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Meeting Friends in Chi over 4th of July - Help me finalize please

twinkie Jun 19, 2013 12:13 PM

I'm coming from NM to meet up with a couple college friends in Chicago for my first trip there, Jul 3-7. We're staying at theWit. Here is what I have planned.

Jul 3 - get in late, head over to Purple Pig 10:30-ish (have back up reservations at HUB 51)

July 4 - Breakfast - Pastries from Vanille
Lunch/Brunch? (Probably going to be around the Art Institute or Chicago History Museum. Aware of Wildberry, Oasis, Mercat a la Planxa as choices by AI, but anything close to the History Museum?)
Dinner - Thinking either Carnivale or The Gage. We're looking for somewhere fun before the fireworks.

July 5 - Brunch before the Cubs game at Southport. Any bars we should go to before/after the game? Also planning on getting a pre-game dog at Murphy's.
Dinner - Sun Wah (Is there somewhere we should go in Wrigleyville instead?)

July 6 - Dim Sum at Phoenix
Dinner - Reservations at GT Fish and Oyster

July 7 - Brunch reservations at the Publican (Should we be going somewhere else? Meli? Bongo Room? Will these places have crazy waits?)

Also, I've been trying to Schwa reservations. I called too early last week, and they said yesterday that they don't have any availability. Could it be possible that they don't know if they'll even be open that holiday week?

Thanks in advance. Your threads have been immensely helpful for a newcomer to Chicago.

  1. f
    ferret Jun 19, 2013 01:00 PM

    On the 4th I have a couple of comments. Oasis is in the back of a jewelry business and will likely not be open on the 4th (and it's fairly pedestrian for tourists - more of a cheap eats option for locals - it's far from the best of Middle Eastern cuisine in this town). If you want quirky, then Heaven on 7 on Wabash is a good spot. Cafecito is also good, but very bare-bones. Good Cuban-style sandwiches in an espresso bar like setting.

    By the History Museum, the very good Perennial Virant is nearby and would be a good breakfast choice but they don't do lunch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ferret
      twinkie Jun 19, 2013 01:44 PM

      Thanks for the suggestions on the locations near the museums. Cafecito and Heaven on 7 seem like perfect options for us.

      If we can get to Perennial Virant early enough for breakfast, it looks delicious. (My friends are late risers.) Thank you!

      1. re: twinkie
        nsxtasy Jun 19, 2013 02:19 PM

        Most places in the Loop that cater to the office lunch crowd will almost all be closed on the 4th. That description applies to Oasis, Cafecito, and Heaven on 7. Call ahead to confirm whether they will be open before heading over there, to avoid disappointment.

        Perennial Virant (which is a good suggestion) shows reservation openings that morning on Opentable so you know they will be open that day.

    2. m
      masha Jun 19, 2013 01:07 PM

      If you are going to go to Sun Wah, be sure to reserve a day or more in advance, if you want the peking duck as that has to be preordered.

      As to Schwa, I think you should accept their representations that they have no availability. While I tend to think that their propensity to cancel is overstated by some of the regulars on this Board, it seems to me that the risk of a cancellation might be higher over a holiday weekend. So, even if they told you next week that they had a place, I might be a bit wary that the place might subsequently disappear. On the other hand, if you are willing to roll with the punches on that risk, it's a great experience, so in your shoes I might be willing to book there, if an opening appears, despite the risk.

      1 Reply
      1. re: masha
        twinkie Jun 19, 2013 01:45 PM

        Masha, I'll be sure to reserve the duck for Sun Wah. And thank you for your insight on Schwa. It sounds like a great experience, and we are willing to be flexible and laid back about it. So i'll keep my reservations as back ups and keep my fingers crossed.

      2. chicgail Jun 19, 2013 01:09 PM

        Well thought out, but I've got some comments as well.

        Vanille has excellent French pastries, including some of the best croissants in town but if you're staying at the Wit and then heading to the Art Institute, it's a little out of your way. The one on the Gold Coast has closed. Unfortunately I can't offer a good option in the area. Maybe someone else can.

        Ferret's suggestion of Perennial Virant is perfect for around the History Museum.

        Publican is perfect for brunch. Some people complain about it being noisy, but it's never been a problem for us and I think their brunch is one of the best in town. Make a reservation and ask for a private table (they also have communal tables).

        1 Reply
        1. re: chicgail
          twinkie Jun 19, 2013 01:48 PM

          I'll actually be taking the morning to jog over to Union Station (as I have a thing for old train stations) and picking up pastries on the way back. I'll be canceling the workout, but it'll be worth it. :)

          Thanks for your feedback on Publican. I wasn't sure, as there are so many brunch places to choose from in Chicago. Also, thanks for the pointer on the private table. I'll be sure to request that.

        2. nsxtasy Jun 19, 2013 02:16 PM

          >> July 4 - Breakfast - Pastries from Vanille

          Because of the holiday, many places will be closed that day. I would say the chances of either Vanille location (French Market or Clybourn) being closed that day are very high. Call them to verify.

          Another place where you can get excellent pastries, only a couple blocks from your hotel, is Toni Patisserie. They too may be closed on the 4th, but you could check. They're normally open seven days a week. And, if you enjoy donuts, Do-Rite Donuts is a block away.

          >> July 5 - Brunch before the Cubs game at Southport.

          Southport Grocery is a great choice for this. 10 minutes walk from the ballpark.

          >> July 7 - Brunch reservations at the Publican (Should we be going somewhere else? Meli? Bongo Room? Will these places have crazy waits?)

          Most of our breakfast-focused restaurants, like Meli Café and Bongo Room, have waits of 30-60 minutes on Sundays between 9:30 and 1:00. To avoid the waits, go to a place that accepts reservations. The Publican does.

          >> Also, I've been trying to Schwa reservations. I called too early last week, and they said yesterday that they don't have any availability. Could it be possible that they don't know if they'll even be open that holiday week?

          If they said they don't have any availability, then they don't. If they don't plan to be open that week now, that's not likely to change. (Places sometimes change their plans, but it's always that they planned to be open, saw how few reservations people made, and then decide to be closed.)

          6 Replies
          1. re: nsxtasy
            twinkie Jun 19, 2013 02:38 PM

            nsxtasy, thanks for your replies. I'll be sure to call ahead to make sure that the places I plan on going to are open. I currently have reservations at Mercat a la Planxa for that very reason for lunch, but I think we're going to want something a little faster. I didn't even think about the French Market places being closed. I'll double check on them too.

            Hopefully they'll be open for the tourist traffic. Thank you for the back up patisserie/doughnut suggestions and the wait times for brunch.

            1. re: twinkie
              kathryn Jun 19, 2013 03:08 PM

              Do-Rite Doughnuts looks to be 2 blocks from your hotel on Google Maps.

              They were open on Memorial Day, it is possible they will also be open on the 4th of July.

              Worth reaching out to them via Twitter to ask.

              1. re: kathryn
                nsxtasy Jun 19, 2013 03:30 PM

                >> Do-Rite Doughnuts looks to be 2 blocks from your hotel on Google Maps.

                You're right. I was off by a block. Sorry!

                And Toni Patisserie is 3 blocks away, not two. My bad again!

                I should also have mentioned Intelligentsia Coffee, our premier local roaster, if you're a coffee aficionado. They have a coffeebar on East Randolph, two blocks from the hotel (and one block from Toni). Do-Rite serves Dark Matter Coffee, from another local specialty roaster.

                Try them all! :)

                1. re: nsxtasy
                  twinkie Jun 19, 2013 05:21 PM

                  Wonderful. Thanks for the information. I was just about to look into where I should be getting my coffee fix. Love the local recommendations.

                  kathryn, thanks for the information about Memorial Day. It's helpful for us out-of-towners to get an idea of what might be open! Great idea to use twitter. I always forget about it.

                  1. re: twinkie
                    danimalarkey Jun 20, 2013 07:50 AM

                    It might be too far out of your way, but another local coffee roaster with a downtown location is Bow Truss. They have a smaller selection than Intelligentsia but can still offer a selection of coffees and brewing techniques. They usually have a great, rotating selection of baked goods/pastries, too. Hours can be found here (it's the River North location): http://bowtruss.com/

                    1. re: danimalarkey
                      twinkie Jun 20, 2013 03:57 PM

                      Bow Truss looks so cozy! I will be sure to check it out if I can. Thanks for the tip.

          2. q
            Querencia Jun 25, 2013 06:41 PM

            Breakfast in direction of Chicago History Museum might be Original Pancake House on Bellevue just east of where State and Cedar merge. Also there is a breakfast place on the NW corner of Clark & North, catacorner to the museum, don't recall name as it recently changed hands, haven't been there but it's always full. BTW admission to CHM is free on the 4th. On the other hand, if you opt for the Art Institute, Wildberry on E Randolph would be a great choice. Be prepared for killer lines waiting to get in Original Pancake House or Wildberry.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Querencia
              twinkie Jun 26, 2013 11:28 AM

              Thanks for the recommendations on some breakfast places near the museums. It'll sure be helpful. I miss the Original Pancake House from when I was in Atlanta a while back. So I'll be sure to keep that in mind when deciding on a place! Also, thanks for the tip on admission and the waiting lines warning!

            2. t
              twinkie Jul 8, 2013 09:14 AM

              Thanks to everyone for all the help for our Chicago trip. It was a success. A quick rundown:

              Wed night: Schwa. They called me back when they were scheduling July. Had a great time here. Really enjoyed the ravioli and thought the menu was fun and creative. Glad that we went. It was definitely a special and unusual experience. Kitchen was super friendly and didn't care that I had my luggage w/ me or that one of our friends had to cancel (even tho I had added them to our reservation that day). They were really accommodating and seemed to be quite passionate about their food.

              Thurs: Carnivale. Thought the pork shoulder was excellent. Scallops were great as well. Cool atmosphere, although a little more dead than we would have liked for the 4th. There was a wedding going on upstairs. Paella was ok.

              Fri: State and Lake Tavern at theWit. Friends had a snack of some roasted potatoes. They said they were good. I had a bite of a cinnamon roll. It was just ok. I decided to save room for Southport and just had a coffee.
              Southport Grocery. Really enjoyed the pop tart and the brisket and gravy. Wish I could have eaten more. Specialty cocktails were pretty weak I thought. They seemed more for a mike's hard crowd.
              Lou Malnati's (State Location). Loved our pizza. It hit the spot after the cubs game. Enjoyed having something more low key.
              Gibson's. Stopped here for a drink and dessert. We had the macadamia nut turtle pie. This was a massive slice of vanilla ice cream cake with a delicious crumbly cinnamon-ey crust layered throughout. As an ice cream fan, this was just what I needed to get me through the weekend. Almost slipped into a food coma after this. Also really loved the people-watching here.

              Sat: Do-rite Donuts. Had the pistachio and meyer lemon + the chocolate old fashioned. Both delicious. Coffee was a great as well.
              Rockit. Had drinks here only. Thought they made a pretty good bloody mary and enjoyed a couple gin fizzes.
              Purple Pig. Wow, the razor clams were the best I've ever had. Octopus was great too, but wish it was a little more tender. Pork neck gravy was another stand out. Also enjoyed the house made coppa and pork jowl. Thought the pigs ears were good, but nothing special. Cocktails were not mixed well unfortunately.
              GT Fish and Oyster. Lobster mac and cheese was great. Had several oysters, and they were fantastic. The sauce for the mussels was absolutely phenomenal. Was tempted to lick the cast iron. Grilled artichokes were awesome. Didn't expect to love them so much, but they were so good. If i could had eaten more, I would had ordered more of these. Poke and ceviche were pretty good as well.

              Sun. Wanted to go to Bongo Room, but we decided to sleep in and sight see a little. Decided on Little Goat. We had the breakfast spaghetti, the french toast and the parathas burrito. I was a big fan of the breakfast spaghetti. Thought it was a little weird sounding, but as a clam fan, had to try it. The littlenecks in there were fantastic and I loved the briney flavor of the dish. It was unusual, but really worked. Didn't find the burrito to be anything special. Friends loved the french toast and chicken. I found a hair in that one, unfortunately, so that really turned me off. Like the kimchi bloody mary. I usually hate kimchi in all things non-Korean, but this was barely a kimchi flavor, so it worked.
              The Gage. Had the poutine and a few beers. Poutine was good, but really salty. I haven't had poutine in a couple years and I don't cook w/ a lot of salt, so it kind of hit me hard. I still ate as much as I could, because it was still pretty good.

              We loved Chicago, and the people there were so helpful and friendly. The food was fabulous and we were able to try several new drinks and beers. Great city, and will be returning to get my hot dog, popcorn, Sun Wah duck dinner, and whatever else i can fit into my stomach.

              7 Replies
              1. re: twinkie
                TeacherFoodie Jul 8, 2013 10:40 AM

                Thanks for the report. On my trip I may also head over to Gibson's for dessert after Lou Malnati's. Thanks for the idea!

                What kind of pizza did you have at Lou's?

                1. re: TeacherFoodie
                  twinkie Jul 8, 2013 10:52 AM

                  We had the chicago classic with added garlic. Usually would be fussing over wanting some more veggies, but in all seriousness, when we decided on deep dish during the Cubs game, we were going for the sausage and cheese. :) Found the crust to be light and crunchy. We finished everything!

                  1. re: twinkie
                    TeacherFoodie Jul 8, 2013 10:58 AM

                    Good to know. Our plan is to also go there after the Cubs game! Thanks!

                  2. re: TeacherFoodie
                    jbontario Jul 9, 2013 07:44 AM

                    Try "The Lou" at Malanti's. I really like it. Spinach, garlic, tomatoes, yumm. But of course the sausage is also great.

                    Dessert at Gibsons is really not that great, the cakes are HUGE but you can find many a better taste treat around. That and while I eat there quite frequently, it's really expensive just to have drinks and dessert. For some great mille-feuille (yeah I had to copy and paste to get spelling) and fantastic cocktails and beer go to Au Cheval on W Randolph. You might want to consider Black Dog Gelato in Bucktown. Get some gelatto and then hit up one of the dozens of bars in the area.

                    1. re: jbontario
                      TeacherFoodie Jul 9, 2013 08:57 AM

                      Thanks jbontario!

                      It looks like au cheval could be a good call as they are open late. Black Dog seems only to be open Fri-Sun 2-10pm. Unfortunately we are only there Mon-Fri (leaving Friday afternoon).

                      1. re: jbontario
                        twinkie Jul 9, 2013 10:18 AM

                        I agree with this about Gibson's. We went there because we are fans of the league and a friend commented on the desserts there. The dessert was certainly massive and fun, but I wouldn't say it was special and high quality with excellent flavor. However, the atmosphere did feel special, and the people watching was superb. :)

                    2. re: twinkie
                      masha Jul 8, 2013 10:41 AM

                      Glad you had such a good experience. Especially happy to hear that you went to Schwa and enjoyed it so much.

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