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Things do to and places to stay in Chicago?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
We will be heading there in May for four days at the request of our son's teachers. He and our daughter are going on the arts trip and he has some lingering issues from his (benign) brain tumor, so they would like us to be in the city as well. The kids are staying in Homewood (apparently they choose the suburbs for a reason lol) but we will be staying downtown. I was wondering... does anyone have any suggestions for downtown hotels that are reasonably priced (we don't need a fancy room as we will be spending most of our time exploring the city) and also anything that is a must see for out of town tourists?
I kind of like the look of the Allerton hotel and yes I know it's old but I like the character of it.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you guys may have!
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post #2 of 21
I like the Congress Plaza, kind of old, vintage feel to it. Not sure what their rate is? The museums (art, science, and shed) are worth a visit. As for restaurants, I was just at Orsos on Wells. Nothing fancy just good Italian food with a cozy atmosphere. The bar area resembles a pub with stained glass but over that and throughout the restaurant hangs these swanky, old chandeliers. I know, sounds odd but I like it. There are so many good places to eat in this city, no matter where you turn.
post #3 of 21
My wife worked at the Palmer House Hilton for years. Great service and very nice rooms. As for reasonably priced rooms downtown. They are difficult to find especially depending on what is going on during that time. If there are any major events going on it is hard to find deals. But always ask. Operators wont give you the best deal right off. You will need to ask for deals, or try Priceline or such (just be aware of what you are booking through them-my wife has many horror stories about guests who claim they booked a king suite on priceline for $99 though the hotel never offers those rooms to the cut rate services).

As for things to do, I don't know where to start. Of course there are the museums-the Art Institute, the Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry can each take up a full day. You can make a full day of the Aquarium and the Planetarium. There's Navy Pier if you want something light hearted and touristy. Take in the sights at the top of the Hancock Building or Willis (Sears) Tower. Walk the Magnificant Mile along Michigan Ave. and window shop. Start on the north end, at Watertower Place and walk it south to Millenium Park, shop and people watch. Take on of the architectural boat tours. They are a lot of fun and very informative. Take a bus or taxi up to Lincoln Park and visit the Lincoln Park Zoo (it's a free!). If the Cubs are in town, head up to Wrigleyville. Even if you don't want to catch the game, the neighborhood is bustling and all the bars are packed, if you like that kind of thing. Head up to the River North district around Wells & Chicago Ave and explore some of the art galleries.

As for food, and places to dine, let me know what you like and what you want to spend and I can offer up some suggestions.
post #4 of 21
Pete just about covered all the "musts" for a first-time visitor.

Try Lou Mitchell's for breakfast. Lou Mitchell's Restaurant They also serve lunch until 3 PM. (I was just there a few weeks ago with my friends.)

The Congress is close to a lot of attractions: Michigan Avenue Chicago Hotels | Downtown Chicago Hotel | Congress Plaza Hotel, Illinois

Have fun!
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post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
I checked out the Congress.. it looks really nice.. I'm going to let my husband decide between there and the Allerton because I could happily stay at both places. Thanks for the tip about Orsos.. it sounds like the kind of place that we both would like.

We were thinking that lunch would be a quick counter service kind of meal, and dinner would be our sit down meal of the day.

What do you know about Tommy Gunn's Garage? I saw something about it when I was looking for things for us to do and it kind of appealed to me. The kids will be going to Second City but my husband doesn't really want to as we have been to the one in TO a few times and while the one there is the original one, he would rather do something that we wouldn't be able to do either here or in TO. (does that make sense? lol)
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post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the tip about priceline. I had always thought that some of their rates seemed to good to be true. While we don't want a fancy room, we also don't want to spend four nights squeezed into a double bed either.

It sounds like we'll have lots to do while we're there. (and I suspect four days might not be enough time...lol) As for food.. we were thinking that lunch would be something like a sandwich or quick counter service type of thing and dinner would be our sit down meal of the day. We like Italian, American/Canadian food, Indian, fish&seafood, pub food, Chinese, German, Cajun and Creole, Thai and the list goes on.. Hopefully that will give you an idea.

Breakfast is tricky as I am allergic to eggs but I am sure I can get toast, fruit and oatmeal anywhere!
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post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
I checked out Lou Mitchell's website and it reminds me alot of the place I work at! We are definitely going to have to check it out and hopefully I'll be able to get an egg-free breakfast myself. I know my husband will like it alot. Is it near the Congress? I think my KM was there in November when he visited Chicago and he said it was around the corner from his hotel.

I'm going to get a copy of the kids itinerary mostly so we will not run into them all the time when we are out and about. None of the other students know that we will be going as well, and I think it would be hugely embarassing for our son to be running into mom and dad wherever he goes. We will be a cellphone call and a taxi ride away if anything comes up and they need us, and that is what the teachers want.
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post #8 of 21
for exceptional breakfast/lunch Ina's
Ina's

dinner Publican
Publican - News and Events

A super way of getting "fine dining food" for less $ is to eat a bigger lunch at finer restaurants, eat at diners or lower end for dinner.

Chicago hotels were WAY more expensive than NYC.....it was not hard finding a boutique 4* with Queen size bed in a desireable area for $99 a night. Chicago more like $160-180.....blew my mind that NY was a much better deal.

It's been a few years, but I used to stay at the Allegro for $70, significantly discounted rate.....really fun hotel.
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post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
I've noticed that Chicago hotels are more expensive than NYC too.. I found that odd seeing as NYC is known for how pricey it is. Chicago just like NYC has a rich history and maybe things in general are just more expensive there and their prices reflect that??

Ina's looks amazing.. we have to check that out! Again I will be the diner from **** as I am allergic to eggs but judging by the breakfast menu I am sure there is something I can eat there. The Publican looks super and I've already found more than a few things on the menu that I want to try! I'm keeping a list of all of the places you guys suggest and I am going to give it to my husband to look over and we can decide when we get there where we will eat.

You guys have given me more info in just a few posts than I have found on the travel sites on the web... thank you sooo much and keep them coming! I like to go into a trip knowing as much as I can about where I am going... it just makes me feel more comfortable.

Shroomgirl you have a point about the lunches.. I never thought of it that way. It also might be nice to have a sit down lunch as a way to break up our busy days and I didn't even think of doing fine dining for lunch. Thanks for the tip!
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post #10 of 21
Since you've been before, I'm sure you're familiar with the deep dish pizza. My favorite is Bacino's. A lot of Chicagoians like Gino's or Lou Malnati's. My family are family friend's with the owner of Bacino's so I might be a bit biased ;) but, excellent food. There's a Bella Bacino's on Wacker and a Bacino's in the loop area and I believe Lincoln Park area.
Another fabulous Italian place is La Escarola. Very family-oriented, Italian style.
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Actually this will be our first visit to Chicago. I have researched and compared it to NYC though as my husband wants to visit there this year seeing as we blew the money we have saved for a trip to Holland on an hdtv...lol (and yes I am happy with it and Holland will still be there in a year..)

My only experience with deep dish pizza is what I have had at Pizza Hut and well even that has not been the best in recent years. It's gone from really nice to super greasy and bland .. so much that we don't even go there anymore.

What about dinner theatre? Is Tommy Gunn's a good experience or is there something better?
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post #12 of 21
If you've never had good Chicago deep dish then by all means you must try it! Everyone has their favorite and the debate can get heated, but I'm a Pizzeria Uno fan myself, with Gino's as a close second. Also you need to try a Chicago Hot Dog, and/or an Italian Beef.

As for restaurants, there have been some good suggestions already, but I will add a few more. Goose Island Brewery if you like microbrew beer. Great beer and good food. I've never been to the Publican, but I here great things about it! Blackbird also rocks for a more fine dining experience. Can't really recommend a good Indian restaurant in the downtown area. If you like Thai, then Arun's will be an experience you'll never forget but it comes at a price. Go for a cocktail at the 95th floor in the Hancock building. Don't eat there as the food is way overpriced and not that good. The drinks are overpriced too, but worth it just for the view. My favorite bistro in Chicago is Le Bouchon-west of downtown. Nothing hip or trendy, but good, solid french cooking. For steaks, I love Capital Grille. I know it's a chain, but they do it right if you like the steakhouse thing. For Italian, other than pizza, I would choose Trattoria #10 in the loop, if it's still there, or ask someone at the hotel to recommend a good place down in Little Italy. You don't want to be wandering around Little Italy all by yourself, at night. Little Italy is fine, but take a wrong turn and you can end up in some pretty rough neighborhoods. There are lots of hip, trendy sushi places in the city, but my favorite is still Kamehachi. There is also Ben Pao, a pan Asian concept downtown. A little pricey, but really good food. For great drinks and a wonderful Latin flavor check out Nacional 27, though stay away from their paellas (I'm not a fan).
post #13 of 21
There's Rick Bayless's places.....frontera, Topolobamba and new "fast food" xoco....all next to each other. xoco is pretty interesting, they grind kakao beans on site and have some top notch soups, sandwiches, pastries and unusual coco drinks....also open for breakfast.
FronteraKitchens.com | Restaurants

XOCO: Restaurants - Rick Bayless | Frontera


Across the street is NAHA which is fine dining with a super bar menu also open for lunch
Naha
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post #14 of 21
Pete, nice suggestion for Nacional 27. Italian food is always a first choice for me but one night a friend and I felt like a little Latin flare. I liked that the chef brought us an amuse bouch (spelling?) The atmosphere is great too, lots of Latin dancing.
post #15 of 21
Shroom, I can't believe I forgot Rick's places!!!! I love Fontera and can't believe I forgot to mention it!
post #16 of 21
If you end up staying in the Loop, and you should be able to find some deals because the hotel season is sluggish this time of year, I would check out Cafecito. It's not far from the Palmer House if you stay there.

I used to work with the owner of Cafecito (Cafecito Chicago | Rated #1 Best Cuban Sandwich in Chicago) and recommend it because they make great sandwiches (cuban/latin american style), very affordable, and in the Loop.
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post #17 of 21
Hi leeniek :)

There are soooo many places to eat in Chicago.

For breakfast The Bongo Room comes to mind for a good breakfast or brunch. They don't take reservations and you may have a wait...or you may not. You just don't know.

Lunch and dinner? There's lots of places to go. But no matter where you go check the times! Many of the places are closed between lunch and dinner, you don't want to show up during the places "off" hours. Believe me :mad:

Goose Island is a nice pub, lots of personality. Just make sure you go to the Clybourne location. They got a new Chef a little while ago and things are pretty nice. Their beer is real nice...my favorite two being a nice fresh Honkers Ale and their nitrogen dispensed IPA. The various Heritage selections are nice sippin' beers too.

Italian? How much are you looking to spend. There's always Spiaggia if you're up for spending a bit more for your meal. We've had some nice dinners at Merlo on Maple too. There's really so many...I'll include a link to the Chicago ChowHound website and the LTH Forum. A couple of the individuals there are real good with recommendations.

Definitely go to Frontera! But be forewarned...the lines could get long. You may do better if you get there before they open for dinner on Monday - Thursday. There's nothing wrong with XOCO in a pinch. But if your going to go...go to Frontera. If you need a place that takes reservations...Topolobampo. It's good...but 'd prefer Frontera.

Steak? There's tons of places for steak in Chicago. Most of them quite good. I suppose my preference would be toward David Burke's PrimeHouse for their Kobe beef sashimi appetizer and their dry aged steaks. But really...if dry aged steaks aren't your thing...many of the places are real good. If you're looking for a place that does Seafood and Steak you may want to check out Joe's Seafood, Prime Steaks and Stone Crab. The Stone crab claws are nice...and oddly enough the bone-in fillet is pretty good.

Other places? You can get a pastrami sandwich at Manny's deli. There's lots of good Mexican food in Chicago, my favorite being the vendors at Maxwell Street Market. You can check out the Green City Market, which I haven't been to yet! :mad::mad: Hmmm...Greek food, Pho 777 for Vietnamese. Carnivale or Mercat a la Planxa for decent food in a nice atmosphere. Blue 13 and BlackBird are also good choices. although...you can save a bit of money if you go to BlackBird for lunch. Bon Soiree is supposed to be good and a bit unique, although I haven't been there yet. Well, I haven't been there to eat...it's reservations only and I didn't know! It's really not near much else...so don't make this a destination that you think your going to walk around at. Go there...and then go somewhere else.

I suppose my favorite is probably going to Fox & Obel for Iberico Bellota, plain. The Pio Tosini, at Fox & Obel, among some other meats are excellent as well. Oh, Bin 36 could be a nice stop if your passing by too.

You will want to check out LTH Forum and the Chicago ChowHound Board.

I hope things are going well for your son. Have a good time with your family in Chicago!

dan
post #18 of 21
   Hi all,

  I just wanted to give a little update.  Since my last post I made it to  Bon Soiree for the eight course tasting.  Start to finish you just get the idea that they are actually cooking for you.  I get that feeling so seldom when I eat out, even at many expensive restaurants in Chicago.  

   When I go to Chicago I generally make an effort to try different places.  But in this case I can't wait to go back to Bon Soiree and try their no menu Sunday.  They go shopping at the Market and make their menu based on what inspires them that day.   Can't wait!

   Some years back I did enjoy the Goose Island Pub (on Clybourne) many times.  The last time I went was still several years ago and have to admit...the reason I didn't go back was because of less than mediocre food.  They still had a nice menu but the certain items were stale or old and the meat was overcooked.  Somewhat recently I heard that they got a new chef and changed up the menu.  While this sounds good, a recent visit revealed much of the same points that had driven me away from there a few years ago.  

    The beer is still fabulous at the Goose Island pub, but I just can't recommend the food there any more   Hopefully 've just had a few bad isolated incidents.

    Go Chicago!
post #19 of 21
Green City Market is wonderful.....great cheeses, breads, pastries, super produce, exceptional prepared food.  It's open mid week as well as Sat.,  really an great market to poke through as well as a super place to get a great reasonable meal, sampling the best grown in the area.
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post #20 of 21
I would go here.  Don't forget the duck fat fries served on Friday and Saturday.  Super fun place.  

 http://www.cheftalk.com/forum/thread/35816/hot-doug-s-the-sausage-superstore-and-encased-meat-emporium


post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 
I read your thread about Hot Doug's and we will have to check that out too.  I think I should start a diet now so I can gain all of the weight back when we visit Chicago! 
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