Moving to Chicago
I am moving east in September, to take a job at the University of Chicago. From scouring this board, it doesn't seem as if Hyde Park is a culinary temple, to put it bluntly, and so I wondered: if I were to move to an area just for food (e.g. if food was my only criterion for residence), where should I live in Chicago?
(This question is also clearly a way for me to get more of a sense of food in Chicago in general).
As a bit of background. I'm British (though it's been ten years, and the only culinary residue London left is my predilection for devilled kidneys), and have spent the last two years in Oakland, having previously worked as a cook in Paris.
I love the Bay Area's Lao food, the sourer and spicier the better, Vietnamese food (I will be searching for Bun Bo Hue in Chicago), Sichuan food, good French food (game, especially). But that is the Bay: I am excited to see what Chicago has to offer.
I miss Polish food from London--especially goose and chłodnik. In general: I like offal, strong flavors, rich food, though I haven't met a cuisine I didn't like, and there is nothing I don't eat.
This discussion from a few years ago will help:
Best Chicago Foodie 'Hood - www.chow.com/topics/437740
In addition to choosing a neighborhood with good food, I think the best thing you can do is to find a place to live that's easy for your preferred transportation mode - near an el stop if you usually take public transit, near a highway if you usually drive.
Also, here is a link to a discussion that will give you an overview of what Chicago has to offer, what foods and places are unique or specialties in Chicago, foods that Chicago is particularly good at:
first time Chicago - www.chow.com/topics/693477
Finally, I wouldn't discount Hyde Park entirely. In the past few months, it has experienced the announcement of several new and interesting restaurants, the most noteworthy of which is A10.
Just to mount a small defense of Hyde Park's food, as someone who's graduating in June I'll say that right now it doesn't really have any good restaurants but as nsxtasy mentioned there are several promising ones opening in the near future. Plus there's apparently a Whole Foods coming in in 2016. And Hyde Park Produce is actually a good, inexpensive grocery store with a pretty strong produce section, and they do get interesting stuff now and then, like chanterelles and morels when they're in season. Treasure Island isn't half bad either, although it's pricey for what it is.
Good luck with your move,
I would take a look at the West Loop. In recent years so many outstanding restaurants have opened and several more are in the works; seems like a nice neighborhood too aside from the amazing places to dine.
Some of the culinary highlights:
*Grace: Fine dining; IMHO Chicago's best restaurant. Two Michelin Stars and should receive a third this fall.
*Publican: Nose-to-Tail/Farm-to-Table - Seems like a venue you would like quite a bit based on your comments.
*Moto & iNG: Chef Homaro Cantu's venues; modernist cuisine.
*La Sirena Clandestina: Spanish Tapas
*Girl & the Goat: Chef Stephanie Izard's iconic restaurant; also has a lot of offal, strong flavors and rich food. Across the street is her diner, Little Goat.
*Next Restaurant: Grant Achatz' venue where not just the menu, but the theme of the restaurant completely changes every four months; around the corner is the Aviary (ultra modern cocktail lounge) and The Office (a speakeasy).
*Blackbird: Michelin starred Contemporary American cuisine.
*Vera: Spanish wine bar
*Maude's Liquor Bar: Upscale bar with French cuisine.
*Jaipur: Indian cuisine
*Au Cheval: Great diner/pub with arguably Chicago's best burger
*La Sardine: French Bistro
*Carnivale: Latin cuisine in a festive, lively atmosphere
*Glazed & Infused: Doughnuts
*La Colombe: Outstanding Coffee
*Perman Wine Selections: Great wine shop.
*West Loop Salumi: Some of the best cured meats I have ever consumed.
Several others I am sure I am leaving out and so many great new places in the works such as Boka Group's upcoming Asian venue and I believe Rick Bayless is opening something in the area in the near future as well.
Here's my list of "DO NOT MISS" restaurants for a first visit to Chicago. These are places that are also worth many return visits.
Alinea - Acclaimed by many as the best restaurant in the country. My recent dinner there was the very best in my entire life. Notable for its unusual presentation techniques as well as its amazing deliciousness. www.alinearestaurant.com
Grace - Sophisticated place whose "sum is greater than the parts", with excellent food, décor, and service. www.grace-restaurant.com
North Pond - Unique for its setting in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond and the city skyline. James Beard Award-winning chef turning out wonderful food (special props to the dessert chef too). Unlike the previous two, more casual (jackets not required/recommended) and less expensive ($100-120/pp including moderate alcohol and tax/tip). My recent dinner there was the best so far of 2014. www.northpondrestaurant.com
Naha - Like North Pond, another James Beard Award-winning chef turning out wonderful food. And similarly more casual and less expensive. www.naha-chicago.com
Sable - Delicious contemporary American cuisine in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails. www.sablechicago.com
GT Fish & Oyster - Excellent seafood in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails. www.gtoyster.com
Anteprima - In a city full of new and old Italian restaurants, this remains my favorite, and my most frequently-visited restaurant not in my 'hood. www.anteprimachicago.net
Lou Malnati's - With locations all over the city and suburbs, perhaps our best place for our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza. www.loumalnatis.com
Jam - Chicago has quite a few breakfast/brunch-focused restaurants, but if I had to choose only one, it's Jam. Imagine what a creative chef with a fine-dining background would create for an inexpensive breakfast restaurant, and that's Jam. www.jamrestaurant.com
If you wanted to consider restaurants outside the city limits, top contenders include Michael, Oceanique, Inovasi, Tallgrass, and Vie, as well as Walker Brothers for breakfast.
Here are a few other "top Chicago restaurant lists":
Michelin's 2014 Chicago restaurant winners (click on tabs for stars) - www.michelintravel.com/michelin-selec...
Eater's 38 Essential Chicago restaurants - http://chicago.eater.com/archives/201...
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>> I would take a look at the West Loop. In recent years so many outstanding restaurants have opened and several more are in the works; seems like a nice neighborhood too aside from the amazing places to dine.
The West Loop does not have much residential housing; it consists largely of commercial and industrial properties (offices, retail, warehouses, etc). That may change as the restaurant business continues to thrive there, but it's just not very residential right now. By way of contrast, most of the other Chicago neighborhoods with big restaurant concentrations, including Andersonville, Bucktown, Logan Square, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and even River North and the Gold Coast, have lots of residential housing, along with the types of retail (e.g. supermarkets) that support residential neighborhoods. Walk around these neighborhoods, and you'll see families with kids, people walking their dogs, etc., characteristics of residential neighborhoods that you don't see much in the West Loop.
The West Loop has tons of residential housing, lofts, and new construction. A whole bunch of rental infill building is going on right now. Jerry Reinsdorf has a 52 unit and a 72 unit development that broke ground. Huge projects on Madison and Racine, Halsted and Adams, and Adams and Aberdeen.
Plenty of dog walkers, joggers, families with kids, plus parks: Union, Skinner, and Bartleme.
Mariano's has been open a year and a Whole Foods is opening in the old Dominick's.
I've lived in the West Loop for 13 years now.
Have to disagree with this; I have several friends that live in the West Loop and six years ago when I was purchasing a condo I was choosing between West Loop and Lakeview and our realtor took us to numerous West Loop properties; since then there has been many new builds and gut rehabs. It is a great neighborhood not just for restaurants, but for living as well (though prices tend to be on the high side). I ended up in Lakeview, but may yet move to West Loop.
Nxstasy is wrong about the West Loop. It is a great residential area that is continuing to grow. It has the added benefit of being close 90/94 for your commute.
For U of C - being close to Lake Shore Drive or 90/94 will be beneficial, because the time spent in your car after getting off of those can add countless hours.