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5 days in downtown with a country boy

k
kellymc May 6, 2013 08:16 PM

I'll be in Chicago in July and will be bringing my Australian partner/bf while I attend a 5 day conference for work. He has only been to Sydney once, and otherwise lives an hour from a city of less than a million. I have been bringing him up to speed on food, and he's been amazing about trying everything I give him. We'll be staying downtown at State/Kinzie. As a native St. Louisian I have been many times to Chicago and am fine with taxi/train/walking, but will be limited on time due to conference. I'm looking for suggestions that I may be missing or new since I left home or something you would say is a cant miss for a first time USA/Chicago visitor.

My plans are as follows:
Thursday night: delivery of Gino's East, plan on crashing after 30 hours of travel
Friday night: city winery with friends from vet school
Saturday: friends picking and organizing, so no worries on this one
Sunday was going to be vivere before Book of Mormon, but closed Sunday so Teserie or tratorria 10?
Monday: open, maybe try for one of bobby flays? Scratch that idea. They are closed on Mondays. So back to new ideas.
Tuesday: bin36 as around corner from hotel and flight to catch from midway at 8

Sadly wont get a chance for breakfasts. If I get a chance or need a break from conference any suggestions near McCormick place for lunch?

Thanks.

  1. nsxtasy May 6, 2013 08:57 PM

    >> Sunday was going to be vivere before Book of Mormon, but closed Sunday so Teserie or tratorria 10?

    I would choose Tesori, over Trattoria No. 10.

    >> Monday: open, maybe try for one of bobby flays? Scratch that idea. They are closed on Mondays. So back to new ideas.

    Bobby Flay doesn't have any restaurants in Chicago. If you mean Rick Bayless, most of our contemporary Mexican restaurants are closed on Mondays, not just his. However, Salpicon is open on Mondays and is very good. For other ideas, see below.

    >> If I get a chance or need a break from conference any suggestions near McCormick place for lunch?

    There isn't much near McCormick Place. That's about a 15-minute walk from Chinatown, though, where you'll find Lao Sze Chuan (and many other restaurants from Tony Hu) and Phoenix for dim sum and Cantonese.

    >> I'm looking for suggestions that I may be missing or new since I left home or something you would say is a cant miss for a first time USA/Chicago visitor.

    Well, I hate to copy the same post over again, but it has a whole bunch of the top things I would say are "can't miss". Someone else recently posted that they will be in Chicago for 36 hours on a first visit to Chicago. Here's what I posted there ( www.chow.com/topics/892329#7924778 ):

    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. (EDIT: Pizano's also has a location in the Loop, and Malnati's in the South Loop.) 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. (EDIT: Note, the Bayless restaurants are closed on Sundays, and Salpicon is the only one of these that is open on Mondays.)

    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.) (EDIT: There are also several locations in the Loop.) 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).

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy
      k
      kellymc May 6, 2013 10:13 PM

      Yes I did mean Rick bayless. And I hadn't found much near McCormick, but I don't mind walking to Chinatown. I think the hardest thing about a new city is not knowing what's doable location wise due to highways, traffic, public transport issues and not knowing who's closed which days/meals! Thanks for the ideas. I'll keep perusing old threads too!

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