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Chicago trip report - solo diner

Thanks to all the Chicago hounds who helped with advice on my itinerary earlier this year. Have recently returned from my USA trip and wanted to post my dining experiences here - had a fantastic time in your wonderful city and hope to make a return visit one day.

Pizano's (dinner)
I'm usually a thin crust gal, but when in Chicago I just had to try the deep dish. Ordered the smallest size pizza available (an individual 8 inch one, compared to the small size 10 inch one), with sausage and mushroom toppings. Lovely crunchy crust and very generous with the toppings (compared to those in the UK!). Extremely filling - could only manage 1/2 a pizza. It was my only deep dish experience of the trip, so can't compare to any other offerings in Chicago.

Topolobampo (lunch)
Thoroughly enjoyed my meal here. I made a lunch reservation online about 8 weeks in advance, and assumed that as I was a lone diner, that they would automatically seat me at the bar - but was surprised when they took me to my own table. Asked for recommendations as everything looked good. The tortilla chips were the best I'd ever tasted - I was feasting on them merrily until my starter arrived. It was the trio of ceviche, which came with yet another batch of the tortilla chips! All 3 kinds were delicious, but my favourite was the yellowfin tuna. For my main course, I chose the Pollito en Mole Landero (garlic-infused Gunthorp rock hen, Jimmy's grandma's velvety Landero mole, tamal de cream, braised carrots & turnips with a sear, savory nut brittle) - tender and full of flavour. Attentive service, but I wish that there had been a longer gap between finishing my starter and them bringing my main so that I could have had a chance for a little digestion - they were standing by as I ate the last mouthful of ceviche.

Sable (dinner)
Turned up without a reservation at 8.30pm on a Sunday night and was promptly seated in the restaurant. I liked that you could order half portions of many dishes. I ordered a half portion of fried green tomatoes with whipped goat's cheese and pepper jelly, which was very moreish. For my main I had one of the specials - crab stuffed squash blossoms with baby carrots and zucchini in a coconut curry sauce. There seemed to be a lot of crab stuffed into those blossoms! Had just about enough room for dessert and opted for the blueberry pie with sweetcorn ice cream. Both were delicious, but I wasn't sure about the pieces of freeze dried corn that accompanied them - interesting to have them there for the different texture, but I wouldn't have missed them.

Purple Pig (lunch)
I'd seen the queues for dinner the previous day, so 5 minutes before they opened for lunch I was waiting outside, along with around 15 other people. Chorizo stuffed olives were a bit too much of a salty hit for me, but I absolutely loved the pig's ear starter with crispy kale, pickled cherry peppers and a fried egg. I'd never had pig's ear before and thought it would come looking like a whole ear. Instead, it resembled delicate bacon bits and the yolk from the egg made a lovely sauce. My main was milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes - the meat was succulent and I loved that it practically fell off when I poked it with my fork. Really great service, I appreciated the time taken to run me through the different menu options as I was really struggling to decide.

Aug 18, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

1st time Chicago - Loop and Near North - foodie input requested

Thanks again danimalarkey! Strongly leaning towards Thursday dinner in Logan Square now. But I'm beginning to wonder whether I can squeeze in an extra meal stop back in Logan Square on the way either to/from O'Hare to visit whichever place I don't try out on Thursday evening...! So many places to try out, so little time - and I need to get some sightseeing done as well :)

May 14, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

1st time Chicago - Loop and Near North - foodie input requested

Thanks! Very much looking forward to my first Italian beef sandwich - dipped :) Must remember to post a trip report here afterwards

May 13, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

1st time Chicago - Loop and Near North - foodie input requested

Been looking through those alternative brunch suggestions of yours kathryn, and now wishing that I had longer in Chicago to try them all! Thanks :)

May 13, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

1st time Chicago - Loop and Near North - foodie input requested

Thanks danimalarkey, you're making me seriously reconsider my Thursday dinner plans! I'm happy to go somewhere further away from the hotel, but was playing it safe for my first evening in a new unfamiliar city. I'm travelling on my own, so safety is a concern for me when going out in the evening.

Atmosphere-wise - I would probably say somewhere in between - not so quiet that you feel you have to whisper, but not so loud that I have to shout to make myself heard above the din :) Budget-wise - willing to treat myself, but probably no splurging for this trip, e.g. Alinea.

I like the look of the Logan Square options and also Au Cheval. Both you and kathryn have mentioned Publican (and I've read lots of good reviews on it in other posts too). Looks like they serve Sunday brunch until 2pm, so that might be an option.

Lots to think about now!

May 13, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

1st time Chicago - Loop and Near North - foodie input requested

Thanks kathryn. I'm planning to try out deep dish pizza from Pizano's as it's right round the corner from the hotel. I'm usually a thin crust fan, but when in Chicago...

May 13, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

1st time Chicago - Loop and Near North - foodie input requested

Thanks camusman, will look into those!

May 13, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

1st time Chicago - Loop and Near North - foodie input requested

I'll be visiting Chicago for the first time in July. I'm looking forward to trying out local food as much as seeing all the sights :) I won't have a car, so will be either walking or taking the El. I've been reading through the many posts on here to come up with the proposed itinerary below.

This post was particularly helpful as it reflected my own approach to this trip: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693477

Thursday morning: Fly in from Europe, staying at the Silversmith
Thursday lunch: Heaven on Seven or Pizano's or Atwood Café
Thursday dinner: Pizano's or Atwood Café

Friday breakfast: Bongo Room
Friday lunch: Topolobampo

Leaving Friday evening to spend a week in Tennessee
Returning to Chicago on Sunday morning, this time staying at the Conrad

Sunday late lunch: Portillo's and/or Al's Beef
Sunday dinner: Sable

Monday breakfast: Fox and Obel or Meli Café
Monday lunch: Purple Pig
Monday evening: Fly home - many pounds heavier!

Thanks in advance for any thoughts and suggestions

May 12, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area

Chicago Food Tours?

Looks like there's been a previous discussion about these tours here:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/527608

May 07, 2012
Heheho in Chicago Area