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  1. So glad (and so unsurprised) that you dug Nightwood, darkstar! I used to post a bit when we lived in Baltimore, 2007-2009. But I've kept the notification for this thread active, and can't help but jump in every now and again :-)
  2. Don't do The Little Goat. It's fine, but this is not destination food (though it's priced like destination food). There are a bunch of more worthwhile places even within a four block radius of there (a few of which you named already). DO go to Nightwood. Universally beloved by everybody whose opinion I trust on Chicago food, and one of the best meals I've had in years when I was there a few months ago. Absolutely stellar, and fits the bill perfectly. Re: Mexican, I don't for a second mean to knock Bayless... he's a true ambassador, and every experience I've had at his places have been good to great. But if your crowd is at all the type, consider grabbing a Zipcar or something and doing a tour of hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints. Birria tatemada at Birrieria Zaragoza, carne en su jugo at Los Gallos #2 (not #1), tacos of any kind at La Chaparrita, carnitas at Carnitas Uruapan, cemitas and tacos arabes at Cemitas Puebla, moles at Sol de Mexico -- it's always a tough sell because people who come to Chicago want to eat at a Bayless restaurant. But I'm of the opinion that it's more meaningful (not to mention harder to find elsewhere) to do a crawl eating the kinds of foods that Bayless is drawing from. Seriously, there may not be another city in the entire world outside of Mexico as good as Chicago for downscale Mex. And I say that with all seriousness. Sun Wah is awesome... don't mean for a moment to suggest otherwise. But if I recall, DC isn't exactly hurting for Cantonese. Consider Lao Hunan in Chinatown instead. It's one of Tony Hu's places, and it's actual Hunan -- the real deal. A much rarer bird than Cantonese BBQ.
  3. Also consider Lao Hunan. It's a new place owned by the same fellow who runs Lao Sze Chuan. It opened a few months back, I had a pretty fabulous meal there, and everybody else I know who's been there is raving about it. Great stuff from a region that isn't often well-represented here. Here's a good thread with lots of specific recs: http://www.lthforum....hp?f=14&t=32686
  4. Schwa isn't really MG, though I love it. Moto isn't remotely in the same league as Alinea, IMHO. Do the latter if at all possible.
  5. I'd steer you away from Moto. It's always lumped in with Alinea because they're both MG, but I think they're night and day in terms of quality. Achatz does things with careful thought and purpose. Cantu, swell fellow though he is, likes to throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks. I believe until the end of the July, Alinea still runs two menus... the full 24 course tour that's $225 and an abbreviated version that significantly less (though I don't remember how much less). It's something like 12-14 courses, and some have suggested that they even prefer it to the 24 because some of the weaker courses tend to be edited out. I'm in the camp that says if you're going to do Alinea, jump in with both feet. But if it's the shortened menu or nothing, I'd consider it. But they're phasing the shorter menu out soon. Like I say, maybe the end of July? You'd have to check. Avec is great, but though a sister restaurant, it's not at all like Blackbird. It's very hearty, Mediterranean-influenced stuff done with unusual precision. Very loud, very boisterous, very loud. But not highly refined, which is what I get the impression you're seeking based on the references to Alinea and Blackbird. I had a mighty fine dinner at L2O... fish-focused fine dining by Laurent Gras, French techniques, Japanese ingredients. They have menus at $110 and $165 in addition to the big kahuna($245). And they're open Sunday. There are others, of course... on the run... let me think a bit and post later.
  6. Conventional wisdom, which it seems still holds true, is that the Pasadita on the east side of the street is the one to hit. It's tiny, it's a hole in the wall, there's just a small counter, but they make a pretty mean carne asada. A better place to go at the same intersection, however, is Tierra Caliente, just a block north of Division on the west side of the street. It's a carniceria with a small taqueria in back that does a killer al pastor, as well as some other outstanding tacos. I've never been to the Division Jerry's, but I'm an enormous fan of the old location down in the west loop. Old favorites include the Marky B (skirt steak, onions, bleu cheese), Gerry F (blackened chicken, portobello, bacon, southwest mayo), Miles S (turkey, cranberry sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil), Uriah H (roast salmon, avocado, cheddar, chipotle chutney) and anything with the fried eggplant when they have it. The specials usually are, but everything is uncommonly good. Mindy and Mark run a catering business and opened the sandwich shop as a side project (which quickly eclipsed the catering business, I believe), and that they offer such an absurd variety of things that are so carefully made is impressive. I don't want to oversell it. It's a sandwich shop. But it's an unusually great one.
  7. Was just there a few weeks ago and loved it. Full post here: http://www.skilletdoux.com/2009/11/l2o.html That said, I'd steer you to Alinea before L2O, simply because of how incredibly unique it is.
  8. Hey, Jon, since you seem to be the authority on which restaurants are okay for certain people to visit and which aren't, I don't have a Beemer, but I do drive a '95 SUV, and while I don't live in Harbor East, I do live in Little Italy which is only two blocks away, so I'm a little unclear on whether or not I make the cutoff. Am I allowed to eat at Sue Island? Please advise. I don't want to violate the demographics and crowd level you've deemed appropriate for the place. And I'll tell everybody else to check with you first to make sure it's okay.
  9. I'm sorry to hear that Cemitas Puebla didn't do it for you. Their cemita milanesa is one of the best sandwiches I've had of any kind anywhere, especially when the papalo is in season. Beautifully constructed, made with incredible care and attention to detail, explosive flavors and textures. But I've heard reports that they've been a little inconsistent in the wake of DD&D. Yet another reason to detest Poochie -- er -- Guy Fieri, I suppose.
  10. Oh... one addendum in case you get to TAC... there's currently a special dish there that Tony (the prorpietor) is making with a curry mix that Erik blended up, and it's supposed to be a very interesting southern Thai treat. The Roti Kaeng Karii Neau is a Muslim-style beef curry with sweet potatoes, I believe, and it won't be around for long. Erik only made so much curry :-)
  11. Slim pickings in that area. You're kind of straddling the line between Wrigleyville and Lincoln Park there, which means there are a ton of restaurants nearby, but most of them completely forgettable if not terrible. There are some gems nearby, though, even if they aren't in the immediate area. But presuming you're looking for stuff that isn't too far away, here are some of my favorites: First off, one of my absolute musts for the city is close by. TAC Quick is about a mile from that intersection, and it's one of the best Thai places in the city. I made a mention of it upthread with a number of dish recommendations. Do not, under any circumstances, miss it, and be sure to ask for "Erik's Menu", which is Erik M's translation of the Thai specialties, rather than the typical Americanized Thai items. If you're loving that and want to try another great nearby option while you have the chance, Aroy Thai, a few doors to the north, is also pretty awesome. I believe Erik did a translation for them, but I'm not sure if they make it available or not. If you're interested, drop me a line or post to the thread and I'll look up what I have for them. But TAC first. One place I haven't been but about which I've heard remarkable things is Terragusto for Italian. Apparently they have a lot of weird rules, are kinda pricey and will lecture you like you're a child, but the food makes it worthwhile. Similarly, I hear very good things about Tango Sur, though I can't speak from experience. A couple of miles west is Hot Doug's Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium, also mentioned upthread. Standard menu is good, but the weekly specials are where it's at. The man is also a foodie folk hero for basically giving the finger to the Chicago City Council during the whole foie gras debacle. (He fought the law and the law won, but he made his point and probably played a part in getting the ban overturned). Not that you're looking for cheesesteakes in Chicago, I imagine, but you have a really good one right there at Philly's Best on Belmont. Spacca Napoli, home to exceptional uber-traditional Neapolitan pizza, is about a mile and a half up Ashland. One of my favorite spots in the city, hands down. Weiner Circle makes some pretty fine Chicago-style dogs, and late on drinking nights, they're home to a tradition so weird and creepy, it was heavily featured on an episode of This American Life. The ladies working the counter are all African American, in the middle of a white bread neighborhood where the frat boys come to get a dog after getting hammered. At some point, they start insulting each other. For many, it's the only reason they go. And the later it gets, the nastier and more racially charged it gets. In theory, it's all a big schtick. But even though, on the surface, everybody is "just joking", not everybody really is. And that's what makes it creepy. And controversial. Good dogs, though, and great cheese fries if you're into the Merkt's cheddar kind. Total grease bomb. Best suggestions off the top of my head.
  12. Or, far more accessible from Rosemont, of the same genre and arguably as good as Lem's, hit Honey 1 for the same... plus links :-) (Don't misunderstand, Halloween -- Lem's is a great suggestion and I'm not trying to undercut it. Just trying to provide an alternative Chicago-style BBQ joint of comparable quality that Scott is more likely to get to, given his location.)
  13. True, but none of the above are anything you couldn't get anywhere else, Tramonto's included (though I base the latter on heresay).
  14. Rosemont's a tough area for dinners out. There are plenty of options, but they tend to be of the run-of-the-mill expense account variety. Perfectly good, but nothing exciting. If you don't want to truck into the city, I have one really good recommendation a short drive away. Smak-Tak is potentially the best Polish restaurant in the city, and given that Chicago's Polish populaton is second only to Warsaw, that's saying something. It's a cozy, casual little place run by friendly folks. Everything is massive and delicious. As I said earlier, it's the kind of place that makes you rethink using "meat and potatoes" as a pejorative. Outstanding pierogi, smoky hunter's stew, fabulous soups, killer liver and onions when they have it (a special)... my favorite is probably the Hungarian style pancake. Thick, crisp potato pancake folded over and stuffed with a spicy, rich goulash and topped with cream. The menu undersells the place, and their photography doesn't help (their pictures are rather sterile... the food is most certainly not). It may not look like much, but trust me, it's shockingly good. It's awfully casual for occasion dining, but I can't imagine a better Chicago thing than some great homey Polish on a cold winter's night. Oh, and BTW, it occurs to me that Johnnie's is also a short drive from where you'll be. That's the benchmark for the most traditional style of Italian Beef in Chicago. Again, no seating -- just a very crowded counter and picnic tables outside. But this is my singlemost highly recommended of Chicago's downscale foods. Be sure to get it hot and dipped if you go.
  15. Well, you have a few great options right nearby. They're not exactly in the heart of things, though at least one is technically within the city limits. First up, you have Superdawg. This is very close to Rosemont and it's a ton of fun, if somewhat controversial among Chicago hot dog junkies. It's one of the oldest stands in the city, but it's somewhat non-canonical. Though they use pickled green tomato rather than fresh tomato, the main point of contention is that it's a skinless dog, which is borderline offensive to some hardcore purists (even if Superdawg has been around a few decades longer than other stalwarts of the canonical dog). All of the other elements are in place. Strictly canonical or not, though, it's a great dog and the place is a trip. The website will illustrate it far better than I could. Another stalwart that isn't too far away is Gene & Jude's, which is in river grove. Gene & Jude's is also something of a lightning rod of controversy, as it's one of the most favored spots of the "minimal" Chicago-style dog enthusiasts. The whole "garden on a bun" thing is actually a rather recent invention, which seems to have standardized sometime in the mid-'70s. But many feel that this was as much a creation of Vienna marketing -- wanting to sell more condiments -- as it was a natural evolution. Most of the really old school hot dog stands, and really just about all of those that have been around since the '50s, dress their dogs solely with onion, mustard, possibly relish and the optional sport peppers. This is what Gene & Jude's does, and they're one of the best at it. Their dog is a natural casing Vienna beef frank. Incidentally, there's noplace to sit at Gene & Jude's if that's important... unless you count the hood of your car. But there are counters for standing. If you want the new standard (which, at the risk of getting uber-nerdy about it, I usually call the Vienna/Royko standard), which is the whole natural casing Vienna beef, poppyseed bun, mustard, onion, neon green relish, tomato slices, pickle spear and optional celery salt and sport peppers (even if only a small percentage of Chicago dog stands actually serve it this way), frankly (no pun intended) one of the best and easiest options is to hit one of the Portillo's locations, which are strewn all over the city and suburbs. It's a chain (if a local one), and they lack the charm of some of the hole in the wall joints, but they make a great dog and many a hardcore Chicago food nerd will defend them despite their ubiquity. Alternatively, a solid rendition can be had at Hot Doug's, which you may have heard of. Hot Doug's has the benefit of also being a great stop for his specialty sausages (check the weekly specials on the website), they have duck fat fries on Fridays and Saturdays, and Doug is just an awesome guy. Another upside is that it's just off the Kennedy (interstate 90/94), so it'll be an easy stop coming in from Rosemont. Downside is you'll wait. Outside. In the cold. There are a lot of other favorites strewn about the city. Here's a good thread at LTH on the subject: Chicago Hot Dogs for Tourists Oh, and incidentally, if you're only going to get one of Chicago's holy trinity of downscale food (dog/pizza/beef), I say skip the dog and get an Italian Beef... I think there's a bit upthread on this already, but I'm always happy to revisit that subject :-)
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