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Oct 29, 2012 10:14 AM


I'm in Chicago by the end of november and looking for nice lunch & dinner options. I'm not in posh 3michelin starred restaurants so forget Alinea but I'm more looking for tasty, original, slowfood places. Say the hidden gem's for Foodies in Chicago or neighbourhoods. We stay in Public Chicago, but 30 min taxi or small roadtrip is no problem at all.

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  1. Some places that I think have a "slowfood" vibe:
    Vera (Spanish) in the West Loop
    Nha Hang Viet Nam on Argyle Street
    Honey 1 (barbecue) on Western Ave.
    Andy's Thai Kitchen on Wellington
    Mundial Cocina Mestiza (Mexican) on W. 18th
    Pleasant House Bakery (meat pies) on W. 31st
    Ed's Potsticker House (Chinese) in Bridgeport

    1. Two additional restaurants come to mind -- Cafe Lula in the Logan Square neighborhood (Northwest of your hotel, ~5 miles) and Nightwood in Pilsen (South, also about 5 miles). They have the same owners and share a commitment to local, seasonal ingredients. Both accept dinner reservations and Lula's is open for lunch, as well.

      Slow Food Chicago has a list of restaurants that they feel really celebrate the 'slow food' movement and might be a useful guide for you:

      3 Replies
      1. re: danimalarkey

        That slowfoodchicago list is a good resource. Just a couple of notes:
        Erwin has closed.
        Everest and Spiaggia are among our most expensive restaurants.
        Vie is terrific, but it is much farther from downtown Chicago than the other places listed.

        1. re: camusman

          Yes, that slowfood list is pretty good - although I don't think those restaurants are any different in style (e.g. "slow") than those that aren't on the list. They seem to be chosen at random from among our best restaurants. Also, the list doesn't mention newer ones, so I think it's probably mostly based on input from a few years ago. Still, it's a decent list.

          Three of the American places listed - North Pond, Blackbird, and Naha - are among our best higher-end restaurants (not places like Everest and Spiaggia, which might total $200 or more per person including moderate alcohol and tax/tip - those three are typically $100-120/pp for dinner, and Blackbird features a $22 prix fixe at lunchtime). North Pond is especially noteworthy for its lovely setting in the middle of the park.

          I don't think you need to avoid restaurants downtown, even though they tend not to be "hidden gems". You'll find locals as well as visitors eating there, and they include some of our very best places. I'd recommend Sable for contemporary American small plates, GT Oyster & Fish for seafood small plates, Mercat a la Planxa for tapas (Spanish), and Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due for Italian. Several of these have opened in the past few years, which may explain why they're not on the slowfood list.

          I'll also recommend two lunch/dinner restaurants which are "hidden gems" in areas other than downtown Chicago. Deleece on Southport serves outstanding contemporary American food in Lakeview on the city's north side, and Campagnola serves contemporary American (it may call itself Italian but I see more contem Amer on their menu than anything else) just north of the city limits in Evanston.

          Contemporary Mexican cuisine is a specialty in Chicago. I agree with the recommendation above for Mundial Cocina Mestiza, for contemporary Mexican on the near southwest side in Pilsen. Other good places with this type of cuisine include Topolobampo and Frontera Grill in River North (although reservations and waits to be seated are a problem), Mexique in West Town, and Mixteco Grill in Lakeview.

          All of the above places are open for both lunch and dinner, with the exceptions of North Pond (dinner and Sunday brunch, no weekday lunch) and Campagnola (dinner only).

          Most of the above restaurants accept reservations over the phone as well as at I strongly recommend making reservations in advance wherever you're going, to avoid long waits or disappointments.

          Also, we have terrific restaurants that focus on breakfast. The best include M. Henry in Andersonville (north side), M. Henrietta in Edgewater (north side), Southport Grocery in Lakeview (north side), Jam in Logan Square (northwest side), and Bongo Room in Wicker Park (west side) and the South Loop (near south side). Near your hotel is the Original Pancake House on East Bellevue; don't miss the huge, puffed-up, cinnamony apple pancake. None of these accept reservations, and all tend to get busy on weekends, with waits of 30-60 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays between 9:30 and 12:30.

          Enjoy your visit, and feel free to ask more questions!

        2. re: danimalarkey

          Closer to the downtown area, you might want to check out Acadia:

        3. Brunch at Perrenial Virant should be in the mix - great location at the Park, very slw foods thinking and quite affordable. Then you can stroll down Wells Street to the Spice House and Ka Fournette bakery. My favorite weekend walk.

          You might also enjoy Xoco fr great inexpensive locally sourced Mexican street food from Rick Bayless.