A foodie spends a weekend in Chicago

So a friend of mine and I are heading up to Chicago to hang out for the weekend. We have no plans whatsoever, except that we’ll probably go see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (I’ve been before, and loved it) and we’ll probably want to do some vinyl shopping by day and find some music at night. (Any suggestions on those things would be great as well.)

Where would you send a foodie in town for the weekend? We’ll probably want to keep it reasonably casual (I’m not packing a jacket) and not ridiculously expensive. It doesn’t necessarily need to be iconically Chicago, since it’s not my first or last trip there (though I do love that pizza). We’re staying at the Hilton Chicago and we’re pretty handy with the public transportation.

Thanks in advance!

I don’t even know where to start.

Or maybe I do. Check out this local foodie message board. For my tastes, it’s by far the best and fairest roundup of local cuisine. Check out the Great Neighborhood Restaurants forum.

Asking where to send a foodie going to Chicago, is very similar to asking where I would sending someone who is going to Hawaii where they could find some sand.

Really, that sounds flip - but it’s true.

If I had to make general recommendations, Chicago has some exemplary Thai and regional Mexican restaurants. For Thai, my standard three recommendations are Spoon Thai (NOT to be confused with Thai Spoon in the Loop), Sticky Rice, and Thai Elephant. For regional Mexican, I like Xni-Pec in Cicero (Yucatectan, but may be a little out of your way), Sol de Mexico, Nuevo Leon (North Mexican), and La Oaxaquena (Oaxacan). There’s also plenty of little taquerias like La Pasadita, Zacatacos, Cemitas Puebla, that are worth checking out.

Another one of Chicago’s very own culinary creations that may not be well known even here in the city is the jibarito sandwich. Basically, think of it as a Puerto-Rican cheesesteak served on deep fried plantains instead of buns. Papa’s Cache Sabroso on Division Street just west of Western has my favorite ones in the city.

If you venture into Chinatown and like Szechuan, I would recommend either Lao Sze Chuan or Double Li. No descriptions of mine could do either place justice. Look up their threads on the LTH Forum I linked to for pictures and eloquent descriptions.

MikeG will be here shortly to advise you!

I’d suggest Thai Spice up in Rogers Park on Devon ave. And speaking of Devon, if you’re interested in the largest collection on Indian restaurants in the U.S., head to Devon Ave. between 2000W and 2800W. I’d recommend Araya Bhavan if you’re vegetarian.

Vinyl? Try Reckless Records for some rarities and obscure titles. There’s one at Belmont and Broadway and one at North and Damen. Enjoy.

My kid shops at Reckless. In fact, I got him a coupla gift certificates from there.

There’s a great little French joint, Cafe Matou http://cafematou.com/ in Wicker Park. Kid Kalhoun took me there a couple times and it was wonderful.

I always recommendHot Doug’s @ Roscoe & California, but they’re closed until the 29th. So if you’re coming up THIS weekend, it’s not an option. Shame, too, because MAN ALIVE - they have all the awesome & they’re inexpensive to boot.

And you should listen to him! **MikeG **is the awesomist restaurant guide ever.

akrako1, have you tried Blue Elephant? I’m intrigued with them; they’re not the *best *food I’ve ever eaten, but they’re…interesting. A much higher proportion of vegetables in their dishes than most Thai places, which I like, and generally more complex and well rounded seasoning. I’m sorta in love with their Crepe; although it’s way too greasy for a proper crepe, it’s mind-bogglingly tasty. We’ve only ever had delivery from there, though; I understand it’s a very tiny restaurant for eat-in.

I have not. I find it hard to go anywhere other then Thai Spice when I’m looking for my Thai fix. I’ll give Blue Elephant a try, the reviews sound pretty good.

Speaking of delivery, the best Indian restaurant I’ve even eaten is mainly delivery only. It’s called Indian Gourmet, and has a super-tiny eat-in area. We’ve only ordered delivery, but everything is made-to-order! And for the dairy avoiding folks, this is paramount, as ghee and other dairy products tend to be in most Indian dishes. Their dishes are kinda expensive but you seriously get 3-4 servings out of each entree!


Oh, god yes! We don’t order from them anymore, because it got ridiculously expensive, but they are soooooo good! We were secretly convinced (before they opened for sit down at all) that it was some guy whose grandmother was chained to the stove in their apartment making delicious homecooked Indian meals before he drove them over. :smiley:

ETA: Think of Blue Elephant as French/Thai fusion, and perhaps it won’t compete with Thai Spice for that “Thai” spot on your tastebuds. The chef was trained (lived?) in France, and it shows. Thai Spice is great, and Blue Elephant is great, but they’re very different foods and flavors, despite both being Thai restaurants.

Just did the Chicago Marathon. We ate:

Deep Dish at Giordano’s
Steak at W Chicago Center
Split Pea Soup at Bergdorff’s on Adams Street
Jumbo Dogs at Gold Coast Dogs

There is always Reza’s on Ontario for great Iranian food.

I haven’t been there, but isn’t Topolobampo a common answer to this question?

Yeah, that’s the problem–I don’t even know where to start. I live so far out in the sticks that Applebee’s is haute cuisine, so a weekend in Chicago is like giving the pyromaniac the fucking Zippo.

I love, love, LOVE Thai food, so some quality Thai would be right up my alley. Same goes for quality Mexican; I had lunch at Frontera Grill last time I was in town, and I found the salsa transcendent but the rest of the meal underwhelming, but I’m sure I ordered wrong.

Another random question–I’m driving in from Urbana-Champaign (where my friend the perpetual grad student lives). The Hilton Chicago wants $41/night to park myself, $50 valet. I don’t plan to move my car the entire time I’m there. Is there a somewhat less ridiculous option for my car?

Sunday Brunch!

Over Easy
Orange on Roscoe
Orange on Clark
(I’ve not been to the one on Clark, but apparently Orange on Harrison is closed now…)
Heartland Cafe
Pannenkoeken Cafe

…and I could probably come up with more if you want.

Sunday night, Poetry Slam at the Green Mill, catch an early dinner beforehand across the street at Demera (very yummy Ethiopian food).

All are reasonably short trips from the CTA.
Mmmm. I love food. :smiley:

The “Grant Park/Millennium Park” garages aren’t too far from that Hilton. Probably your closest bet for under $30 a day downtown. Why not a neighborhood hotel with a more vibrant nightlife? It’s dead down there at night.

There’s also a Reza’s on Clark near the theater where Too Much Light plays.

Reza’s Restaurant locations

I took what Priceline gave me. Being choosy was way too expensive. :slight_smile:

Thanks for all the recommendations!

Parking in downtown Chicago is ridiculously expensive.
If you are willing to go beyond the central district and walk/cab/bus back, the price drops pretty much every block you go. As a general rule, parking is much cheaper in surface lots west of the river than in any of the downtown decks. No idea what you will find in the way of weekend rates and security, tho.