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Sep 20, 2012 06:26 PM

Chicago Marathon

I am running the Marathon this year and bringing my husband and 2 teenage sons as my cheering section. We have booked our pasta dinner for Saturday night (Spiagga Cafe), but will be looking for other great eateries for the weekend: dinners and brunch. The boys are fairly adventorous eaters, so we are not looking to eat in fast food places. We are staying near the Magnificant Mile. Any suggestions??

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  1. There are lots of great places to eat near the Mag Mile. Some of the best for dinner include Sable (contemporary American small plates, craft cocktails), GT Fish (seafood small plates, craft cocktails), Quartino (Italian small plates), and David Burke's Primehouse (steakhouse). For Sunday brunch, Shaw's, the seafood restaurant, does a terrific all-you-can-eat buffet; Cafe des Architectes in the Sofitel does a nice a la carte brunch; and if you don't mind a short cab ride, North Pond is exquisite, for its setting in the park as well as its food. For Saturday breakfast, Original Pancake House on East Bellevue is near the north end of the Mag Mile; near the south end are Meli Cafe, Yolk, and South Water Kitchen. Reservations are strongly recommended; all of these (except for the Saturday breakfast recs) accept them on as well as over the phone.

    1. Your boys would probably enjoy the many options at Portillo's and Foodlife. They former does two Chicago favorites well: Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago style hot dogs.
      I also highly recommend Purple Pig and Xoco, although both can get very busy during peak hours.

      1 Reply
      1. re: camusman

        Additional info and tips... Portillo's has a location on Ontario near the Mag Mile, where you can get Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. Foodlife is a food court type place in Water Tower Place. Waits to be seated at Purple Pig during normal dinner hours are typically 90-120 minutes (yes, seriously) and they don't take reservations.

      2. Your cheering squad should look at the course map and plan some eats along the way. They could take the Red Line to Chinatown and eat there and then hoof it to 35th. That stretch right out of Chinatown between mile 22 and 23 is pretty desolate. I always see my family there and it is really nice boost. They can grab the red line at 35th and take it back downtown and see you at the end.

        Also mile 18 is in Little Italy and they can grab an Italian beef from the original Al's. That area is prettty good for spotting family members. Crowded but not crazed like on the north-side.

        I would definitely book a table now for dinner on Sunday because the last thing you'll want is to stand around waiting. And splurge! What would you most in the mood for? We could give suggestions based on that. Me - I'm ordering a stuffed pizza and not sharing.

        One non-food tip: On Saturday, cruise around the Buckingham Fountain area. That is where family meet up is. It is crowded and gravelly and kind of overwhelming on Sunday. I suggest picking a place to meet in the rose garden just north of the Fountain. There are trees and grass to lie on. Pick a landmark and direct your family to meet you there at the end.

        Good luck! Here's hoping to 50 degrees, blue skies, and no wind (unless it is at our backs)

        4 Replies
        1. re: lbs

          That's a great idea. Look into 3-day CTA passes for you and your cheering section.

          Chinatown Square Mall has some great places for snacks or full meals.
          Although the north side can be crowded, I would send your fans to Clark and Wellington for their first stop, where they can grab breakfast stuff at Aje Cafe.

          1. re: lbs

            Unfortunately Al's on Taylor is closed on Sunday (unless they make an exception for the Marathon) But on my way over to mile 18, I always stop off at Maxwell Street market for some great Mexican street food that you can pick up and eat there, or carry over. Rubi's (where they make the tortillas on site) is always a good choice.

            1. re: jbw

              Whoops! I did not know that about Al's. Sorry for the misdirect.

            2. re: lbs

              I had another thought for the OP, thinking of those hungry boys. One of our Brazilian "churrasquerias" would delight them. You pay one price--- there is a salad bar you could live on for a week, after which they bring a steady stream of 12-16 cuts of meat to your table in an unending parade and keep slicing some onto your plate, with other hot dishes brought to the table or available by request, all included. One such place is Fogo de Chao, LaSalle & Erie, and another is Brazzaz, Grand & Dearborn. Both have websites with more details.

            3. Thanks for all the great info! My kids are particularly excited! My one son loves french Macaroons. Any ideas for bakeries for pastries?

              9 Replies
              1. re: ljpaul

                >> Any ideas for bakeries for pastries?

                In the city, the two best are Floriole and Vanille, both in Lincoln Park. And they're only a few blocks apart, so it's easy to hit both at the same time.


                If you don't want to stray from downtown, Vanille has a booth in the French Market just west of the Loop. Toni Patisserie, in the Loop, is also very good.

                1. re: ljpaul

                  Convenient to your hotel for pastries is Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafters, which has sublime croissants and very good pastries. A bit pricey, but worth it.

                  1. re: camusman

                    I've been to Hendrickx, and they have very little in the way of pastries. I don't recall even seeing a refrigerator display case there. The breads are pretty good - they even have a Belgian bread with white chocolate baked into it - but for pastries and desserts, they just don't do much. OTOH it's indeed close to the Mag Mile's north end, so it's easy to walk over there.

                    By way of contrast, here's more information about some of the items you'll find at Floriole and Vanille.

                    One of the nice things about Floriole is that they do a great variety of breads, pastries, and desserts, doing them all extremely well. For example, I love their caneles. It's the only place in the area, with the exception of the restaurant L2O, where I've ever seen caneles. (If you're not familiar with caneles, which are small custardy pastries, read ). Last time I was there I also got a peach panna cotta and chocolate pot de creme, and a croissant, and they were all superb. And I bought a large miche, a loaf of whole-wheat bread with a dark chewy crust, as pictured below. And when I say "large", I mean large; it's 11 inches long! Everything I've tried there has been outstanding.

                    I also love the "one-two punch" of Floriole combined with Vanille Patisserie, a five-minute walk west of Floriole. Vanille has great croissants, terrific entremets (individual sized mousse cakes) and other individual sized pastries, and excellent French macaroons.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      The OP asked about macarons. Hendrickx has superb macarons, along with other sweet stuff.

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Floriole and Vanille are, indeed excellent bakeries, but they are a not so convenient "destination" visit for someone staying near the Mag Mile.

                        1. re: chicgail

                          They're not far. Google Maps says by car/cab Floriole is 9 minutes (2.7 miles) from Chicago and State; by public transit, it's 18 minutes (a 7 minute ride on the CTA Red Line to Fullerton, followed by an 11 minute walk).

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            I know the area well.
                            The times listed sound optimistic to me and the drive is probably are heavily effected by time of day, traffic, weather. In my personal experience, I'd say you're talking about a 15 minute drive and not a lot of taxis to flag in that neighborhood if you need a ride home.
                            I know there is a way to take public trans, but what you have described above - under the best of circumstances - is a pretty big-deal journey each way for a pastry.
                            Although they are good pastries.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              I know the area well too. And the times are NOT optimistic. The Red Line trains run like clockwork, every few minutes, all day long. And the walk from the Fullerton station is also like clockwork - although it might take even less time for a marathon runner! As for cabs, they may not be so easy to find in front of Floriole on Webster, but you can catch cabs easily if you're also going to Vanille, which is on a very popular commercial stretch of Clybourn near the movie theaters.

                              And anyone really interested in pastry is willing to travel for the best ones around. Heck, I've traveled a lot further than 18 minutes for pastries. Many times, in Chicago as well as in other cities. What's fortunate is that two of our best pastry shops are so close together, so in under half an hour you can hit both of them. That's not true in most other cities.

                              Like any inquiry, it's up to the poster to decide whether it's worth traveling 18 minutes for the best pastries in town, or something less than that for pastries that aren't. The options are there and the OP can make the decision for himself/herself. Our posts here can provide maximum information so they can make an informed decision. More information *should* be a good thing, not something that should be repeatedly attacked and nitpicked to death.

                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                Thanks everyone! We have no problem travelling for food...especially after running 26miles! My kids are well travelled and won't care if we have to take the train. Trust me, we have travelled a lot farther for food on many occassions...isn't that why we use this website? Chicago here we come!

                  2. The macaroons at the new La Fournette in Old Town are lovely and closer. Might be worth a visit.