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Lunch suggestion for people in town for just one day?

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Matronix Nov 11, 2012 07:17 AM

My friends and I are taking a trip out of the US and our layover is in Chicago. We planned the trip that our layover is long enough that we can leave the airport and go and check out Chicago a little bit. (We will basically be in Chicago almost all day.) We are looking for some suggestions on must eat places for lunch that are in the loop area. We have no clue where to go and we want to have a great meal.

  1. nsxtasy Nov 11, 2012 08:01 AM

    What day of the week?

    If it's a weekday, I'd go to either Blackbird or Naha. Both have outstanding contemporary American cuisine. Blackbird has a bargain prix fixe deal at lunchtime, whereas Naha is a bit more expensive.

    Another option, in the "cheap eats" category, is to have our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza. In the Loop, Pizano's on Madison is a good choice. You can phone ahead with your pizza order so they'll have it ready for you at the time you specify, thereby avoiding waiting 30+ minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

    Also note that you may not need to go all the way downtown from the airport to find great food. For example, if you are coming from O'Hare, you could take the CTA Blue Line (el/subway) to the Logan Square stop, where you could have a great lunch at either Lula or Jam.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy
      chicgail Nov 11, 2012 04:52 PM

      Or you could take the Blue Line two more stops to the Damen stop in the Bucktown/wicker Park neighborhood. Blue Star, across the street, is wonderful for creative tacos and margaritas. On the corner is Francesca's Forno for good Italian or Hot Chocolate a block or two both on Damen. Plus the area is loaded with interesting shops.

      The Loop is historically and traditionally just a business area and doesn't lend itself to the same kind of wandering around.

    2. Breadcrumbs Nov 11, 2012 04:53 PM

      We've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Chicago frequently and we always thoroughly enjoy all the Loop has to offer including terrific shopping (much better prices than the Mag Mile!!), arts and cultural venues, architecture, and of course...great FOOD!

      Here are some of our favourite spots:

      PIZANO'S (see nsxtasy's post above) - great thin crust or Chicago-style pizza in a terrific convenient location. What it lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for in food quality.

      TERZO PIANO at the Art Institute - If your plans include a trip to the Art Institute, this would be a lovely option for lunch. This is a terrific new-ish Italian restaurant operated by Chef Tony Mantuano (of Michelin-starred Spiaggia fame...one of our favourite Chicago Italian spots along w Piccolo Sogno...but alas, not in the Loop!!). Aside from the wonderful food here, I'd also recommend this spot for its sensational view of the city and, zen-like atmosphere...not to mention the art! btw, there are rumours this spot may get Michelin recognition as well....stay tuned as the announcements for their starred restaurants is coming up this week!!

      If your plans take you to Macy's on State street (formerly Marshall Field's sensational flagship store) then there are two spots inside the store that you might wish to consider - the WALNUT ROOM and/or FRONTERA FRESCO. The Walnut Room is a stunning and much beloved space in the city and it really comes into its own over the holidays when it's decked out in all its splendour. They have a wine room and a beautiful bar where it's fun to stop in for a drink/snack or cheese plate before carrying on for your lunch (or dinner) elsewhere. Frontera Fresco is operated by one of Chicago's and arguably the US's top Mexican chefs, Rick Bayless. This is a very casual outpost but it's a perfect way to sample Chef's wares in the Loop and take in the great views of State Street. This is definitely a pocketbook-friendly option as well.

      HEAVEN ON SEVEN - 111 N. Wabash Ave. - is a fun Cajun spot that's well-suited to larger parties (not sure how many of you there are). In our experience the food has been good quality and the drinks are great as well. Service is usually quick here so this spot particularly hits our radar when we're pressed for time. Chef Jimmy Bannos operates these restaurants (and has a great cookbook jic you're interested!) He's also a partner at the highly regarded Purple Pig restaurant (N. Michigan Ave & one of our absolute favourite spots in the city...but not in the Loop unfortunately for you).

      THE ITALIAN VILLAGE RESTAURANTS - 71 W. Monroe St. - Chicago has some terrific Italian food and though this may sound like a gimmicky spot, it's a serious dining destination and a veritable institution in Chicago. There are 3 restaurants in the "Village" and the food is hearty, home-style Italian. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and it's a fun spot to dine with a group too.

      THE GAGE - 24 S. Michigan Ave. would be a good choice if you happened to be heading to Millennium Park. This gastropub is right across the street and offers solid food options.

      Finally, if you're in need of a quick hit of caffine before heading back to the airport, don't miss
      INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE - 53 East Randolph St (Millennium Park location). Beans are freshly roasted daily and this really is a terrific Chicago coffee house.

      oh and a quick ps...if you haven't had or heard of Garrett's Popcorn, it's worth a Google search. Though we aren't typically fans of popcorn, we never, ever leave without a can of their Chicago Mix...it's a "must-try"!!

      10 Replies
      1. re: Breadcrumbs
        nsxtasy Nov 11, 2012 06:28 PM

        Good tips from Breadcrumbs.

        Incidentally, a couple of those suggestions are also available at O'Hare airport, so if you're going back there after your layover, you might want to consider doing them there rather than downtown...

        >> Frontera Fresco is operated by one of Chicago's and arguably the US's top Mexican chefs, Rick Bayless.

        Rather than do Frontera Fresco in the Loop, if you're flying out of O'Hare, I think you're better off waiting till you're back at the airport. Bayless has restaurants there in Terminals 1 and 3 (Terminal 5 coming next year) called Tortas Frontera. The menu is a bit different from Frontera Fresco, plus you have the advantage of eating it while you're waiting for your plane, or taking it on the plane. You can compare menus etc at www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

        >> oh and a quick ps...if you haven't had or heard of Garrett's Popcorn, it's worth a Google search. Though we aren't typically fans of popcorn, we never, ever leave without a can of their Chicago Mix...it's a "must-try"!!

        Garrett's is great, whether you like caramel popcorn (with or without cashews or pecans) or cheese popcorn or a mix of the two. If you're getting some to go home, and if you're flying out of O'Hare, rather than getting it when you're downtown and carrying it around everywhere, instead you can wait until you're back at O'Hare and stop by the Garrett's store in O'Hare Terminal 1 or Terminal 3.

        1. re: nsxtasy
          danna Nov 15, 2012 12:08 PM

          any chance you have an idea as to whether Frontera Fresco might be open on Christmas Day? I'm flying out of O'Hare around 1 and that would suit me perfectly! Also, do you know of any websites that list restaurants open on xmas day for lunch? last year we discovered that you could drive around downtown like it was after the apocolypse on xmas...it was fun in a weird way ;-)

          1. re: danna
            nsxtasy Nov 15, 2012 12:32 PM

            >> any chance you have an idea as to whether Frontera Fresco might be open on Christmas Day? I'm flying out of O'Hare around 1 and that would suit me perfectly!

            I don't know. I would suggest phoning them. Also, I assume you're asking about Tortas Frontera (their restaurants at O'Hare) and not Frontera Fresco (their fast food places inside some Macy's stores which are closed when those stores are closed).

            >> Also, do you know of any websites that list restaurants open on xmas day for lunch?

            Try Opentable.com There are two ways you can search.

            One is to enter any date and time, and see which places show availability. Of course, this is limited to restaurants that accept reservations on Opentable but the 925 places that do include the vast majority of our nicer restaurants. (You won't see much ethnic, pizza, etc among them.) Right now when I ask for availability for a party of two at noon on Dec 25 in all of Chicagoland, it lists 97 places with availability: www.opentable.com/opentables.aspx?t=reg&n=1,4,10,12,61,62,65,68,69,76,78,79,80,82,83,87,91,93,95,170,189,194,228,425,482,574,599,601,602,621,635,636,637,719,870,961,1105,1106,1107,1108,1109,1110,1111,1113,1114,1115,1116,1117,1118,1120,1121,1122,1235,1281,1283,1311,1319,1354,1355,1398,1464,1507,1523,1533,1556,1568,1571,2012,2015,2090,2093,2099,2141,2387,2615,2732,2786,3146,3194,3329,3353,3368,3533,3578,3704,4022,4028,4031,4070,4094,4100,4154,4175,4340,4373,4457,4763,4979,5054,5057,5117,5165,5393,5447,5519,5663,5684,5753,5858,6329,6392,6743,6821,6992,7190,7217,7316,7640,7721,7760,7778,7889,7892,7988,8123,8126,8189,8219,8294,8339,8723,8873,8888,8999,9293,9413,9473,9497&m=3&p=2&d=12/25/2012%2012:00:00%20PM&scpref=114&fsr=1&hb=1

            The other is, Opentable has a listing showing special plans by restaurants for Dec 25. Right now there are only 20 places listed, but the list will probably grow as the holiday gets closer (especially once we get past Thanksgiving): www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?m=3&...

            Oh, and if you're flying out of O'Hare at 1 pm, you won't be able to make your flight if you have lunch anywhere other than at the airport. Breakfast, you could, but not lunch.

            1. re: nsxtasy
              danna Nov 15, 2012 02:36 PM

              nx, you are SUCH a resource! That's an incredible list of openings...gives me hope, but also makes me wonder if someone just hasn't entered the closing in open table's data base.

              Anyhow, also good point about timing. even w/ zero traffic, you would say O'hare is 30 min from downtown? yes, I may be pushing it. 3 hour drive from madison is going to mean getting up pretty early if we want to eat breakfast and get to the airport. thanks again!

              1. re: danna
                nsxtasy Nov 15, 2012 03:32 PM

                >> gives me hope, but also makes me wonder if someone just hasn't entered the closing in open table's data base.

                It's possible. But many of the restaurants listed are exactly the ones I would expect to be open on Dec 25 - hotel restaurants, and a handful ethnic restaurants. If you're planning on going to one, even if you make a reservation on Opentable, it wouldn't hurt to phone the restaurant to double-check that they will be open that day. And I would wait till after Thanksgiving, in case their plans on whether to be open that day change.

                >> Anyhow, also good point about timing. even w/ zero traffic, you would say O'hare is 30 min from downtown? yes, I may be pushing it. 3 hour drive from madison is going to mean getting up pretty early if we want to eat breakfast and get to the airport. thanks again!

                As a general rule, at times when there is not much traffic (holidays, late at night), driving between O'Hare and downtown typically takes 20 minutes. This does not include time needed to deal with parking garages/lots or traffic at either end (on Dec 25, downtown will be deserted, but the garages/lots at the airport may be very busy).

                I've driven to and from Madison WI fairly frequently. (You may have seen my posts about Madison restaurants here on Chowhound.) It always takes around 2 hours 15-20 minutes to O'Hare - sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, but it's pretty darn consistent. (There's often a lot of traffic and only two lanes, but it moves at a steady 70-75 mph.)

                If your plan is to get up and leave Madison early the morning of December 25, drive to downtown Chicago, eat somewhere for breakfast, and then drive to O'Hare in time for a 1:00 pm departure, I'm not sure I would advise it, for several reasons. Yes, it would mean getting up very early - the extra drive past O'Hare to downtown and back, along with parking, will probably add an hour to your day, not counting the time to eat anywhere. Plus I'm not sure that *any* of the restaurants that specialize in breakfast will be open on Dec 25. (I'm referring to restaurants that are similar to say Marigold Kitchen in MSN - places like Jam, Bongo Room, M. Henry, etc.) So you're getting up really really early even though the restaurant choices available may not be all that special. Sorry to be a downer but Christmas morning is one of the only times of the year (along with Thanksgiving) when the restaurant industry really does mostly shut down, except for hotel restaurants. You might be better off just having a good breakfast at home, or whatever you can find at O'Hare.

                Maybe you could either come into Chicago on Dec 24 and have a nice dinner and then stay overnight - I bet you could find hotel rooms REALLY cheap that night on Hotwire or Priceline - or else have a nice meal here on your way back to Madison if you're coming back via O'Hare...?

                1. re: nsxtasy
                  danna Nov 16, 2012 05:51 AM

                  Thanks for the common sense for xmas morning ;-)

                  Oh dont worry...we're coming to Chicago on the 21st, I have a res at L2o already and am now researching lunches etc. for the 22nd and possibly 23rd brunch. We have a family obligation at Johnny Delmonicos in Madison Sun night. How bad is that going to be? I see already it's going to be expensive.

                  1. re: danna
                    nsxtasy Nov 16, 2012 08:00 AM

                    >> Oh dont worry...we're coming to Chicago on the 21st, I have a res at L2o already and am now researching lunches etc. for the 22nd and possibly 23rd brunch. We have a family obligation at Johnny Delmonicos in Madison Sun night.

                    That makes sense. Sometimes there are obligations for which you have to make plans that may not otherwise be the most convenient!

                    >> How bad is that going to be? I see already it's going to be expensive.

                    I'm not sure I understand what you're asking about...?

                    1. re: nsxtasy
                      danna Nov 19, 2012 01:49 PM

                      Just curious if you'd ever been to Delmonicos and if so, your thoughts.

                      1. re: danna
                        nsxtasy Nov 19, 2012 02:09 PM

                        No, haven't been there, sorry!

                        I've had meals with family on May graduation weekend each of the past two years at Eno Vino and loved it; also a dinner at Fresco (loved it too) and 41 North (not so much), if that helps.

                    2. re: danna
                      g
                      GourmetWednesday Nov 19, 2012 06:12 PM

                      Johnny Delmonico's is a fairly typical Chicago steakhouse, except that it's in Madison. The steaks were well-seasoned and properly cooked to order, in my experience. For an atypical steakhouse appetizer, I highly recommend the Asian-flavored fried calamari; it is so creatively tasty I once had a dream about it!

        2. q
          Querencia Nov 11, 2012 04:57 PM

          First, you need to know that our downtown is divided in two by the Chicago River. South of the river is "the Loop" which is the older part of downtown. It now is mostly a business section with some redevelopment of live theater. It has very little shopping, a few older hotels, chiefly the Palmer House and the Hilton, and a new boutique hotel, The Burnham, but most of the action is north of the river in the "Near North Side". Along the Michigan Avenue corridor the Near North Side is called "Magnificent Mile", the area between Michigan and the lake is "Streeterville", and the area immediately west of the Mag Mile corridor is "River West". This is where most hotels and restaurants and shopping and crowds now are to be found. so when you say you want a restaurant recommendation in the Loop, do you mean "downtown" or do you actually mean "south of the river"? And when you say you want a "great meal", we don't know whether you like new cuisine or something more traditional and whether you are looking to spend $20 per person or are thinking more of a $125 per person prix fixe not including wine or whether you are interested in an ethnic meal. We can be more helpful if you tell us what the parameters are. Also, are you laying over plane or train travel (this lets us know where you will be).

          1. q
            Querencia Nov 16, 2012 08:55 AM

            With many visitors in town over the holidays I will now put in my usual pitch for lunch at the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. At dinner this is an expensive restaurant but they do a buffet lunch for about $20. The food is perfectly okay, nothing wrong with it, but it won't be the gourmet experience of your life---a couple of carved meats and a variety of hot dishes and salads. What you go there for is the view (the walls are glass). The viewing decks of our tallest buildings charge a hefty admission (when I recently took a guest to the Skydeck of Sears/Willis I paid $35 for the two of us) so for not much more you can see the view AND have a nice lunch. If you're in town just briefly this is an elegant way to see the whole city at once.

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