Good spot for chill lunch Friday between Lakeview and Downtown?
We are fairly new to Chicago (been here about 2 mo), and I am looking for some suggestions for lunch with my gf this Friday. I've done a fair amount of research on restaurants, but they tend to be dinner places, and we have a couple favorites already (Piccolo Sogno and Purple Pig), but would like to try something new. Not looking for anything fancy, and prefer not to have to wait long for a table. She isn't really a fan of breakfast foods (though I'm working on that), and she tends to be not big on sandwiches. I know, tough for lunch options...
A few places I've thought of:
Xoco (though not sure we're really fans of Bayless)
Little Goat (would we have to wait?)
Southport Grocery & Cafe (seems like it's a bit breakfast heavy)
Oh, and she doesn't like Chicago style pizza (grrr....).
PS - Would Grand & Michigan be considered Downtown - or do you just call it Magnificent Mile?
We were in the same boat again today, and went to Southport Grocery & Cafe, and loved it. It is a very cute, but small place (had basically no wait though at noon on Thur). I ordered the club sandwich and my gf ordered the chorizo omelette, and we split the apple salad. The club (turkey, bacon, apple slices, avocado and apricot preserves between grilled challah) was probably the best turkey sandwich I've had. Really good. The salad was also very good, although I thought it could have used a stronger cheese (came with cheddar). I tried my gf's omelette and liked it too, but not as much as my sandwich, but the mashed potatoes that came with it were excellent, esp. when combined with some of the goat cheese from the omelette and some of their ghost pepper hot sauce.
Highly recommend this place, and they have some interesting and unique items in their grocery as well. Great service too.
Next up is Deleece (though my gf really loved the brunch at Farmhouse).
Southport is making it hard for us to branch out...
Went in for a quick brunch this morning, and had a chance to get the bread pudding pancakes, and oh my god - these pancakes are amazing! They're sweet and gooey on the inside, with a dollop of cinnamon butter on top and a side of vanilla sauce (it's like a little cup of melted vanilla ice cream). I don't know if I could eat more than one (it's pretty sweet and rich), but I might have to try next time.
I also got the southern omelette, which was good, but it didn't wow me like the pancake. The bruschetta, which my gf got, was good and had great flavor, but ended up being a bit watery because of all the tomatoes.
We'll eventually get to Deleece...
Southport Grocery (in Lakeview) is one of my favorite places for a creative and delicious breakfast, along with Jam (Logan Square), M. Henry (Andersonville), M. Henrietta (Edgewater), Bongo Room (South Loop, Andersonville, Wicker Park), and Walker Brothers (six northern suburbs).
I've posted detailed reviews of most of these, along with various weekend brunches, in the big brunch discussion at www.chow.com/topics/364403 Here's what I posted there about Southport Grocery, including the bread pudding pancakes:
"Then, on to the sweets! They offer a "pancake taste" of any of their pancakes at a low price of $4, and I loved the sound of one in particular. Quoting from their menu: "bread pudding pancakes · a pancake made with gooey bread pudding topped with cinnamon-sugar butter & a side of vanilla custard sauce (featuring our house-made cinnamon-sugar butter from the grocery)". And that's exactly what it was! It's hard to describe because it's an unusual item, one I haven't seen anywhere else... but think of it as a thick pancake, with the thin outside layer cooked and bready like a pancake, but most of the middle dense and moist like bread pudding. Both accompaniments complimented it perfectly, the rich cinnamon-sugar butter and the absolutely wonderful vanilla custard sauce, which was similar to the creme patissiere (pastry cream) filling of an eclair from a good French bakery. It was superb. I also tried this: "the grown-up pop tart · warm & filled with berry preserves, marscapone cheese and roasted vanilla walnuts (featuring preserves & our house-made roasted vanilla walnuts from the grocery)". It too was very good, and in fact similar to a folded over and stuffed version of the bread pudding pancake, right down to the bready outer layer and the dense, moist inner layer. However, next time I'm going straight to the bread pudding pancake, because the accompaniments really make that dish one that will "wow" any lover of sweet dishes."
So, we ended up eating in Magnificent Mile since my gf missed her Bar Method class. We were both curious about Xoco (and have been wanting to try some off Bayless' food since watching his cooking shows), and boy were we disappointed!
We got there around noon, and there was a line, and we were told it would be about 35 min, which was ok, since we had the time. The menu looked inviting, and I had already settled on the torta ahogada (I am a big fan of them, and love carnitas), and my gf opted for the pozole (which she is also a big fan of). We added a side salad and called it an order.
After we ordered, the food arrived within 5-10 min, and looked promising, but failed to deliver. The torta ahogada consisted of two halves of a sandwich face down in a red sauce, which ended up tasting like a slightly zingy marinara. The sauce also lacked any spice and had no taste of chile de arbol whatsoever. There were few chunks of carnitas, and the flavor of the meat was "off", and there were barely any beans on the bread. The one good thing about the sandwich was the bread, but this was not torta bread, but the type of bread you'd use for a good italian hoagie or something.
My gf didn't really like her pozole (said it's broth was more like menudo's broth). I tried a bite, and didn't like it either - the chicken tasted off as well. The one good thing about the meal was the side salad.
We didn't necessarily have high hopes for Xoco (we've been skeptical since seeing how much salt he puts in all of his dishes on his cooking show), but felt a bit confused since this place gets good reviews and has such long lines. Is it just hard to find a good torta in this city or has Bayless brainwashed the city? Next time Bayless is in DC he should swing down to Alexandria and go to La Mexicana Bakery and Taqueria and have Juan show him how to make a real torta ahogada.
Thanks for the replies thus far. We just went to Batter & Berries (loved it) and Sable (a bit disappointed) last weekend, so we were hoping to try someplace new.
The Deleece suggestion sounds good, as does the tapas (Cafe Iberico & Mercat a la Planxa).
I know Lakeview to Mag Mile is a big area, I probably should narrow it down to either Lakeview or Mag Mile (gf has bar method in Lakeview and works in Mag Mile). We're open to most ethnic foods, but neither are really big seafood eaters (esp. me). Our favorite is Mexican, but more "hole-in-the-wall" taqueria type, rather than modern or fancy mexican.
PS - We've also been to Quartino (good, not great) & Slurping Turtle (good).
Welcome to Chicago. "Downtown" is usually interpreted as a synonym for "The Loop" -- i.e., the area bounded by the Chicago River to the north & west, and Congress Parkway to the south. Grand & Michigan would be more rightly described as the Mag Mile, as you suggest, or as "River North," the latter being the term, roughly, for the area north of the river, from Orleans to Michigan Ave, and south of Chicago Ave.
Geography lesson aside, the area that you've scoped out -- if it includes all of Lakeview -- is huge in terms of restaurant choices, even if limited to lunch. You might want to search this Board for recommendations for "River North," "Gold Coast," "Old Town," "Lincoln Park," "Lake View," and "River West" -- also "Wicker Park" and "Bucktown" if you are open to places slighly west, as those 2 are neighborhoods with the most lively and "up & coming" restaurant scenes.
Beyond that, perhaps you'd like to give us a bit more direction on your target restaurants -- particular ethnic types of cuisine that you'd like, price points, etc?
Try Deleece on Southport in Lakeview. It's a neighborhood bistro type place, and the food is consistently outstanding. I've been there for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, and it's always been excellent. And not terribly expensive, either. www.deleece.com
Another good choice for your inquiry is Batter & Berries, in Lincoln Park. Although their focus is breakfast, their savory lunch type foods are equally excellent, such as their soups, sandwiches, and salads (they even have the "lunch trio" which combines the three for only $9). http://chicago.menupages.com/restaurants/batter-berries/menu I posted a report on lunch there, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403#7767243
Our small plates restaurants are also a great choice for lunch. These include not only Purple Pig, but also Sable (contemporary American, River North), GT Fish & Oyster (seafood, River North), Cafe Iberico (tapas, River North), Mercat a la Planxa (tapas, Loop), Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (tapas, Lincoln Park), and Quartino (Italian, River North). You should be able to walk in to any of them and not have much of a wait, if any. Of course, you can also make a reservation if you like.
>> PS - Would Grand & Michigan be considered Downtown - or do you just call it Magnificent Mile?
Both! The Magnificent Mile refers to the mile of North Michigan Avenue between the river and Oak Street, including where it crosses Grand. There's no rigorous meaning to "downtown" or "downtown Chicago" but it always includes the Loop, usually includes River North (north of the Loop, west of the Mag Mile) and Streeterville (north of the Loop, east of the Mag Mile), and sometimes includes surrounding neighborhoods (Gold Coast, West Loop, South Loop).