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Sep 30, 2013 11:58 AM

Toronto Foodies need Chicago Recommendations

Hello fellow foodies! We’re planning a girls’ road trip (for 4 of us) over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (October 11 – 15th), and would love your suggestions/recommendations on our eating itinerary. Being from Toronto, we have a plethora of Italian and Asian restaurants readily available, so we want to explore some of Chicago’s finest options that we can’t get at home. Our budget is open, ranging from cheap and cheerful, to splurge meals. We will be staying at the Hotel Sax and will have access to a car as needed (however, we plan on taking cabs to most places). Also of note, some members of our group will be partaking in the marathon (whereas others such as myself, would much rather eat my way through the city) 

I look forward to your recommendations – please note that nothing is set in stone, other than our iNG dinner. Thanks in advance!

Friday (Arrival at Chicago)
--Dinner at iNG (we’re taking advantage of a $99 tasting menu deal via Travelzoo)

Saturday (Marathon Expo)
--Breakfast at Yolk
--Lunch ??
--Dinner at Lou Malnati’s

Sunday (Marathon)
--Breakfast ??
--Lunch ??
--Dinner at either North Pond or Acadia (leaning towards North Pond based on the scenery, but open to recommendations)
--Drinks at Pops for Champagne

Monday (Boat cruise and sightseeing)
--Brunch/Lunch at GT Oyster
--Dinner at either Mexique or Salpicon (which is better?)

Tuesday (Departing Chicago)
--Breakfast ??

Random Eats
--Bin 36 is apparently near or in our hotel, so we’ll definitely be stopping in at some point. Though by no means connoisseurs, we are huge wine/cheese lovers!

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  1. You have some nice places planned out. For iNG I recommend asking for a tour of sister restaurant Moto's kitchen afterwards; they do a really interesting tour and have an indoor farm and all sorts of high tech gadgets. Fridays can be busy - so they may not be able to accommodate - but worth asking. The new executive chef at iNG is really talented and it is a really unique, fun place with extremely friendly staff. Perfect start to your Chicago adventure!

    Bin 36 is not what is used to be, but still does have nice wines and cheeses; so definitely not bad to stop in for snacks/drinks if you are close, but would not recommend a full meal there. Opt for the "flights" for both wines and cheeses; much better value than a la carte.

    For one of your breakfasts or lunches I'd recommend Jam in the Logan Square neighborhood; this has become my favorite brunch/breakfast place. If you are flying out of O'Hare it is on the way there, so might be a great last meal Tuesday morning. Other nice breakfast options would be Bongo Room or M Henry.

    Chicago also has some excellent gastropubs featuring nose-to-tail cuisine and fresh, quality ingredients. Publican, Bristrol and Purple Pig are among the best options - Purple Pig does not take reservations and can become packed, so go during off peak times if you choose that venue. One of these venues would make for a great lunch.

    Chicago also has some great cocktail lounges. Aviary in the West Loop (Grant Achatz' lounge) serves ultra modern cocktails (try to make reservations if you opt for here as waits on weekends can be quite long) and Berkshire Room (downtown area) has become my favorite place for cocktails (no reservations, but often can get in even on weekends - if you like bourbon based drinks order the Weston, my favorite cocktail).

    North Pond you may actually want to do as a Sunday brunch instead of dinner. They do a brunch that is lunch foods rather than breakfast fare and is a similar menu to what they severe at dinner (they may already be booked - you can check via Open Table). If you do opt for this some of my favorite dinner places open on a Sunday would be Boka or the Lobby at the Peninsula or Sixteen (if you wanted to go fancy/high end). All of these feature Contemporary American cuisine. Sixteen is in Trump Tower and has nice views of the city. Boka is actually a sister restaurant to GT Fish & Oyster (which I definitely recommend you keep on your itinerary).

    I know you mentioned a preference not to eat Asian food, but the past year has seen Chicago add several outstanding modern Asian restaurants that may be different than the types of venues in Toronto (you may want to at least peruse the websites and see if it is enticing). My personal favorite of this bunch is Embeya, but Yusho, Juno and Kabocha are all excellent as well. Some of these serve lunch and dinner, some dinner only.

    Chicago does have some wonderful and unique Mexican venues, so that is good you are planning on partaking. I have not been to Salpicon, so cannot comment. Been to Mexique three times and had two great dinners, one off night. Rick Balyless' Topolobampo is my favorite for Mexican, but a reservation on short notice would be difficult (and they are closed Mondays); he does have a casual venue at O'Hare, so if flying out of there be sure to grab a snack while you wait for your plane if you can.

    If you are seeking out desserts, some of my favorite sweets in Chicago would be pie from Hoosier Mama or gelato from Black Dog. Coffee wise my current favorite venue is Dark Matter.

    Enjoy your stay and good luck to your friends that are running the marathon.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gonzo70

      Thanks so much for all your recommendations and feedback, it's greatly appreciated!

      I booked us in for the Moto kitchen tour, which we're really looking forward to. What a great way to kickstart our vacation.

      I like your breakfast suggestions, but we are driving in (not flying), so they may be a bit far from our hotel for a quick bite. I will definitely look into Publican, Aviary and Berkshire Room. Boka also looks delicious - ahhh, so many choices, so little time.

      The Asian restaurants will have to go on the backburner, as my dining companions aren't huge into the genre (probably because they are tired of it from Toronto).

      Again, thank you for all your input! I hear that Chicago is an ideal blend between Toronto and NYC (which I love), so I'm very much looking forward to this trip. Should anyone need Toronto recommendations in the future, please don't hesitate to reach out!

      1. re: team_eater

        IIRC Aviary recently changed their hours/days of operation to be only Wednesday through Sunday. I could email them to confirm.

      2. re: Gonzo70

        Just some quick thoughts:

        Much easier to see North Pond's surroundings in daylight, but I don't think their brunch is very special. I much prefer Publican for brunch.

        Between Salpicon and Mexique, I would pick Mexique in a heartbeat. I know others like Salpicon, but I have been singularly unimpressed.

        I would also throw Mercat a la Planxa into the mix. A Jose Garces restaurant, it is excellent for tapas. Was just there for brunch. The food was excellent, the service exemplary. My only complaint: too much food!!