My husband and I grew up in Hinsdale and Mt. Prospect and have since lived more than 25 years all over the world and currently reside in Long Beach, CA. Every year we make the annual Christmas pilgrimage back to Chicago to visit family and every year we go to the same traditional places to eat. We can hardly fit in all the food in our schedule! This year we didn't have time for the usual White Castles (we get them frozen), Garrett's popcorn, and Chicago hot dogs.
Within 30 minutes off the plane we got Chicago Italian beef at the first place we saw--Browns. I LOVE their chicken but we were desperate for the beef. Portillo's and Al's are our usual favorites but I was starving from the long flight with visions of food dancing in my head. We took the sandwiches to go and when we got to my mother-in-law's we unwrapped small mounts of dry beef on a small dry roll. No peppers, no juice! I was so disappointed I actually called Browns to complain. They offered us a free sandwich next time we came in which I did today. This time it was even worse! It was tasted like Italian curry beef. It was overly salt and had a strong curry flavor.
Next,we gathered with my husband's family and forced the issue of having Lou Malnati's for Christmas dinner instead of turkey. (We were really limited with time and turkey is not on the eating schedule when visiting Chicago.) We have eaten Lou's for years along with Uno's. We picked up 2 large sausage pizzas and found extraordinarily soggy crusts and very little sauce on the top of the pie. Disappointing, particularly since we had forced everyone to give in to our cravings.
The next night we got together with my side of the family at Bohemia Crystal on Ogden Ave. The food was of typical quality (almost everyone ordered the duck as usual--nice and crispy) but the wait staff got several orders wrong and was very unfriendly.
And tonight, our last night, we went to Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling. I was very skeptical because of the hype but my mother-in-law really wanted to go. Actually...it was excellent! I had Alaskan black cod marinated in a miso and baked, my husband had terrific charbroiled swordfish and mom had coconut shrimp. I am extremely picky about fish and rarely order it out because it is so often overcooked. My cod was outstanding! Slightly undercooked, fresh, tender and tasty. I didn't care for the atmosphere or the crowds but the fish was worth the wait. (We called ahead a few days ago for preferred seating to cut the wait in half.)
So, we struck out on all but one meal, which is really unusual for Chicago but we ended on a great note. We'll be back next Christmas!