HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Are you making a specialty food? Share your adventure

Chicago lunches and a brunch suggestion requested

Spiritchaser Jun 21, 2013 08:33 AM

NYC 'hound headed to Chicago in August for the specific reason of hitting Achatz restaurants/bars. I'm looking for suggestions for three lunches, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, (Thursday needs to be on the later side) and a Sunday brunch. We would like great food but don't want to detract from the dinners we will be having; biggest concern is we don't want to be too full. Budget is wide open; GF is a real vegeterian (no flesh or animal derived products).

  1. k
    kathryn Jun 21, 2013 09:35 AM

    Hi Spiritchaser! Great advice from nsxtasy. Definitely try the Purple Pig for a late lunch on Thurs. Purple Pig is really excellent -- wine, cheese, and swine, great housemade charcuterie plus vegetable antipasti, kind of a cross of maybe Casa Mono and Bar Boulud and Otto, communal tables and lots of bar seating. Open all day and open late. The vegetable dishes are surprisingly good for a "swine" focused restaurant. It's one of my favorites in Chicago and we seem to hit it up 1-2x every trip.

    Topolobampo is also very good and I don't think there's a lot like it in NYC. Definitely reserve ASAP. They are on OpenTable. And don't miss their cocktails.

    BTW, in Chicago I find the blocks are longer than NYC's so if you are used to walking around in Manhattan, walks can feel like they take much longer (you are near the water often and you are also less protected from the wind by buildings, at least that is how it feels to me). Google Maps, etc. also tend to underestimate walking in times in Chicago for some reason.

    And restaurant sales tax in Chicago is up to 10.75% downtown dependent upon what "zone" the restaurant is in. This is quite a bit higher than NYC's 8.875%, so while menu prices may look gentler, keep this in mind.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn
      Spiritchaser Jun 21, 2013 10:01 AM

      Hi Kathryn - I had a feeling I would be seeing some suggestions from you : ). Thanks for the additional info regarding taxing and getting around.

      1. re: Spiritchaser
        ferret Jun 21, 2013 10:16 AM

        Chicago's grid system is pretty straightforward. The building numbering grid starts at Madison and State (0 North, South, East and West) and goes up by 100 per block with each full block equaling 1/8 mile (660 feet). So 8 full blocks (or 16 half-blocks) equal a mile. In NY, it's 20 blocks to the mile in the North-South direction. As for half-full blocks in Chicago, they interchange randomly, so measure by building numbers.

    2. nsxtasy Jun 21, 2013 09:08 AM

      For your late lunch on Thursday - the Purple Pig. They specialize in Mediterranean small plates. They don't take reservations, and waits to be seated at mealtimes are horrendous. But if you walk in at 1:30 or later, you'll find immediate seating, even at your own table if you want. (The seating consists of around seven small tables, mostly two-tops; three high-top communal tables seating around 12 each; and about 15 seats at the bar.) www.thepurplepigchicago.com

      For your Friday lunch - Topolobampo. Reserve in advance (they accept them on Opentable). Topolobampo and Frontera Grill are the contemporary Mexican places from Chef Rick Bayless, and these longtime favorites are still terrific, as good as ever. Plus it's a cuisine you won't find back home. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

      For your Saturday lunch - deep-dish pizza, our delicious local specialty. Probably at Lou Malnati's or Pizano's; tell us where will you be staying and/or spending time, and we can tell you which is the closest location. Limit your intake if you don't want to be too full later on. You can call in advance with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-40 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake, and this will also ensure immediate seating upon your arrival. www.loumalnatis.com and www.pizanoschicago.com

      For your Sunday brunch - North Pond. This is a wonderful restaurant, with a James Beard Award winner at the helm. The setting is exquisite, in the middle of the park (not just at the edge of the park like Tavern on the Green) facing its namesake pond, with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. Reserve in advance (on Opentable if you like), and request seating in the front room with the full-length windows facing the pond. www.northpondrestaurant.com

      If you want to swap any of those lunches for a more breakfast/brunch oriented menu, we have a terrific assortment of places specializing in those meals. The best (Jam, M. Henrietta, Bongo Room, Southport Grocery) are away from downtown. If I had to choose one, it would be Jam, which is what you would expect from a chef with a high-end haute cuisine background who went out and created a casual, inexpensive breakfast-brunch restaurant. Beware, none of these places accept reservations, and while you can find immediate seating on weekdays, waits on Saturdays and Sundays are typically 30-60 minutes. www.jamrestaurant.com

      All of the above places have vegetarian options on the menu.

      It sounds like your dinner plans are all set. If you are interested in swapping any of those dinners for an upscale restaurant that's entirely or almost entirely vegetarian, consider Green Zebra. (It's open for dinner only.) www.greenzebrachicago.com

      9 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy
        Spiritchaser Jun 21, 2013 09:59 AM

        Oh, we always wanted to try a Bayless restaurant, this could be the perfect opportunity. I looked at the menu online and it looks great for me but you think the veg options are enough to make a vegetarian happy?

        Definitely checking out the brunch suggestion.

        What do you think of Girl and the Goat?

        1. re: Spiritchaser
          kathryn Jun 21, 2013 10:00 AM

          If you want to "wing it" a bit, you could try to grab two seats at the bar. Topolobampo and Frontera share the same bar area, and you can order from both menus if you sit at the bar.

          GATG is only open for dinner. I find a quite a few of the new/hot/hip destination restaurants in Chicago are not open for weekday lunch, such as Fat Rice, Parsons Chicken & Fish, Trencherman, the Bristol, Bavette's Bar & Boeuf, etc.

          Avec did recently add Sunday lunch BTW.

          Little Goat, the "diner" is open for lunch. (Haven't been yet).

          1. re: kathryn
            Spiritchaser Jun 21, 2013 10:30 AM

            So I grabbed a Friday rez at Topolobampo, Next is at 6:30 so I hope 12:30 is enough buffer, if you and nsxtasy think it's not enough time between the meals then I'll need to reconsider because I vowed to never lose site of what we are eating.

            1. re: Spiritchaser
              nsxtasy Jun 21, 2013 10:34 AM

              I think 12:30 should be fine. And they have plenty of vegetarian items on the menu. (See their website where you can view their current menus.) Definitely keep the Topolobampo reservation!

              1. re: nsxtasy
                Spiritchaser Jun 21, 2013 10:38 AM

                Thanks for the reassurance : )

                1. re: nsxtasy
                  TeacherFoodie Jun 21, 2013 11:45 AM

                  Hi nxtasy and other Chicago hounds - if you are going to sit at the bar do you still need to make a reservatoin at Topolobampo? I'm planning to go for lunch in August. On opentable you have to give your credit card number to make a reservation so just want to be sure...

                  1. re: TeacherFoodie
                    nsxtasy Jun 21, 2013 12:37 PM

                    Topolobampo occupies one dining room inside Frontera Grill. The bar is considered part of Frontera Grill, not Topolobampo, so a reservation at Topolobampo isn't for seating at Frontera Grill. Frontera Grill accepts reservations too, but only a handful (as they keep much of the dining room open for walk-in traffic), and only over the phone. The bar at Frontera Grill offers the advantage of permitting ordering items from either menu, Frontera's or Topolobampo.

                    If you wish to be seated in the dining room at Topolobampo, make a reservation there, either by phone or using Opentable. If you wish to be seated at Frontera Grill (including seating at the bar), phone them for a reservation. If you can't get a reservation at the time you want, you can get seated without one, but waiting times to be seated are often lengthy (90+ minutes) unless you go early arrive 10-20 minutes before they open the doors.


                    1. re: nsxtasy
                      TeacherFoodie Jun 21, 2013 02:01 PM

                      Thanks nsxtasy!

            2. re: Spiritchaser
              weinstein5 Jun 21, 2013 11:00 AM

              I eat vegetarian and fish out and have always found acceptable dishes at Frontera and Tompolamompo

              One of my favorites to order at FG i sthe Queso Fundido without the Chorizo -

          Show Hidden Posts