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Apr 27, 2014 10:57 AM

Quick Trip to Chicago

Hi board,

This coming weekend I have a really quick trip to Chicago. I love food, and I'm currently living in an area without much food variety, especially a lack of ethnic food options, so I want to try and maximize my time and options.

I get in Friday at 1pm, then I have a conference dinner event at 7. I'm staying in the River North area and the conference is at the DePaul Loop Campus and I'm leaving Saturday by 8.

I want to eat lunch when I get in - maybe in the French Market, though I'd love to maybe eat a few small things while on the way to my hotel. The other thought was maybe XOCO. So suggestions are welcome.

Then possibly a late dinner after the conference event - I know Purple Pig is near to where I'm staying and the late night small plates sounds appealing.

I'm looking for something in the Loop open on Saturdays, since I will need to leave the conference to eat, and I don't want to be gone for a long time. So suggestions on that are more than welcome, many of the other loop recommendation threads bring up places that are closed on Saturdays. I know about the Frontera Fresca and the M Burger in Macy's, and that's currently serving as my back-up if I don't find anything more interesting.

The conference goes until the early evening and then I'm getting on a train that night, so I'm also looking for recommendations of anything in the Loop or near the Amtrak that I can get to go and eat in the Station or on the train.

I'm on a budget, so none of the crazy meals for me. More interested in lunches and dinner budget range with maybe on splurge for the late night dinner.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Another good place for a quick bite near the conference is the Loop (Congress Parkway) location of Cafecito,

    Nothing fancy but good food and within a few blocks of the DePaul Loop campus.

    1. Most of the possibilities you mention are good ones.

      For your Friday lunch, assuming you are arriving by Amtrak - you only mentioned your departure - I would strongly recommend lunching at the French Market, which is just a few blocks north of Union Station. There are so many great things there, and you can do a "best bites of Chicago" very nicely. Highlights include Lillie's Q for barbecue, Saigon Sisters for pho and banh mi, Pastoral for sandwiches and cheeses, Vanille Patisserie for pastry, and Fumare for Montreal-style smoked meat. So yeah, the French Market is a wonderful place to have lots of things, all in one place.

      For dining after your conference dinner Friday night, I think Purple Pig is an excellent choice if you'll be there after 10 pm, when the waits die down. Another great choice is Pizano's on Madison, near the DePaul Loop campus, for our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza.

      For Saturday daytime, it's not clear whether you would want breakfast or lunch. If you enjoy sweet breakfasts and a 9 a.m. breakfast doesn't interfere with your schedule, I recommend Bongo Room, just south of the Loop at Roosevelt (12th) and Wabash. For a lighter breakfast, you could get coffee at Intelligentsia (the location on Jackson is right near DePaul), and/or French pastry at Toni Patisserie, and/or donuts at Do-Rite Donuts. All are open early on Saturdays. For a quick lunch, Pret a Manger isn't that unusual, but the food (sandwiches, salads, soups) is all extremely freshly made, and the food is "grab and go" so it won't take long; the location at Monroe and Michigan is open Saturdays. If your time is limited, I'd choose that over the places you mention in the former Marshall Field's (true Chicagoans don't use its newer name :) ), where the food is prepared to order so it takes longer.

      Carry-out to take on the train on Saturday night is a tough question. The French Market is great for this, but they close at 5:30 on Saturdays and it sounds like you're looking for food later than that. Pizano's will work, but it's a bit far from Union Station. You could get our other version of thick-crust pizza, double-crust "stuffed" pizza, from the Giordano's at 223 West Jackson, which is right on your way; call ahead with your pizza order to avoid having to wait a long time for it to bake. However, stuffed pizza is not easy to eat unless you're seated at a table with knife and fork. Another option (and perhaps your best bet, although not very unusual of course) is the Panera Bread at 250 South Wacker, which is also on your way and which is open till 9 pm on Saturdays. You can also view a list of what's inside the train station on its website at but places listed there may or may not be open on Saturday nights.

      HTH - feel free to ask more questions!

      5 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks for the suggestions!

        Saturday I want to do both breakfast and lunch. But for the breakfast I'm willing to do a little more traveling if there are places open early, i.e., I would need to get in and eat before 9am. I was thinking either Doughnut Vault, or Little Goat Diner (or both) depending on how much of an appetite I have. Though that Do-Rite Doughnuts is nearby is also good to know.

        The conference ends at 6, and my train is at 8, so that knocks out the French Market, but thanks again for the other Saturday night suggestions!

        1. re: ephemeralness

          >> Saturday I want to do both breakfast and lunch. But for the breakfast I'm willing to do a little more traveling if there are places open early, i.e., I would need to get in and eat before 9am. I was thinking either Doughnut Vault, or Little Goat Diner (or both) depending on how much of an appetite I have. Though that Do-Rite Doughnuts is nearby is also good to know.

          Doughnut Vault opens 9:30 on Saturdays, so that won't work. Do-Rite opens at 7 and is just a few blocks from DePaul, right along your way from your hotel in River North. Two other donut places are also right on your way: the Hubbard location of Glazed and Infused, which opens at 7, and Firecakes, which opens at 8. Little Goat also opens at 7 but is a mile west of the Loop.

          If you're willing to travel for something unique, you might also want to consider Jam, which many consider our very best breakfast/brunch-focused restaurant. Its owner, Jeffrey Mauro, used the creativity of a fine dining background in creating an inexpensive, casual breakfast place. It's located five miles northwest of the Loop at the Logan Square stop on the CTA Blue Line, a 15 minute el ride from the Loop. From River North, you can walk to the Blue Line stop at Clark/Lake or Washington/Dearborn, then take it back to Jackson/Dearborn a block from DePaul. Jam opens at 7.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Ok, thanks for the breakfast recommendations!

            I may play breakfast by ear and see how early I feel like getting up and how much I want to travel.

            Will the L be running regularly and fairly reliably on a Saturday?

            1. re: ephemeralness

              >> Will the L be running regularly and fairly reliably on a Saturday?

              Yes. However, the intervals between trains is typically slightly less than on a weekday (figure 5-10 minutes between trains during the day on weekdays, 10-15 minutes on weekends).

              1. re: ephemeralness

                I believe they are doing work on parts of the Blue line on Saturdays so you better double-check on that if you planned to take it to O'Hare, for example.

        2. We have similar desires for food in chicago. I will be there around the same days for the MPA conference and I plan to go to Xoco. Went to Purple Pig, Avec, and Sable Kitchen and Bar last year and all were excellent. The latter two are more pricey.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bmiddlewood

            Cool, I sort of wish I was going to be in town longer but then again that would be more time and money to spend on food.

          2. I just got back from my trip and I wanted to thank everyone for the tips. I ended up eating at the French Market (which may have been my favorite - I ate at Saigon Sisters, the doughnut place and got some macaroons, but I wished I could have eaten more.)

            I also ate at XOXO for dinner on Friday and Breakfast on Saturday (because it opened early and was right near the hotel). Both of which were really excellent. I had a late night snack at The Purple Pig on Friday night.

            On Saturday, I ended pressed for time and got a bento box from Simply Thalia and some snacks the deli and remnants bin at Pastoral for dinner before the train because they had closed down the sandwich bar early.

            I also picked up some Garett's popcorn and am now regretting only getting a small bag, that stuff is like crack and apparently expensive to ship and get in other locations.

            Basically everything was amazing, and I need to go back to eat more food soon.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ephemeralness

              thanks so much for reporting back. It's always good to hear what worked (or didn't), as well as to know that you enjoyed the trip (at least the food aspects).

              1. re: ephemeralness

                Sounds like you did great! Thanks for posting feedback, which is always helpful!