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Oct 15, 2012 12:23 PM

Visting Chicago this weekend. Need help with suggestions.

I started a thread about " Monday night Football and where to go before and after the game to eat/drink". but after reading the boards I realized I need more advice.

We are arriving at 10am on Sunday, Oct 21. What are some good ideas for lunch and dinner.
We want to experience Chicago's favorite foods. I have read that Pizzeria Uno is best for Pizza. Portillo's for hotdogs...unless there is a better place to experience a "true Chicago hotdog"

Monday...Bongo for breakfast. We will do some sightseeing during the day so we need ideas for lunch. We are going to the football game at night so need ideas for dinner before and drinks/food after.

Tuesday we have the entire day. Our flight doesn't leave till 9pm so we have all day for sightseeing and eating. I need breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas

I also love lattes, cappuccinos, and pastries. So what are some of the best coffee shops and where is the best to buy pastries...I love sweets!

We are staying at the Wyndham Blake . The hotel is two blocks to the train but if there is a "not to be missed" place to eat., we do not mind walking or a taxi.

I don't have an itinerary yet, but I do know that the Navy pier, Willis tower, Millennium Cloud Gate, and tour of Wrigley field are places we want to see.

Thanks for any suggestions you can give us.

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  1. I'm replying to questions here as well as those you have asked in the other topic, at

    First, some basic geography. "The Loop" is Chicago's historical and commercial center, where all the transit lines meet, and is roughly one square mile. Your hotel is at the southern edge of the Loop; that small district (the few blocks south of Congress) is sometimes called Printer's Row, although more recently the larger area south of the Loop is more commonly referred to as the South Loop. Soldier Field is about a mile south-southeast from your hotel. When you're traveling by el (that's our subway, portions of which run above-ground), your hotel is near the elevated Harold Washington Library stop on the CTA Brown, Orange, Pink, and Purple Lines, the underground Harrison stop on the CTA Red Line, and the underground Jackson and LaSalle stops on the CTA Blue Line; you can find additional transit information at

    Now, for recommendations, starting with information about your specific questions and places you've mentioned...

    For deep-dish pizza, go to Lou Malnati's at 8th and State, two blocks from your hotel. Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and Uno/Due are all very good, and are all similar; this is not coincidence, as they share a family history. No need or reason to travel a mile to Uno unless you're already in the neighborhood. Go to Lou Malnati's. You can phone ahead with your pizza order and they'll have it ready when you're seated, if you want to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

    Bongo Room, at Wabash and Roosevelt, is close by, for breakfast. Great choice. Tip: Their standard portion size consists of three GIGANTIC pancakes, but you can also order one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at reduced prices, which lets you try multiple dishes.

    Portillo's is indeed a good place for Chicago-style hot dogs. The nearest location is on Ontario in River North (the neighborhood named for its location across the river from, and just north of, the Loop), so it's about a mile north of your hotel. They also have Chicago's other local sandwich specialty, the Italian beef sandwich.

    During your trip, North Pond is open for Sunday brunch, Sunday dinner, and Tuesday dinner. Make reservations RIGHT NOW as they do fill. They take reservations on as well as over the phone. It's a great choice - the setting in the park is lovely, and the contemporary American food from James Beard Award winning chef Bruce Sherman is terrific.

    I'm not fond of Honey 1 for barbecue; I've found theirs very fatty and not very flavorful. It's also not very convenient to your hotel.

    For coffee, Chicago's biggest and best-known coffee roaster is Intelligentsia, which is served by a lot of our coffee houses. Intelligentsia has a coffee bar in the historic Monadnock Building at 53 West Jackson, conveniently two blocks north of your hotel.

    Chicago has lots of great pastry shops. Several are in and around the Loop, which means you can walk there from your hotel (although they may be a long walk; you may want to look at maps to get a better idea). Toni Patisserie is a really good French bakery in the middle of the Loop. (If you want Intelligentsia coffee close to Toni Patisserie, they also have a coffee bar a block away on East Randolph.) The French Market (closed Sundays - ) is in one of the commuter train stations just west of the Loop, and one of our best places for pastry, Vanille Patisserie, has a stall there. Vanille has great entremets (individual-sized mousse cakes), croissants, and French macaroons. Northeast of the Loop is Fox & Obel, our premier gourmet food store; their bakery department is terrific, particularly for breads (a bit more so than pastry). I especially recommend their rich cinnamon swirl rolls, croissants, rustic fruit and nut bread, and broiche.

    If you are interested in venturing further, one more outstanding bakery is Floriole, on Webster, walking distance from the Fullerton stop on the CTA Red, Brown, and Purple lines. They have great pastries (including custardy caneles) as well as pot de creme, panna cotta, croissants, breads, etc. And if you don't get to go to Vanille at the French Market, their original location is on Clybourn just a few blocks west of Floriole.

    As far as your other lunches and dinners, well, there are dozens, even hundreds of places in Chicago that are worth recommending. If I had to pick just a few, here's what I'd suggest, in addition to what's already been mentioned. Two restaurants where I've been several times and thought they were among my best meals of the year are convenient to your plans and neither is particularly expensive - Sable and Deleece (on Southport). Sable is in River North, and features delicious contemporary American cuisine as well as craft cocktails. The food is in a small plates format, and most of the items are also available in half portions. Don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee, a savory riff on the classic French dessert. Deleece is a casual bistro on Southport in Lakeview, a few blocks from Wrigley Field, and features contemporary American cuisine. Both Sable and Deleece are open for lunch and dinner.

    Other good places I can recommend for lunch and dinner include Mercat a la Planxa (tapas three blocks east of your hotel - ), Gioco (Italian in the South Loop, six blocks south of your hotel - ), Piccolo Sogno Due (Italian at the south end of the Magnificent Mile, the one-mile stretch of North Michigan Avenue that runs north from the northeast corner of the Loop - ), GT Oyster & Fish (small plates seafood in River North - ), and Purple Pig (small plates Mediterranean at the south end of the Mag Mile - ).

    All of the above places, with the exceptions of pizza, Bongo Room, and Purple Pig, accept reservations on as well as over the phone. I strongly recommend making reservations in advance if you have a good idea of when and where you'll want to eat - ESPECIALLY anywhere close to Soldier Field (e.g. Gioco) for dinner before the game. And even if you don't make reservations, at least check on the hours of places you're considering, as some places are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays.

    So those are my immediate recommendations off the top of my head, based on what you've mentioned. Feel free to ask more questions and we'll try to help. Enjoy your visit!

    13 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Lots of great advice and tips. I have one quick question. I looked up Northpond menu and we didn't see anything we would be adventurous enough to try . The restaurant location and atmosphere sounds just like what we are looking for. Something romantic and something we don't have here in Kansas city. I looked up the Sable and they have more of a selection of foods we would like to try. Not sure of the atmosphere there, Do you have any recommendations? I know I will have other questions as I am planning our itinerary. Thank you all the links and information on getting around Chicago.

      1. re: dawn65

        >> Lots of great advice and tips. I have one quick question. I looked up Northpond menu and we didn't see anything we would be adventurous enough to try . The restaurant location and atmosphere sounds just like what we are looking for. Something romantic and something we don't have here in Kansas city.

        Yes, that's exactly what it's like. As far as the menu goes, one thing that's a bit different from other places is Chef Sherman's style. Most other places may name six different ingredients in a dish, and they are all used in preparing one main item on the plate. Whereas at North Pond, the menu may name six different ingredients, and they are served as one main item surrounded by five other "mini items" on the plate. What I've found is that I may not like every single thing on the plate, but I'll find that at least one or two are amazingly delicious, and most are very good too. I don't know if that helps, but maybe it does...? But if, after looking at the menu on their website, you really think you're not going to find anything you like, then you might want to consider dining elsewhere (unless you think the amazing atmosphere and setting are worth it even if you're not wowed by the food). Give it some thought.

        >> I looked up the Sable and they have more of a selection of foods we would like to try. Not sure of the atmosphere there

        The decor is contemporary and the atmosphere is an interesting combination of casual style and classy decor. It's located in the upscale Hotel Palomar and is at street level with full length glass on one side facing the sidewalk. One side of the hoststand is the bar, a very upscale looking cocktail lounge. The other side is the main dining room, which is dominated by an open kitchen along the long side (the side opposite the windows). When Chef Heather Terhune is in the house (usually), you can watch her on the line, working and prepping along with her staff. The attire is "anything goes"; you'll see some people in business attire, and others in blue jeans. The noise level is somewhat loud, but not overbearingly so. It's a very friendly place, with knowledgeable friendly waitstaff.

        >> Do you have any recommendations?

        In addition to the sweet corn creme brulee, some of the other dishes that I've been amazed by include a corned beef reuben strudel, a pistachio duck sausage, and for dessert, whatever flavor panna cotta they have that evening.


        1. re: nsxtasy

          The sable sounds like a perfect place before the game. If we go to Northpond, what is the best time to go? I was going to make it at night but then I am not sure if we would be able to enjoy the park and the scenery.

          1. re: dawn65

            I would do North Pond for brunch Sunday (they still have openings available on Open Table). Very similar food to dinner (it is a lunch type brunch menu, not breakfast foods) but half the price. The scenery is a lot nicer during the day time; wonderful views of the park and Chicago skyline - plus you could take a little stroll through Lincoln Park after your brunch.

            1. re: Gonzo70

              I agree with Gonzo that if you want to enjoy the park and the scenery, Sunday brunch is a great way to do that. Another way is to have an early dinner. You could walk around the park, then get seated at 5:30, their earliest seating. Right now sunset is at 6:10, so you could enjoy sunset while dining, then view the city skyline lit up after dark. That way you would have the best of both worlds, looking out at the pond and the skyline in daylight and at night. (If you don't want to eat dinner that early, it's going to be dark when you arrive and depart, so all you'll see is the skyline.)

              North Pond has two main dining rooms. One of them faces the pond (the city skyline looms above the opposite shore); the other one has an open kitchen along the rear side (it's pleasant, but doesn't have the view of the pond). You might want to request seating in the front room facing the pond when making your reservation (you can do this in the comments if you're using Opentable) and cross your fingers that they can honor your request.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                We have reservations for North Pond at 5:45. Our plane doesn't leave till 9:45. So it should be a perfect way to end our visit

                On the list of places we are planning on going. Bongo, Fox&Obel, Portillos, Pizza, Sables, French Market...some other pastry/coffee shops, and a popcorn place that I can't think of off hand. Also cocktails at the John Hanncock building at sundown Sunday night.

                We have tried fine dining here and find it is not our style, However, North Pond sounds like a place we do not want to miss trying. Here is kansas city, we like restaurants in what we call the " Arts District" or River Market area. They offer ethnic food ( but Moroccan is not our favorite), lots of historical places/restaurants ( a passion of ours) and small restaurants popular with locals, hidden gems, they usually have some creative chefs and the best helpful, friendly service around. After word gets out either reservations are needed or you will be waiting a long time. I am not familiar with areas in Chicago but does any one know of restaurants that are popular with the locals, historical places with a story, or, restaurants ran by chef with their own unique style.

                1. re: dawn65

                  >> We have reservations for North Pond at 5:45. Our plane doesn't leave till 9:45. So it should be a perfect way to end our visit

                  Sounds good. Just make sure the restaurant knows what time you need to be done (I recommend mentioning it in your reservation and reminding them when they seat you, and they can call a cab for you so it's waiting at the valet stand when you're ready to leave).

                  >> a popcorn place that I can't think of off hand.

                  That's almost certainly Garrett's. They have locations all over the downtown area; the one closest to your hotel is at 27 West Jackson. They also have stores in Terminals 1 and 3 at O'Hare if you'd like to take some home with you.

                  >> I am not familiar with areas in Chicago but does any one know of restaurants that are popular with the locals, historical places with a story, or, restaurants ran by chef with their own unique style.

                  ALL of the places you'll hear recommended here on Chowhound are popular with locals, LOL! And North Pond meets all the criteria you've stated. (The renovated building was once a warming shelter for ice skaters on the pond.) There are lots of excellent places with chefs with their own unique style as well as a local and sometimes national reputation, including most of the ones that have already been mentioned (Sable's Heather Terhune was a Top Chef contestant, Mercat a la Planxa's Jose Garces is a native Chicagoan who built a restaurant empire in Philadelphia, Piccolo Sogno Due is a collaboration between Tony Priolo of the original Piccolo Sogno and Todd Stein, GT Oyster & Fish is from Giussepe Tentori who earlier established his reputation at Boka, the Purple Pig is from the Bannos family who started Heaven on Seven, and Girl & the Goat is from Top Chef's Stephanie Izard). A fairly recent development in Chicago is that some of the top chefs in town have opened places that are moderately priced, and they include several of these.

                  A couple more places not worth mentioning but also worth recommending, possibly for a return visit in the future, include Everest and Naha. Everest is a lovely, exceedingly romantic restaurant right near your hotel. (I didn't mention it for this visit because they are closed on Sundays and Mondays.) It is on the 40th floor of the Midwest Stock Exchange and has great views looking out over the city. They serve contemporary French cuisine from acclaimed chef Jean Joho. It's dressy (jackets required) and quite expensive (unless you go for the fixed pre-theater dinner at 5:00/5:30 seatings, three courses for around $50). Naha is in River North and its contemporary American cuisine is from James Beard Award winner Carrie Nahabedian. It's somewhat expensive (slightly more than North Pond, but less than the regular menu at Everest) and not as formal as Everest (jackets not required, although you'll usually see some gentlemen with them).

                  1. re: dawn65

                    El Ideas and Elizabeth are bot chef owned/run extremely unique venues that are mainly frequented by locals. They both are tasting menu only and have modern, creative cuisine. El Ideas is $135 and BYOB, but is exceedingly difficult to get into unless planned far in advance. Elizabeth has three different price points (based on number of courses) and is not BYOB; they are new and not yet difficult to get into - they sell "tickets" on their website (you purchase tickets in advance instead of making reservations). I love both of these venues.

          2. re: dawn65

            I have not yet been to Sable, so will leave that part of your question to nsxtasy - but in terms of good restaurants I have been to with adventurous menus I would consider the following choices: Publican, Bristol, Peasantry, Longman & Eagle and Girl and the Goat (though this is very difficult to get into without lots of advance planning - if you arrive right at opening you may be able to get in). Peasantry is not all that far from Wrigley Field; Publican and Girl & the Goat are both in the West Loop and closest to your hotel. Bristol (Bucktown) and Longman & Eagle (Logan Square) are in different neighborhoods from where your other activities are planned, but are easily accessible via public transportation or cabs. Sprout also has some adventurous foods, but is at a significantly higher price point than the others I listed (but on par with North Pond).

            1. re: Gonzo70

              >> Publican and Girl & the Goat are both in the West Loop and closest to your hotel.

              Note that they are the closest of the above recommendations, but they are not really walking distance. Google Maps puts them at 1.8 miles walking from your hotel. (They're 0.6 mile west of the French Market, which is just across the river from the Loop.) I found both of those disappointing; a few dishes were hits, but many more were misses, and both are exceedingly noisy. So I'm not a fan, although some other people like them. If you're interested in dining in the West Loop, I really like La Sardine, a French bistro in that area. It's quite romantic, too. And open for lunch or dinner. La Sardine accepts reservations on its own website and over the phone, but not on Opentable.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                La Sardine sounds perfect for lunch Sunday.

                1. re: dawn65

                  La Sardine is closed on Sundays. Sorry!

                  I've heard people recommend the Publican's Sunday brunch, so maybe that would work for you instead. (I've only been there for dinner.)

              2. re: Gonzo70

                I hear publican recommended several time so I think that is a place to go. Thanks for all your suggestions.