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August Visit to Chicago - Itinerary and questions

Dear Chicago Hounds,

Here is my “final” itinerary. Any advice is welcome and appreciated. I have tried to create the best “foodie” itinerary possible to fit with the sightseeing that we wish to do. I hope to avoid criss-crossing the city as much as possible, while still enjoying a lot of Chicago’s best restaurants!

I have to thank you Chicago board hounds for the wonderful responses I have found for visitors. There were lots of helpful threads based on other visitors’ planning and this made it easy to make my wish list and create an itinerary. Also, thank you to those who answered my pervious questions.

Here is the itinerary. Following the itinerary, if you make it that far, I have included more information and some questions after the itinerary!

Monday August 12th
Arrive 10:30 at O’Hare, Taxi to Public Chicago Hotel
LUNCH – Portillo’s (or somewhere else if we go to Frank ‘n Dawgs on Tuesday)
Activity –Mag. Mile (if not raining) or Aquarium or Adler Planetarium
DINNER – Sable (8 pm)
Activity – Relax back at hotel or wander Gold Coast Area (Is there somewhere we should go to have a drink and listen to music?)

Tuesday August 13th
BREAKFAST – Yolk
Activity – Architectural Society Boat Tour, Walk across Michigan Avenue Bridge
LUNCH – Frontera Grill (12 pm - hoping to sit at bar and order from Topolobampo as well)
Activity – Oak Street Beach
DINNER (Light) – Café Ba-Ba-Reeba? Southport Café? Frank ‘N Dawgs? Floriole? GT Fish and Oyster? (or somewhere else near hotel, or near, or on the way to Wrigley)
Activity – Cubs Game
LATE DINNER/SNACK – Lou Malnati’s

Wednesday August 14th
“BRUNCH” – Graze the French Market (approx. 10:30 am)
Activity – Skydeck
DINNER (early) – Girl and the Goat (4:30 pm)
Activity – Mag. Mile (if we have not been yet)/Millenium Park/Navy Pier Fireworks (9:30 pm)
LATE DINNER/SNACK – The Purple Pig

Thursday August 15th
BREAKFAST – Wishbone (Washington Blvd)
Activity – Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio tour, see Hemingway birthplace
LUNCH – Blackbird (12:30)
Activity – Oak Street Beach or Planetarium or Aquarium
DINNER – Mercat, Terzo Piano, Tesori, Vivere, or Pizano’s (not interested in The Gage or Henri)
Activity – Grant Park/Water Show at Buckingham Fountain

Friday August 16th
BREAKFAST – Batter and Berries
Activity – Likely something in the LOOP or Millenium Park Area, or a museum (if raining)
Lunch – At airport (I believe we fly out from terminal 1) or eat in the city: Mixteco Grill? Xoco? Mexique?
1:30 – Depart for airport (a bit earlier if having lunch there). Pick up Garrett’s popcorn.

Additional information/questions

We are visiting from Toronto in August from Monday August 12th to Friday August 16th. We are in our mid-thirties and enjoy all types of cuisine. We tend to enjoy comfort foods and more trendy restaurants than those that are in the fine-dining category. Price-wise, ideally, mains are under $30, however we may do one “splurge” lunch or dinner if anyone has an idea (mains up to the $40-$45 range).

Breakfast can be challenging as my husband does not like eggs (so a lot of savoury items are out) and he is not a big fan of sweet dishes either (meaning he is not interested in having pancakes or French toast every day either). Due to this I did not choose some of the more popular breakfast places in Chicago. I did choose Wishbone because I think he will love the smoked brisket hash. He has become quite skilled in smoking meats himself, so this is why one of our breakfasts will be here. I really like the Batter and Berries menu, however, am not sure I want to venture out of the way for breakfast. If anyone has a better idea for breakfast/acitivity on the Friday (last day) please let me know.

I know someone is going to comment that we are doing too much food-wise, however, we do plan to share items and hopefully will not fill ourselves too much at one place and have to leave out another.

Sight-seeing – While I appreciate that this is a website about food, I know that locals sometimes have suggestions that visitors may not have found in their research for things to do. We enjoy tours, wandering, parks and nice landscapes. We are not big on shopping or museums but are happy to go to a museum if it is raining! If anyone knows of a hidden treasure spot to visit, please let me know!

I would still like to try to fit in a few of these places: Doughnut Vault, Glazed and Infused, Do-Rite Donuts, Floriole Bakery, Toni Patisserie, and any other great donut or bakery places. Are there spots in my itinerary where these make sense?

Also, I seem to be missing ice cream. I don’t recall coming across anything in my research so if anyone has a recommendation I would love to hear about it! I love dessert and ice cream!

Is getting to the French market at 10:30 am too late? I am hoping to try some of the bakery/pastry places and don’t want to arrive to sold-out shops.

For Mexican food, I should note that I do enjoy “street-style” as long as it is flavourful and made with fresh ingredients. I understand that Xoco is street-style.

Thanks to anyone who read all of this. Thanks to nsxtasy and W42 for your help before!

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  1. You have a great itinerary! If I don't comment on something above, that means it looks fine as is.

    >> Activity –Mag. Mile (if not raining) or Aquarium or Adler Planetarium

    The Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium are right next to each other, so if you do one, it's easy to do the other.

    >> DINNER (Light) – Café Ba-Ba-Reeba? Southport Café? Frank ‘N Dawgs? Floriole? GT Fish and Oyster? (or somewhere else near hotel, or near, or on the way to Wrigley)
    >> Activity – Cubs Game

    Floriole is only open till 5:30 so that won't work. (Besides, it's really more of a bakery/coffeehouse, although they have sandwiches and quiches too.) The others would all work, although only Southport Grocery is walking distance from the ballpark (and none are, from the hotel). I'd also add Deleece to the mix; it's a neighborhood-ey bistro serving excellent contemporary American food, not very expensive, a five-minute walk to the ballpark, and you can eat light there if you want. Of these places, I'd lean towards Deleece or GT Fish.

    >> DINNER – Mercat, Terzo Piano, Tesori, Vivere, or Pizano’s (not interested in The Gage or Henri)

    To help you decide... Mercat has tapas in a night club-like setting. Terzo Piano serves dinner in the stunning new Modern Wing of the Art Institute (I haven't had dinner there). Tesori is a bit more "normal" as far as setting - contemporary décor. Vivere's décor is ridiculously gawdy, which makes it rather fun. Pizano's is ultra-casual, which is what you expect with pizza.

    I'd first decide which type of food (tapas, Italian, deep-dish pizza) appeals most and doesn't overlap with other stops in your itinerary. Then, check their website menus to see what jumps out at you.

    Just to throw in something different... if you decide you want to do a "splurge" meal, maybe Everest would work at this point in your itinerary. Granted, it's dressy, with jackets required for gentlemen. And it's expensive, although they have a three-course prix fixe menu (no substitutions) for around $50 for pre-theater dining (5:00/5:30 seatings). The contemporary French-Alsatian cuisine is wonderful, they have a lovely view looking out over the city from the 40th floor, and they have a huge wine list. It's probably not what you're looking for, but it's walking distance to Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain, and you mentioned maybe doing a splurge, so there it is. :)

    >> Lunch – At airport (I believe we fly out from terminal 1) or eat in the city: Mixteco Grill? Xoco? Mexique?

    I assume you mean O'Hare rather than Midway.

    Mixteco Grill is not open for lunch. Jam, our premier breakfast/brunch-focused restaurant, is right on the way to the airport, at the Logan Square stop on the Blue Line. Also, note my suggestion of Smoque, below.

    The best place to eat at the airport is Tortas Frontera (Terminals 1,3,5), also from Rick Bayless.

    >> Price-wise, ideally, mains are under $30, however we may do one “splurge” lunch or dinner if anyone has an idea (mains up to the $40-$45 range).

    Honestly, the places you've already chosen are excellent, so there's no *need* to spend more. But if you want to change one of your lunches or dinners to a nicer (yet not outrageously expensive) place, consider North Pond (open only for dinner) or Naha (lunch or dinner).

    >> He has become quite skilled in smoking meats himself, so this is why one of our breakfasts will be here.

    Then for your lunch on the way to the airport, you might want to consider Smoque. It's near the Irving Park stop on the Blue Line, and they have dry-rub slow-smoked style barbecue. They get busy so allow a little extra time.

    >> I would still like to try to fit in a few of these places: Doughnut Vault, Glazed and Infused, Do-Rite Donuts, Floriole Bakery, Toni Patisserie, and any other great donut or bakery places. Are there spots in my itinerary where these make sense?

    The two best places for pastry in the city, IMHO, are Floriole and Vanille Patisserie. Their main locations are only a few blocks (five minute walk) from each other on the north side. However, you are already planning to go to the French Market, which has a booth for Vanille, and they have a pretty good selection at that location too.

    The donut places, you can squeeze in whenever you're in the vicinity; Do-Rite is in the Loop, and there are a bunch of locations for Glazed & Infused (see www.goglazed.com ). The G&I location in the Raffaello Hotel is a ten-minute walk from your hotel.

    >> Also, I seem to be missing ice cream. I don’t recall coming across anything in my research so if anyone has a recommendation I would love to hear about it! I love dessert and ice cream!

    We have some creative ice cream places, although I wouldn't necessarily call any of them a "must" - not the way everybody talks about Ted Drewes in St. Louis and Kopp's in Milwaukee - but there are some interesting places doing creative things. Here are some links to articles about them:

    The rebirth of the cool:

    www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/...

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/20...

    5 new Chicago ice cream makers worth seeking out:

    www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/...

    Weird yet wonderful ice cream flavors:

    www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/...

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/20...

    >> Is getting to the French market at 10:30 am too late?

    No, not at all! They get a big lunch rush, but that's later, so you shouldn't miss out on anything at that hour.

    7 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks for the amazing, detailed, reply! You are so kind and helpful!

        1. re: nsxtasy

          What would you recommend at Deleece and GT?

          1. re: TeacherFoodie

            These are both places where I've enjoyed pretty much everything I've eaten.

            At Deleece, even the salads are outstanding. I love the onion tart appetizer. Among the mains, the salmon is always wonderful, and the strip steak is good too.

            Same thing at GT Fish. The mussels are always great, one of the few preparations with a very flavorful broth yet it doesn't overwhelm the mussels themselves. The clam chowder in a jar is excellent. And whatever else they have; since they depend on fresh seafood for 90 percent of their menu, it can change frequently, depending on what's just in.

          2. re: nsxtasy

            Yet another question, to nsxtasy, or anyone else who knows - Would you recommend the Naha pre-fixe lunch? Their menu looks amazing... just wondering if I should try to fit it in for lunch or dinner?

            1. re: TeacherFoodie

              I must say, Naha is really terrific, and often overlooked by newer places because it's been around for a few years. I'd consider it one of the ten best restaurants in the city, and some of the others are far more expensive. I love what it combines - the delicious and creative food and the exquisite service of a high-end restaurant, but without the high price (it's not inexpensive, but at dinner it's only a third to a half of the most expensive places in town), without the formal dress code (business casual is fine, no jackets required for gentlemen), and without any requirement to order a lengthy tasting menu.

              Their prix fixe lunch is a new option, so the only thing I know about it is the menu itself, as it appears on their website. It's certainly a bargain though!

              If you wanted to include a "splurge" dinner in your itinerary, and you didn't want to spend as much as for one of the super-dressy super-expensive places (Alinea, Grace, TRU, etc), dinner at Naha would be my top pick. With North Pond a close second. :)

              As you can see from that last line, the constant dilemma with dining in Chicago is that there are way too many terrific restaurants to choose from. And even for those of us who live here, it doesn't get any easier! I know I'll never get to go to all the great restaurants here, even though I've lived here for many years, and I go out of my way to try places I've never been to. And I'm sure I'm not alone in that regard.

              So don't agonize too much! They're all great choices, and whichever ones you choose, you'll undoubtedly eat well and enjoy most if not all of them.

              P.S. Incidentally, Carrie Nahabedian, the James Beard Award-winning chef who owns/runs Naha, recently opened a second restaurant a couple of blocks away. It's called Brindille, and has received widespread praise. The menu is more focused towards traditional French cuisine, whereas Naha is more contemporary, with American, Mediterranean, and global influences. I haven't been to Brindille yet, but I'm going in a few days.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Let me know what you think of Brindille and thanks for all the wonderful information!

                I told my husband about Alinea and when he heard the price he said, "We can eat there, but then we can't eat the rest of the trip!"

          3. If you can squeeze it in, the Rookery does tours every weekday at noon and they're not terribly long tours. Then swing by Do Rite Donuts after!

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn

              Thanks Kathyrn for the idea. I will see what I can do!

            2. I made a Monday lunch reservation for Naha. We can fit in Portillo's another time - I wasn't that excited for a hot-dog, but my husband would enjoy so will have to find time for it.

              6 Replies
              1. re: TeacherFoodie

                its been a couple years, but i recall a great mezze plate and an excellent burger there during lunch. unexpected but really good more casual lunch in a really nice space.

                  1. re: TeacherFoodie

                    I'm not sure I would order a burger at Naha. I mean, their burger is probably great. But, it won't give you as much familiarity with the creativity of their cuisine as other dishes.

                    Wait till you're there, see the menu, discuss with your server, and then decide. If, at that point, you decide you still really want the burger, then go for it!

                    1. re: TeacherFoodie

                      If you're looking for burgers, you may want to try my current favorite, Au Cheval on W Randolph and Halstead. No reservations but I think they're open for lunch some/most days. There are a bunch of other great taste treats along with a good cocktail and craft beer selection.

                      1. re: jbontario

                        From their web site:

                        Au Cheval
                        800 W. Randolph
                        Chicago, IL 60607
                        312.929.4580

                        Au Cheval is first come first serve, and does not take reservations.

                        Hours: Monday - Saturday: 11am to 1:30am, Sunday: 10am to 12:30am

                        ** Kitchen closes daily between 3pm and 5pm

                1. for ice cream go to scooters in lakeview it's on belmont and paulina. always voted best ice cream in the city it's homeade frozen custard it is great. if you want gelato black dog gelato is also great i believe they just opened in lakeview on belmont and have another location on damen in wicker park.

                  i did not love sable- i think there are better restaurants food wise although the bar is nice and trendy. i also didnt love franks and dawgs i like hot dougs much better. gt fish and oyster- food is good but expect small portions and high prices. i like other places better.

                  blackbird, girl and the goat, frontera and portillos are great choices. if you're looking for other great restaurants some of my favorites are the bristol, takashi, belly shack, gilt bar, maude's liquor bar, au cheval, little goat, green zebra, lulas cafe and hot chocolate.

                  as far as sight seeing and things to do since you said you like to wander i would suggest hitting up the different neighborhoods in chicago like wicker park, lincoln park, lakeview, wrigleyville, logan square and lincoln square. each neighborhood has so much character and has great restaurants and shops. chicago has much more to offer than just downtown.

                  1. I did some reading about Little Village today and see that with the large Mexican population there that they have quite a few Mexican restaurants. Is it a safe area to visit? Any experience(s)?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: TeacherFoodie

                      I am often in the area for work; it is fine during the daylight hours but would not recommend coming when dark outside unless you are very street smart/savvy.

                      1. re: TeacherFoodie

                        I will be blunt, it is not safe. Do not go there. And I'll clarify, its not random acts of violance, mostly gangs and drug dealers shooting each other, but why risk getting caught in a less than safe area for a taco.

                        Little Village is in Lawndale, a very red neighborhood on this map.

                        http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2012-c...

                        1. re: jbontario

                          Reading about some of the restaurants just got me wandering... I guess I will stick with Big Star and Xoco!

                          1. re: TeacherFoodie

                            Where might you be reading, just curious. I don't know anyone who goes there to eat. Pilsen, yes, but not Little Village.

                            1. re: jbontario

                              It's actually because we watch the show Shameless and while doing some reading about Lawndale (where the show takes place), I came across information about Little Village having a large Mexican population. Sometimes it can be interesting to "go off the beaten path" in a city, but not if it is unsafe!

                              Is Pilsen worth a visit, or should I stick with the beaten path?

                              1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                Here's a nice piece that was in Chicago MAgazine last year on eating and shopping in Pilsen. It's a great neighborhood.

                                http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Mag...

                                1. re: jbontario

                                  Has Mundial Cocina Mestiza closed? Considering eating there if it hasn't. Any other recs for Mexican in Pilsen?

                                  1. re: TeacherFoodie

                                    Yes, Mundial Cocina Mestiza closed a couple of years ago, unfortunately.

                                    If you want really terrific creative Mexican cuisine in the city, I recommend Topolobampo and Frontera Grill in River North, Mexique in West Town, and Mixteco Grill in Lakeview. Also, in the northern suburbs, Yolo and Libertad in Skokie, and Wholly Frijoles in Lincolnwood.

                                    www.rickbayless.com/restaurants
                                    www.mexiquechicago.com
                                    www.mixtecogrill.com
                                    www.yolomexicaneatery.com
                                    www.libertad7931.com
                                    www.whollyfrijoles.net

                      2. i'm laughing as i read this, as so many of our points overlap. i'm headed to Chicago for a long weekend and am booked at Sable and Frontera. staying at Public and looking for nearby bars for some saturday nightlife - other than Zebra Lounge. Husband here - don't eat eggs. Definitely hitting Do-Rite and the French Market. Same; mid-30's and prefer exciting cuisine to fine dining.

                        so, that said, i'd love to hear of your experience at Public, specifically if you found any great dessert or bar or happenings nearby.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: coasts

                          We went for late-night pizza one night at Lou Malnati's (late-night for us was at 9:30)! We had their chocolate chip cookie for dessert and it was decent.

                          There isn't too much right in the area. Whatever you do, don't waste a meal at Hash House a GoGo. It's mainly breakfast I believe, but I think it's just one of those over-rated places. We did go to that bar that lets you see the city from a really high floor which was probably a ten minute walk from the hotel. Best views there were from the women's washroom!

                          Do-rite donuts were only okay - Glazed and Confused were the bomb! Had twice from there. OMG they were so delicious. I had creme brulee and the second time a maple bacon long john. Must get! Also ended up grabbing chicago mix from the airport and it was really good.

                          Hope you have a great trip. We enjoyed the hotel. We had to be shown how to turn on the shower if I remember properly!

                          1. re: TeacherFoodie

                            "We did go to that bar that lets you see the city from a really high floor which was probably a ten minute walk from the hotel."

                            That would be the Signature Lounge, on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building, one floor up from the restaurant, Signature Room.

                            http://www.signatureroom.com/TheSigna...

                            1. re: GourmetWednesday

                              Thank GW - pregnancy brain wouldn't let me remember the name of it!