If I can only go to one Chicago restaurant - which one should it be?
October 8, 2017 6:59 PM   Subscribe

My SO and I are going to Chicago for a brief business trip. We'd like to try a local restaurant. We are looking for the down-to-earth food-of-the-people variety, not the pinkies-up caviar variety. If we could only go to one restaurant, which one should we choose?

Of course, I realize that this is a completely subjective question. I'd like to hear your personal vote for the "best," If-I-could-only-choose-one restaurant in Chicago. I just spent several hours Googling this, and was completely overwhelmed with amazing-looking options. I'd love to hear the opinions of some real people (as opposed to editor-compiled "Top Ten" lists) and I'm hoping that there will be one or two restaurants that are mentioned over and over again. Thanks so much!
posted by quiet_musings to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where will you be meeting / staying in the city?
posted by kensington314 at 7:08 PM on October 8


We will actually be staying in a satellite town outside the city, so any area inside Chicago is fair game.
posted by quiet_musings at 7:18 PM on October 8


Avec.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:21 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]


I miss the food in Chicago. Lived there for twenty years and been gone nearly that long. I miss knowing that whenever you wanted, nearly every ethnic cuisine and dining level could be found, from street vendors to trendy to traditional high-end steak and seafood -- and nearly all of it was great.

But if you're talking down-to-earth, food-of-the-people variety, let me tell you, what I miss most is heading to almost any establishment with a Vienna sign in the window, for a dipped Italian beef and a Chicago hot dog. No matter where else you go, make sure you do that.
posted by peakcomm at 7:45 PM on October 8 [8 favorites]


Portillos. Dipped beef, a dog, cheese fries and a frozen goblet of beer.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:46 PM on October 8 [10 favorites]


Valois.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:57 PM on October 8 [6 favorites]


Lou Malnoti's for local deep-dish that you absolutely cannot find outside a certain radius of Chicago. Seriously, I paid to have some flown into Los Angeles a few years ago for my birthday.

I had 20 hours in Chicago and that's where I took my not-well-travelled Southern-California-native husband. I also took him to a nearby pub to have squeaky cheese and fried pickles with beer.
posted by erst at 8:18 PM on October 8 [8 favorites]


You want Lula Cafe or Little Goat. Both have EXCELLENT food, and are not snooty in the least.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:32 PM on October 8 [8 favorites]


I don't know how fancy is fancy to you, but I think Girl and the Goat Is comfortable and really really good. They are probably booked up but if you call and say you are coming from out of town they will figure out how to fit you in.

If that's too fancy, Chicago dogs and Italian Beef are the way to go at Portillos.
posted by littlewater at 8:33 PM on October 8 [6 favorites]


Seconding Girl and the Goat. It's expensive - probably around $100/person, depending on what you order and how much booze you get, if any - but it's amazing. If you want to go a little cheaper, the Little Goat diner is owned and operated by Stephanie Izard as well (the owner and executive chef of Girl and the Goat) and the food is similarly excellent. Generally speaking, it's difficult/impossible to get a reservation at either place on medium or short notice, so when my fiancee and I want to go, our go-to move is to go a little earlier than the main dinner rush (5:30-6), put our names in, and wander over to Howl at the Moon, across the street, to drink some beers and eat some of their fries. We always eventually get a table, and we've never waited more than an hour and a half (and with some beer and fries, that flies by pretty quickly).
posted by protocoach at 8:44 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]


I'd go to the The Publican. Great food, casual atmosphere, and not at all the pinkies-up caviar option that I'd actually recommend
posted by dis_integration at 8:44 PM on October 8 [4 favorites]


Options:

If you want hipster, you can't go wrong with Longman & Eagle or Lula.

But I'd actually head to Pilsen and get tacos and a TO DIE FOR banana milkshake (with cinnamon in it...soo....good...) at Taqueria Atotonilco. Cash only, one step away from being served in an actual cafeteria, and just amazingly good for under $10 a pop. Chicago is such a Mexican city that this is almost the equivalent of an Italian beef.

But I like super cheap, good food stripped of all pomp and ceremony--that may not be to your taste. You can really find anything you're looking for here.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 8:45 PM on October 8 [5 favorites]


Roadfood recommends Gene and Georgetti's and Harry Caray's(who announced the Cubs games at Wrigley field) for the signature Italo-Chicago dishes Chicken Vesuvio and Shrimp De Jonghe.
posted by brujita at 8:59 PM on October 8


Personally, Pequod's is my Chicago-style pizza jam. That caramelized crust just puts it head & shoulders above the competition. I hear it's the deep dish preferred by us locals.

I can't argue with the folks saying you should go for an Italian beef, though.
posted by lieber hair at 9:15 PM on October 8 [5 favorites]


Whenever I go to Chicago, my first stop is Nookie's on Wells. It's got a slightly fancified version of the same menu that every Chicago "coffee shop" restaurant has. And in nice weather, it has outside seating where you can watch the world go by. Bottomless cups of adequate coffee. Colossal omelettes. Damn I love that place.
posted by adamrice at 10:11 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]


The Hopleaf has very good food and an excellent beer selection if you're into beer.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 10:58 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Vienna beef for sure.
posted by kensington314 at 12:46 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Pair it with a neighborhood bar in any neighborhood.
posted by kensington314 at 12:46 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's too hoity for what you are looking for, but I really enjoyed Blackbird when I was in Chicago last.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:56 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]


Seconding Little Goat.
posted by cooker girl at 8:38 AM on October 9


I agree with beef (Mr. Beef!) or Lou Malnati's. Depending on where you are staying and where you can get, Pizzeria Due is also good (in my years-old experience, better than the Malnatis close to there). Pequods is also a good choice! Do not go to Giordano's or Gino's thinking you're getting the same thing. It's not the same.

If you do want a steakhouse type place, Gene and Georgetti's is a great choice.
posted by freezer cake at 10:30 AM on October 9


Farm Bar has very good basic food in an unfussy environment with excellent cocktails. Ceres Table and A Tavola have really good not restaurant schlock Italian food, again in unfussy environments. Ceres Table has excellent cocktails, A Tavola does not.

Atwood is a favorite and in an historic building. Gets a fair amount of business travelers and theatre goers, so it may seem fancier than you want.
posted by crush at 11:01 AM on October 9 [3 favorites]


Papa’s Cache Sabroso on Division/Campbell. get a steak jibarito and the pollo chon. if it’s the weekend, GET THE PORK. It’ll set you back maybe $50 for two, and you won’t have to deal with many tourists.
posted by floweringjudas at 11:31 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


I'm also still a big fan of the Gage (which is noisy and a bit pricey but not fancy) and fountainhead (which seems less popular but has a good menu and a great tap), The Gage puts you near Millennium Park and the Lake for a nice walk before/after dinner. The Fountainhead is neighborhoody. I had a great meal at Farmhouse with some friends not too long ago, too. Again, great cocktails, solid menu, unfussy setting.
posted by crush at 11:58 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Just a regular old place in Chicago? Miller's Pub, right downtown. Get a drink at the bar, then sit down for some prime rib and enjoy the people-watching.

Down at the southern end of the city (technically in the suburb of Oak Lawn), Petey's Bungalow will make you feel like you stepped into another era. Martinis, relish plates, and good honest food.

Beyond that, anyplace on LTHForum's Great Neighborhood Restaurants Guide is worth a look.
posted by me3dia at 1:23 PM on October 9 [1 favorite]


Can't go wrong with Lula (comfy and excellent), Avec (cool but not fancy), or Longman & Eagle (hipster fun). We prefer eating at the bar at all three.
posted by Mid at 7:25 PM on October 9


If you're on the Indiana side of Chicagoland, try Schoop's hamburgers.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:55 AM on October 10


I still miss Russian Tea Time.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 5:29 AM on October 10 [4 favorites]


I want to question the premise of your question. Chicago is a huge city. It's an excellent dining city. There are dozens of restaurants that would make you very happy. Don't worry about whether you're finding the one. There is no one. (Note that this applies well to other areas, such as books, pets, neighborhoods, and romantic partners.)

That said: I really liked Two. It's like dozens of other restaurants today - weathered wood, seasonal farm to table - but just really good and relaxing.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:13 AM on October 10 [2 favorites]


I just had brunch at Little Goat on Saturday and it was incredible. Highly recommend. We also had a great meal at Ema, which was incredible Mediterranean food. It had a fun and hip vibe without being pretentious or snooty.
posted by something_witty at 7:39 AM on October 10


Late to the party here. Pequod's does indeed have excellent pizza, and the restaurant and next-door bar have a great vibe.

We couldn't get reservations for Girl and the Goat - unless we wanted 10.45pm on a Sunday when they closed at 11pm. Instead we went to The Publican, not least because I wanted to try the legendary fried pork rinds (which were amazing). All the food we had was really good, and I wish I'd had room for dessert because every dessert we saw coming out of the kitchen looked fabulous.
posted by essexjan at 1:30 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]


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