Walrus

Chicago, IL

384 posts in this topic

We'll be in Chi-town for one, and only one, nice dinner in September -- so where should it be? It's been years since I lived there...are Everest and Charlie Trotter's still the creme de la creme? Or has Tru taken their place? How's Aubriot faring these days? We haven't been to Topolobampo yet -- is it worth making it our one nice meal?

I think that Ray's is better than any steakhouse I ever visited when I lived there, and I'm not really looking for a "different" restaurant like the Green Zebra, etc.

We'll be doing "regular" restaurants (read: my old haunts) with friends -- I'm looking for a special place for just the two of us smile.gif

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I was just out last month and had meals at Trotter's and Topolobampo. Both were excellent, but if I was going back I would go to Topolobampo.

Trotter's was nearly flawless, but so are several places here that you could go to that would match or surpass it.

Topolobampo was soemthing more unique. I was afraid that it was yet another of those places where the chef and the restaurant's reputation exceeded reality. Not the case at all. This is still a vibrant, fun restaurant. We did the tasting menu and every course was better than the next. Exciting flavors, without a touch of overbearing heat.

And the margaritas are now my litmus test for those drinks in the future. But be careful - they go down smooth and quick.

Here are links to my comments "elsewhere":

Topolobampo

Charlie Trotter's

Edited by bilrus

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I haven't been to Trotter's since 2000, but from what I hear, it has been coasting for the past several years.

And from what I've heard, Alinea is firing on all cylinders right now.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I haven't been to Trotter's since 2000, but from what I hear, it has been coasting for the past several years.

That's what I've heard too, although I've also heard that it is maybe more reliable than some fo the other high-end Chicago places, if not as potentially spectacular.

In the link that I posted (I don't know know if you need to register to read it or not), I compared my meal there to my first meal I had at the Inn at Little Washington, one of my first really high-end meals. Nice, very professional, but unstuffy service. Technically correct cooking, ranging from excellent to merely good. But I'm not sure it would wear as well on a second or third visit, just like my second dinner at the Inn. It was still the same, but you go back wanting more.

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I'm not really looking for a "different" restaurant like the Green Zebra, etc.

I really enjoyed a meal I had at Spring last time I was there. It's owned by the Green Zebra people, but don't rule it out because of that-- it's not really anything 'different'.

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I ate at Trotters last year and while everything was beautifully presented, excellent service, etc. it was kind of a sterile meal...after the last course I was left with a "that's it" feeling...although then they served the dessert course which were numerous and delicious.

But for the bucks you'll spend at Trotters I think the Lab or Maestro are equal if not better, or I'd rather go with the tasting menu at Komi...maybe I've been spoiled by too many over the top food board related blow out events in DC!

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We'll be in Chi-town for one, and only one, nice dinner in September -- so where should it be? It's been years since I lived there...are Everest and Charlie Trotter's still the creme de la creme? Or has Tru taken their place? How's Aubriot faring these days? We haven't been to Topolobampo yet -- is it worth making it our one nice meal?

I have tried Tru 1 1/2 years ago and until this day I think it is the best tasting menu I have experienced (Citronelle, Maestro, Le Bec Fin, Morimoto, La Mer, Clio, etc...) (I am secretly hoping that dinner at Per Se next week will top it!!).

The service was immaculate. My hubby was alittle "warm" after couple glasses of wine and tried to take his coat off. Instead of saying that he must have his coat ON, the waiter whispered to him that the temperature of the restaurant was high and that he will immediately adjust it so that it is cooler (btw, it was not warm...I had my shawl WRAPPED around me). Details such as: small tables next to the chairs for purses, versace tea cups to serve the chilled soup, the decor, pastry to eat with coffee the next morning made it a first class experience.

The food...we had the Grand Tasting...total of 10-13 courses (maybe more). Each of us had a different plate for each of the courses...meaning about 40 unique creations to oooo and ahhhh about! The cheese cart still makes my stomach grumble...

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Thanks for the info!

I've made reservations at Tru for our fancy dinner and gone ahead and made reservations at Topolobampo, too -- couldn't resist! :P

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I would recommend Avenues at the Peninsula off of Michigan Avenue. Trotters and Topolobampo are good, but there are fresher places to go that are equally good, if not better. I think Avenues is one of more under-rated places in Chicago.

As a caveat, I just moved from Chicago last summer.

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Ok, schedule is as such:

Thursday, arrive, spend day with Grandmama, dinner at Alinea; Friday, day in Chicago, lunch at Topolobampo, dinner at TRU, drinks with friends...somewhere...hmmm...; Saturday, G-ma's 88th! Hooray! Lunch at Emilio's in Wheaton, plane to Minnesota and more family events :P

Thanks for your help!!!

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Sounds like a great agenda!

Don't forget Hot Dougs (www.hotdougs.com) or Mr. Beef for a lunch spot! BTW Aubriot has been closed for a few years now...

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Sister & Brother-in-Law are heading to Chicago this weekend for a quick getaway from parenthood. They're looking for a nice place to eat that 1) won't break the bank, and 2) doesn't require a "nice" outfit!

Any suggestions of "hidden gem" type neighborhood places? Preferably near downtown or Wrigley Field. Thanks!

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A friend has asked me about what I know of Alinea. I know nothing of it and looking on eGullet I saw a lot of pages that at the moment I don't have the time to invest reading. Would someone be kind enough to summarize the "need to know" about Alinea for me in 3-4 sentences and I can pass that along? I trust you all dearly! :P

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A friend has asked me about what I know of Alinea.  I know nothing of it and looking on eGullet I saw a lot of pages that at the moment I don't have the time to invest reading.  Would someone be kind enough to summarize the "need to know" about Alinea for me in 3-4 sentences and I can pass that along?  I trust you all dearly!   :P

I haven't been, but here's what I've gathered:

Despite the crazy hype they built up on eG, the off-the wall preparations and servings and their self important proclamations, the first reports were mostly raves accompanied by extensive photos, as would be expected from people who had been clamoring to get in for months. But the reports continue to be excellent, a bit to my surprise. In fact just this week they recieved four stars from the Chicago Tribune.

General info - pick from 8-, 12- and 24-course tastings, priced at $75, $110 and $175. Courses that, to my eye at least, read anywhere from very appealing to bizzare. They have already completely changed out every course on the full tasting menu. Very modern, almost austere rooms. Excellent, polished service.

A few more than four sentences, but a lot quicker read than the hundreds of posts on eG.

Edited by bilrus

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I haven't been, but here's what I've gathered:

Despite the crazy hype they built up on eG, the off-the wall preparations and servings and their self important proclamations, the first reports were mostly raves accompanied by extensive photos, as would be expected from people who had been clamoring to get in for months.  But the reports continue to be excellent, a bit to my surprise.  In fact just this week they recieved four stars from the Chicago Tribune

General info - pick from 8-, 12- and 24-course tastings, priced at $75, $110 and $175.  Courses that, to my eye at least, read anywhere from very appealing to bizzare.  They have already completely changed out every course on the full tasting menu.  Very modern, almost austere rooms.  Excellent, polished service.

A few more than four sentences, but a lot quicker read than the hundreds of posts on eG.

Just what I needed. Thanks, Bill.

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Sister & Brother-in-Law are heading to Chicago this weekend for a quick getaway from parenthood.  They're looking for a nice place to eat that 1) won't break the bank, and 2) doesn't require a "nice" outfit!

Any suggestions of "hidden gem" type neighborhood places?  Preferably near downtown or Wrigley Field.  Thanks!

most of wrigleyville is pretty much dominated by sports bars, and if the cubs are in town, expect to wait a while.

wish i had something better to add, but the wife's family all live in arlington heights (past o'hare), and, shall i say, don't have an adventurous palate (for that matter, they don't even have a mildly entertaining palate either). as such, the extent of my restaurant adventures in chicago have been limited to lou malnati's and portillo's sausage (course, i love lou's and portillo's).

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portillo's sausage (course, i love lou's and portillo's).

Of the food from Chicago, I miss Portillo's the most. It boggles the mind that when you ask for a hot dog out here with "everything," that means mustard AND sauerkraut. Let's not even talk of the Italian Beefs and proper Polish Sausages. The good thing is, though, that you can order Portillo's online and they will send you a frozen party pack or whatever it's called.

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Of all the many kinds of "beef" sandwiches I have ever had (i.e. cheesesteak, beef on weck, roast beef po'boy) the Italian beef at Johnny's in Elmwood Park would be my first choice. Many, many years ago in the early '80's there was a place a couple of doors down on North Avenue called Al Gelato that had fantastic gelato. This is the "early" Al Gelato before it was sold in the late '80's or so and their recipes were changed. That was the best ice cream/gelato that I ever had in a store anywhere. I heard of it because of a cover story about them in Chicago magazine. Both Johnny's and Al Gelato became something of a biannual tradition for me in my business travel for a number of years.

Sooner or later somebody here will realize that Italian beef, when done properly, is a great sandwich that people will buy. And hot gardiniera is still my favorite of all hot peppers, especially from Tenuta's from Kenosha, WI. I literally order bottles of this by the case from them.

http://www.tenutasdeli.com/Peppers___Musta...__mustards.html

Last, Uno's pizza tastes much better in Chicago at either Uno's or Due's than it does anywhere else. I really think a fair analogy is like the original Ledo's vs. all of their other locations.

And then, of course, there is caramel popcorn from Garrett's near Marshall Field's.

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Thanks, guys! A friend of mine in Chicago put them onto a place called Thyme which might just fit the bill. The website looks like a place I wouldn't mind hitting a time or two.

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Now that we've got our dinners set, we're looking for a place where three families can meet for breakfast on Saturday morning...it has to be breakfast, rather than brunch, because we have my grandmother's birthday lunch that day...any ideas?

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Now that we've got our dinners set, we're looking for a place where three families can meet for breakfast on Saturday morning...it has to be breakfast, rather than brunch, because we have my grandmother's birthday lunch that day...any ideas?

"Toast" in Lincoln Park near DePaul.

(773) 935-5600

746 W Webster Ave

Chicago, IL 60614

Haven't been since I moved away (duh), but it's very very kid-friendly and a pretty funky take on breakfast. Gets crowded quick though. I would do it earlier rather than later.

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I'll second Toast. I've been there a couple times and really enjoyed it. Also, two places in Wrigleyville, Orange (3231 N Clark St) and Southport Grocery (3552 N Southport) are very good. Thought Ann Sather's (a local chain which alot of people recommend) was disappointing. Chicago's a great brunch town, though.

"Toast" in Lincoln Park near DePaul.

(773) 935-5600

746 W Webster Ave

Chicago, IL 60614

Haven't been since I moved away (duh), but it's very very kid-friendly and a pretty funky take on breakfast. Gets crowded quick though. I would do it earlier rather than later.

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Okay... we're going to Chicago for Thanksgiving. But this is not a Thanksgiving dinner question. This is a where-can-we-still-get-a-reservation-the-Saturday-after-Thanksgiving-for-fancy-romantic-dinner question.

Alinea is out, they have no space, more's the pity. I'm not sure about Charlie Trotter but I suspect they're out too. Topolobampo? Any place y'all are aware of that doesn't take reservations, and therefore gives us just as good a chance to get in as anybody else?

Any type cuisine is fine, although I'm not cuckoo for sushi.

My parents spoke highly of Spiaggia -- anybody been?

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For one dinner, one blowout Best of Chicago dinner, I would take Tru over Trotter.  Reservations are extremely difficult but try.  It is a GREAT restaurant and worth the effort.

I could not agree more. I have found Trotter's to feel tired, and the food to be reaching for something that it never achieves. On the other hand, I consider my one meal at Tru to be one of the best I have ever had.

Another restaurant that I believe to be one of the best in the Midwest is Everest. It is that very rare combination of great food and view to match.

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Okay... we're going to Chicago for Thanksgiving. But this is not a Thanksgiving dinner question. This is a where-can-we-still-get-a-reservation-the-Saturday-after-Thanksgiving-for-fancy-romantic-dinner question.

Alinea is out, they have no space, more's the pity. I'm not sure about Charlie Trotter but I suspect they're out too. Topolobampo? Any place y'all are aware of that doesn't take reservations, and therefore gives us just as good a chance to get in as anybody else?

Any type cuisine is fine, although I'm not cuckoo for sushi.

My parents spoke highly of Spiaggia -- anybody been?

Not cuckoo for sushi, huh? Is it the fish or is it the presentation?

Truthfully, I'm a fan of Chilpancingo. Reservations would be needed but it's not as hot a ticket as Bayless's joints.

Hmmmm. Maybe Kotobuki could........never mind. :lol:

Edited by CrescentFresh

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I nabbed a 6:30 at Moto on OpenTable just to make sure we're not completely pantsless if nothing else comes through. Please carry on recommending.

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We had a fabulous meal at Tru -- even given the strong recommendations we had received for it, we were surprised at how lovely it all was :lol:

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I suggest that you look into 2 places: Zinfandel (located in River North, near Topolobampo) and Meritage Cafe & Wine Bar (Bucktown).

http://www.fabuloustravel.com/gourmet/travel/zin/zin.html

Snippets from the above site:

Zinfandel's menu offers a flavorful marriage of culinary styles from across the United States. So diverse are the foods, Susan enjoys preparing a changing monthly menu of specials in addition to the regular fare. Each month focuses on a different region and the styles of cooking native to that area.

Regular fare offered year-round at Zinfandel includes starters like Dungeness Crab Springrolls with Sesame Cabbage Slaw and Tamarind Honey Sauce, a Southwestern Quesadilla of Wood-Grilled Vegetables with Sundried Tomato and Olive Salsa, Modern Midwestern Bierkase with a Goat Cheese Cheddar Spread made with homemade Worcestershire and salads such as the famous Zinfandel 'Wilted' Salad with Organic Field Greens, Wood-Grilled Onions, Toasted Pecans. Perennial main courses include Pan-Seared Diver Sea Scallops with Mushroom-Leek Risotto and Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette, Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon with SautŽed Spinach, Shiitakes and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Sauce, Wood-Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Herbed Rice Pilaf.

Every occasion at Zinfandel begins with fragrant buttery cornbread served piping hot with wonderful buckwheat honey butter, dumped into a basket at the table from a cast iron skillet. This treat was as good as any cornbread I've ever encountered in the South.

The all-American wine list is one of the best in Chicago. Drew Goss puts much care into choosing the wines that will compliment the delightful recipes at Zinfandel. This attention to detail has earned the restaurant both a Wine Spectator Excellence Award since 1994 and a Wine Enthusiast Award.

Meritage: http://www.meritagecafe.com/home.html

Great restaurant with an impressive wine list (as you might have guessed). The have an outdoor heated tent-like seating area that is neat, in addition to very good food. And, you can book reservations on OpenTable I think.

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I suggest that you look into 2 places:  Zinfandel (located in River North, near Topolobampo) and Meritage Cafe & Wine Bar (Bucktown). 

Zinfandel, I believe, closed years ago. Shame, too. I had a couple of very memorable meals there.

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Zinfandel, I believe, closed years ago.  Shame, too.  I had a couple of very memorable meals there.

Bummer! It's been a few years since I've been to Chicago (obviously)...

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I could not agree more.  I have found Trotter's to feel tired, and the food to be reaching for something that it never achieves. 

After eating at Trotter's last year and having had tasting menu dinners here in DC, I'd have to agree that Trotter's is not worth the money...at Trotter's price point I'd rather eat at Maestro...well below Trotter's price point I'd rather spend my money on tasting menus at Komi or Eve or Corduroy. They may not be the "temples of cuisine" that Trotter's strives to be, but you'll have a much better meal!

Edited by Tweaked

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Woo-HOO!

After a few weeks of calling Alinea every few days and getting a tip from the nice gentleman on the reservations line that today might be a good day to call -- they call to confirm Saturday reservations on Tuesdays, and sometimes people drop out -- I have secured a table for two. We can't do the tour, since it's four hours long and the table is booked later that evening (shades of Ray's!), but that's actually good, as it will help us exercise some restraint about the whole business.

I am SO excited!

Moto sounded interesting but more like Minibar, which we've done -- Alinea is a whole different level of appealing, in my book.

Will report back next week.

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I enjoyed that, particularly this bit:

I hadn't formed a conclusion about Alinea but I will say that Gray provided something, in contrast, that was missing at Alinea. I'm not sure what is was exactly, maybe a combination of time, the privacy accorded by food that doesn't require a chaperone, by food that requests an audience of several minutes from you

That is perfectly why Alinea holds no appeal for me. Or Minibar for that matter.

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Someone should invent special diapers so that freaks can just pee in their pants around course 17 .

De-gusto-pends.

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I dunno...

Last night I was eating a hunk of 3 year old provolone and drinking a 1985 Ridge cabernet and was about as hapy, food wise, as I have ever been in my mouth. No particle accelerators necessary. Just hand made products and time.

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That is perfectly why Alinea holds no appeal for me. Or Minibar for that matter.

The food at both is incredible. Powerful flavor, inventive combinations, beautifully arranged. But I would go back to minibar, and I wouldn't go back to Alinea. Because that formality, that distance, is really jarring.

At minibar, since you're right there with the chefs, their enthusiasm is contagious. The feeling is more, "Hey, look what we made! Try it! Do you like it? Isn't it awesome?"

Whereas at Alinea, it's more, "Here is a combination of ingredients that Chef has put together for you, I will list where they came from because the terms are unfamiliar to you, and here's how we've controlled the experience to enhance it." Now, the pheasant breast served on the end of a branch of smoking oak leaves may have been the most delicious bite I put in my mouth this year. Especially with the matched wine. But it wasn't fun. Foie gras wrapped in cotton candy on a toothpick, THAT was fun. That entire meal made me giggle.

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So...

If I have like one or two places to go, knowing my taste for Palena and less so for molecules, where do I go? Also, I know about steak places, so I mean beyond those.

And what's with this Pop? Champagne bar? Curious.

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So...

If I have like one or two places to go, knowing my taste for Palena and less so for molecules, where do I go? Also, I know about steak places, so I mean beyond those.

And what's with this Pop?  Champagne bar? Curious.

I just relocated to the Midwest from DC last fall. Palena was one of my favorite places there.

I'd suggest North Pond in Chicago's Lincoln Park. My wife and I had a fabulous dinner there last New Year's. Stellar wine list as well. Shawn McClain's Spring and Green Zebra would be worth considering as well.

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So...

If I have like one or two places to go, knowing my taste for Palena and less so for molecules, where do I go? Also, I know about steak places, so I mean beyond those.

And what's with this Pop?  Champagne bar? Curious.

Check out Blackbird. Don't be thrown off by the hyper-modern interior, this is just great food. I hear good things about Avec too, which is their sister restaurant next door of small plates.

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I just relocated to the Midwest from DC last fall. Palena was one of my favorite places there.

I'd suggest North Pond in Chicago's Lincoln Park. My wife and I had a fabulous dinner there last New Year's. Stellar wine list as well. Shawn McClain's Spring and Green Zebra would be worth considering as well.

I will second Spring. I had a very good meal there when I was in Chicago a few months ago.

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I have decided to take a quick trip to chicago the weekend of 2/10-12 to see an exhibit at the Field Museum of Natural History. Any recommendations on where to stay near there? Restaurants? I'd prefer something within cab distance.

Edited by Heather

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I have decided to take a quick trip to chicago the weekend of 2/10-12 to see an exhibit at the Field Museum of Natural History.  Any recommendations on where to stay near there?  Restaurants?  I'd prefer something within cab distance.

well, the chicago hilton is relatively close. :lol: there are also a handful of kimpton's in chicago, but i am unsure if they are south of the river or not. and, there's also the mccormick place marriott, which is probably the closest to the field museum.

in addition to all the wonderful places listed above, should you just want a lunch or dinner of comfort food, go to lou malnati's for chicago-style pizza.

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there's also the mccormick place marriott, which is probably the closest to the field museum.

in addition to all the wonderful places listed above, should you just want a lunch or dinner of comfort food, go to lou malnati's for chicago-style pizza.

Althought the McCormick place marriott probably is the closest to the field museum, it's near nothing else (other than [drum roll please] McCormick Place (the convention center)). I wouldn't stay there. While downtown chicago (certainly the loop) is dead on weekends, I would rather be there than McCormick Place--at least you could walk to river north or magnificent mile from the loop. Also, remember, cab fares are calculated more sensibly in Chicago than in DC (read here: no obscure zone system devised as a way to rip people off). Cab fare isn't too much, and, it's easy to take a bus from MI Ave. down to the field museum.

I know it doesn't get much love these days, but I used to love Topolobampo (the fine dining portion of frontera grill of Rick Bayless fame). I haven't been in years, and I think some of the lack of love is a reflection of Bayless's decision to hawk BK, as well as many other young chefs opening restaurants of a similar style. I'm not sure (??) it's because the food quality has deteriorated. I think Frontera is fine but unremarkable--Topolobampo I love.

Finally, I have to admit, I hate Chicago style pizza (lou malnatis or otherwise). I know lots love it, but at least check it out (does Lou Malnati's have a web site?) before you spend money on it.

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Thanks for the tips. I've been informed on another board that I'm being taken for Mexican for lunch, but Topolobampo is on my list for dinner.

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Finally, I have to admit, I hate Chicago style pizza (lou malnatis or otherwise).  I know lots love it, but at least check it out (does Lou Malnati's have a web site?) before you spend money on it.

i bet you like that thin and crappy new york style, huh? chicago-style is the way to go. oh, don't bother with either pizzeria uno or pizzeria due.

here's the link to lou's, they also run the taste of chicago service, where you can order a lou's pizza, eli's cheesecake, carson's ribs and everything you need to make a chicago-style hot dog, but i think the portillo's italian beef set is a separate purchase.

my wife is from chicago, so we had our wedding in chicago, and we all stayed at the mccormick place. and yes, i agree that other than mccormick place, it's not near anything else, except soldier field and the field museum, but that's because they aren't near anything else either.

if you get a chance, i hear they are now doing "devil in the white city" tours, if don't feel like going to the art institute.

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