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Sep 24, 2012 12:15 PM

Chicago weekend, Food, Drinks and Football!!!!

I will be in Chicago for the Bears v Texans game in November. There will be a large group by Saturday. On Friday, there will only be 3 of us in the city. We will be staying at the Sheraton Towers and are looking for a great meal and a place to go for drinks after we eat. We dont mind cab rides or travel, so we are open to any part of the city. We are all coming from NY, so we are OK with navigating the city.

I came across the sites for Moto, Girl and the Goat, The Publican, Blackbird etc;

What are the recommendations from the locals??!!!

We want good food with a good scence, nothing to stuffy...........

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  1. The places you mention are all good; Girl and the Goat requires reservations far in advance.
    If you'd like something within walking distance, consider Slurping Turtle, Sable, or Quartino.

    1. causman is right about GATG, but it's worth a try. You may have to eat early or late if you can get in at all.

      Moto is not something I recommend. It's molecular gastronomy for it's own sake or for the novelty, but not because it actually enhances the flavor or experience of the food.

      I am a big fan of The Publican. Especially good for Sunday brunch. Request a private booth or table so you don't get a communal table.

      Blackbird is very good. Tables pretty close together so little privacy.

      Other recommendations:
      Sprout (Dale Levitski from Top Chef) has very good deconstructed standards. It's also a reasonable prix fixe menu.
      Browntrout is outside the main tourist areas (so is Sprout), but it's an excellent use of locally sourced sustainable ingredients.
      Naha is consistently excellent, casually elegant and centrally located.
      Bonsoiree now sells "tickets" to their meals with 6- and 12-course options. Going to try out the new chefs (Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark) in about a month.

      You don't say what your budget is, but nothing beats Alinea for great food and great science.

      You also might want to check out Goosefoot and El Ideas.

      1. Within a five-minute walk of the Sheraton are numerous terrific places. You really don't need to travel over to the West Loop, which is over a mile away and where the four places you mention are located. If you do go over there, Blackbird is the best by far of the four you list. If you'd like to know where to go within that five-minute walk radius (except where noted), here are some recommendations.

        If you want to go high-end, TRU is the obvious choice; it's expensive and formal (jackets required) which may or may not be what you're looking for. It may be the "Eleven Madison Park of Chicago", if you want to view it in a New York perspective.

        Also close by is Piccolo Sogno Due, one of our very best Italian restaurants, with a subtle emphasis towards seafood. Like the original in River West, it features terrific bread service, helpful experienced servers, available outdoor seating, etc.

        So is Sable, which features contemporary American cuisine from Chef Heather Terhune, with small plate portion sizes available, as well as craft cocktails. I've had numerous spectacularly delicious meals there.

        A few more excellent choices close by are David Burke's Primehouse for steaks, Shaw's Crab House for seafood, and Quartino for Italian small plates. A bit further (10-15 minutes walk) are GT Oyster & Fish to the west (seafood small plates), Mercat a la Planxa to the south (tapas), and Naha, whose recommendation above I'll second. Another very special place is three miles north: North Pond, which is in the middle of the park in a renovated Art Deco building facing the pond and the city skyline, with terrific contemporary American cuisine from James Beard Award-winning Chef Bruce Sherman.

        All of the above places accept reservations on as well as over the phone.

        Another place nearby is the Purple Pig, which features small plates of Mediterranean cuisine. Be forewarned, they don't accept reservations and typical waiting times for a table are 90-120 minutes. But if you can go at an off hour (or you don't mind the wait), it's worth considering.

        And right inside your hotel is LB Bistro. It may seem like an average hotel coffee shop, but look closer. It's run by a world pastry chef champion, and it's open for breakfast and lunch. Their all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is way beyond what you'd find in most hotels, with some really unusual and high-quality offerings.

        Enjoy your visit!

        4 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          Thanks for the quick replies. We are looking for something nice, but not jacket required nice. More concerned w/ good food , strong drinks and a crowd. Going to look up all the places mentioned above. Thanks!!

          1. re: jklb14

            Since I speak your language, I would try one of the following: Au Cheval, Sable, or Publican. Each treats cocktails and beer as equally important to food and are all lively fun places.

            1. re: jbontario

              +1 on these three places. I'll add Maude's or Gilt Bar as a "sceney" place with a good crowd, good food, and serious drinks.

              I also agree with most of what nsxtasy has said above. He/she always does a great job!

              I'll just add that my recent meal at Piccolo Sogno Due paled in comparison to the meal I had at its sister restaurant in River West. Two of three pastas were under-cooked/raw, two of three entrees reminded me of a plate I would make at a crappy buffet, and service was shaky. Piccolo Sogno in River West may be a bit out of the way, but I'd sooner pay for a cab there than walk to Piccolo Sogno Due.

              1. re: aburkavage

                That's odd, because my recent dinner at Piccolo Sogno Due was absolutely first-rate, as good as the original in every way - perfectly cooked dishes, exquisitely creative, servers as knowledgeable and helpful as anywhere in the city, etc. I don't know why the difference, but I can assure you that your meal was an anomoly, based on my own experience. (Did you bring it to their attention?)

                Also, for a great job on craft cocktails, in addition to the places already mentioned, GT Oyster & Fish does that aspect extremely well too.

                Thanks for the kind words!

        2. Call GATG for Saturday night for your big group if you can solidify a headcount. A friend of mine was able to get in relatively last minute because she had a large group and GATG were willing to work with her. I think the tables for 2 and 4 go the fastest.

          12 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            GIrl and the goat is booked solid the enitre weekend we are gonna be there.
            Any thoughts on the purple pig, bellyQ, the publican and gage??
            Came recommended from the hotel we are staying at.

            Looks like we are gonna hit Hot Dougs right away after landing and then we want a good dinner friday night and then somewhere for strong drinks and a good crowd after. Prob go to slurping turtle for our hangover cures sat morning.

            been told gino's east for deep dish??

            1. re: jklb14

              I really dislike Gino's East, but some like it. My favorite is Lou Malnati's (about 4 blocks away.)

              My second on your list is Publican. Purple Pig is very good but no reservations.

              1. re: jklb14

                >> Any thoughts on the purple pig, bellyQ, the publican and gage??

                As noted above, the Purple Pig doesn't accept reservations, and waits of 90-120 minutes are typical, unless you can go at an off hour. OTOH it's close to your hotel, so you could go put your names in, go elsewhere, and then go back.

                I wasn't overly impressed with the Publican. Some dishes (notably the seafood) were quite good, some were just okay, and some - notably the desserts - were dreadful. It's also VERY LOUD. But some people like it. If you go, you should be aware that they accept reservations on and they're strongly recommended. About half the seating consists of looooong communal tables; when making a reservation, you can enter your preference (for communal seating or a private table) into the comments and they will try to accommodate it. It's over a mile from your hotel.

                The Gage is a good gastropub near the Art Institute. It's about 3/4 mile from the Sheraton Towers.

                I haven't been to BellyQ. It's several miles away.

                Choosing among those four really depends on your tolerance for long waits to be seated, and your preference for geographical convenience. Personally, I would easily prefer the nearby places I recommended above - Piccolo Sogno Due and Sable - over any of the three more distant places. Heck, I'd prefer them even if they were further away. But they're much more convenient, too. And you don't have the no-reservations issue of Purple Pig.

                >> Looks like we are gonna hit Hot Dougs right away after landing and then we want a good dinner friday night and then somewhere for strong drinks and a good crowd after.

                Consider Sable, even if you go just for drinks. It's an easy walk from your hotel.

                >> been told gino's east for deep dish??

                I disagree. Now, Gino's East isn't bad; heck, if it were in most other cities, I'd consider it the best place in town. But I think traditional deep-dish is a whole lot better at any location of Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, or the River North locations of Uno and Due. Of these, Uno and Due are the closest to the Sheraton Towers. The downside of Uno and Due is, you can't phone ahead with your pizza order for dine-in, and you may have to wait a while to be seated, too. You can phone ahead at Lou Malnati's (closest location is on Wells) or Pizano's (closest is on Madison), and that way you won't have to wait 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake, and they will seat you in time for when you've specified your pizza should be ready.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  How does Pequod's compare, for deep dish?

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    It's not a bad pizza at all, but not quite the classics that you'll find at Uno, Due, Pizano or Malnati. I would say it depends on where you are and if it's the most convenient for you.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      I agree with chicgail on this. I'm not a fan of the "charred crust" style used at Pequod's, and I prefer the "deep-dish classics" of Uno/Due, Pizano's, and Malnati's.

                      It's also worth noting that Pequod's has two locations, in Lincoln Park and north suburban Morton Grove, neither of which is particularly convenient to the downtown area. By contrast, Lou Malnati's has about forty locations throughout the Chicago area, including ones in the Gold Coast, River North, and South Loop, and Pizano's has downtown locations in River North and the Loop.

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        I agree that Pequod's is not as "classic" as Malnati's or Uno/Due, but, for me, that's a good thing. Actually, Pequod's pepperoni is the only deep dish pizza in Chicago I actually enjoy. I guess that's why there's chocolate and vanilla!

                2. re: jklb14

                  Weighing in here:
                  I don't like Gino's East at all. If i want deep dish, I would go to Unos, Due, Lou Malnoti (several locations) or Pizzanos.

                  The Publican is one of my favorites. I know some people think it is noisy, but it's never been an issue for me. It's fun; the food is excellent and creative. Great beer options, but also good drinks and wine.

                  A lot of people like The Gage, but I can't recommend it. I've been disappointed every time I've been there. Unless sedate quiet is important to you, I think the Publican is head and shoulders over The Gage.

                  I've not been to Purple Pig or Belly Q, but I've heard good things.

                  BTW, I like Slurping Turtle, but I would swap in The Publican for their wonderful brunch - one of my faves. Then you could sub something else for dinner.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    quiet is not on our list of priorities!!
                    Thanks for the deep dish recs!
                    Hard decision about dinner!!

                  2. re: jklb14

                    What's nice about the Publican (which I also think is great -- very much a European beer hall by way of the Midwest) is that it's near Au Cheval and Maude's Liquor Bar. Both are owned by the same group and share a similar sensibility -- jbontario and aburkavage described them both well. If you want a good crowd and strong drinks, either option should work well. Sunda is often mentioned, too, as a drinks/scene sort of place and might be worth checking out (though the food doesn't seem to get as much attention, for better or worse).

                    Another 'hangover cure' to consider would be Xoco, just a block or two away. Of course, having said that and looking at the menu now, they stop serving breakfast at 10am -- if your hangovers are anything like mine, that's just too early to be up and out in public.

                    And yeah, for deep dish, I stick to Lou's, too.

                    1. re: danimalarkey

                      >> Another 'hangover cure' to consider would be Xoco, just a block or two away.

                      I'm not sure what Xoco is a block or two away from. It's a mile from Publican and around nine blocks from the Sheraton Towers.

                      >> Of course, having said that and looking at the menu now, they stop serving breakfast at 10am -- if your hangovers are anything like mine, that's just too early to be up and out in public.

                      Xoco is open all morning; after 10, their beverages and churros are available for an hour, and then lunch service starts.

                      But if you don't mind waiting until 11:30 when they open, IMHO the Purple Pig would be a better choice for a "hangover cure" (Mediterranean-focused small plates for lunch). It's only a couple of blocks from the Sheraton, and it would give you a chance to sample their cuisine without the ungodly long waits at dinner. (They serve the same menu all day long; it's not a diminished "lunch menu".)

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Xoco is a few blocks from Slurping Turtle (two, in fact), the OP's idea for a 'hangover cure'.