Chicago Restaurant Tips by Bwana_Brown
Chicago Restaurants: 1,392 reviews and 1,835 photos
Their hole-in-the-wall street entrance
I had already had my fancy meal for the day, at lunchtime, so combined with an early departure the next morning I decided to keep things simple for my evening meal. I had spotted the Yu Shan Restaurant less than a half-block away from my hotel during my daily walk to and from the Marriott where the shuttle bus to the convention centre picked up its customers. After seeing that it had very good reviews according to my internet enquiry, I decided that a bit of spicy take-out Chinese food would do quite nicely.
While my order was prepared, I sat next to the sidewalk window at one of only about 3 tables that could be used for their 'eat-in' option, but I was their only customer anyway. Just behind the cashier's counter was the long narrow kitchen, with the staff standing only a few feet away as they tossed various combinations into their woks as flames and smoke arose and was sucked away by their ventilation system. It was fun to watch these expert Chinese cooks in action!
Favorite Dish: Within 10 minutes or so, my order of Szechwan Chicken was ready - downsized to the $6 lunchtime size instead of the $10 evening meal! I'm glad I did that because there was plenty to eat when I arrived back at my hotel room. The hunks of chicken were quite large and very tender, mixed in with a medium spicy sauce as well as green peppers, onions, brocolli, carrots, miniature corn cobs and mushrooms to mix with a container of boiled rice. They even threw in a fortune cookie for good measure.
I can see why the Yu Shan gets such good reviews! Total cost with a tip came to $8.05.
Address: 17 East Ohio Street, Chicago
Comparison: least expensive
Directions: Two and a half blocks east of Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile area) on East Ohio Street
Price: less than US$10
Theme: Chinese/Dim Sum
Deecat & Dabs as we prepare to feast!
I had either stayed at or passed through Chicago's O'Hare Airport a number of times and also drove past the outskirts of the city in October, 2007 while on my 4500-km marathon drive from Canada's Atlantic coast to Regina, Saskatchewan. As a result of VT-member Dabs giving me 'stick' about a proper visit, I let her know I would be in town a couple of weeks before I arrived on this trip! She immediately rose to the challenge and invited me and Deecat (among others) to a Sunday lunch - it was great to know that I would finally get to meet these two world-renowned members, especially since I don't get to see many VTers in the wilds of either New Brunswick or Saskatchewan!
We settled on The Gage Restaurant, just across Michigan Avenue from Millenium Park. It is located in a group of three buildings dating from 1898 named after the northern-most and tallest Gage Brothers building (hat wholesalers) shown in the 4th photo. The buildings exemplify two different Chicago architectural designs of that period - the expensive white terracotta style and the cheaper but less elegant red brick design.
Favorite Dish: Nevermind the styles, we were here to eat (along with Dabs' husband David) so were soon ushered to our table in the centre of the interior part of The Gage Restaurant. I always like something that sounds different, so decided that I would try their Fire-Roasted Chicken with Blue Cheese, Basil and Frank's Hot Sauce on Cuban bread ($12) washed down with a cold Heineken beer (4th photo)! It was a delicious meal and I also enjoyed talking to the ladies and David about a variety of subjects. For a total price of $20 it was great mini-VT meet!! Not to mention that Deecat presented me with an excellent large-sized hardcover book titled 'Chicago - A Photographic Celebration' that highlights all the sights I took in on this visit. We then worked the meal off with a good stroll around to several places that I had not yet visited!
Address: 24 S Michigan Ave, Chicago IL
Directions: South Michigan Avenue, opposite Millenium Park
Phone: (312) 372-2979
My window view of the bar and only other customers
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning on my first full day in Chicago, so I started it off by taking quite an extensive walk in the downtown area, enjoying the sights as I randomly came across them. I was due to meet VT-members Deecat and Dabs at 1 PM for a restaurant meal not far from the 14 Karat Lounge, so timed myself to meet them at the appointed hour. After putting in a call to Dabs to confirm things, she alerted me to the fact that I had been wandering around in a Time Zone fog ever since I shifted my watch ahead 2 hours when I passed through Toronto on my flight in. I had forgotten that Chicago is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour back toward Regina time - so I had some time to kill!
Favorite Dish: I'd already walked quite a bit and I was looking forward to my guided tour after the meal, so I decided to just sit down in a quiet spot and chill out for a while. I happened to be almost underneath the 'el' train tracks at the time and noticed the small 14 Karat Lounge just begging for customers. Sure enough, there were only two young ladies sitting at the bar when I entered and they were busy with their lunch. I still had that to come, so settled in at a sidewalk window with a New England-brewed Sam Adams brown beer ($6 with tip), which I sipped slowly as I took in the street scenes as the trains rattled by. Based on the following Chicago Pub/Restaurant review I could have done worse:
"Despite the name, the after-work crowd that loosens their ties and slides up to the bar here sport very little bling. Instead, it's the slew of eccentric characters this place (attached to Ada's Deli) attracts—both bartenders and barflies alike—that makes this place a diamond in the rough."
Address: 14 South Wabash Ave., Chicago
Comparison: about average
Directions: One block west from North Michigan Avenue, not far from Millenium Park and attached to Ada's Deli & Restaurant
Joe's - on the corner of Grand and Rush Streets
During my time in Chicago, I had walked past Joe's a number of times because it was on my route to catch the convention bus - and the large words 'stone crab' immediately had me thinking of the delicious meals I had enjoyed a few years earlier in both Princeton, NJ and Orlando, FL! Since I had not really gone overboard so far on this trip, I thought it was time to go for the crabs once again on this, my last full day in Chicago. It was about 1 PM by the time I was ushered to a table along the wall, with a view out over the large dining room. The waiters were very immaculately groomed and dressed and everything was done 'just so', so I could see this was going to set me back a few bucks. No problem, I was ready to enjoy!
Favorite Dish: As I said before, I'm not a bulk eater since my food preferences lean toward interesting flavours rather than how much I can stuff in! Consequently, I kept my order of crabs down to their lowest level of seven medium stone crabs with lemon wedges ($27) accompanied by a small baked potatoe ($2.50) and a few shoots of freshly cooked asperagus ($4.50). This was accompanied by small dishes of sour cream, shrimp cocktail sauce and a unique crab sauce of some sort. In keeping with my Guinness theme at the John Hancock Tower, I had one of those ($6) as well as water to wash things down. The crabs were delicious, with their shells already having been broken so it was easy to remove the pieces and pry the meat out with a delicate little fork. I took my time and really enjoyed the meal, well worth its $50 cost (tip included).
Address: 60 East Grand Street, Chicago
Comparison: most expensive
Directions: On Michigan Avenue go three blocks north of the Michigan Ave. Bridge and then one block west (left) to the corner of East Grand and Rush Streets
Price: US$41 and up
Breakfast seating & food preparation area
It was quite convenient to be able to take the elevator down a few floors to the Atrium breakfast nook in the Embassy Suites Downtown hotel, especially since it was already included in my room price.
After picking up your dishes and utensils where you enter, you then have the choice of dishing out scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, fried potatoes, etc. yourself or you can go to the chef's counter to have an omelette made to order. If none of this is to your liking, you can proceed onward to another area that has a toaster, various buns and rolls as well as fruits, juice and coffee. Take your pick.
Favorite Dish: The second photo shows my one breakfast of scrambled eggs with bacon, toast apple juice and coffee. I liked their table stand that held both the normal and green types of Tabasco sauce as well as Ketchup! Another time I enjoyed an omelette while for the remainder I went with fruit and yoghurt. They were all good, so no complaints!
Address: 600 North State Street, Chicago
Directions: In the Embassy Suites Downtown hotel
Silver Spoon in basement, Friends Sushi above!
While walking back to the hotel from my tour of the John Hancock Center, I noticed that it was already 1 PM and I was starting to feel some hunger pangs. Not wanting anything too fancy, I was glad to spot the Silver Spoon Restaurant on one of the streets in the area. I descended the steps into their basement location to check it out and immediately liked the looks of the restaurant - nicely decorated and it seemed to have a mixed crowd of customers. They displayed a prominent 'BYOB' sign on their door, so, if you want wine with your meal you'd better bring a bottle along.
Favorite Dish: The prices at the Silver Spoon were ridiculously low and they had all sorts of menu choices! I only paid $8.70 including the tip for my meal. I started with a delicious appetizer of Crab Rangoon, a tasty 3-piece concoction served with shredded carrots and a nice dipping sauce. Then it was on to my main course of Cashew Chicken, a full-sized meal of tender chicken chunks served on a bed of lettuce with snow peas, carrots, pineapple and mushrooms in a delicious sauce along with a good helping of boiled white rice. It was quite a pleasant meal before I resumed my explorations.
Address: 710 North Rush Street, Chicago
Comparison: least expensive
Directions: A few blocks south and west of the John Hancock Building
Price: less than US$10
Theme: Pan-Asian and Pacific Rim
My small thin crust Tavern Pizza offering
After the Monday night convention gathering and finger food snacks at the Museum of Science & Industry, I decided to stay close to the Embassy Suites hotel the next evening by seeing what the attached Italian restaurant Osteria Via Strato had to offer. It looked like it could be expensive, but I was not really all that hungry, so opted to sit in their more informal bar area. I had heard of Chicago's famous 'deep dish' pizzas and really should have tried one at some point in this trip, but on this night I decided to stick with my old standard of thinner crusts and less bulk.
Favorite Dish: I ordered one of their 'Tavern Pizzas', a thin-crust pepperoni pizza with mozarella cheese and tomatoe sauce ($12) along with an authentic Italian Peroni beer to wash it down ($6). The crust was almost burned, just the way I like it, so I quite enjoyed this meal as I sat there watching the nightlife come alive in Chicago! One thing that was a bit different was the way the pizza was sliced into rectangular bits instead of the triangles I'm used to! However, the meal was just exactly what I wanted and well worth the $23 including a tip and taxes.
Address: 620 North State St., Chicago
Comparison: more expensive than average
Directions: Attached to the Embassy Suites Hotel at 600 North State Street, two blocks west of Michigan Avenue North
One of many rest-stops in Terminal 1
As I was waiting for my evening flight out of Chicago on that October, 2004 trip, I stopped at one of the many small restaurants in Terminal 1. Wolfgang-Puck Express was located down the hall not too far from the life-size Brontosaurus exhibit (my 'Transportation' tips) and seemed to be doing a rip-roaring trade when I wandered in.
The waitress motioned me over to a single empty stool along the bar, so I squeezed in and made my order.
Favorite Dish: I decided to try something small but different, their Tortilla Soup. It turned out to be quite tastey - a thick mixture somewhat like a chili but made with tortilla strips, goat cheese and cilantro (US$5.29). A New England-based Sam Adams brown draft beer (US$5.99) went down quite well with the hearty mixture!
The service was fast and friendly too.
Address: Terminal 1 at O'Hare Airport
Comparison: about average
Directions: Terminal 1 at O'Hare Airport, after clearing security.
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