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Looking for Old School..

The question appears to be seeking restaurants that have been open for many years with an old-time style, rather than restaurants serving red-sauce Italian cuisine. TVC15, is that correct?

(By comparison with the places mentioned, La Scarola opened relatively recently, around 1998.)

Sep 27, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Looking for Old School..

Here's when these restaurants opened:

1898 The Berghoff
1927 Italian Village
1935 Miller's Pub
1943 Pizzeria Uno
1955 Pizzeria Due
1989 Sabatino's

Chicago has 58 still-operating restaurants that opened before 1962, including the first five listed above. You can view photos of the 10 oldest at www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/14/chi... :

1881 Schaller's Pump
1892 Daley's Restaurant
1898 The Berghoff
1907 The Walnut Room
1908 Cafe Brauer
1909 Pompei Bakery
1921 Margie's Candies
1921 Valois
1921 The Green Door Tavern
1923 Lou Mitchell's

The last place listed here, Lou Mitchell's, is very well known. Unlike the pub type places, it's a diner type place, only open for breakfast and lunch, and I don't think they serve alcohol. It hasn't changed much at all over the decades.

Sep 27, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Magnificent Mile Hip Eateries

My experience is that you can get seated immediately by about 1:30, but if you want your own table*, 2:00 is a bit better. I'm guessing it should still be pretty easy up until around 4:00-4:30, but by 5:00, you can expect a wait.

I've enjoyed the food there; it's very good indeed. I just make sure to go at an off time, as I don't have any desire to wait two hours to be seated, and there are so many other great places to eat where I can make a reservation. As with all restaurants, feel free to check out the sample menu on their website to get a better idea of their culinary style.

*It may help if I describe the seating at the Purple Pig. It's actually a fairly small place. They have around seven small tables (two-tops and four-tops) along the right wall, three communal high-top tables each seating 10-12 people, and a long counter facing the kitchen and seating around 20 people.

Sep 26, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Magnificent Mile Hip Eateries

Actually, even though Sable has one or two persistent naysayers here (as does just about every restaurant in Chicago), many many others have praised Sable in general, and the delicious sweet corn crème brulee in particular. Here are examples of what others here have said about it:

"Sweet corn creme brulee - outstanding. My wife almost feinted with happiness and she does not normally rave about dishes." - dlpens, at www.chow.com/topics/805781#7536324

"But the very best thing, not only here at Sable but of the whole trip (including Publican, Ginos East, brunch at Sable, Jam and Meli Cafe) was the corn creme brulee. OMG!!! The ultimate sweet/savory/creamy/ crunchy treat anywhere on the planet. Perfect, unsweetened custard with intense corn flavor and plenty of fresh, crisp corn kernels, topped with a bruleed sugar crust with flecks of coarse salt all over. If you like salted caramel, oh boy! This dish was definitely to die for! It was between a savory and a sweet to a great segue to dessert." - plafield, at www.chow.com/topics/860226

"LOVED LOVED it. ... sweet corn creme brulee (lovely salty-sweet combo, dessert wanting to pass itself off as a veg dish, but that was okey dokey!) ... Highly recommend Sable." - cookingmatterschef, at www.chow.com/topics/875649

"Every aspect of Sable was excellent; food, wine and service. ... If this restauarant was local to us we'd eat there weekly (at least)." - cap, at www.chow.com/topics/900997#8159375

Plus, they accept reservations (including on Opentable.com) so you don't have to worry about a horrendously long wait to be seated. Between that and the delicious food, it's my favorite restaurant in the entire downtown Chicago area.

Sep 26, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Magnificent Mile Hip Eateries

I've been there numerous times, and it's always been wonderful, with one delicious dish after another. Don't miss the sweet corn crème brulee, which is a savory version of the classic dessert!

Sep 25, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Last Visit Coming up to Chicago

Hyatt Place is in the middle of River North, so it is much closer to the restaurants in River North such as Sable and Piccolo Sogno Due, as well as shopping and nightlife. The Allegro is in the middle of the Loop, which has some restaurants but not as many as in River North and none of the ones you mention. Bavette's is roughly halfway between the two, and Au Cheval is far enough from both hotels that you'll probably be taking a cab. I think you may have the name La Scolera wrong but I'm not sure what place you're referring to... but regardless, I wouldn't go to more than one Italian restaurant (just for the sake of variety) and I would recommend sticking with Piccolo Sogno Due (or Piccolo Sogno, which is further away). The Avis office at Clark and Wacker is only slightly closer to the Allegro than Hyatt Place (three blocks vs four), and the difference in the distance of the two hotels from the el (train) isn't all that great; you can take the Blue Line (O'Hare) or Orange Line (Midway) to Clark/Lake, which is about four blocks from Hyatt Place, two blocks from the Allegro.

You might want to use the directions feature on a mapping website like Google Maps to enter all of these places and see them plotted on a map, to give you a better idea of their locations and distances.

All things considered, I'd prefer staying in River North (Hyatt Place) rather than in the Loop (Allegro). But don't agonize too much over it; either is convenient for some of the things you mentioned.

Oh, and if you enjoy coffee and donuts in the morning, Hyatt Place is close to Firecakes and Glazed & Infused, both on Hubbard; the Allegro is close to Do-Rite Donuts, just down Randolph Street.

Sep 25, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Post Trip Review of Birthday Weekend in Chicago

Thanks for the feedback. All feedback is helpful.

Sounds like you had some great food. Too bad about Riccardo Trattoria. (Your experience sounds very much like my own there, a while back. We have so many solid, consistently excellent Italian restaurants; it's the only one I can think of that was truly dreadful when I went there.)

Sep 25, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Private Dining Space, 60 people - River North

This discussion has a lot of tips for booking a private dinner in Chicago, including links to listings of private dining rooms:

Dinner and Drinks for 40? - www.chow.com/topics/799823

Sep 25, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Magnificent Mile Hip Eateries

Just FYI, the places mentioned in the West Loop (Au Cheval, Embeya, Little Goat, Vera, Sepia) are all 1.5-2.0 miles from the James Hotel. The places mentioned in River North (David Burke's, Sable, Eataly, Naha, GT Fish, Purple Pig) are all under 0.5 mile from the hotel.

Sep 25, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Magnificent Mile Hip Eateries

>> Is the PP busy even on Sunday nights?

Yes, absolutely. Sundays, Mondays, any day, you're likely to wait at least 90 minutes, often well over two hours, between 5 and 10 pm, any day of the week.

>> What are some cheaper options for Sunday night just in case I want to slum it but still want a delicious meal and a hip vibe?

Sable! See below, then check out their menu at www.sablechicago.com

A few more relatively inexpensive (and equally hip) options within a short walk include Quartino, for Italian small plates; Café Iberico, for tapas (Spanish small plates); and Bar Toma, for Italian and pizza bar fare. But although these are good too, I think the food is far more memorably delicious at Sable.

www.quartinochicago.com
www.cafeiberico.com
www.bartomachicago.com

Another option is to go to Eataly, the emporium for everything Italian, with foodstuffs as well as restaurants. You could go there, walk around, and graze on whatever strikes your fancy. Eataly is right around the corner from your hotel, too. www.eataly.com

Sep 25, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Magnificent Mile Hip Eateries

I agree with the multiple recommendations of David Burke's Primehouse for your Monday dinner. And it's worth adding that even though it's a steakhouse (and one of our best, with dry aged steaks), it's not just your stereotypical steakhouse. They have a much wider variety on their menu in addition to the steaks, not just your standard steakhouse fare. And the décor and atmosphere are more contemporary, not your standard steakhouse "men's club" atmosphere. www.davidburkesprimehouse.com

I also second the recommendation of Naha as an alternative for Monday night, if you're looking for something other than a steakhouse. Naha has delicious contemporary American cuisine from James Beard Award winning chef-owner Carrie Nahabedian, very creative but not too "out there" for those with less adventurous palates. The décor and service are very upscale and luxurious, yet the prices are significantly less than the super haute cuisine places in Chicago. I typically spend $100-130/pp including moderate alcohol and tax/tip; you can check out their menus on their website at www.naha-chicago.com (Oh, and they also have a bargain prix fixe menu for weekday lunches, three courses for $25.) It's about five blocks from the James, a walk of 8-10 minutes.

For your Sunday night dinner, I strongly recommend Sable, which is two blocks from your hotel. Sable features small plates of contemporary American cuisine, along with craft cocktails. Most of the menu items are available in half size portions, so you can try a lot of different things. And the food is surprisingly affordable for such a high level of quality; you can easily fill up without spending more than $30/pp on food (beverages are another matter but entirely up to you). In case you are dining at normal meal times, Sable does accept reservations, including on Opentable.com Check out the menu on their website at www.sablechicago.com

Another great option for Sunday is Eataly; see my other post above for details.

(I do like Purple Pig also, but the horrendous waits - often over two hours - make it difficult to recommend for normal dining times of day. I also like GT Fish a lot, but compared with Sable, it's slightly further, and not quite as much of a bargain.)

So there you have two great options for Sunday (Sable, Eataly) and two great options for Monday (Burke's, Naha), all within a ten minute walk from your hotel. Enjoy!

Sep 25, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Last Visit Coming up to Chicago

My favorite is the caramel cashew popcorn (caramel popcorn with whole cashews in it). My second favorite is the caramel popcorn. I don't like mixing caramel popcorn with cheese popcorn. But it's like ice cream - get whatever flavor(s) sound best TO YOU.

Sep 24, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Looking for Old School..

They've been around for many decades.

So have Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due.

Sep 24, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Last Visit Coming up to Chicago

Garrett's Popcorn is popped on site in their shops. When you buy it, it has usually been popped within the previous hour or so.

It is at its freshest when eaten the same day. It can keep for several days after that - especially if you put it in an airtight bag or container - but it loses a bit of its crunch during that time.

Sep 23, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Last Visit Coming up to Chicago

Here's my list of ten "DO NOT MISS" restaurants for a first visit to Chicago. These are places that are also worth many return visits. They're roughly in order by price. Most are within walking distance of the Allegro; the exceptions: Alinea and North Pond are about three miles away, Jam is about five miles, and Anteprima about seven.

1. Alinea - Acclaimed by many as the best restaurant in the country. My recent dinner there was the very best in my entire life. Notable for its unusual presentation techniques as well as its amazing deliciousness. www.alinearestaurant.com

2. Grace - Sophisticated place whose "sum is greater than the parts", with excellent food, décor, and service. www.grace-restaurant.com

3. North Pond - Unique for its setting in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond and the city skyline. James Beard Award-winning chef turning out wonderful food (special props to the dessert chef too). Unlike the previous two, more casual (jackets not required/recommended) and less expensive ($100-120/pp including moderate alcohol and tax/tip). My recent dinner there was the best so far of 2014. www.northpondrestaurant.com

4. Naha - Like North Pond, another James Beard Award-winning chef turning out wonderful food. And similarly more casual and less expensive. www.naha-chicago.com

5. Contemporary Mexican cuisine - a specialty of Chicago and rarely found elsewhere this side of the Mexican border. Rick Bayless's Topolobampo and Frontera Grill are open for lunch or dinner. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants If you can't snag a reservation there, consider Mexique in West Town www.mexiquechicago.com or Mixteco Grill in Lakeview. www.mixtecogrill.com

And regarding your question, I really do think Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are very different from the Mexican food you get in San Diego. I recommend taking a look at the menus on their website to get a better idea of what the food is like and how it differs.

6. Sable - Delicious contemporary American cuisine in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails. www.sablechicago.com

7. GT Fish & Oyster - Excellent seafood in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails. www.gtoyster.com

8. Anteprima - In a city full of new and old Italian restaurants, this remains my favorite, and my most frequently-visited restaurant not in my 'hood. www.anteprimachicago.net

9. Lou Malnati's - With locations all over the city and suburbs, perhaps our best place for our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza. www.loumalnatis.com

10. Jam - Chicago has quite a few breakfast/brunch-focused restaurants, but if I had to choose only one, it's Jam. Imagine what a creative chef with a fine-dining background would create for an inexpensive breakfast restaurant, and that's Jam. www.jamrestaurant.com

And, while not a single restaurant, I think our French Market is also worth a visit. It's in one of the commuter train stations just west of the Loop, and features some of the best restaurants of their type in Chicago, including Lillie's Q for barbecue, Vanille Patisserie for breads and pastry, Saigon Sisters for pho and banh mi, Pastoral for cheese and sandwiches, and Fumare for Montreal-style smoked meats. www.frenchmarketchicago.com

And don't miss Garrett's for popcorn, with several locations downtown while you're here, and locations at O'Hare to grab some on your way home. www.garrettpopcorn.com

Sep 22, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area
1

Yet another conventioneer...

>> I'm working on an oyster book (but I could make that a lunch stop for me).

Shaw's is hosting Oyster Fest this Friday. For details see www.oysterfestchicago.com

Sep 22, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Detroit in November

For dinner downtown, Roast (Michael Symon's place). www.roastdetroit.com

For breakfast downtown, Hudson Café. www.hudson-cafe.com Dime Store (mentioned below) is another brand new breakfast place that sounds appealing, but unlike these other two suggestions, I haven't been there yet. www.eatdimestore.com

Sep 21, 2014
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

Carol Deptolla's 2014 Top 30 List (MKE)

I went to Maxie's for the first time last month, and I was underwhelmed. I posted a detailed report in the same topic as Bacchus (and Odd Duck): www.chow.com/topics/985525

Sep 21, 2014
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

Carol Deptolla's 2014 Top 30 List (MKE)

I've been to 7 of the 30 (including Hinterland), and I'd say all of them are deserving. I would have disagreed with her if she hadn't dropped Maxie's from the list, but she did.

Sep 20, 2014
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

Delicious Chinese near Mag Mile/River North?

Shanghai Terrace is in the Peninsula Hotel (a hotel chain that was founded in and is based in China). It is outstanding, and showcases many of China's regional cuisines. It is a lovely, upscale restaurant - and its downside is, it is priced like one. You can expect to spend $150-200 for a dinner for two, including moderate alcohol and tax/tip. So it's very good for a special occasion, maybe not if you're looking for something more moderately priced than that. http://chicago.peninsula.com/en/fine-...

For Chinese at a more moderate price in that neighborhood, I think the best you're going to do is Big Bowl. They have two locations: one on Cedar near the north end of the Mag Mile, the other on Ohio near the south end. www.bigbowl.com

Sep 20, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Carol Deptolla's 2014 Top 30 List (MKE)

Last month I ate at Bacchus, which is part of the Bartolotta group. I thought it was "thoroughly outstanding in every way", as I posted in my detailed report at www.chow.com/topics/985525

Of course, you won't see a negative review in a "Top 30" article! But not all of her reviews are 3.5-4.0 stars. She gives out a lot of 2.5 stars ("good to very good") and some 2.0 stars ("good"), often pointing out areas that need improvement. (For example, see her review of West Bend Tap at www.jsonline.com/entertainment/dining... ). There's certainly plenty of differentiation between those and the truly outstanding places like Bacchus. I also think it's great that she's giving attention to some excellent places that would otherwise not receive much, such as Pastiche Bistro.

Sep 20, 2014
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

Carol Deptolla's 2014 Top 30 List (MKE)

Interesting. I think turnover is a good thing when it reflects new places opening up that are even better than the ones being bumped off the list. But some of the restaurants being bumped off the list seem like they are still deserving (e.g. Crazy Water which I've been to, Wolf Peach which I haven't but has been praised here). Also it's rather sad to see Ratzsch's bumped from the list, given its historical place in MKE's culinary scene. But as Ms. Deptolla notes, she agonizes over those decisions, and I'm sure the newcomers are worthy as well.

Thanks for posting!

Sep 19, 2014
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

I've got an offal feeling.

Another excellent restaurant in the Logan Square neighborhood is Yusho, featuring Asian-influenced cuisine, and they too often have a fair amount of offal on the menu. I had dinner there last night and one of the items was a dish featuring beef tongue and veal hearts. This week they opened a second location on the South Side in Hyde Park, and I assume the same would apply there. They have a bar where you could sit also. (I was originally going to dine alone and Opentable let me make a reservation there for one person, which many restaurants don't permit - although some will do so over the phone even when Opentable doesn't.) www.yusho-chicago.com

Other restaurants which often feature offal are Publican and Blackbird; both are Paul Kahan restaurants in the West Loop. And also the Purple Pig, just off the Mag Mile.

Sep 19, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Yet another conventioneer...

Assuming you mean the San Francisco Bay area, anyone visiting from there is likely to find our Chinatown a disappointment (even though it is close to McCormick Place).

Sep 19, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Yet another conventioneer...

It's also possible to walk to Chinatown; it's just under a mile.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

chicago italian near downtown

Also, I think of Petterino's more as a steakhouse rather than as an Italian restaurant (although I realize it's a little of both, like the Rosebud restaurants).

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Yet another conventioneer...

For small plates, my two favorite restaurants are GT Fish & Oyster (mentioned above) and Sable. Sable is less expensive, and most of the dishes are available in half portions, so you can try a lot of things. Absolutely terrific food. And $25-30 of food at Sable is sufficient for dinner, so it's a real bargain. Other small plates places worth considering include Mercat a la Planxa for tapas (oh wait you did that - consider Café Iberico), or Quartino for Italian. Any of these should fit the bill for dinner (as well as for lunch), and fall within your $150 limit.

You're not going to get a full dinner with alcohol and tax/tip at Blackbird (or Boka, either) for anywhere near your $150 limit (it's typically over $200), so I agree with Gonzo - go to Blackbird for lunch if at all. I also strongly second his recommendation of Naha for lunch.

For oysters, go to Shaw's and chat with the folks at their oyster bar. www.shawscrabhouse.com

For Polish food, go to Podhalanka. It's right at the Division stop on the CTA Blue Line. If you need to avoid expensive cab rides, you'll want to get familiar with the CTA el (subway) and bus system. Staying at McCormick Place, which isn't really close to any el stops, doesn't help, so you'll want to pay attention to the rules regarding transfers (you definitely want to pay with a fare card, not cash, so you can get transfers for $.25). www.transitchicago.com

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

O'Hare-Rosemont - help?

Girl and the Goat and Little Goat Diner, which are across the street from each other, are not all that close to any el stops; the nearest ones (Morgan-Lake and Clinton-Green, both on the Green and Pink Lines) are about four blocks away, and those lines don't go to your Embassy Suites hotel, so you would need to transfer. Same thing for bus routes. For four of you over such a short distance, you would probably be better off just taking a cab.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

chicago italian near downtown

I don't think they're quite at the level of the others. Like their former LEY stablemate Maggiano's - not bad at all, just not as unusual or authentically Italian as the others. And, as I mentioned in my first post above, I wouldn't split hairs arguing over these rankings.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

O'Hare-Rosemont - help?

You might want to take a look at the sample menus on their websites, to get a better idea of the difference in food between the two. Also, Little Goat is more of a diner, whereas G&TG is a small plates bar/restaurant, lively/noisy, somewhat cramped seating, active bar area.

Both are around a mile and a half southwest of your downtown hotel, and about five blocks west of the French Market.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area