Regular Guy Food and Desserts in Chicago
I grew up in Chicago, but left in the mid-80s. Heading back for a conference next week and I have no idea where to eat! My husband has no tolerance for fine dining (a good Michigan boy!). So we need your best recommendations for real Chicago, delicious food & desserts (I'm a professional pastry chef). And where is the must-have pizza nowadays? Thanks, fellow Chowhounds!
Where are you staying? How far are you willing to travel? It sounds like Hot Chocolate might be a good place for the 2 of you. It's regular food, decent dinners and yummy desserts. It's run by a former pastry chef from Charlie Trotter's.
For pizza, my go to places are Lou Malnati's and Pizzeria Due. I recently just had pizza at Giordano's after a disappointing meal there a couple of years ago and have to admit, it's also good.
For pastries, my fave place right now is Bad Wolf Coffee just north of the Paulina brown line stop. Try the kouign amann or paris brest. His kouign amman is very flaky, and buttery. I've also heard good things about their caneles but never have the time to try it(they come out around 10 am). Downtown, you can try Vanille Patisserie at the French Market/Metra Union Station.
You might both enjoy one of the gastropubs: The Publican tops my list or Purple Pig (but no res there). I'm not a fan of the Gage but lots of others like it.
For pizza, Coalfire has been really, really good lately (for Neapolitan style -- no deep dish/Chicago-style). I believe they picked up a chef from the Publican and the cured meats that they use for the pizza have never been better. Their 'nduja, in particular, is a favorite of mine.
Portillo's (100 W Ontario) is great to have a Chicago style hotdog and an Italian Beef. Quick and casual.
Doughnut Vault and Glazed & Infused are great for coffee and doughnuts