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Where to go/eat in Chicago?

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Hi Guys!

I'm in need of your help as to what to see and where to eat while I'm there for 3.5 days. I'll be staying in the CHICAGO MAGNIFICENT MILE on 160 EAST HURON, prefer a walking distance and easy access by train.

while i'm there I would love to try deep dish pizza (my must eat while i'm there). any good brunch places? mexican food? must try restaurants (for lunch and dinner)?

thanks for your opinions!

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  1. Someone else posted that they will be in Chicago for 36 hours on a first visit to Chicago, and staying in the same vicinity. Here's what I posted there ( www.chow.com/topics/892329#7924778 ); you'll note that it has recommendations answering all your questions, including deep-dish, breakfast/brunch, Mexican, and must-try places:

    First, just to get an overview of what Chicago has to offer, this discussion tells what foods and places are unique or specialties in Chicago, foods that Chicago is particularly good at:

    first time Chicago - www.chow.com/topics/693477

    If I had 36 hours to spend in Chicago, here's what I would pick, starting with the most "must have" experience and working down from there:

    1. Alinea. Yes, it's expensive ($210+ per person plus beverages/alcohol and tax/tip), and it's dressy. It's also one of the best restaurants in the world and the food experience of a lifetime. They sell advance tickets on their website and lately they're not too terribly hard to snag. Dinner only, closed Mondays/Tuesdays.

    2. Deep-dish pizza, a Chicago specialty. Lou Malnati's, regarded by many as the best in town, has a location at State and Rush near the north end of the Mag Mile and on Wells west of the south end of the Mag Mile. Pizano's has a location on State north of Chicago Ave. The original Uno and Due are near the south end of the Mag Mile. This works for lunch or dinner. At Malnati's and Pizano's, you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

    3. Contemporary Mexican. This is something you don't get back home and isn't found many other places in the States, either. I'd start with Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill or Topolobampo, both a short walk from the Mag Mile. Since your visit is soon, it's probably too late to get a reservation at Frontera Grill or a dinner reservation at Topolobampo. That leaves the following options. You may still be able to get a lunch reservation at Topolobampo. If you arrive at Frontera Grill 15-20 minutes before they open the doors, you won't have to wait. You can otherwise wait 90+ minutes to be seated at Frontera Grill. Or you can go to one of our other contemporary Mexican options: Mexique, in West Town (take #66 CTA bus two miles west on Chicago Ave); Salpicon, in Old Town (walkable from the north end of the Mag Mile); Mundial Cocina Mestiza (EDIT - they are closed); or Mixteco Grill (near the Montrose station on the CTA Brown Line). All of these are open for lunch or dinner.

    4. Garrett's Popcorn. This is a snack you can fit into your schedule; there's a location on the Mag Mile, or pick some up at O'Hare before your flight departure. (Currently open in Terminals 1 and 3, but their store in Terminal 5, the international terminal, won't be open till later this year.) Caramel popcorn (with or without cashews or pecans), cheese popcorn, or the "Chicago mix" of the two.

    5. Breakfast/brunch. Chicago has a huge selection of breakfast-focused restaurants. Jam, near the Logan Square stop on the CTA Blue Line, has the creativity you'd find at the high-end temples of haute cuisine. M. Henry (EDIT - I meant M. Henrietta), at the Granville station on the CTA Red Line, has lots of great stuff. Bongo Room, at the 12th/Roosevelt/Wabash station on the CTA Red, Orange, and Green Lines has creative pancakes (e.g. pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce). Southport Grocery, near the Southport station on the CTA Brown Line, has bread pudding pancakes and adult pop-tarts.

    6. North Pond. This is a special place unique to Chicago. They have excellent contemporary American cuisine from James Beard Award winner Chef Bruce Sherman. What makes it unique is its exquisite setting in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond, with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. During the week, open only for dinner. (EDIT: Also open for Sunday brunch.)

    7. Small plates. Some of our very best restaurants right now specialize in small plates of one sort or another, and are moderately priced. Several are a short walk from the Mag Mile. Sable specializes in contemporary American cuisine and craft cocktails; don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee. GT Fish & Oyster specializes in seafood and craft cocktails. Mercat a la Planxa has tapas. All three of these accept reservations, for lunch or dinner. The Purple Pig has Mediterranean-ish cuisine, but does not accept reservations, and waits for a table are horrendous (120+ minutes at dinner well into the evening, not quite as bad at lunch); if you want to go without a long wait, go mid-afternoon or late at night. After all, with only 36 hours here, you really don't want to spend a lot of time waiting for a table (avoid Avec too for that reason).

    7 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      thank you! this sounds exciting and i can't wait to try most of these places

      what about food trucks? any idea where i should go for these?

      1. re: kimanh

        Nothing to speak of in the food truck arena. Not a big thing here where there are so many great restaurants, from high-end to neighborhood places that in other cities would be food trucks.

        1. re: kimanh

          Until very recently, food trucks in Chicago were not allowed to actually cook their food on board. Now that it's allowed, trucks still have to apply for a license, so very few have them.

          Also trucks in Chicago have to follow a very specific set of rules governing where they can park their vehicle--no food truck can park within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and that includes convenience stores and gas stations! This makes it really tough to find a food truck in the Loop, for example.

          There are also some city-sanctioned food truck stands but mobile food vendors can only stay at those spots for two hours max.

          The city overall has not been friendly to mobile food vendors, so the scene has suffered.

          1. re: kimanh

            Tell us what it is about food trucks that you like and maybe we can guide you to similar food. We don't have a lot of food trucks and street food here but we do have great ethnic neighborhoods, which may supply what you want.

            1. re: Querencia

              just wanted to see what type of food (burgers, hot dogs, and dessert) chicago has to offer but if you guys aren't big on food truck and street food.

            2. re: kimanh

              Re-reading your original post and my reply above, I'll add a few notes here. You mentioned brunch, and my reply names some of our very best breakfast-focused restaurants. It's worth adding that none of these places accept reservations; in general, you will find immediate seating on weekdays, whereas weekends generally have waits to be seated of 30-60 minutes between 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Not a huge wait, too be sure, but here are two other places that serve brunch on Sundays where you can make a reservation (including on Opentable) and not have to wait. One is North Pond, the lovely restaurant in the park, which I described above. The second is Shaw's Crab House, which does a really terrific all-you-can-eat buffet, and the quality is top notch. My favorites there include their thick-cut caramelized bacon, crab benedicts, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, king crab bites (sometimes served hot, usually also on the cold buffet), crème brulee (best in the city), and chocolate pot de crème. Not cheap, at $48, but much of it is dinner type fare, and if you enjoy seafood, you'll probably love it.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                thanks! bc im a big fan of brunch and bfast :)).

                I just can't wait to try them

          2. ditto for nxstasy below. I would also add Taco Joint to the list of good Mexican. I prefer barcito for Tapas. Bavette is a new favorite.