Chicago Dopers: restaurant advice needed

I’ll be visitin the fair city of Chicago from the 20th-24th of this month. I’ll be attending a conference, and the conference is providing most of my meals. However, I’ll be on my own for two dinners while I’m in town. Since I’m on a limited budget, it’s my intention to eat cheap the first night (it’s my understanding there’s a Taco Bell just a couple of blocks from my hotel), so I can eat good the other night.

I’ll be staying in the Westin, Michigan Ave. I like seafood, ribs, good American food. I’m looking for the kind of place that has maybe $20.00 entrees. It would be fine for me to drop $40.00 on the meal. I’ll need a place that’s either walking distance, or easy to find on the bus line (I’m not so good at buses, but great at getting lost).

What are your recommendations?

Rick Bayless might be the most famous and accomplished Mexican chef in the U.S. – he has written several cookbooks, hosted a PBS cooking show, and competed on Iron Chef America on Food Network. He owns two restaurants in Chicago, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. I know you already mentioned Taco Bell, but if I were in Chicago and felt like something really special, I’d go to one of his restaurants:

I have no idea where they are in relation to your hotel, though.

Well, as I understand it, I’ll have a per diem of approximately $140.00 to cover the trip, and that will have to cover four meals (two lunches, two dinners) and incidentals. So it’s my intention to eat three of those four meals at fast food, snacks on the run, etc., then buy myself one pretty nice meal somewhere. I’ll check and see if one of these restaurants is in proximity to my hotel.


WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago, does a great show called Check, Please!. Three regular joe’s get to recommend one restaurant a piece, then they all have to go to it and they review it on the air. You can search restaurants by cuisine on the link. I can’t think of anything to recommend that serves specifically what you mentioned, but if you like tapas, go to Twist in Lakeview!!

Great link, niblet_head! I have a couple of weeks to make my decision, but it looks like this is going to be a big help. I like the fact that regular joe’s make the recommendations, 'cuz that’s what I am! :slight_smile:

Please tell me this is a joke…

You can eat good AND cheap in Chicago without resorting to Satanic Chain Fast Food Joints. Find an Italian Beef place (I like Al’s, on Taylor, west of da Loop), or a good gyro shop (Athenian Room, Near North Side, on Webster just off Halsted), or at least grab a few hot dogs with everything on.

No joke. I love Taco Bell, no one else in my family likes it; I get away from my family maybe once every three years (not counting trips to the hospital where they don’t serve Taco Bell). This is my golden opportunity to feed my addiction.

But I’ll compromise: one meal at Taco Bell and at least one other at a cheap local eatery. Maybe my Taco Bell meal will even be at the airport on the 20th, if they have one there.

If you can get a copy of Chicago magazine they have a section on city restaurants that you can look through by cuisine or location. Chicago has GREAT food of all sorts and all prices ranges.

For decent food/dining experience may I recommend Giordano’s, with a number of locations in easy walking distance of your hotel (at least by my standards). Girodano’s website. The Rush street location is probably closest to your hotel. Don’t hesistate to ask the nice people on the phone which of their locations is closest to you, I’ve always found them very helpful. In addition to Chicago-style pizza, they also have other entrees. Personally, I really like their Greek salads. Reasonable prices, particularly for downtown.

There are numerous Bennigan’s/TGIF’s/etc. about the area you’ll be staying in.

Then there are a number of much higher-end restaurants on north Michigan avenue - crab houses, steak houses. My current favorite is the Grand Luxe Cafe although other establishments have their fans.

If you have time, excursions to either Greektown or Chinatown are well worth the effort, in my opinon.

You can always ask the hotel conceirge/front desk about eating choices, locations, and transportation.

Do be aware that a good portion of the downtown/Loop area caters to working business people and not all eateries have late evening/weekend hours. This is less the case up near your hotel location, however.

Topolobampo may be booked well in advance for reservations; I’ve heard Frontera Grill is not only cheaper but also easier to get a seat in.

You can find info on any restaurant under the sun at Please, please, please, when in a great food town like Chicago, don’t resort to Taco Bell! $140 for 4 meals is a LOT of money - you could eat quite well at all your meals for that kind of cash, even if you wanted to splurge greatly on one of them.

Berghoff. Go to the Berghoff. They make their own root beer. The waiters are wicked old. Very reasonable old fashioned German and American chow.

And you owe it to yourself to have at least one Italian beef. They are the very finest sandwich known to man. The very definition of “sum greater than the parts.” Screw the hot dogs, with all that crap they put on them. Have a beef and enjoy it!

Chicago-style pizza is famous the world over for good reason. I ate Lou Malnati’s pizza when I was there last, and could have died happy right there. Their whole wheat crust deep-dish pizza topped with pepperoni and spinach is one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had. See if there’s a Lou Malnati’s or Eduardo’s location close-by, perhaps one that can deliver to your hotel. If nothing else, try to take a pizza home with you.

I emplore you to not go to Taco Bell. You want good, cheap Mexican? I recommend El Cid on Kedzie. Or even a Taco Burrito King. Or any of the other 5000 corner taquerias throughout the city. Hell, even Chipolte (even though it’s a national chain).

Other dining favorites: Francesca’s on Bryn Mawr and Kenmore (there’s other locations too); Deluxe Diner on Clark and Devon; Lula Cafe on Kedzie at Milwaukee; SuperDawg at Milwaukee, Nagle and Devon. These aren’t very near your hotel, though. However, there’s always cabs. :slight_smile:

None of these are very expensive, but it’ll give you a taste of Chicago that you won’t find at Taco Bell. This city has more unique eateries than you can shake a stick at. 'Twould be a shame to waste even one meal at a chain.


I agree with Eve. Here’s a list (generated through Metromix) of hotels within half a mile of the Westin. Bistro 110 is good. Pizzeria Due (“Due’s” to a Chicagoan) is good. Taco Bell isn’t.
(and I’d pass on Bennigans or TGIF. Edible food, but you’re going to be in Chicago, not Schaumburg.)

Okay, okay, no Taco Bell, I promise! (Well, maybe at the airport on the flight out, since that’s where we’ll be at lunch time). Seems like I’ll have lots of other, more appealing choices.

And I agree with the no Applebee’s or TGIF’s or Ruby Tuesday’s. If I’m gonna drop fifty bucks on a meal, it’s not gonna be on the same stuff I can get around here!

The Berghoff is excellent.

Also, for a quick but still-Chicago lunch, you might try the cafe on the top floor of Marshall-Fields’.

Oops. Also the Billy Goat Tavern (underneath Michigan Ave.) is great and very Chicago.

Oh dear. OK, I’m not going to be all snobby like I tend to get but please, please, please check out the LTH Forum for recommendations. Chicago has an amazing depth and breadth of fantastic restaurants at nearly every price point. This website is operated and maintained by a great group of people who are fanatical about food.

As for Mexican there are some World Class places like Ixcapulzulco and La Oaxaquena in additon the Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill /Topolobampo. In addition you might think about hitting Maxwell Street, the Sunday morning outdoor flea market that has some of the best Mexican street food in the US, I’m talking birria, hand made huaraches, flautas, gorditas, Oaxacan tamales and lots of other goodies.

If you like Thai food check out ErikM’s Thai Food site. Chicago has aruguably one of the best authentic Thai food scenes in the Western Hemisphere. TAC Quick in particular is wonderful.

For Chinese food there are places in Chinatown where you can get amazing quality lunches for less than 5 bucks including tax, as well as dim sum places that will knock your socks off.

For cheap eats check out the thread on Where to Eat if you had 10 Bucks

Feel free to PM me or reply for further info. there’s not much I love more than showing out of towners around the Chow Chicago :slight_smile:

Greek town, west of the Loop, has great eats. Go to the Parthenon. mmmmm…saganaki… opa!

Also recommend the Burghoff. Great German food.

Ok, you are staying at Westin Mich. Ave. The name of the head concierge is Marina…I know her well. She is very busy, but should be a great help to you on everything you need to know in Chicago. Call Marina early or expect to be on hold for a while.

The restaurant at the Westin is The Grill on the Alley. Top notch steak place, a little pricey for your budget, but worth it. Have Marina make a reservation and get special treatment.

You are 2 blocks from McCormick & Schmick at Chestnut and Rush St. It is a national seafood chain at reasonable prices. Check out the bargain bar menu, $1.95 for good eats (something like) 3PM to 6PM and late night. Hugo’s Frog Bar is also close, but more pricey.

Cheesecake Factory (huge cheap menu) is across the street at The John Hancock. No reservations accepted, see your concierge for priority seating. At the Hancock, do not pay to go to the observatory. Instead go to the Signature Restaurant lounge for a cocktail and see the view.

For ribs Carson’s is famous, but in your neighborhood, it is a short walk to Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap or take a cab to Twin Anchors. Twin Anchors is a real neighborhood joint $7.00 by cab, again see Marina for priority seating.

If you want to try something different, Le Colonial serves excellent French/Vietnamese cuisine. It is so good it will blow your mind and I’m a meat and potatoes guy! Let your waiter order for you, they know what’s best.

You are staying in the best part of Chicago, Mag Mile/Gold Coast. For shopping see H&M and Filene’s Basement. Both are 1 block away and the only places on Michigan Ave. that you can pay discount prices.

If you have a chance travel 1 ½ blocks west from the Westin on Delaware Pl. Stop by The Talbott Hotel and see the concierge, ask for Tim, mention SDMB.

As stated in an earlier post is a great resource.

Enjoy our wonderful city!