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Jun 5, 2013 07:58 PM

Best dinner places for Chicago

I know that there are some threads on this topic but I didn't want to hijack any of them.

I'm going to be at a conference in August for a week and will be staying near the McCormick Center (that's where our convention will be).

Looking for some great steakhouses and pizza places and everything else in between.


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  1. Well, there are a lot of ways of deeming places "best". They can include everything from fine dining, to cheap eats, to local specialties, to ethnic cuisine.

    There isn't much around McCormick Place, though. You'll need to travel to the greater downtown area, which extends from two to five miles north of there.

    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 -

    On a brief trip to 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.

    2. Deep-dish pizza, a Chicago specialty. Lou Malnati's, regarded by many as the best in town, has a location at 8th and State, a couple miles north of McCormick Place. 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. The best places include Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, in River North; Salpicon, in Old Town; and Mixteco Grill, in Lakeview.

    4. Garrett's Popcorn. This is a snack you can fit into your schedule, with locations throughout downtown and at O'Hare. 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. 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. Open for dinner and 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. 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. Province and Perennial Virant are also worth considering.

    I don't generally recommend steakhouses, just because every city in the country has good steakhouses, so they're not all that unusual. But if you're a steak aficionado, and that's what you prefer, then you might consider Chicago Cut Steakhouse and David Burke's Primehouse, which are two of our best.

    1. Thanks. You're right I shouldn't have added "best" in the title as that's pretty subjective.

      Chicago Cut and DB Primehouse are on the list!