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October 20, 2009 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Restaurantfilter: Downtown Chicago, dinner recommendations for a couple of grad students with a foodie bent in town for a conference.

I've checked out these two previous threads on downtown Chicago restaurant recommendations.

We're in downtown proper and staying at the Sofitel at Wabash & Chestnut and the Wyndham at St. Claire & Erie. Looking for 'interesting' restaurants within a 20 minute walk tonight. Are there any places that are distinctly "Chicago-ian"/local or ignored by tourists/tourism-board?

Grad students, but willing to pony up (to maybe $60 or 70, maybe a bit more, but something around $30 per person sans drinks is more reasonable). We love food, doesn't matter what kind preferring 'good' over 'lots.'
posted by porpoise to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I recently ate at Blue 13 and I loved it. It was about $30/person with 1 beer for me, and dessert. I would imagine if you both have drinks, etc, it may come out to more like $40-45 per person, as we split an entree and a very large "appetizer" (the Lobster Pizza, which really is a meal in itself, but is $14, where most entrees are about $20-25)...

The place was great - a laid back atmosphere, rock music playing, tattoo art on the wall, etc... sort of a clash between cultures that I liked a lot...
posted by twiggy at 9:28 AM on October 20, 2009

I think Shikagois a very Chicago dining experience. Also, very delicious. Custom House is another Chicago favorite chef venture. Also very delicious. Closer to the Gold Coast, is Naha, another local favorite, Crofton on Wells, ditto, and Tizi Melloul
posted by crush-onastick at 9:29 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: Frontera Grill, at Clark & Illinois. Delicious, locally sourced food. It's a little bit of a walk from the Sofitel but is one stop on the El.
posted by bedhead at 9:31 AM on October 20, 2009

Zaiqa is a crazy good Pakistani dive about a 15 minute walk from the Sofitel. They're open all the time and you're likely to be the only person in the place who doesn't drive a taxi, but the food is delicious and cheap.
posted by foodgeek at 9:37 AM on October 20, 2009

Go to avec on Randolph. They don't take reservations and it's very popular, but it should be OK on a tuesday night, especially if you go slightly earlier or later than the main dinner rush. It's a small plates kind of place, and for $70 you can get 3 or 4 fantastic dishes that will be plenty for two. If you do go, get the dates and thank me later.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 9:39 AM on October 20, 2009

Seconding Frontera when we were there Rick Bayless was in the kitchen and we got a pic with him which is fun for foodies.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2009

Café des Architectes in the Sofitel gets very high marks, actually. The chef used to be at onesixtyblue. And Eve nearby is tasty.

Frontera is a good option, and I'd also recommend Publican. Both are likely to be somewhat difficult for reservations, but worth it.
posted by me3dia at 10:35 AM on October 20, 2009

Seconding avec, went this summer and it was very good.
posted by ghharr at 10:49 AM on October 20, 2009

Thirding avec. It's quite possibly my favorite place in Chicago (and I've been to Alinea).
posted by betty botter at 11:21 AM on October 20, 2009

Quartino on State and Ontario would be a short walk for you. Even though it is close to Michigan Avenue I find the tourists don't wander over all that much. They're usually preoccupied with all the Chicago-style pizza places in the vicinity. The food is mostly small plates, so you would get to try a lot of different things, but Italian rather than the more traditional Spanish tapas. I've always found the food to be tasty and interesting, the drinks strong, and the servers very attentive and fun.
posted by frolic at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2009

Whatevering Avec + Frontera.
posted by thedanimal at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2009

Anyone who calls themselves a foodie will love love love Avec. Go there, you won't regret it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2009

n-ing Frontera or Quartino. Frontera would be my first choice. Great experience, lots of locally sourced produce, and excellent, knowledgeable waitstaff.
posted by webhund at 4:11 PM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

We decided on Frontera and I got super excited when I read the menu next to the door (Mexican Raw Bar?* Hells yeah!). Got there around 8pm, but the wait for two would have been after 10p =(

Ended up wandering around and going to the Rockit Bar and Grill which ended up being heinously good for the price.

*damn, but I need to find a Mexican Raw Bar now, but not going to find it in Vancouver =(
posted by porpoise at 6:32 AM on October 21, 2009

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