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Old 05-20-2008, 10:13 AM   #1
faded
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Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

time for city number three, the second city, Chicago!

i've never been, so beyond wikipedia and word of mouth i don't know much about the city. i'm sure there are tons of chicgao residents/people that have been to chicago on this forum, so lets hear it. what are your favorite things to do? places to go? good eats? places/things to avoid?

from what i've read on wiki, the magnificent mile and the navy pier look like must stops for the trip. thoughts? anything else?

thanks for contributing
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Old 05-20-2008, 12:16 PM   #2
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

I've probably posted this stuff before, but here are a few thoughts:

Touristy stuff:
- Navy pier is kind of lame - a big shopping center w/o much to do
- Art Institute is good
- Of the museums, science & industry was my favorite if you can still do the submarine tour
- Field museum is pretty standard
- Shedd Aquarium is good if you've never been to a large aquarium

Nightlife:
- Wrigleyville: young, lots of nightlife near wrigley field
- Lincoln Park: plenty of cool places near Depaul university
- Rush & Division area: less interesting IMO - more touristy

All of these areas areas are a good start because there are dozens of bars nearby which you can wander between.

Food:
- Steak: Chicago Chop House
- Pizza: Giordano's or Lou Malnatis
- Signature Room @ John Hancock for a good view

Summer is a great time there - check out North Beach, etc.

Good resources:
www.metromix.com
www.chicagobarproject.com
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Old 05-20-2008, 12:48 PM   #3
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

I thought Gibson's was pretty much the steakhouse in Chicago.

Loved Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) when I was a kid. According to their website the U-505 is still open, as is the coal mine which was another favorite of mine.
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Old 05-20-2008, 01:08 PM   #4
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

is there still a restaurant called Greek Isles or something like that? Its been about 7 years since i was there but i remember that place being pretty good. fried cheese FTW.
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Old 05-20-2008, 03:51 PM   #5
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

z28, I'm not totally with you on Navy Pier. The Seadog is a fun speedboat ride, the IMAX is pretty cool if they are playing something cool and you're in to that kind of thing, and they have some decent artists play the stage there. Also, watching the fireworks (twice every week) from the Seadog or any of the other boats on the pier is very cool.

Steaks: Others may disagree, and I might be being a little extreme here, but IMO there are zero excellent steak places in Chicago, and its really disappointing. Many places that get raves, like Ruth's Chris, are downright horrible and pretty much the rest are either just OK or waaaay overrated. For my birthday last year I went to David Burke's Primehouse and got Kobe NY Strip on the bone. It was overcooked and not well-seasoned, and as you can imagine since it was Kobe it cost a lot. Right now actually my favorite steak in Chicago is Captal Grille, which is kinda sad.

Pizza: There are literally hundreds of excellent pizza places all over the city, and while there are some really bad ones too, there's pretty much no excuse for eating bad pizza in this town no matter what your tastes. Some options:

Uno's or Due's for old-school pan. Local's tip: go to Due's. The pizza is exactly the same, and its right accross the street. But because all the tourists have heard of Uno's, the wait at Due's is far shorter. The pesto pie is my favorite.

Gino's for the ambiance and a different take on old-school pan. Personally I hate Gino's, but the suburbans seem to love it.

Connie's or any of a hundred one-shop delivery places.

There's also a restaurant on the North side called Calo's that I love. Italian with great pizza (thin & pan are excellent), pretty much the best BBQ ribs I've ever had, and enough selection to please anyone. If you're going to go to Calo's, be sure to also walk down to the Hop Leaf to sample their amazing beer selection. (Other excellent bars for beer are the Map Room and Bar on Buena just 2 blocks from my house!) For desert, go to Sweet Occasions. All three of these places are in Andersenville within 3 blocks of each other. The neighborhood is ultra safe (for the city, don't be a moron) and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a cab.
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Old 05-20-2008, 03:57 PM   #6
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Yikes, I forgot about stuffed pizza. Giordano's is pretty much the nuts here but again Calo's is really good too.
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Old 05-20-2008, 04:08 PM   #7
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Cubs games are a ton of fun
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Old 05-20-2008, 04:24 PM   #8
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

grunch,

while i agree there are a handful of good things about navy pier (notably imax and the Shakespeare theater), i have to disagree with you about steaks. people who come to chicago and eat at ruth's chris should be smacked around a bit. i haven't been to capital grill or primehouse, and my faith has been shaken a bit in lawry's chicago (not steak anyway, whatev), but mortons, gibsons, sullivans, chophouse, keifers, custom house all prepare a really good steak.

i do totally agree on ginos. i can't ****ing stand the stuff but i think it's entirely rooted in hating the crust. others like it a ton, and they do have a great lunch special (personal pan, salad, and a soda (or beer i think!) for $5?). my personal favorite non-thin pizza is pequods pan (pepperoni and jalapeno ftw!)

i've never heard of calo's really, but an italian place with the best bbq ribs you've ever had is intriguing.

hopleaf is great, but crowded, quenchers (200+ beers) is great if you're a beer nut, but is crowded with hipsters drinking pbr most nights, and obviously the map room is great. (bars owned by millionaires who open the bar just for fun and serve free food on the weekends? how can that be beat?)

i'll probably make a post in here at some point, but i might just track down my post about chicago in the thread about "guides to your home city" and respond to other people in this thread.
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:18 PM   #9
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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but mortons, gibsons, sullivans, chophouse, keifers, custom house
I've never been to custom house, and there's a brand new place called Fleming's that I may go to this Friday. But the other ones listed here are at the (relative) top of my list. Sullivan's is especially cool for the jazz club atmosphere of the bar.
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:39 PM   #10
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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i do totally agree on ginos. i can't ****ing stand the stuff but i think it's entirely rooted in hating the crust. others like it a ton, and they do have a great lunch special (personal pan, salad, and a soda (or beer i think!) for $5?). my personal favorite non-thin pizza is pequods pan (pepperoni and jalapeno ftw!)
Really? I'm surprised people are saying this, I love Gino's. The lunch special is $5.95 I believe, but beer is NOT included, at least not when I went in mid-March to the one on Ontario in River North. BTW I also think, among the big chains, that Lou Malnati's >>> Giordano's, but maybe I'm alone on that one.

If you want to get away from the Chicago-style pizza a great spot is Piece (W. North Ave. in Bucktown). Great thin-crust pizza and they brew their own beer.

I'll post more stuff later when I have time to think of it--just wanted to share a few thoughts on pizza.
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:42 PM   #11
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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I've never been to custom house, and there's a brand new place called Fleming's that I may go to this Friday. But the other ones listed here are at the (relative) top of my list. Sullivan's is especially cool for the jazz club atmosphere of the bar.
I guess I didn't realize Custom House was such a big place for steak. When I went there last August I found the menu pretty eclectic and New American--I forget what I ordered but it definitely was not a steak. Don't get me wrong, it's a very cool restaurant, I'm just not sure it fits in with the rest of the "classic" steakhouses named above.
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:26 AM   #12
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Joe,

I too like Lou's better than Giordanos. Re: Ginos, I just don't like the crust. I know many that do.

Piece is great because they brew their own beers (which you can take home by the growler) and a good # of them are pretty good. I just tried out Coal Fire, a coal oven pizza place, which was pretty good.

Custom House is definitely not a "typical" or "classic" steakhouse, but I do think that the idea is steakhouse. I don't think it should be disqualified simply because they serve other food and that food is good

A non-food place I've just recently tried and enjoyed was Violet Hour. Violet Hour is a cocktail lounge. They don't let in more people than there are seats available, so there's never some ******* bumping in to you every minute. The drinks are really great, and at $11 for a drink + roughly half an extra drink in a sidecar, pretty well priced I think. The drinks are almost all spins on old classic cocktails. While it's a rough line to wait in to get in on weekends, weeknights are easy, and it's a great way to unwind after work.
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:40 AM   #13
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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the second city, Chicago!
yup
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Old 05-21-2008, 01:11 AM   #14
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Cool way to spend an afternoon is on tour put on by the Chicago Architectural Society - get in a boat just off Michigan Ave. and cruise up and down the Chicago River while they tell you the history of all the buildings.

Sounds boring, but just a really nice day - weather permitting.

MM MD
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Old 05-21-2008, 01:16 AM   #15
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Since I work for United, I go to the Chicago area a lot (our HQ are there). mostly, it's a couple of nights in Elk Grove Village, but my wife and I spent a weekend there last year and had a great time. it helped that it was indian summer and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. most of the time i go there for meetings, it's ten degrees with a negative five wind chill and forty mph winds.
during that weekend, we hung out downtown a bunch and hit up a lot of the museums (corporate discounts making most of them free for me and my family). here's the highlights:

Grunch had the pizza thing pretty well nailed. Go to Due. same as Uno, but shorter line (and right across the street). Giordannos was good, but i liked Due better.

the art museum was way cool. lots of old masters there.
Shedd was cool because I like fish, but it was a huge letdown after Monterey (anything would be).
Natural History was interesting as well, but I'm a nature nerd, so i think I liked it more than my wife did.

Navy Pier was kinda meh. cool setting, but, once you get inside, it's pretty much like any other touristy area. I could have been at Pier 39 in SF or Waikiki and it would have been pretty much the same thing.
I did really like the ferry boat ride to the Navy Pier from the Shedd, though. that was kind of cool.

Brazzaz was the first churrascaria that I'd ever heard of and, since the wife and I are both red meat eaters, we had to check it out (found it by walking by, looking for Due, so we came back the next night). Damned good meat on a stick. Have since gone to Texas de Brazil in Woodfield Mall (with coworkers) and found it a bit lacking comparatively. still, all you can eat meat on a stick is good.

Woodfield Mall is a big ass mall, and my wife enjoyed spending the day there while I was at a meeting on Monday. If I'm in town for work (alone), I'll head there, since it's pretty close to the hotels I stay at, and hang out at Borders or Dick's Sporting Goods. I've even shopped there a couple of times when the weather was colder than i expected and I needed an emergency sweater (like a couple of weeks ago when I stepped off the plane at one in the afternoon and it was thirty seven degrees and falling).

special note: the broasted chicken at Boston Blackies in Arlington Heights is really really good. not sure why a edf-er would find him/herself in arlington heights (it's a favorite of my coworkers, so we always seem to end up there after work), but if you are, the chicken is a winner.
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Old 05-21-2008, 08:25 AM   #16
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

I've been to Lou Malnati's and Gino's and both were mediocre IMO. It might be that I'm not big on deep dish but I think Zachary's in Berkeley is terrific.

Charlie Trotter's was very good, but I wouldn't put it on the top tier of restaurants I've eaten.

Went to the Art Institute and of course the Hoppers were on loan to the Whitney at the time.

Seems like a great place to live.
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Old 05-21-2008, 08:50 AM   #17
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Everest is a topnotch restaurant anywhere if you can handle the pretentious and overbearing service. The view at Charlie's is better because Everest really only overlooks a freeway interchange and a semighetto. There's also a very good pretheatre meal which isn't much food but it's all amazing.

Gino's is total garbage and Giordano's only a little better. Chicago pizza is probably the single-most overrated food associated with a particular city and it isn't even necessary since Chicago can legitimately lay claim to the greatest hot dogs on the planet and having somewhere that sells Vienna beef on every corner is nice. Why would anyone want pizza anyways?

It's a total hack place, but I've had good experiences at Harry Caray's.

I second the architecture tour. I don't remember the names of the companies, but you should spring for the more expensive one if you decide to go. The difference is competent tour guides instead of blundering college kids whose mispronunciations will send your head spinning.

The House Theatre Company is a good alternative to the more established groups. Its young and hip but very solid and professional.

-Michael
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:44 PM   #18
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

i'll probably add some more stuff but the first things that come to mind:

-lou malnatis is the best deep dish pizza in the world. most of my friends agree, some don't, but i can't imagine anyone calling it terrible. that being said, the one in schaumburg where i grew up tastes better than the ones i've eaten in the city. a carry-out one just opened one up in wicker park and although i still eat it occasionally, the crust is soggy sometimes and it just isn't that good. go to a sit down place (lincoln park) and enjoy the atmosphere and a cold beer with your pizza.

-if you are 25 or under, go to the bars in lincoln park if you are looking for a wild night. there really aren't any that stand out as they are all pretty much the same.

-japonais and mirai for sushi. i like japonais better because it has a nicer bar, more sushi, and also more hot food. they are owned by the same people, so the signature rolls are the same (get the spicy mono, special zuke, tuna tuna salmon). if you are just in town visiting, i'd probably say go to japonais because it's closer to a lot of the other good stuff in Chicago and it's a little more trendy, you might even run into a celeb. i eat at mirai much more often because it's less hectic and it's only a block away from my place.

-check out second city if you like comedy...no brainer

-if you are looking for an interesting place to grab a drink on a weeknight, check out the violet hour in wicker park. it has a "speakeasy" theme, there is no sign outside and the door is hidden in what looks like a wooden wall. the way to tell if the place is open is to look and see if the yellow light is on on the wall. it's located near north/damen, but google it to get the exact address. the mixed drinks are incredibly strong (and expensive ~$12/per), but are without a doubt the best i've ever had. some of the drinks take 5 or 10 minutes to mix, and aren't really like cocktails i've had in other places. the music is very low, everyone gets a seat, they have a snack menu, and you aren't allowed to use your cellphone inside. great place to take a date after a movie, or something. on weekends its always been too crowded for me to get in.

thats all i got now... chicago is a great city, especially in the summer. can't think of a place i'd rather live june-september.

tc
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Old 05-21-2008, 01:00 PM   #19
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Any sporting event will be a great time. I'm a Sox fan, but if I had to recommend one Chicago sporting event it would obviously be a Cubs game.

If you are looking for fine dining, Alinea is the best option. Actually it might be the best option in the entire US.

As for bars, it depends what you're looking for. If you are looking for college type bars, hit up Lincoln Park. Rush/Division area has a bunch that are real close to a # of restaurants as well.

Personally, my absolute favorite part of the city is Wells St. in Old Town. I lived here for a year and I'm moving back this summer, just because there is so much to do. Restaurants/bars line the streets and its only a short walk to North Ave Beach. Two of the most popular comedy clubs are located within one block of each other on this street; Second City and Zanies. Old Town has a great vibe and is a great place to live.

<3 Chicago, I'll be here for a long time.
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Old 05-21-2008, 01:12 PM   #20
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Walk along lake shore drive, catch a cubs game (even if you don't like baseball) go shopping along Michigan Avenue.

Last edited by Ashy Knuckles; 05-21-2008 at 01:14 PM. Reason: spellcheck
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Old 05-21-2008, 01:17 PM   #21
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

i forgot about this one, but gene and georgetti's is a pretty cool place to go if you are visiting. it's an old fashioned steakhouse (they have other stuff too) that sinatra and his crew used to dine at when they came to chicago. the menus are literally the same as they were 50 years ago. everything i've had there has always been good to great, and the atmosphere is really unique.

tc
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Old 05-21-2008, 01:41 PM   #22
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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-japonais and mirai for sushi. i like japonais better because it has a nicer bar, more sushi, and also more hot food. they are owned by the same people, so the signature rolls are the same (get the spicy mono, special zuke, tuna tuna salmon). if you are just in town visiting, i'd probably say go to japonais because it's closer to a lot of the other good stuff in Chicago and it's a little more trendy, you might even run into a celeb. i eat at mirai much more often because it's less hectic and it's only a block away from my place.

-check out second city if you like comedy...no brainer
Hah, that's awesome, I'm moving into the building with Japonais downstairs this July. Never been there but I'm looking forward to it.

Second City--can't believe I didn't mention that. If you go, and you can't get tickets to the main show, the side shows held in the Skybox are great too. Off-topic, I think their show at the Flamingo is one of the best cheap entertainment options in Vegas.

Re: Lincoln Park bars, I've had some good nights at McGee's (Webster & Sheffield), it's a college atmosphere, usually a good time.

What do you guys like for breakfast? I like going to Fox & Obel in Streeterville (Illinois & Fairbanks). It's kind of a Whole Foods-like experience; there's a grocery store with an attached cafe. Unlike WF, you actually go up and order your breakfast (not buffet style). It's pretty straightforward food: pancakes, sausage, bacon, etc... but I really like it.
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Old 05-21-2008, 03:42 PM   #23
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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What do you guys like for breakfast?
Wishbone is the immortal nuts for breakfast.
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:47 PM   #24
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

Has anyone been to Green Mill or Hothouse? They are supposed to be very good Jazz venues.
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:49 PM   #25
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Re: Chicago: Your favorite things to do or places to go

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Pizza: There are literally hundreds of excellent pizza places all over the city, and while there are some really bad ones too, there's pretty much no excuse for eating bad pizza in this town no matter what your tastes. Some options:

Uno's or Due's
I've never had Due's, but heard it is excellent. Which is it closest to?

Also, legitimate points on Navy Pier - it might be nice to watch the fireworks.
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