Three days in Chicago (yet another Doper travel advice thread)

So my wife and I are headed to Chicago next week for a friend’s graduation at UofC. We’re arriving Wednesday and going back Sunday, and aside from the graduation on Friday afternoon, we don’t have any real plans.

So tell me all about:

–Food, in all styles and price ranges.

–Music, theatre, etc. I want to see the Blue Man Group, and I reallly like smaller theatre productions, but big stuff is cool, too.

–Anything else a visitor shouldn’t miss.

Thanks in advance!

I’ll try to think of some specific places. But if you haven’t tried Chicago-style pizza, put that on your list.

Entertainment-wise, I’ve heard good things about the Neo-Futurists, although I never did get to see them myself.

Agreed. I’ve seen them a few times and it’s always a lot of fun.

In what part of the city will you be based?

If you have a chance, go out to Devon Street and taste really good Indian food. There are some great South Indian (dosa/idli) places as well as this tiny hole-in-the-wall joint that my father saw on PBS one time and insisted we eat at…it’s Andhra food, I think it was called Hema’s Kitchen. My dad insisted we get there on time (as in before it opened) but about 20 minutes after the restaurant opened there was a line outside. I remember the lamb samosa with chipotle rasberry tamarind sauce the best.

Hema’s Kitchen

Wow, a Lincoln Park location, apparently

An Ode to Hema and her Kitchen

The Hyatt at McCormick Place. The location sucks, but we couldn’t find a decent place downtown for less than $250 a night. The university had a block of rooms there at $121/night.

Keep the good advice coming. Any suggestions on where a music nerd/vinyl junky should go if he wants to do some shopping?

By all means, take a long walk north along the lake shore until you get to the museum campus, which contains the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planeterium. I guarantee you will be impressed.


Dr. Wax (multiple locations)

What kind of music do you like? Do you want to hear live music? I have tons of ideas, but where to begin?

Food: same thing. IMO Devon Avenue is a must-do if you like ethnic food, esp. South Asian - but don’t miss my favorite hole-in-the-wall Israeli/Moroccan place, or the Afghan place down the street. (Try the pumpkin appetizer.)

Seconded re: Too Much Light (I’ve seen it a few times - and I think a former co-worker is still in the Neo-Futurists).

If you give us a more specific idea of your tastes, budget, etc. we will inundate you with opinions :slight_smile:

::deep sigh::

Lifelong Chicago (suburban) resident here that wants to weigh in and plead with you that if you MUST try deep-dish pizza, to also manage to get yourself to a quality medium or thin crust pie as well. Sadly, none of the the overblown deep-dish places offer a decent thinner selection.

Look for Home Run Inn, Palermo’s or any of a number of neighborhood places.

Also, peruse some of the other “we love Chicago” threads.

We’re total foodies, and we’re not afraid of the occasional splurge (since we live in the middle of nowhere and get great food so rarely). I think our whole crew is going out for pizza one night, which is good since I am quite fond of Chicago-style pizza.

Similarly with other entertainment. I’m a huge music nerd, and we may make it to Schuba’s where a couple of bands I like happen to be playing while we’re there (Band of Horses on Wednesday, The Boy Least Likely To on Friday). Then again, my wife isn’t the music nerd I am, so we probably won’t overdo it in this regard.

The Neo-Futurists sound cool. Definitely a possibility for Friday or Saturday night.

I third this suggestion, it’s a blast. I’ve seen them maybe 10 times and it’s always fun.

While you’re at the U of C, if you have a little time, go here. Best bookstore in the country. It’s hard to come out of there without dropping some serious cash, though!

Favorite pizza: Giordano´s (deep dish, of course). Several locations, including one in Hyde Park (near U of C), and another in the loop (near Sears Tower).

Great jazz: “Jazz Showcase”, in Near North (just off Michigan Avenue, a couple blocks south of the Hancock Tower).

When in Hyde Park, you might want to tour the Robie House, a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright design a block or two east of the main quadrangle of the U of C.

Best Chinese, especially if you like authentic and have an adventurous side: Spring World It’s a little place and the best stuff may not be written in English, but amazing. It’s near you in Chinatown. Across the street is the best dim sum place: Phoenix

Want Greek? Combine it with a trip to my neighborhood and check out the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park eaating at Papaspiros

Johnny’s Beef, just out of Oak Park, on North Avenue, West of Harlem in Elmwood Park is the best Italian Beef in the world.

Flukey’s or Wolfies for Chicago style hot dogs.

Sushi? Sai Cafe is my favorite.

Aruns for high end Thai.

Topolbampo for high end Mexican

You can try to get a reservation at one of the top places, like Charlie Trotters or Les Nomades, Alinea, Everest, or Tru, but they may be filled by now.

You’ll be in Hyde park. Get some Harold’s Chicken.

Ribs? Carsons for the sweeter meatier sort and Robinsons for a less fancy more west side of the city spicier version. Carsons you get with the double stuffed potato and the salad, Robinsons you go with greens and beans and corn.

I’d avoid the over produced Navy Pier but you do have to see Millenium Park and walk around downtown. A boatride architecture tour is a must.

The Art Institute you really have to see, especially if you are a fan of impressionism. The Shedd is fine but there are great aquariums all over the place. The Mus. of Science and Industry is nice but more so with kids. The Field is also fun, but I wouldn’t put it way up top.

Rent some bikes and go for a ride along the lake front paths. Either direction, but if you head North on Friday afternoon then you can turn back and be “trippin on South on LSD, Friday night trouble bound.” (-Aliayota Haynes and Jerimiah although I am sure I spelled it wrong.)


Check out, the planning guide for the Chi Trib - it does a pretty good all-encompassing job of reviewing restaraunts, music, and upcoming events. For example, you should be able to search for all music events over the time you’re in town.

If you’ve never been to Chicago before, the very best thing to do is pick a sunny day and go to Millenium Park. It really showcases the best decision city planners (historically) have made- keep the lakefront open to the public. The park is beautiful, with very interesting sculpture and open spaces. Very nearby is the Art Institute which is always worthwhile (even if you just pretend to be Ferris Bueller).

If you like jazz, the Jazz Record Mart is maybe the best place in the world to shop for music. It’s got a huge inventory, and the staff is ridiculously knowledgeable.

There really is no limit on dining options - if you give some idea of what you’re interested in, we can give better recommendations.

Ditto on Millennium Park. It is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. A world-class park. I’m serious!

Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder is an awesome pizza

I always feel weird when people ask me what to do in Chicago and my first impulse is to tell them to visit a record store - but this is absolutely true; it’s a great place. On my last day in Chicagoland, I decided I couldn’t fit the Sears Tower or the Hancock- but I did make time for one last visit to JRM.

Having just been outside for a bit, if the weather stays like this for a while (okay, fat chance), definitely do a bike tour such as from Rentals are under $10 a day. One of Dayley’s big accomplishments has been to make this a much more bike-freindly city. (And wear your helmets!)

Looks like there’s a lot of comedy to be had…any specific recommendations?

My wife is an aquarium nut, so she’ll probably catch the Shedd while I do some bike riding.

Unfortunately, Chicago doesn’t really have much of a selection of really good thin crusts, at least in my humble opinion (as a life-long Chicago city dweller). Might as well do deep-dish while you’re hear (even though I’m a fan of thin crust myself.)

My advice? If you must try one deep dish (as opposed to stuffed, like Giordano’s) pizza place, that place must be

Pequod’s Pizzeria
2207 N Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

For thin crust, there’s two or three places in the city I love, one on the north side and the other on the south side. My favorite, by leaps and bounds, is:

Vito & Nick’s
8433 South Pulaski
Chicago, IL 60652

They are the best (and one of the few) Chicago style thin crust joints around.
The other one I like is:

Pat’s Pizzeria
2679 N. Lincoln
Chicago, IL 60614

Ribs in Chicago, for the most part, are pretty dismal. However, there are a number of standouts in this town that normally believes in jello-consistency boiled ribs. For Arkansas-style barbecue and arguably the best rib joint in town, there is:

Honey 1 Barbecue
2241 North Western
Chicago, IL 60647

I recommend getting the tips & link combo. If you don’t mind being an intrepid traveler and venturing into some of the more way-off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, my personal favorite is:

Uncle John’s Barbecue
337 E. 69th Street
Chicago, IL 60619

Actually, that’s only a mile or two up the street from Hyde Park. I definitely recommend checking it out if you like ribs. Hyde Park’s rib place–Rib’s & Bib’s–isn’t terrible, but Uncle John’s is simply outstanding. The pitmaster there, Mack, used to work at another great Chicago BBQ institution, Barbara Ann’s, before starting up his own place a few months ago. The last rib joint worth mentioning is Lem’s on the 300 block of East 75th.

DSeid is absolutely spot-on with his Johnny’s recommendation for Italian Beef, another Chicago culinary institution.

As for other Hyde Park recommendations, there’s a derth of good eating there, but Dixie Kitchen & Bait shop, as well as Calypso, the Jamaican place across from it, are pretty good.

That is a great combination. The lakeshore is beautiful, and south of the Shedd is almost criminally underutilized. You go North, and it’s pretty, but it can be very crowded with bikers, joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers, who often have no idea how to play together nicely. Go south, and you might forget you’re in a big city. Plus, from inside the Shedd, where they do the dolphin “show” you’re looking out over the lake, and you can see the people going by. So be sure to wave to the wife!

I recently went back to the Shedd for the 1st time in maybe 10-15 years. It’s been significantly upgraded. Tell your wife to just go straight to the Oceanarium or Wild Reef sections. Very impressive. And if she does go to the dolphin show, tell her to hang around afterwards, because you can talk to the trainers and/or go on either side of the “stage” to see some training of dolphins/whales up close.

Don’t know much about the comedy, but anything Second City related is probably much better than you’re usual stand-up type stuff. Spamalot is back in town, but that’s more theater I guess…