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Please help - a few more meals to plan for August trip!

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Hello Chicago hounds!!

Before finalizing my itinerary for our trip in August, I need a little help from the hounds.

1) Tuesday late dinner/snack after the cubs game (near the cubs game or on the way back to the hotel).

2) Wednesday late dinner/snack (10:30ish?) after watching the fireworks at Navy Pier (somewhere close to Navy Pier or on the way back North via taxi or transit to our hotel - Public Chiacgo)?

3) We also have one undecided dinner for a Thursday night in the Millenium Park Area. For lunch that day we are going to Blackbird.

About us:
We will be visiting from Toronto and are hoping to sample some of Chicago's great restaurants. We are in our mid-30s and generally enjoy most types of cuisine.

For both late dinners, we are looking for a casual place with great food. For the undecided dinner, a nicer restaurant (not Alinea or fine-dining, but something with mains under $30).

Just to give you a better idea of what we like, we have already booked Frontera Grill (for lunch - just booked - thanks nsxtasy), Girl and the Goat (dinner), Sable (dinner), and Blackbird (lunch). Other places we plan to go for breakfast/lunch are Southport Cafe, Batter and Berries, Yolk, Wishbone, Original Pancake House, French Market (to graze), and possibly Jam. I am also considering Lou Malnati's for lunch on the day we arrive but am wondering if I should try deep dish from a restaurant that is not a chain.

I feel like we are missing hot-dog, deep dish pizza, beef sandwich, The Purple Pig, possibly another Mexican place (we both LOVE Mexican), and anything else?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. nsxtasy will probably be along in a few hours to give you more suggestions, or you could search through his posts for those neighborhoods.

    Also if you like Mexican, I would suggest Xoco even though you are already going to Frontera Grill. Most of Topolobampo's main courses are in the mid-$30s so if you can't stretch it, then maybe you could switch your Frontera Grill reservation to a dinner and do Topolobampo for lunch (when the mains are under $30)? Adobo grill is in your price range, but I didn't think it was particularly great the one time I went, though nsxtasy at least used to recommend it.

    Mercat a la planxa and the Gage are right across the street from Millennium park, but I've found both to be just ok and forgettable (in comparison to when I've lived in Spain and London).

    I've only been to bars in Wrigleyville, so I can't be of much help around there.

    1. Okay, let's see what we can do here.

      Just for reference, I see you're staying at the Public Hotel, which is in the Gold Coast.

      >> 1) Tuesday late dinner/snack after the cubs game (near the cubs game or on the way back to the hotel).

      I assume this is a night game with a start time around 7 pm, which means the most likely time it will end will be 10:15-10:30 or so, so you'll need a place that's open pretty late. Maybe this would be a good time to try deep-dish? Lou Malnati's at State and Rush is not far from your hotel.

      GT Fish & Oyster, which does seafood in a small plates format, is open till 11, although it's slightly out of the way, in River North.

      I believe Sable and Girl & the Goat are both open late, so if you wanted to move one of those dinners to this evening, you could then swap that for dinner at a place that's not necessarily open quite so late (such as another Mexican place - see below) on another night.

      >> 2) Wednesday late dinner/snack (10:30ish?) after watching the fireworks at Navy Pier (somewhere close to Navy Pier or on the way back North via taxi or transit to our hotel - Public Chiacgo)?

      This would be a great time to go to the Purple Pig, an easy 10-15 minute walk from the pier. That late, the waits to be seated should be reasonable. You might not even have to wait at all.

      >> 3) We also have one undecided dinner for a Thursday night in the Millenium Park Area. For lunch that day we are going to Blackbird.

      I'd try one of our excellent Italian restaurants. Terzo Piano, the restaurant inside the Modern Wing of the Art Institute (our famous art museum), is only open for dinner one night a week - Thursdays! tesori and Vivere are also excellent and a short walk from the park.

      Other options near the park include Mercat a la Planxa (tapas), Pizano's on Madison (deep dish), the Gage (gastropub), and Henri (French bistro).

      >> Other places we plan to go for breakfast/lunch are Southport Cafe, Batter and Berries, Yolk, Wishbone, Original Pancake House, French Market (to graze), and possibly Jam.

      Good choices. I'd consider skipping Yolk in order to make sure you include Jam in your itinerary. (It's a "must" for breakfast/brunch lovers!) Also, just to nitpick, Batter & Berries and Wishbone are both very good, but perhaps not quite as unusual as M. Henrietta or Bongo Room, which you didn't mention.

      >> I am also considering Lou Malnati's for lunch on the day we arrive but am wondering if I should try deep dish from a restaurant that is not a chain.

      Don't worry about the fact that we have some local chains. Those chains - Lou Malnati's and Pizano's - got started because they had a single place that produced outstanding pizza, and they grew from there. IMHO they're the best places to get deep-dish. And maybe the original Uno and Due, which of course were the start of a national chain, although the pizza at the chain locations is not as good as the originals.

      >> I feel like we are missing hot-dog, deep dish pizza, beef sandwich, The Purple Pig, possibly another Mexican place (we both LOVE Mexican), and anything else?

      Okay, so with the possibilities above, maybe we have deep-dish and Purple Pig covered. For Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef, I'd suggest putting Portillo's on Ontario into a lunch slot on your schedule; they do an excellent representation of both dishes.

      If you'd like to include another Mexican place in your schedule, consider Salpicon, which is a short walk from your hotel and is open for dinner and Sunday brunch; Mexique, which is a couple of miles west and is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner; or Mixteco Grill, which is further, a mile or two northwest of Wrigley Field, is open for dinner and weekend brunch, and is BYO. None of these is open past 10 pm on weekdays though. Per my note above, maybe you could swap one of these for the night you currently plan to go to Sable or Girl and the Goat, and move that dinner to Tuesday since both are open pretty late?

      I would not recommend XOCO, Rick Bayless's other restaurant in River North (just around the corner from Frontera Grill and Topolobampo), for anything other than a light snack, because the menu items are mostly along the lines of "street food" that you can find in any city this side of the Mexican border. His other two restaurants are much, MUCH more unusual and unique.

      I also wouldn't recommend Adobo Grill. I've been there a few times and I agree with W42 that it's not particularly great; it's okay, but several notches below Chicago's very best, which I've listed above. I suspect any times I've recommended it in the past, it's been in response to queries for places near Second City.

      1. Thank you W42 and nsxtasy! I will finalize my itinerary and post it soon!

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