road food near Chicago
May 29, 2016 6:33 PM   Subscribe

You're driving from Michigan to Wisconsin, taking I-94 to I-90. You'll inevitably have to drive around Chicago, and want to stop for lunch or dinner somewhere in there. Where do you go? Difficulty level: no cheese-centric cuisine.

Assume little to no knowledge of Chicago geography, and a car full of camping gear.
posted by yarntheory to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Portillos Italian beef sandwich. May be a touch messy. Worth it.
posted by Kalmya at 6:36 PM on May 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Note: that is just yummy fast food. More details may help with other options (of which there are so many).
posted by Kalmya at 6:48 PM on May 29, 2016

Bonus points for tasty vegetables, weird animal parts (tripe, tongue, whole fish, etc.), rapid refill of water glasses, & easy parking.
posted by yarntheory at 7:00 PM on May 29, 2016

Clarification -- the 94/90 corridor doesn't take you around Chicago. It takes you right through the cotton-pickin' middle of the city, from the southside through the downtown area to the western 'burbs and the airport. And in the Chicago metro, you can't hardly throw a rock without hitting a dang fine place to eat. From humble hot dog and Italian beef joints (gawd, how I miss 'em), to every ethnic variety you can think of, to world-class fine dining, you have so many choices that it's truly tough to make a single recommendation.

After all, we're talking about a population of nearly 10 million people in the metro. I'll bet there are probably 10,000 places to eat.

In general, mid-western friendliness and service standards will get your water glasses refilled rapidly nearly anywhere. For easy parking, stay away from downtown. I've been away for a decade, so I can't speak to current hot spots and will let a current Chicagoan or two chime in for that. But you may need to narrow it down just a wee bit more ...
posted by peakcomm at 7:28 PM on May 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I think we can better direct you if we know you're taking 90/94 or if you're on the 294 bypass, which is what most Chicagoans use to get north quickly.

If you're on 294, seconding a hot+sweet beef @ Portillo's on the Dempster Ave exit (although you'll have to jog north to Golf to get back on the road), or perhaps Superdawg in Wheeling (take the Lake Cook exit and go west to Milwaukee Ave).

If you're smashing through the loop on 90, perhaps Little Goat Diner? Getting a rez at the other Goat diners is nearly impossible on short notice but you could always call ahead.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:45 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

You can assume blind adherence to Google Maps, which does mean linking up via 290/294, rather than driving right next to the lake.
posted by yarntheory at 7:49 PM on May 29, 2016

Paradise Pup is not too far from 294.

Boston Fish Market is also good, easy to get to and to park nearby.
posted by BibiRose at 8:53 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not Cheese-centric, though it is available, just across the Wisconsin border lies The Brat Stop. It's a good, solid bratwurst restaurant/diner/bar, with plentiful New Glaurus (only available in Wisconsin!) beer on tap, as well as a little store selling sausages, beer, and trinkets (I mean, if you're going camping, don't you sort of need some sort of encased meat product for at least one night of bonfire cooking?). Good brats, nice people.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:31 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mitsuwa Marketplace has a Japanese food court. It is fantastic and quick, the only downside is that you may lose hours in the candy store. It's in Arlington Heights and not far from the highway.
posted by veery at 8:45 AM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mitsuwa is indeed awesome, but it's about a 20 minute side trip from I294, FYI. Take I90 west (Rockford) to Arlington Heights Road.

Oh wait, unless you are going that way anyway. I thought maybe you were heading up to Milwaukee. My bad.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:56 AM on May 30, 2016

I'd second Boston Fish Market for your criteria.

You could possibly hop off Touhy to restaurants in Edison Park / Park Ridge. Cafe Touche or Don Juan's are both good and have reasonably priced valet but traffic in/out can be slow if you're there near rush hour which is also prime dinner hour.
posted by typecloud at 11:17 AM on May 31, 2016

We actually ended up getting a late lunch at the Zenwich in Elmhurst. It's in a little strip mall near the 290/294 interchange (so easy to find and park at), and offers delicious sandwiches incorporating non-lettuce vegetables. I may have understated the importance of vegetables in my decision-making.
posted by yarntheory at 12:29 PM on June 12, 2016

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