Shake Shack: Loop-burgers and shakes
Shake Shack is a New York import, they opened the 1st one in River North and every time I went by there was a line. I saw one in London, there was a line. When I finished my tour of the Chicago Athletic Association, I saw that there was another Chicago location on the ground floor with no line since it was a bit of an off hour so I stopped to check it out and couldn't resist getting some frozen custard.
Favorite Dish: They have a small menu of custard flavors that are unique to Chicago, I tried the Bang Bang Pie Oh My concrete, vanilla custard with caramel sauce and a slice of Bang Bang banana cream pie. Bang Bang Pie is a local pie shop located in Logan Square so it's nice to see that they are sourcing some things locally. A small was $4.50, not too out of line with Culver's, the other big custard place in Chicagoland. I liked Shake Shack's version better than Culver's, seemed creamier and the mix ins more interesting.
There's also burgers, hot dogs, fries and various other ice cream offerings, of course including shakes
Pierogi Heaven: Loop-fast Polish food
Sundays in the Loop means that it's going to be difficult finding a place to eat that is open, their main business comes from workers in the Loop not from tourists. I parked in the garage next to Pierogi Heaven and as I was walking around trying to find some place besides McDonald's that was open, I figured I might as well go back and try this place, after all, I hadn't had a pierogi since Pierogi Fest in July!
This is fast Polish food, the food is already cooked, you pick which flavors you want and they serve it up. There are 10-12 tables or you can get it to go.
Favorite Dish: Pierogis are served in multiples of 6, 9 or 12, you can mix in groups of 3. I picked meat and potato/cheddar, both were good and served with bacon, onion and sour cream, $5.39 for 6 pieces. There were other dishes on the menu like stuffed cabbage, borscht and Polish sausage.
Churro Factory: Pilsen-churros
As we were driving around on Open House weekend Mr. Dabs is craving donuts but you can get donuts anywhere but you can't always find fresh hot churros. There are a few locations in the area, you can get them at the Maxwell Street Sunday market, you can get them at Navy Pier but we went to the original on Wolcott in Pilsen.
Favorite Dish: They have a special flavor of the day, Saturday happened to be my favorite, dulce de leche. They have vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and cream cheese every day. They are best when fresh but we got a dozen and had a few leftover, even a few days later, you could still microwave them but it's not the same as a fresh churro.
Various: Restaurant Week-February
The Chicago Convention and Tourism Board sponsors a restaurant week in February, normally a dead time of the year for tourism and for people wanting to leave the house into the frigid weather. 2015 is the 8th year of this promotion, the participating restaurants offer a prix fixe menu, this year Restaurant Week runs from January 30-February 12, 2015 and the menu is $22 for lunch and $33/$44 for dinner.
Not all of the menus offer a good value, not all menus will offer the items that you'd want to eat and some of the portion sizes may be smaller than the regular menu item. The steakhouses and seafood places tend to be a better value. In 2015 we ate at Morton's and at Mon Ami Gabi, I thought Morton's was a good value as the steak alone was almost the price of the whole meal. Mon Ami Gabi saved a few dollars.
You may have to ask your waiter for the special menu, we had to ask at Morton's, Mon Ami Gabi they offered it with the regular menu. At both places, the soup was a smaller portion than the regular menu, the entrees the same as the regular menu, the dessert at Mon Ami Gabi was a special dessert trio only available for the restaurant week.
Various: Places I've heard good things about.....
There are a lot of restaurants in Chicago that receive very good reviews that I just haven't got around to trying yet. I'm compiling a list so that I will have it handy the next time we don't know where to go :-)
90 Miles Cuban
Baladoché, 2905 N. Clark St., Belgian zucker waffles
Bhabi's Kitchen, 6352 N. Oakley (near Devon), 4 forks in Chicago Tribune
DeLaCosta-435 E. Illinois, view of Chicago River
Frontera Grill-ate here years ago, would like to retry
HB, 3404 N. Halsted St
Home Run Inn pizza-4254 W. 31st
Jin Ju 5203 N Clark Korean
La Creperie 2845 N. Clark
Roy's-friends have recommended
Sabor a Cuba, 1833 W. Wilson, 3 forks in Chicago Tibune
Saint’s Alp Teahouse, 2131 S. Archer Ave
Table 52, 52. W. Elm, Oprah's chef
Tavern at the Park, comfort food
Yolk-1120 S. Michigan, breakfast
Zhivago-9925 Gross Point Rd., Skokie-Russian, Check Please
Various: Top dining experiences in Chicago
I thought I'd include a list of the fine dining places that always get awards, accolades, stars, forks and whatever other ratings food critics like to award.
Alinea-1723 N. Halsted, Grant Achatz took over the mantle of king of fine dining when he opened Alinea, it was the only restaurant that received 3* from Michelin. His other restaurant, Next, might not appear on Michelin's list but it has foodies buzzing.
Tru, 676 North St. Clair, contemporary, reserve well in advance, boys-make sure you pack a jacket, and expect to be here for several hours, this is a dining event
Charlie Trotter's, closed in August 2012
Everest, One Financial Place, French, I hear this place has one of the nicest views of the city from it's 40th floor location, there's a pre theatre menu that sounds almost affordable
Topolobampo/Frontera Grill, 445 N. Clark, Mexican, another celebrity chef (Rick Bayless), this is one that I have tried, Frontera is the more casual of the two but no reservations, killer margaritas, won't break the bank
Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan, Italian
Seasons, 120 E. Delaware, contemporary
NoMi, Park Hyatt, 800 N. Michigan, contemporary French
Naha, 900 N. Clark St., Mediterranean/American, look at that, I've been to two on the top 10 list! See my restaurant review, lunch was reasonably priced
Arun's, 4156 N. Kedzie, Thai, $85 for a 12 course set price meal, no menu choices here. It's located pretty far outside the tourist area and was recently (summer 2005) downgraded from 4 to 3 stars by the Tribune food critic
Click here for the full Michelin list
Veerasway: West Loop-Indian food-CLOSED
Read that this restaurant had closed in 2011
Most of Chicago's Indian restaurants are way up on the northside on Devon Avenue, almost in Evanston, and a little difficult for most visitors to get to so I was eager to try Veerasway which opened in the Randolph Street restaurant district in the west loop just a short distance away from downtown where most visitors stay. Unfortunately I found it lacking it a couple of respects, the service was very slow and the price well above what you'd pay normally for Indian food. When our dinner came out well after we ordered it, with a long break between the appetizers and entrees, the host came over and said they would comp us a drink for the inconvenience. Great, except that he never came back to take the drink order!
The space itself is cozy, the tables are pretty close together but not uncomfortably so. It was very busy on a Friday night which might explain partially the slowness of the kitchen but as it's not a big space, they should be able to accomodate diners and not have such lags between courses.
Favorite Dish: The one thing that can always save uneven service and even high price tags is if the food is great. Unfortunately none of the food compared favorably with the food you can get on Devon. I don't know that Veerasway is trying to compete with the authentic places on Devon but they haven't done anything better. My samosa $(2.75) had so much heat that I couldn't finish it, my husband's was tamer. The naan bread was good but really it's hard to screw up naan bread. The chicken tikka masala ($15.75) was good but I've had better at any place I've tried on Devon Avenue and the portion size small for the price. My husband tried the tamarind-date chicken kabobs ($15.75), I thought the flavor was good but once again the portion small for the price. He thought it was too salty.
Breakfast food is one of my favorite things to eat but I rarely have time so it's a real treat when I actually get a chance to go to one of Chicago's fine restaurants that serve breakfast. Here are some of my favorites:
Bongo Room-I've eaten at both locations, one in Wicker Park, 1470 N. Milwaukee Ave.,and one in the South Loop, 1152 S. Wabash Ave., and it is my favorite place to have a decadent, desserty breakfast. The S'more pancakes and Chocolate French toast tower are both awesome, expect to wait on the weekends and if you are not a big eater, consider ordering the 1/2 portion.
Walker Brothers-these are located only in the suburbs of Chicago, it's been one of my favorite places to eat since I was a kid. Their thick cinnamon apple pancakes are one of their specialties and are delicious.
Lou Mitchell's, 565 W. Jackson Blvd., is the place to go for a more traditional breakfast, they are known to have long waits but ply the ladies with milk duds and donut holes
And some that I'd like to try
Ann Sather, 909 W. Belmont Ave. and other locations, I've had their cinnamon rolls, I'd like to try breakfast
Ina's, 1235 W. Randolph St., I've eaten lunch here but never made it for breakfast
Yolk, 1120 S. Michigan, located in the South Loop, I just haven't gotten here because it's so close to the Bongo Room
And a few more recently recommended in the Chicago Tribune
Flo, 1434 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-243-0477
Hotcakes Cafe, 1195 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette; 847-256-2099
Irazu, 1865 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-5687
Shan Restaurant, 5060 N. Sheridan Rd.; 773-769-4961
Southport Grocery, 3552 N. Southport Ave.; 773-665-0100
Sweet Maple Cafe, 1339 W. Taylor St.; 312-243-8908
Tweet, 5020 N. Sheridan Rd.; 773-728-5576
Valois, 1518 E. 53rd St.; 773-667-0647
Various: Dining with kids
I consistently hear the same few restaurants mentioned for people traveling with their children so I'm posting this to give folks a few alternatives to the overvisited, sometimes mediocre restaurants like Ed Debevic's, Cheesecake Factory, Rainforest Cafe, etc.
pizza-take your pick, dozens of good places, my favorites include Lou Malnati's, Pizzeria Uno's, Giordano's, Edwardo's and My Pie (Lincoln Park)
hot dogs/sandwiches-Portillo's at 100 W. Ontario
Burgers-Boston Blackie's 164 E. Grand (near Michigan Avenue) or 120 S. Riverside Plaza in the loop, awesome, huge burgers (www.bostonblackies.com). Poag Mahone's at 333 S. Wells has recently ( Mar 06) garnered some attention on the Oprah show as having one of the best burgers in the country.
Italian-Scoozi 410 W. Huron kids make make their own pizza here on Sundays (www.leye.com) or my 10 year old niece tells me that Leona's is her favorite restaurant for Italian, multiple locations (www.leonas.com)
Asian-Big Bowl is supposed to be kid friendly, 6 E. Cedar or 60 E. Ohio
Mity Nice Grill-835 N. Michigan, the mac and cheese here is supposed to be fab (www.leye.com)
A few more from Chicago Mag for bruch-Flo 1434 W. Chicago, Ina's 1235 W. Randolph, Wishbone 1001 W. Washington
Or if you have slightly more adventurous eaters why not try one of the many fine Greektown or Chinatown restaurants or one of Chicago's Spanish tapas places. You can order a variety of food at all of these places so they can sample a bit of everything.Related to:
- Family Travel
My Top 5 Asian Restaurants in Chicago
Here are my Top 5 Asian Restaurants in Chicago & NW suburbs:
(1) Vong's Thai Kitchen: 6 West Hubbard St, Chicago, IL
Simply the best in downtown area. None of my friends have ever been disappointed here.
(2) Chodang Tofu: 1719 W Algonquin Rd, Mount Prospect, IL
For some reasons their tofu soup taste much better than the one in Seoul. There are a lot of Korean families eating here on Saturdays, so it _is_ authentic. (The restaurant closed on Sunday)
(3) Lao Sze Chuan: 2172A S. Archer Ave, Chicago, IL
Tucked in the corner of the new Chinatown complex, this is my favorite restaurant in Chinatown. It says a lot about the food quality (and yes they're spicy!) given that there are a lot of good Asian restaurants nearby.
(4) Yu's Mandarin: 200 East Golf Rd, Schaumburg, IL
Not only the food is superb, the atmosphere is also first class. Crowded on weekends.
(5) Kampai Japanese (Floating Boat Sushi Bar): 2330 South Elmhurst Rd, Mount Prospect, IL
The place to go when I'm hungry and don't want to wait long for the food. Just sit and pick up the sushis from the floating boats. The chefs can also take custom order and prepare the food right in front of you.Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
Reservations through Open Table and Dinner Broker
If you want to make reservations via the internet for many of the popular Chicago restaurants, take a look at Open Table. It will give you the reservation times available and you can make the reservation without having to call. I have found the same availability whether booking through this website or booking directly with the restaurant.
I have used several times with no problems in both Chicago and other cities such as Los Angeles.
If you use it frequently, you can earn points and redeem for certificates for $$$ off a meal. I have already received and used several $20 off coupons and the list of eligible restaurants continues to grow. And if you dine at off hours such as 9 or 10 pm, some of the restaurants give you 1,000 points, two of these and you'll get a $20 off coupon.
Another website that I have not used that seems to be similar, albeit with a slightly smaller restaurant list, is Dinner Broker
Spectators: Warm wood, big screens & river views
A riverfront sports bar with class. Overstuffed leather couches, heavy tables and plenty of wood make for a warm ambiance.
Favorite Dish: I had the Sicilian sausage sandwich -- which I shared with my dining companion [ my always hungry Macedonian "son"] otherwise I wouldn't have made it through!Related to:
- Family Travel
various: Disappointments-Part II
July 04-MY PIE-Clark near Fullerton-this used to be my favorite pizza besides the heavy hitters but on our last visit, the toppings were sparse and it just wasn't as good as I remembered. And they got rid of the "Find the Spies" placemats :-(
July 04-JOES BEBOP CAFE-we were looking for a place to eat on Navy Pier and have actually had decent meals here in the past but on this visit, the pulled pork was tough and chewy and the 24 hour brisket was also tough, how can something be tough if it's cooked for 24 hours?
Aug 06-NOON O KEBAB-this place got great reviews on Check Please but I thought the food was bad and the service was a little brusque
See Listings Below: Great Places for Brunch
Chicagoans like to "do brunch". Here are a few suggestions of where to go. Note that the majority of places do not take reservations for brunch so be prepared to wait (which can be part of the experience).
1470 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Wicker Park)
This is one of the places to go if you want something sweet. The weekday menu offers the standards -- pancakes, omelettes, and sandwiches -- but the pancakes might be cranberry buttermilk (w/ tangerine macaroon butter) or pumpkin spice, and the omelettes may have roasted red peppers or fresh basil. The weekend brunch menu adds specials like Eggs Benedict, black bean burritos, and French toast. On weekends, it's a mob scene so plan to wait at least 1 hour. Expect a bustling pace with blaring music.
1202 W. Webster Ave. @ Racine
One of my all time favorites. This is a neighborhood place with small tables and a few booths. They even have outside tables in the summer. We have determined that this place is better for small groups (less than 6 people) as they don't seem to handle the timing of dishes with larger groups. The vanilla french toast and the pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon butter are to die for.
746 W. Webster Ave. (Lincoln Park)
2046 N Damen Ave (Wicker Park)
Be prepared to wait if you want to eat the wonderful brunch here. Everyone seems to have their baby with them. They have recently added on alcoholic beverages. Try the french toast stuffed with berries and chocolate! The steak benedict is good too.
Hilary's Urban Eatery - closed for now. reopenning later this year
1500 W Division St. @ Greenview
(East Village/Wicker Park)
With scattered tchotchkes, unique light fixtures and jelly beans jars on every table, it manages to be hip but nostalgic, creative but not kitschy. Try the Frisbee-sized specialty pancakes. In addition to daily pancake specials like oatmeal-banana and spicy pumpkin-raisin. The pan special gets you 3 pancakes, 3 eggs, 2 sausage patties and 2 bacon strips for $6.
Favorite Dish: Orange
3231 N. Clark (Lakeview)
This is the place to go for unique food and waitresses with tatoos and piercings. The menu is organic, veggie-and-fruit infused but everything is yummy. There's a daily fruit sushi, called "frushi", coconutty French toast kebobs (my favorite), 'green eggs and ham' made with pesto and pancetta, and a weekly pancake flight that allow you to taste four different delcious dishes. They also have orange flavored coffee that is very good. We took my fiance's mother at XMas and she loved it.
3300 N Lincoln @ Paulina
This is where I go when craving cheese grits. They serve up southern style breakfast cuisine in a place that packs them in. They have one of the longest waits but be sure to try the corn flake french toast when you get to finally sit down. Weird artwork (pigs and chickens). Great for kids.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Luxury Travel
- Food and Dining
The Big Downtown Chicago: Good food and drink
There are pub/bar area with tv screens, and quieter restaurant area.
I sat in the pub/bar area for a pint.
They have a huge, I mean big and tall glass for your beer, if you think a few pints are not enough. It looked like a giant cylinder.
Favorite Dish: Guinness and BBQ dish.
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