A "Remember" moment in Chicago
I tried this out for Seattle and it worked splendidly. I'm looking for memorable food experiences that I will remember when I think back on my visit of Chicago. Can anyone recommend a specific dish, view/drink from a restaurant , best dessert? Staying at the Allegro Hotel and any price category is fine.
A few months ago I had one of the three best dinners of my life at Alinea, and I will never forget it.
If you don't want to spend that much - Alinea typically runs $300-400/pp including moderate alcohol and tax/tip - there are plenty of places where you can have a memorable dinner for a fraction of the cost. Last night I had a terrific dinner at North Pond for just under $100/pp. We enjoyed the exquisite setting in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond, with the city skyline looming over the far shore. They honored our advance request for seating in the front room with the big windows facing the pond, and we arrived in daylight, finished after dark. And the food was one of the best dinners I've had in a long, long time! Every dish was great; the most memorable included the vichyssoise, the short rib combo, and all the desserts. I'm still contemplating the two desserts we had, which showed amazing creativity and deliciousness on the part of their pastry chef. www.northpondrestaurant.com
For just a drink with a view, it's tough to top the Signature Lounge at the top of the John Hancock Center, with its view from the 96th floor. Only if it's a clear day/night, though. :)
Maybe give us a bit more? For example, if you're a young (-ish) fun foodie looking for a fantastic casual cheeseburger and great beer or a melt-in-your mouth pork chop w/ foie gras and some general janes, then to you (and me), Au Cheval might be a "remember" moment. Further along those lines, might be a place like Dusek's. I had dinner there a few weeks ago (just before it hit the Chicago Mag Top 10 list) and really liked the entire experience. Neither of these would be 5-star fancy dining, but great meals and experiences in my opinion.
I really liked Alinea (only been once) but if you're looking for some of the cooler, newer things that might also be memorable without being 3- or 2- star, ask.
For me it is Hot Doug's. Yes, there's a line, but get there around 10:30 or 11, relax, enjoy chatting up those around you, and you get rewarded by interacting with Doug himself at the register. To me, that moment is the one that keeps me coming back, even now that other joints have jumped on the fancy sausage and toppings bandwagon. Once you're there, it's like an audience with the pope of encased meats. You want a picture with him? Sure, come around. Have a question about celebs or some tv segment you saw him on? Just ask. Order two creative sausages that sound interesting to you, you might not finish them but it's tasty to try, and some fries, regular or, on Friday and Saturday, cooked in duck fat. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:30 AM-4:00 PM, and cash only. (And before there's a rebuttal from a poster who doesn't like it there and will tell you how far it is from your hotel, let's remember Yogi Berra's line that "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded," and that you asked for opinions, and this is mine.) www.hotdougs.com
Agreed! Though I now go to Franks n' Dawgs more, but I do like waiting in the line, its fun and then you're right it is so refreshing to have a proprietor of a business who really loves what he does and operates as he wants -- not LEYE (or now Sodikoff) formulas here, what I love when I want to.
Yes, you will have to decide for yourself whether you are likely to have a "remember moment" in a fine-dining restaurant, or in a "cheap eats" place, or some other location.
In the "cheap eats" category, the French Market is likely to satisfy. It's inside a commuter train station just west of the Loop and a few blocks west of the Allegro. It has several dozen booths, which include some of the very best restaurants of their kind in the city: Vanille Patisserie for pastry, Pastoral for cheese and sandwiches, Saigon Sisters for banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), Lillie's Q for barbecue, Fumare for Montreal-style smoked meat, etc. They get busy with downtown office workers on weekdays at lunchtime, and they're closed Sundays. It's a bit hard to find so you may want to check the directions on the market's website at www.frenchmarketchicago.com I haven't been to Eataly yet but it is likely to be similarly memorable. www.eataly.com
While you're here, you should have some of our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza. Lou Malnati's location on Wells is a short walk from the Allegro. www.loumalnatis.com
And don't miss Garrett's Popcorn, for freshly made caramel popcorn (with or without cashews, pecans, etc) and cheese popcorn. There's a location on Randolph a couple blocks east of the Allegro, and you can stop at their booth at O'Hare on your way home. www.garrettpopcorn.com
You can get great representations of two more of our local specialties, Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, at Portillo's, which has a downtown location in River North on Ontario. www.portillos.com
Oh, come on now---re our local cheap eats, how can you not mention Italian beef sandwiches? This is Chicago. Go to Al's and ask for a Big Al, wet and hot, which sounds dirty but is just Chicago-ese for a large-size sandwich of slivered tender beef packed into French bread, dipped in the jus gravy (thus wet) and with hot peppers on it (thus hot). Ooooh.