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San Francisco Hound coming to town, please rate my itinerary.

A friend and I will be in town during the Chicago marathon weekend, from Thursday-Sunday. We were lucky to find a place in Printers Row, with all the runners in town.

THURS: We're going straight for deep dish after we land, and Yelp had Pequod's as the "most" rated so I made a reservation there. Is it worth the trek? Or should we stick to somewhere close by? We'll probably want some cocktails after dinner.

FRIDAY: Reservation at Topolobampo for lunch. Maybe Slurping Turtle for a snack in the afternoon. Reservation at BellyQ for dinner. I really want to try Peasantry for a late night bite, the menu looks really fun.

SAT: Hot Doug's first thing in the morning. Purple pig for lunch, how bad will the wait be? Bavettes bar and Boeuf for dinner. Should we try another steakhouse instead?

SUN: I wanted to check out Maxwell market for tacos, will this be difficult because of the marathon? Reservation at Publican for brunch. Reservation at G.E.B. for dinner, is this a good idea with all the bad Graham Elliot press lately?

Anything we're missing that Chicago does better than SF? We're not really looking to do high end though. Also, what's a good neighborhood for bar hopping (with good cocktails)?

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  1. Pequods vs. other places -- I think Pequod's is really tasty but it isn't necessarily the most authentic Chicago-style deep dish. They use a fair amount of cheese on the crust (so it gets all caramelized and crispy). Is it worth the trek? I'm inclined to suggest Lou Malnati's in River North, which would put you in a good location for post-dinner drinks (Sable comes most immediately to mind; Gilt Bar may work, too).

    Bavettes vs. other steakhouses -- Bavettes is brand new (though the owner and chef have several other restaurants and all are very popular -- Au Cheval, Gilt Bar, Maude's Liquor Bar -- guess I should add Doughnut Vault to be complete though it's not anything like the other restaurants). The only review I've seen for Bavettes said the food is very good, in general, though the steaks were the least successful options (not bad, but everything else was just so much better). So, if you want steak, another option might be better -- if you want a fun, bistro-like menu, Bavettes should be a good choice.

    G.E.B. -- I don't think any of the staff turnover has been at G.E.B. but at his flagship restaurant, graham elliot. I don't recall G.E.B. getting much love with reviews... I think there are probably better restaurants at that price point. In that neighborhood and at that price point, I'd say Au Cheval might be more enjoyable.

    Bar hopping -- You could make the rounds in the West Loop, but for my money, Logan Square/Bucktown/Wicker Park are all great neighborhoods for nightlife/bar hopping. Logan Square is home to Yusho & Longman & Eagle (both great for food, too) as well as The Whistler (drinks only), The Owl (drinks only) and Revolution (brewpub that nails the beer, cocktails... a little more hit/miss); or closer to the city by a few miles would be Violet Hour (very relaxed/quiet cocktail lounge) and Big Star (liquor is limited to whiskey and tequila, good beer, too; cheap tacos, as well). I also like Bar Deville, SmallBar & Bangers & Lace (though these last two places are probably more beer focused -- though they will do a good cocktail, too)

    4 Replies
    1. re: danimalarkey

      Does Lou Malnati's let you phone in your order ahead of time? I'm thinking now, we'll probably be starving after our flight, so maybe that might be the determining factor.

      Thanks for the heads up on G.E.B. I think a gastropub like Au Cheval might actually be a better choice for our last meal.

      Oh, and should we save space for a Italian beef sandwich? Which one?

      1. re: DezzerSF

        >> Does Lou Malnati's let you phone in your order ahead of time? I'm thinking now, we'll probably be starving after our flight, so maybe that might be the determining factor.

        Yes, they do. It typically takes 30-45 minutes for deep-dish to bake, so plan accordingly. And the location at 8th and State is right near your hotel in Printer's Row. Here's the info:

        Lou Malnati's
        805 S. State Street
        Chicago, IL 60605
        Phone: 312.786.1000
        Fax: 312.786.1298
        www.loumalnatis.com/Locations/Details...

        >> Oh, and should we save space for a Italian beef sandwich? Which one?

        See my previous post below. :)

        1. re: DezzerSF

          The phone-in thing to Malnatti's didn't work for us, but maybe it was a fluke. Pizza wasn't fired until we were seated.

        2. re: danimalarkey

          We ended up at Lou Malnati's at 8th & State. We thought the Malnati classic had a bit too much cheese, even after requesting less cheese with our order. The cheese also hardened after our first slice. I wanted a bit more tomato sauce and I ended up using the sauce from the stuffed spinach bread appetizer. I know this might sound blasphemous, but I think I prefer the deep dish we have back in SF bay area!

          We had a good time at the Whistler with nice drinks and cool music. The bartender even made me a nice Mezcal manhattan, when I requested something off menu.

          Barrelhouse Flat was good for after drink eats; interesting chicken wings, and a pigface poutine.

        3. Your itinerary is excellent. You mention wanting things that Chicago does particularly well. You might consider Thai or Sichuan on Saturday night. Consider Double Li in Chinatown for Sichuan and Aroy Thai on the north side for Thai.

          3 Replies
          1. re: camusman

            I don't think our Chinese offerings are as consistent (in quality) or as varied (in cuisines/styles) as San Francisco. And while some of our Thai food is pretty good, I don't think it's any better than elsewhere. (Certainly not L.A., which many Bay Area folks frequently visit.)

            Other food types Chicago does better than San Francisco include Greek (e.g. the places along Halsted in Greek Town) and eastern European (e.g. Polish at Podhalanka). However, I would not remove anything from your itinerary in order to add any of these foods to what you've got now. Consider them for a future trip.

            1. re: camusman

              Thanks. Not too sure we want to eat Asian during our visit. We get plenty of Asian back home, but we may just stroll through Chinatown nevertheless.

              1. re: camusman

                Feeling under the weather on Sunday, we actually did make it to Chinatown for food. My friend didn't want Sichuan however, so we ended up at Go 4 Food. We had beef brisket with turnips, salted egg yolk shrimp, and on choy with garlic. The food was definitely well seasoned, and my favorite was the salted egg yolk shrimp.

                Slurping Turtle had a nicely designed space, but the food didn't wow us. Duck fat fried chicken was nice and crispy, but the mostly white meat chicken was on the dry side. The pork belly buns were tasty, but we've had better at Ippudo and Momofuku. I felt the tonkotsu ramen broth had average depth, especially after having the broth at Aviary! The spicy miso ramen was okay too, but you do get quite a big portion.

              2. >> THURS: We're going straight for deep dish after we land, and Yelp had Pequod's as the "most" rated so I made a reservation there. Is it worth the trek? Or should we stick to somewhere close by? We'll probably want some cocktails after dinner.

                I'm not fond of Pequod's and its charred crust deep-dish. Oh, it's not awful, but I greatly prefer the deep-dish at Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and the original Uno and Due in River North. Also Pequod's is geographically inconvenient. Since you're staying in Printer's Row, I would go straight from your hotel to the nearby Lou Malnati's at 8th and State. You can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for your pizza to bake.

                >> SAT: Hot Doug's first thing in the morning. Purple pig for lunch, how bad will the wait be?

                Even if you go to Hot Doug's when they open at 10:30 (when lines are minimal), it will take you a while to order, eat, and get back downtown, putting you smack in the lunchtime rush. Still, the waits at lunchtime are typically on the order of 30ish minutes, not as bad as at dinner. Especially if you go there on the late side for lunch (say 1:30 or later).

                >> Bavettes bar and Boeuf for dinner. Should we try another steakhouse instead?

                I haven't been to either, or heard much about either. If you want a consistently reliable outstanding steakhouse, consider David Burke's Primehouse or Chicago Cut Steakhouse.

                >> Anything we're missing that Chicago does better than SF? We're not really looking to do high end though.

                With Topolobampo on the agenda, you've got contemporary Mexican covered. And presumably a good steakhouse. You might consider grabbing an Italian beef at Portillo's, Al's, or Mr. Beef. (None are close to Printers Row, but Al's on Taylor Street - our "Little Italy" - isn't far, and if you're in River North you could hit the other two.) Also, don't miss Garrett's Popcorn for a snack; they have multiple locations downtown.

                One other possibility that you might consider is Mercat a la Planxa. They do tapas; the owner, Jose Garces, is a native Chicagoan who built a restaurant empire in Philadelphia. And it's very close to your hotel. The South Loop (which includes Printers Row) isn't really the best part of downtown for drinking establishments - you can tell from the plethora of recommendations above for places in the West Loop and River North - but Mercat is very good, with great food and a lively atmosphere. It would work for lunch, dinner, drinks, and/or a late night snack.

                3 Replies
                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Iron Chef Garces! Will definitely bookmark. Thanks for the great tips.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    The weather this weekend sidetracked us and we didn't make it to Hot Doug's in the morning. We did however make it to Frank & Dawgs which was tasty, with interesting combinations. I liked the brioche bun but my Tur-Doggin felt a little over the top after a while and I couldn't finish all the duck confit.

                    We enjoyed Topolobampo for its perfectly executed high end Mexican fare. We tried the ceviche, huitlacoche quesadillas, and I had the fish entree with pozole froth. Definitely delicious, but overall, I felt it lacked soul. I actually preferred the Frontera dining room, and wondered if I would have liked the food better there.

                    1. re: DezzerSF

                      Thanks for your reports. Glad you had some good meals and drinks.

                  2. Molecular/modern cocktails at The Aviary in the West Loop would be a good addition.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kathryn

                      Went to the Aviary last night. Wow! Their tonkotsu ramen is the best I've had. The broth was so rich and porky. And the horchata cocktail, I could have drank that all night.

                      1. re: DezzerSF

                        You can make the Horchata at home, too! I soak cinnamon sticks in boiling water and freeze the water after it's cooled to make my own cinnamon ice.

                        1 oz Angostura® Rum
                        1⁄2 oz Casa Noble Reposado Tequila
                        4 1⁄2 oz Rice Milk (chilled)
                        5 dashes Angostura® aromatic bitters
                        1 oz Agave Syrup

                        Build in Styrofoam cup. Stir with cinnamon ice. Add lid and straw.

                    2. "SUN: I wanted to check out Maxwell market for tacos, will this be difficult because of the marathon?"

                      No, as a matter of fact I do it every year, checking out the start of the marathon at around Dearborn and Jackson (around mile one I think), which will give you enough time to walk over to Desplaines (where the market is esconced nowadays) have a couple of samplings (Rubi's is still my favorite--they make their tortillas fresh), stopover at mile 18 (Halsted/Taylor--at about 80-90 minutes (?) from the start), which should give you enough time to saunter back (or maybe a fast walk depending on how long you linger at 18) to see the finishing stretch at Roosevelt and Michigan. That should help to build your appetite for the Publican, too.

                      5 Replies
                        1. re: DezzerSF

                          If you're an al pastor junkie (like me), try to get to Tierra Caliente on Ashland at about 11:20 a.m., when the cone is usually at its best.

                          1. re: camusman

                            Ya' know, Chowhound should add a "Like" feature, because I really like the fact that you have a specific time of day to get the layer of meat that you most desire.

                            1. re: jbontario

                              Once you've been to Shangri-La, you don't want to settle for Lake Tahoe.

                          2. re: DezzerSF

                            Yes, altho I don't know if that's their best. I lean towards the quesadillas and anything with huitlacoche. Others rave about their squash blossoms (I tried them once but maybe it was a bad day). I'd also look for the pupusas booth, altho the Salvadorans are not always there.