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Author Topic: Visiting Chicago this coming weekend and looking for tips/suggestions...  (Read 323 times)
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PeteRock
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« on: May 30, 2012, 10:27:01 PM »

Recently some friends from Switzerland let us know that they'd be in the States this coming weekend (Chicago), and wanted to know if we could make a trip out to see them (a lot closer than Europe).  So we'll be visiting Chicago this weekend from Friday afternoon to Sunday night to visit with our Swiss friends and I was hoping to gather some ideas from forum Chicagoans.

We'll be staying at the Congress Plaza Hotel on Michigan Avenue by Grant Park to provide some idea as to where we'll be.  I already checked the Cubs' schedule and they're starting a road trip into mid-June, and I already know that the wife wants to see the aquarium, but outside of that we could use some dining suggestions, input on fun local bars to visit (ideally within walking distance of the Congress Plaza, but some travel around the city isn't out of the question), and perhaps some other must-see attractions/locales/restaurants in the area. 

I understand that Lou Malnatis' isn't far from our hotel for pizza, but we'll also have to get in on some hot dogs and beef sandwiches.  We also hope to take advantage of Chicago's upscale culinary fame perhaps one evening as the city is renowned for its excellent cuisine. 

Thanks!
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2012, 10:48:41 PM »

Well, 40 people were shot there this past weekend, so I'd recommend avoid getting shot.

Number two on that list would be the Hancock Tower. They have an observation level (94?) that's just amazing. We went at night and it was amazing.

There are also some pretty good museums (free when I was there, but i think they're pay regularly).  

Chicago pizza.  The wrigley building is amazing.  There's a touristy/shopping place called the magic mile or something like that too.

Pretty much just walk around!

Amazing!
« Last Edit: May 30, 2012, 10:50:27 PM by ATB » Logged
PeteRock
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2012, 11:06:26 PM »

Yeah, I've got the general stuff like "eat pizza and hot dogs", but I was hoping for something more specific, such as a particular restaurant someone would suggest as a must-see in Chicago.  Otherwise I'll wind up using the guest services desk at the hotel as a starting point, and past Top Chef episodes perhaps, obviously from the Chicago season.
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Graham
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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2012, 11:28:58 PM »

The Museum of Science and Industry is right by the Shedd Aquarium.  It's something that I always enjoyed more than the art museums.

I will be at Two Brothers to go on a beer tour, but it is out in the suburbs, so that might be a bit out there, but there are a few microbreweries out there.

The women might like to go shopping at the Woodfield Mall.  Not as big as the Mall of America, but there are plenty of stores there.

Cat and Mouse is a good game store if you like board games.

I'll try to think of a few other things later.
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PeteRock
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2012, 12:16:17 AM »

Quote from: Graham on May 30, 2012, 11:28:58 PM

The Museum of Science and Industry is right by the Shedd Aquarium.  It's something that I always enjoyed more than the art museums.

Wife isn't much of an art museum fan (she even got bored at the Louvre), but she and I both enjoy science museums, so we might look into trying to find a package deal to visit both the Science and Industry museum along with the aquarium.

Quote
I will be at Two Brothers to go on a beer tour, but it is out in the suburbs, so that might be a bit out there, but there are a few microbreweries out there.

The ladies in our group aren't beer fans at all, so we'll need to find places that offer non-beer options as well.  Either the hotel can offer some suggestions, or we'll keep an eye out for places that look fun.

Quote
The women might like to go shopping at the Woodfield Mall.  Not as big as the Mall of America, but there are plenty of stores there.

Not sure if anyone will want to hit the mall, but if anyone will, it'll probably be my wife, although our Swiss friend may want to hit the shops as well since she loves American stuff. 

Quote
I'll try to think of a few other things later.

Appreciate the tips so far.  Looking forward to our visit as I've never been to Chicago before other than to transfer planes at Midway.  The closest I've gotten to "local" cuisine is Superdawg at the airport. 
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Crawley
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2012, 03:31:52 AM »

The science museum is a lot of fun. I would put it up there with Bostons science museum. The Shedd is just ok. There's also Lincoln Park Zoo which is free and can get there via the L. I haven't been there in about 8 years so not sure how it is now but I never felt it was that great and felt a bit sad for the animals - free though. Brookfield Zoo is the better zoo (pay zoo) but that may be a bit out of the way.

Places to eat: Nicks Fish Market is always a safe bet for a good dinner. There's a pizza place called Pizanos that has some great tasting pizza (don't care for the Chicago style pizza though). Fair warning it takes about 20+ minutes for them to make the pizza once you order it (its very fresh) and the place is somewhat small so gets packed really quick during prime time for lunch/dinner. For lunch you can head over to the Olgilve Transportation Center. Below the train tracks they have a "French Market" which is pretty neat with a lot of food choices and other shopping oddities. My pick for food above all there is Fumare Meats which has an amazing Montreal style pastrami sandwich - its just stellar how much flavor that has.

Can also do the local favorite of Garretts popcorn. The mix (carmel/cheese) is the way to go. The Garretts stores around the city are insanely packed (its not THAT great people) so if you are at Olgilve Station thing there's a Garretts above the food court (where the train tracks are) that is almost never packed.

You might also consider taking in a show. There's plenty of theatres downtown. http://www.broadwayinchicago.com/ Or you can head up to the Lincoln Park area and do Blue Man (can just take the L there).

Woodfield Mall is way the hell outside Chicago in Shaumburg, IL so would probably take an hour to get there. It is a large mall and is nice although I avoid it like the plauge now since its always so packed. There's plenty of stores on Michigan Ave for shopping.

You can also take the water taxi's to China Town. I've only been there once so can't speak to what all there is to do there but they have a couple odd shops, a bunch of dim sum restaurants, and they seem to be big on smoothies with "bubbles".

That's all I got.
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PeteRock
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2012, 03:44:30 AM »

Quote from: Crawley on May 31, 2012, 03:31:52 AM

That's all I got.

Excellent information!  I appreciate the specifics and will certainly explore what I can in three short days (and five other people in tow).  Appreciated.   thumbsup
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2012, 05:11:55 AM »

A few restaurants I tend to hit when I'm in town:

Gibson's Bar and Steakhouse - http://www.opentable.com/gibsons-bar-and-steakhouse-chicago
Admittedly I went to this place the first time because it's on The League and therefor I assumed it would be awesome.  It was beyond awesome.  The steak there is fantastic.  I won't go so far as to say it's the best I've ever had... but it's up there.  Worth a visit.

Pelago - http://www.opentable.com/pelago
Been here twice and was less impressed the second time, but it was still very very good.  Service is on the 'fancy' side so that's sort of annoying, but overall good italian.  Admittedly I've never been to their closest competitor (Spiaggia), so I'll have to correct that next time and find out which is better.  Still, the pasta here is worth going for.

Girl and the Goat - http://www.opentable.com/girl-and-the-goat
Cannot recommend enough.  Epic experience.  Probably the hottest restaurant in town right now and rightfully so.  If you go to one place I recommend, it's this one.

In regard's to Garrett's, personally I don't get the hype but my girlfriend loves the stuff.  They are all over the United terminal at O'Hare though, so if you miss it in the city you can probably grab some there.
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PeteRock
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2012, 03:02:52 PM »

Quote from: gellar on May 31, 2012, 05:11:55 AM

Pelago - http://www.opentable.com/pelago
Been here twice and was less impressed the second time, but it was still very very good.  Service is on the 'fancy' side so that's sort of annoying, but overall good italian.  Admittedly I've never been to their closest competitor (Spiaggia), so I'll have to correct that next time and find out which is better.  Still, the pasta here is worth going for.

I'd be curious to hear as Spiaggia is Tony Montuano's place.  If we were to go with Italian I was actually leaning toward Spiaggia, but I'm unsure is to how the group will sway.

Quote
Girl and the Goat - http://www.opentable.com/girl-and-the-goat
Cannot recommend enough.  Epic experience.  Probably the hottest restaurant in town right now and rightfully so.  If you go to one place I recommend, it's this one.

Yeah, I've heard nothing but praise for the Top Chef Season 4 winner's new restaurant.  Of all possibilities, I've been the most interested in this one.  And the pricing doesn't seem too outlandish (not for us, but for our, um, more "frugal" friends visiting from PA). 

Nevermind.  Just checked availability and OpenTable indicates that there are no tables available for our party size of six for the next 8 weeks, unless we dine at 11pm or later on Saturday.   disgust
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gellar
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2012, 03:38:44 PM »

Quote from: PeteRock on May 31, 2012, 03:02:52 PM

Quote from: gellar on May 31, 2012, 05:11:55 AM

Pelago - http://www.opentable.com/pelago
Been here twice and was less impressed the second time, but it was still very very good.  Service is on the 'fancy' side so that's sort of annoying, but overall good italian.  Admittedly I've never been to their closest competitor (Spiaggia), so I'll have to correct that next time and find out which is better.  Still, the pasta here is worth going for.

I'd be curious to hear as Spiaggia is Tony Montuano's place.  If we were to go with Italian I was actually leaning toward Spiaggia, but I'm unsure is to how the group will sway.

Quote
Girl and the Goat - http://www.opentable.com/girl-and-the-goat
Cannot recommend enough.  Epic experience.  Probably the hottest restaurant in town right now and rightfully so.  If you go to one place I recommend, it's this one.

Yeah, I've heard nothing but praise for the Top Chef Season 4 winner's new restaurant.  Of all possibilities, I've been the most interested in this one.  And the pricing doesn't seem too outlandish (not for us, but for our, um, more "frugal" friends visiting from PA). 

Nevermind.  Just checked availability and OpenTable indicates that there are no tables available for our party size of six for the next 8 weeks, unless we dine at 11pm or later on Saturday.   disgust

Yeah the primary reason I haven't gone to Spiaggia yet is that I'm mostly dining solo in Chicago, which means that it's not a great experience AND it's a bit on the high side for the expense account.

Bummer on Girl and the Goat... might be worth calling them.
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2012, 04:16:48 PM »

The Italian Village on West Monroe has some excellent food at decent prices... I'd recommend the Mostacciolli with baked cheese on top.

There's a couple of good "classic" arcades around too  - Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, and another that I can't remember the name of at the moment.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2012, 04:18:46 PM by Laner » Logged
DarkEL
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« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2012, 01:34:22 AM »

I travel to Chicago almost every week so I can give a few recommendations.

My favorite Steak in Chicago - Fulton's on the River
The only 3 Michelin star restaurant in Chicago - Alinea  (about $200 a person w/o wine but fairly fun experience)
Famous Mexican Restaurant Rick Bayless Frontera Grill

However some of the best food (and whiskey) I've had in Chicago was at Longman and Eagle. It's out in Logan square and can have quite a wait - but oh my god.... it is worth it.

As for Garrett's popcorn I really love it but recommend avoiding the cheese flavor (it's far too sweet). I usually get the caramel and almond popcorn.

If you're going to go to one of the observatories - skip Willis (used to be sears) and go to Hancock. It's far more interesting and has a better view.
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PeteRock
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« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2012, 02:18:52 AM »

Quote from: DarkEL on June 01, 2012, 01:34:22 AM

The only 3 Michelin star restaurant in Chicago - Alinea  (about $200 a person w/o wine but fairly fun experience)

While the wife and I have been known to indulge, that is most certainly well outside of what our friends from PA are willing to part with.  However, I'm filing that one away from future visits.

Quote
Famous Mexican Restaurant Rick Bayless Frontera Grill

I can't believe I forgot about Rick Bayless.  I've always wanted to visit one of his restaurants, so Frontera Grill might be a perfect chance for everyone to have a decent meal while I get to sample the cuisine of a personal favorite.

Quote
However some of the best food (and whiskey) I've had in Chicago was at Longman and Eagle. It's out in Logan square and can have quite a wait - but oh my god.... it is worth it.

Unfortunately (well, that sounds harsh, as our visit isn't unfortunate), the primary point of our visit is to see our friends from Switzerland as they only rarely make it to the states and we make it to Switzerland with even less frequency, so the main focus of our trip is to spend time with them, regardless of where we go or what we do.  I want to take advantage of our trip by seeing all I can, but ultimately it'll be a success even if we find a hole-in-the-wall bar to drink and play cards. 

Still, I greatly appreciate all the suggestions and have a decent list of options for when dinner rolls around and those unwilling to have a plan stand around looking at each other blankly.  When no one can make a decision, I can save the say once again by doing a little pre-trip legwork.  Otherwise it'll turn into, "what do you want, what do you want, I don't know, what about you."  I'll tear someone's arms off if I'm hungry and cranky enough.


Quote
If you're going to go to one of the observatories - skip Willis (used to be sears) and go to Hancock. It's far more interesting and has a better view.


Good to know.  Will plan accordingly.
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