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Downtown Chicago & River North 5 Days Good Eats on Budget

s
sy_base Feb 10, 2014 08:06 PM

Will be in Chicago for 5 days with family of 4(2 teen boys) . I am looking for ideas for unique food places in Chicago that we can get on the go and sit down for a family by the Museums, Willis tower, Pier, Mag Mile, River North areas. Will be doing public transportation so can not wander to far nor will the Kids wait hour in line for a hotdog. I have Ginos and Lou Malnatis on the to do list but need some help filling in cool unique to Chicago establishments the rest of the days. Family loves to try new and different. Just not looking on spending $20 for each of us for every meal every day. Any Help appreciated.

  1. j
    jbontario Feb 11, 2014 07:59 AM

    It can tough to eat cheap, but there are lots of options. First unless you're really a into it, two Chicago deep-dish pizzas may be overkill. Preface, I am not a native Chicagoan and my home-town pizza is Little Ceasers and Dominos, but over my 12 years in Chicago, I have learned to really like Lou Malnati's -- get "The Lou".

    Something that's unique now in the Loop (by Sears tower) is Roti -- fast food mediteranean / lebanese. Its about to go national franchise as the Chipotle for middle eastern food. Its great and cheap.

    To get the Chicago Hot Dog / Italian Beef you can try Portilos. Its in River North and while some say not their favorite, Dogs & Beef are totally subjective just like a NYers favorite slice.

    If you want gourmet sausages and hot dogs without the Hot Doug's wait. Go to Franks n Dawgs on N Clybourn. It's in a (becoming very commercial) shopping spot. I like the encased meats as much as anything I've tried at Doug's and I like the fries better. This is a couple miles northwest of River North/Mag Mile, a cab would be $10 or there are busses.

    A nice family meal -- something my family alwasy does -- can be had in Little Italy on Taylor Street. I like Davanti Enoteca (though now it too has "mini-chained" itself). For old-school red sauce (and maybe bodies buried in the basement) try the Original Rosebud or Francesca's.

    Great diner/breakfast is Little Goat on Randolph street and my favorite (still for two years) is Au Cheval for the best cheeseburger and pork chop you could have.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jbontario
      d
      danimalarkey Feb 11, 2014 08:11 AM

      I really want to echo the suggestion of Franks 'n Dawgs. My own love of Hot Doug's notwithstanding, FnD seems like it would be a great stop for you and your family. They're also BYO (so it can be fun for the adults, too!) and there's a colossal wine/beer/spirits store nearby called Binny's. Also, I would actually suggest taking the Red line to North/Clybourn rather than a bus.

      1. re: danimalarkey
        chicgail Feb 11, 2014 08:27 AM

        Me, three.

        I just ate at Franks 'n Dawgs on Saturday for the first time in maybe a year and a half.

        The encased meats were MUCH better than I had remembered, maybe even better than Hot Doug's (I don't so much like the cheeses HD puts on its sausages), but I still vastly prefer the environment (wait and all) at HD. I had a Poor Boy with a shrimp sausage that was as light as a mousse and topped with fried green tomatoes.

        Truly amazing. I kicked myself for not also ordering the truffle fries.

    2. p
      Polski Feb 11, 2014 09:06 AM

      Based on your criteria I think you would enjoy walking around the French Market in the train station at 131 N. Clinton. Some interesting options there.
      There is also a small food court on the 7th floor of Macy's on State with pretty good choices.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Polski
        w
        willyum Feb 11, 2014 11:10 AM

        Second the French Market rec ... some low cost options and a lot of variety in the food court so each family member can do something different if they want.

        1. re: Polski
          f
          ferret Feb 11, 2014 12:15 PM

          Ditto French Market; it offers some "Taste of Chicago" experiences, Little Goat, Saigon Sisters and lots more.

          Near the museums (not too near, but not far), try Bongo Room or Meli Cafe for breakfast, Cafecito for lunch.

        2. c
          Chulacat Feb 11, 2014 12:25 PM

          Take a look at Heaven on Seven in River North or the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants like Big Bowl, Bub City, Ba Ba Reeba, HUB 51 or RJ Grunts. Also, check out Cafe Iberico (the tapas come in large portions). Some of these may meet your needs without feeling like fast food or breaking the budget.

          1. s
            sy_base Feb 11, 2014 04:27 PM

            Great Suggestions !! Thanks Much. I really like the idea of French Market since it is close to the hotel we are staying. I also will check out Macy's food court suggestion that allows one to pick, sample and share. We really enjoyed some unique diversity of upscale vendor stalls San fran Westfield Food Court, food is 4 star at 2 star prices. Are there any other notable or advisable markets/stalls/courts in Chicago proper that are not to be missed? POLSKI- Dziękuję Panie

            1 Reply
            1. re: sy_base
              p
              Polski Feb 12, 2014 07:28 AM

              Prosze bardzo.
              Good stuff from the Old Country can be had at Podhalanka, a short trip on the blue line train from downtown. (close by is fantastic carne asada at La Pasadita)
              Stop by our new Ecco Eataly mid-afternoon when the crowds are not quite so bad.
              Another great but busy place to hit during off hours is Purple Pig.

            2. j
              jbw Feb 11, 2014 08:27 PM

              If you're going to be around on Sunday morning, you might want to give Maxwell Street Market a try. Lots of good options for south-of-the-border street food (Rubi's is my fav), and then you could always head back down Roosevelt Road for a brisk walk to Museum Campus

              1. s
                sy_base Feb 12, 2014 12:45 PM

                POLSKI- I have given up on dining out for pierogies, Golumki, I am continually disappointed. There is NOTHING better than homemade(what you are use to). Hence, I feel why there are no national Polish Taqueria chains. Ecco Eataly looks like a good fit as well as Purple pig and close to our hotel. thanks for the tip on time to dine...

                1 Reply
                1. re: sy_base
                  p
                  Polski Feb 12, 2014 04:23 PM

                  Sy, the Polish place in Chicago that would change your mind is Smak Tak. Even my (Góral) Mother in Law likes it. But it may be too far away from your base of operations, unless you get access to a car. Smacznego with the other places!

                2. q
                  Querencia Feb 17, 2014 05:56 PM

                  1) When you are at Willis Tower you will have good access to a Polish buffet that can fill up any number of teenage boys. Walk two blocks north to Madison and take the 56 bus going west. Get off at Hamlin and you will be at the door of the Red Apple. All you can eat for about $10. 2) In the heart of the Loop, Oasis Cafe, at the back of a jewelry mall at 21 N Wabash, has excellent Middle Eastern food with daily specials for around $7 and many other offerings, also cheap. 3) Reza's, 432 W Ontario (Near North) has a lunch buffet Mon-Fri for around $10, infinite food. 4) Near North: Northwestern Memorial Hospital (entire block defined by St Clair, Erie, Huron, Fairbanks---one block off Michigan right beyond the Apple store) has a big cafeteria, Cafe 251 ) with chef stations at lunch and also has several small commercial restaurants. 251 is probably lowest-cost food in expensive Miracle Mile. Second floor. Public welcome. BTW everyplace I have mentioned has a website with details. Ah, one more. Big Bowl, Ohio just west of Rush, has excellent Asian stir-fries for around $12. Also, the boys will enjoy the big flagship McDonald's at Clark & Ontario. The upstairs is actually a quiet place to eat.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Querencia
                    p
                    Polski Feb 17, 2014 07:44 PM

                    Some excellent suggestions here. It should be pointed out, though, that the bus ride would be half an hour each way, even with good connections. I would call the Red Apple good, but not great. Not sure it would meet your stringent criteria for Polish food. But if you're tired of walking and you want some true Chicago Polish atmosphere, maybe it would be worth it (especially since it's near some other interesting places).

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