Locals opinions needed on ethnic food, lunch spots, and brunch.
I will be visiting Chicago Thursday - Sunday. I've done enough research on my own so I'm looking for some locals opinions. Unfortunately my girlfriend isn't quite as adventurous with food yet so the tasting menus won't work this time around. We're coming from Des Moines so we're really interested in places that we don't have much of here. (So don't need any bbq, diner, or comfort food suggestions.)
What I am primarily looking for is:
A couple lunch and breakfast options. (For lunch any legit Chinese or Latin options would be great. I'm thinking baba-reeba for lunch on Friday Since we'll be in the LP neighborhood anyway.
I picked Thai urban kitchen for sushi and Kama bistro for Indian. (fixed) Is there any reason to go anywhere else? If so I'm open to suggestions.
My second request is a good gastropub with the emphasis being on the beer selection. Hopleaf seemed to be the place to go but will we regret trying to go there on a Friday night. Could use a couple back ups here.
I would usually go to Mr beef or hot dougs for quick casual lunch... Anything new to try?
Lastly and most importantly I am looking for a high end brunch for Sunday morning. I tried looking into this but there didn't seem to be a lot of info on what kind of options were offered on the buffets. A buffet is not necessary but I'd like to try a high end brunch buffet as we have absolutely ZERO of that here. Otherwise a really Great regular breakfast spot will work too. Seems like the Ritz has What I'm looking for but Maybe There's a better option. No family friendly diner buffets please:)
Edit: Any thoughts on the best beer store to hit before heading home? Looking to stock up on three Floyd's and other breweries unavailable to me at home. Binnys?
I've only eaten at Thai Urban Kitchen once and it was a couple of years ago, but I was unimpressed. As a lunch spot for workers who are in the area, it's ok (that's why I was there) but there are far better Thai restaurants in the Chicago, such as Star of Siam in River North or several restaurants in the Uptown neighborhood along Argyle St.
Kuma's Corner is a punk-hip burger joint. It does not serve Indian food. For the best Indian food, check out Devon St. in the West Rogers Park area.
Very few of our high end Brunch places do buffets. If you want a big buffet brunch, you might check out the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building. Other places with good "high-end" brunches (but not buffets) would include Perennial Virant and North Pond, both of which are in Lincoln Park.
For "legit Chinese" for lunch, check out restaurants in Chinatown such as Moon Palace, Lao Sze Chuan or Phoenix. Or in Uptown (near Argylle St., where the Thai restaurants are), go to Sun Wah. If you do go to Sun Wah, make a reservation at least a day in advance and pre-order the Peking Duck. It's awesome and dirt cheap for lots of food.
Shaw's Crab House and Sixteen (in Trump Tower) are both known for having high end, elaborate brunch buffets. North Pond (literally sitting in the middle of Lincoln Park with views of the pond and skyline) is a beautiful venue with high end Sunday brunch (lunch foods rather than breakfast fare) - but is a prix fixe menu, not buffet (four choices per course for three courses). Jam is one of my favorite brunch venues (variety of breakfast and lunch foods and good mix of sweet and savory options), upscale food but casual ambiance.
For ethnic foods I enjoy Sun Wah BBQ (agree with the Peking Duck recommendation - I am actually heading there this weekend) and Ras Dashen (Ethiopian) as well as a Embeya, Kabocha and Yusho for Asian fusion. For sushi I have heard good things about Kai Zan, but not yet made it in person.
Hopleaf is very nice, but try to arrive early - Friday's definitely can be hectic. The Bristol and The Publican are two wonderful, upscale gastropubs with wonderful cuisine and beverages and you can make reservations for them via Open Table. You mentioned Hot Dougs; keep in mind lines can be crazy long there, but most rave about the food. Franks n Dawgs offers somewhat similar fare and generally much shorter wait.
For beer, Binnys would be a fine start (especially the South Loop or Lincoln Park stores) but I wouldn't count on finding beers from Three Floyds. Most stores, even Binnys, get 2-3 cases each week and it's rare that they last more than a few hours. You're better off driving down to Munster (about 30 minutes south of the city) and picking it up from the source. Plus, the brewpub has good food (though it's squarely in the uspcale pub/comfort food zone).
Beer Temple, West Lakeview Liquor, Warehouse Liquors and Printer's Row Wine Shop are all great stores, too. They get less traffic than Binnys, generally speaking, so limited/rare releases may stick around longer (or even regular releases like stuff from Three Floyds). Revolution, Pipeworks and Half Acre are all popular breweries in Chicago that package a variety of beers. Is there one style you tend to like most?
Take a look at the Publican's Sunday brunch. It's not a buffet and may not be as "fancy" a setting as the Ritz or the Peninsula but it's still ridiculously tasty. Definitely check out their menu online.
Hopleaf expanded their restaurant about a year ago -- even on a Friday night, I haven't found there to be long waits anymore. In that neighborhood, Acre could serve as a decent back-up. If you don't like the Publican for brunch, definitely check them out for dinner (great food and great beer). Owen & Engine and Longman & Eagle are worth a look, too (but only the former accepts reservations).
I mean, you might be able to find a few bottles. Bombers tend to stick around longer -- and at some of the smaller shops I mentioned, you might find Dreadnaught or Arctic Panzer Wolf no problem. 6-packs of Robert the Bruce tend to sit, too. But if you're set on picking up a variety of Three Floyds beers... then yeah, the brewery may be your best bet.
Then again, if you check their current availability (http://www.3floyds.com/wp-content/upl... - usually updated daily), you'll see that they don't have much in stock, either. A lot of stores use BeerMenus.com, too, and you can look up specific beers that way, to see what's available at other stores in/around the city.
The best upscale brunch in the city, from my experience, is in the Peninsula lobby. It isn't cheap but its never disappointed, either.