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Florida foodies visit Chicago for the first time!

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We will be visiting Chicago in April for the first time for our anniversary. My husband and I enjoy food of almost any genre and cuisine, and we would like to experience some of the very best that Chicago has to offer. The one thing I am not particularly interested in is molecular gastronomy or extremely pricey tasting menus....we just want delicious, memorable food with pleasant service in an inviting atmosphere. We will be staying at the Hotel Monaco in the Loop.

I am pretty excited to try The Girl and The Goat, but other than that we are very open to suggestions.

Is RPM Italian over-hyped?

I would love to get a couple other suggestions for reasonably priced dinners with the most bang for our buck. I would also like a couple solid lunch suggestions, and possibly a dessert option also.

I've heard that Lou Malnati's is the best for deep dish pizza. Is that the general consensus? Is one of the Malnati's locations better than the others?

I also heard great things about Hot Doug's but I don't really want to go that far out of the way. What other hot dog spots are comparable in the downtown area?

Finally, I have heard that Hot Chocolate is pretty memorable for desserts. Is that the best choice?

Thank you in advance for your help and for helping to make our first wedding anniversary and first Chicago trip as fantastic as can be!

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  1. Asking about a consensus on deep dish pizza is risky ;P , but I like Malnati's. There's a River North location not too far from your hotel. There's also Pizano's, which can also lay a claim to using the original deep dish recipe, just south of your hotel on Madison.

    I love Hot Doug's but, you're right, it's a trek. Closer to downtown is Franks 'n Dawgs in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Still very creative, also BYO, it's also much easier to get to and lines should not be quite as much of an issue. Also, their hot dogs buns are streets ahead of what Doug uses.

    Mindy Segal, the chef/owner at Hot Chocolate, finally won the James Beard award for pastry in the past year or two so she is certainly known for her desserts -- the standard dinner menu is nothing to skip over, either.

    1 Reply
    1. re: danimalarkey

      Franks 'n Dawgs looks awesome..thanks for suggesting that!

    2. Since you are not willing to travel far, you will not be able to experience Chicago's best ethnic restaurants, such as Asian places on Argyle or in Chinatown, Mexican places in Pilsen/Little Village, South Asian on Devon, etc.

      That said, you can still eat well. Since you are interested in Girl and the Goat maybe you would also enjoy Cafe Siena. The general area of West Randolph Street is hot right now; in addition to GATG consider Au Cheval, Publican, Avec, Embeya, Maude's Liquor Bar, Sepia.

      Closer to your hotel, try Purple Pig (outside of peak lunch or dinner hours to avoid long lines), Frontera Grill (also very popular), Sunda, or the raw bar at Shaw's Crab house.

      Due's is another good deep dish place in addition to Malnati's.

      1. We visited Chicago in the summer and had great meals at the following restaurants:

        Lou Malnati's (liked - but we prefer Neapolitan style pizza)

        Frontera Grill (loved)

        Girl and the Goat (liked a lot)

        Sable (liked a lot)

        Potillo's (to fill the need for a Chicago dog)

        GT Fish and Oyster (loved - Fried Oyster Sliders are amazing)

        French Market - 1) sandwiches from Saigon Sisters and pastrami or Montreal smoked meat (sorry can't remember which one) sandiwch from Fumare meats - liked the SS bahn mi and LOVED the pastrami sandwich from Fumare
        2) rainbow cookies and a peanut butter chocolate square from Delightful Pastries - so good
        3) maracarons from Vaniille Patisserie - loved the rose water ones

        Blackbird - amazing lunch here

        Bongo Room - huge orders of pancakes/french toast - delicious

        Big Star Taco - really liked it here, good in summer for the patio

        Glazed and Infused Donuts - YUM - loved the creme-brulee and maple-bacon longjohn

        We also wanted to go to Purple Pig but ran out of time and stomach space!

        Have a great trip!

        TF

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906528

        2 Replies
        1. re: TeacherFoodie

          Thanks so much for this! I had a lot of these same places in mind. The suggestion of lunch at Blackbird is a great idea. I've heard such great things about Blackbird but lunch vs. dinner will be a little easier on our wallets.

          1. re: Christine359

            Yes, we had the same idea! We also had a drink at Caffe Oliva on the beach. Nice spot (for drinks) - not sure if it will be open when you are there.

            Make sure to do the architectural cruise. Very informative even if you aren't that interested in architecture.

        2. I would add Tanta to your list. It was easily one of the best meals we've ever had. The peruvian food was exciting and incredibly flavorful. Every bite was delicious!
          I think Girl and The Goat is fantastic! It sits up there with Tanta as one of the best meals ever.
          Other places my husband and I have enjoyed enough to recommend...
          Au Cheval for the most amazing tasty burger you'll ever have. We order it with the bacon and egg.
          Doughnut Vault for the best doughnut in the states. However, once they sell out, they close.
          Publican is wonderful for Sunday brunch. Great atmosphere and food.
          Lou Malnatis has the most enjoyable chicago style pizza, in my opinion. You must remember to order the butter crust, though. It makes a huge difference.
          For Mexican street food, we love Xoxo. It's a super casual place that offers take out by Rick Bayless/Frontera.

          The portions at most of these places are quite generous. My husband and I normally share a couple of items. It's still plenty of food and helps keep our cost of eating out down.

          We had a meal at Hot Chocolate, including dessert. Dinner and the hot chocolate were wonderful. The $13 dessert... not so much. I know she's a James Beard award winner and people feel her desserts are incredible. I was completely underwhelmed. Maybe the price point had something to do with it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

            Thank you for these suggestions! Butter crust for Malnati's is definitely noted.