of Le Bouchon. Fair warning, the word is out about this place and it's often packed.

                        For what it's worth, the bartenders at Big Star usually sticky to vinyl, though it's usually more along the lines of old school country-western/honky-tonk. The preference to avoid Mexican notwithstanding, Big Star (for me) is more about the drinks and the crowd, and it's one of the most enjoyable bars in the city for hanging out, people-watching and drinking cheap (but good!) bourbon. Though, yes, the food menu is largely limited to tacos and tostadas.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: danimalarkey

                          That may have been it! But crowded doesn't do it for me and since we're staying relatively close to Big Star, we'll probably check it out. Plus a good bourbon selection- bonus!

                          1. re: Kchaus

                            The bourbon selection is better than good -- I'd say it's one of the strongest in the city! I don't know how recent this is, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect:
                   . In particular, the "William Larue Weller Antique Collection" offerings are absolutely amazing (and hard to find in bottles, let alone at a bar).

                            I should add that Big Star can be crowded, too. But they're much bigger than Danny's so it rarely feels quite as claustrophobic.

                            I don't know if Longman & Eagle has come up here, but they also have a great bourbon selection.

                            1. re: Kchaus

                              If the weather is good, you can sit outside. Big Star also has a pretty big patio area. There's also a takeout window if you just want a quick post-drinking bite.

                          2. Well, thank you all for the input! Here's what ive come up with all via public CTA:

                            Day 1:
                            Violet Hour
                            Le Bouchon
                            Danny's/ Big Star

                            Day 2:
                            Portillo's beef & dog to share for breakfast
                            Berghof snack octoberfest
                            Spice House
                            Oil & Vinegar place near above
                            Purple Pig light lunch
                            Publican snack
                            Office (pre KT rez, fingers crossed)
                            Aviary @10 pm on a weeknight soooo either
                            Au Cheval or
                            Glazed and Infused for late night/sober up snack :)

                            Day 3:
                            Antojitos small breakfast
                            Nhu Lan banh mi!!! snack
                            Frank n dawg lunch
                            Trader Joe's
                            Bristol dinner
                            Late show
                            San Soo Gab San (as needed)

                            Day 4:
                            Bari pick up a sandwich for later
                            Butcher and Larder same
                            Cemitas Puebla breakfast
                            work in Humbolt Park
                            Rootstock dinner at 10pm

                            Day 5:
                            Glazed & Infused in Wicker Park (in case we missed it)
                            Lou Malnoti's lunch- downtown or carryout in Wicker Park?
                            work in Humboldt Park
                            << this is the hard part>>
                            Sun day night dinner after 10 or 11 pm go into Fulton Market for
                            Avec or
                            Au Cheval or
                            La Bruquena for mofongo or
                            Small Bar????????????

                            Day 6:
                            early departure
                            Alliance Bakery
                            then airport food rest of day....

                            Thank you to all of you Chicago Chowhounds!!!!
                            Trip report to follow :)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Kchaus

                              oh and thinking of just switching Au Cheval to Sun night since i know they'll be open and planning on Maudes for a possible late night snack after Aviary!
                              So excited!!!!

                              1. re: Kchaus

                                On Day 4, just be warned that Butcher & Larder doesn't have a wide range of options for prepared foods to go. Usually a cold sandwich, a hot sandwich and soup. Maybe some charcuterie, but I wouldn't expect that. If you're still going strong after Rootstock, consider stopping in at the California Clipper across the street. Drinks are cheap, but tend to run reallllly sweetl modern, balanced cocktails these are not. But the bar has loads of character, a fun vibe, and live music most nights, usually in the country western/honky tonk vibe.

                                On Day 5, as far as Lou's, it probably just depends on your schedule. And if you want to eat in a restaurant or carry a hot pizza somewhere to eat it. Wicker Park is across from Lou's and if you're happy to eat outside... Otherwise, I'd suggest going downtown and eating in a restaurant. It really doesn't take long to get to downtown from Wicker Park. Also, SmallBar is perfectly fun and has great beer with solid food but I don't know if it's destination-worthy dining. Unless you're looking for rare/limited beers (which they'll have), you'll probably have a more memorable meal at Au Cheval (which, as I see now, is your revised plan).