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THE EVER MORE UNOFFICIAL CHICAGO TIP SHEET/FAQ v. 1.1

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THE EVER MORE UNOFFICIAL CHICAGO TIP SHEET/FAQ v. 1.1

Mike G | Sep 1, 2003 12:04 AM

THE EVER MORE UNOFFICIAL (NOT TO MENTION NON-CONTROVERSIAL AND MUCH BELOVED) CHICAGO VISITOR TIP SHEET AND SORT-OF FAQ, v. 1.1

Once again, my personal and idiosyncratic, tries-to-represent-broad-opinion- but-should-be-taken-only-as- ONE-poster’s-faves-and-opinions starting point for users of the Chicago board, containing:

1) TIPS for the user with limited time, recommending a single place which is generally well thought of for its type (though again, the selections are strictly by ME), has Chicago “character” and is usually near where visitors are likely to go.

2) LINKS to hundreds of posts on a much broader range of cuisines and areas of this great city than the average tourist (or indeed most residents) will ever see. Happy exploring!

NEW IN THIS EDITION: Bakeries (thanks for all the great posts on that topic recently); more links for the ‘burbs; something kind of like a real FAQ (see very end); more equivocation in my personal choices; and slowly, more links to specific restaurants and not just survey posts under each of the cuisines (spec. thanks to VI for fleshing out the Mexican list), an ongoing effort not by any means complete…

NOTE NEW BOARD URL-GENERATION SYSTEM:

Using this tipsheet has gotten a little more complex since the board was actually divided into multiple boards. The best way to access a post is to open a second browser window with this URL:

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED]

Put the post number listed below where the zeros are at the end.

Then change the digit after the word “chicago” according to the following scheme:

For posts numbered 1 to 7000: 1
For posts numbered 7000 to 14000: 2
For posts numbered 14000 to 21000: 3
For posts numbered 21000 to 28000: 4
For posts after 28000: no digit after Chicago (eventually 28000 to 35000 will need a 5)

If you get a 404, try the next digit higher or lower, the system isn’t exact due to the desire to keep threads together.

SOME OTHER TIPS:

1. EXPLORE THE COMPLETE THREADS! The best info may be a few levels down from the cited post.

2. POST A FOLLOWUP QUESTION! The more specific your request, the more likely you’ll get a useful answer.

3. NEED MORE INFO? For address, hours or other info for a restaurant, or to compare against non-Chowhound reviews, go to www.metromix.com (which includes Chicago Tribune reviews) or the restaurant section of www.chireader.com (which offers fairly high quality reader reviews--though not as high as here!)

4. POST WHAT YOU THOUGHT! The tip sheet, like the board and the food scene, is ever-evolving. Your opinion is as good as anyone else’s. Share it and you’ll be in here next time!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1) PIZZA

LOU MALNATI’S (439 N. Wells St., 312-828-9800, and other locations; see 26486). Chicago has a venerable thin crust pizza tradition, too (see thread on Vito & Nick’s below, for one)--but for visitors “Chicago pizza” means the classic thick-as-a-phone-book kind. The local Malnati’s chain serves up an excellent rendition with less tourist attention than the admirable Pizzeria Uno (where the late Lou once worked) or the less impressive Gino’s.

Vital Info’s Chicago pizza primer: 19308
Discussions of best: 14738, 12789, 11186, 8005; North side: 10870; South side: 18927
Pizza by the slice survey: 20698
Foldability of crust as important criterion: 4918, 4963
Vito & Nick’s (true Chicago thin pizza): 3760, 9156, 28756
Dissatisfaction with New Haven-style at Piece: 10972
Italian-style at Pizza DOC: 3798
Pequod’s: 21679, 29618
Bubamara: 8861

2) ITALIAN BEEF

AL’S ITALIAN BEEF (original in Little Italy at 1079 W. Taylor St., 312-733-8896; also in River North touristville at 169 W. Ontario St., 312-943-3222). The Italian beef sandwich most extravagantly praised on this board is surely Johnnie’s, but the average visitor is unlikely to find himself in the semi-obscure suburb of Elmwood Park. So at least follow the guidebooks and grab a bite at the far more conveniently located and famous Al’s--though as Vital Info noted (14736), “Al's meat is much different than most Italian beefs, a bit thicker, shorter pieces and more coarse. Likewise, their giardinara is different. Its kick comes from red pepper flakes not chopped sport peppers.” He also recommends the grilled sausage at the original Al’s location.

Excellent compare-and-contrast of Chi Italian Beefs by LA visitor: 15216
Vital Info’s Italian beef primer: 19412
General discussion of many beefs (and why NOT to go to Jay Leno’s fave, Mr. Beef): 14732
How to survive the ordering Nazi at Johnnie’s: 13459, 26389
Jay’s (Harwood Heights): 27969

3) HOT DOGS

SUPERDAWG (6363 N. Milwaukee Ave./Devon, 773-736-0660, review at 4883)-- There really isn’t a great Chicago dog near the main tourist areas (the Portillo’s in River North touristville maybe comes closest), but if you have a car, head up Milwaukee Ave. for a journey through the real Chicago and through neighborhoods of many nationalities; your reward at the northwest edge of the city will be unchanged 50s architecture, real carhop service, thick shakes and fat garlicky dogs. (Vital Info insists that they’re not an authentic specimen of the true Chicago dog, but you can’t beat the total Superdawg experience--and I’m sticking with it despite the fact that Hot Doug’s has also established itself as an essential stop for food tourists.)

Vital Info’s hot dog primer: 19637, see also 10033
Hot Doug’s for Venison dogs, duck fat fries and other exotica: 10393, 21884, 20051, 22445, 27760; inevitable backlash, 29484
Sarcastic service at Wiener’s Circle: 9424, 9330
Perfect boiled dogs in “prison-like” atmosphere at Gene & Jude’s: 4478, 5592

4) STEAK

GENE & GEORGETTI’S (500 N. Franklin St., 312-527-3718) is a Rat Pack-era joint still frequented by politicians and hoods (but I repeat myself); take a good look at the first floor as you enter, because you WILL be seated in Siberia upstairs. (JeffB has a memorable take on the G&G experience for non-bigshots at 14371.)

General steak overview: 17084
Gibson’s: 11335
Morton’s: 16410
Keefer’s: 15102
Hugo’s Frog Bar: 26863
Smith & Wollensky: 22510, 21759, 9342 (humorous)
Fogo de Chao: 24859, 14817, 13415

Note: Chicago Chop House has received the most consistently negative reviews of places the out of towner is likely to find himself at.

5) FINE DINING

BISTROT MARGOT (1437 N. Wells St., 312-587-3660) is a lively, bustling bistro a short cab ride north of downtown serving very agreeable renditions of French classics; especially pleasant in temperate months, when it offers outdoor seating on a street where (unlike with many downtown cafes) that doesn’t mean you’ll be sucking bus exhaust all through dinner. Here are some direct links to reviews of other fine dining establishments (note also a good thread on hidden French restaurants at 28171):

Allen’s (formerly Harvest on Huron): 28887
Ambria: 17150
Aria: 22534
Arun’s (pretty negative): 21971
Bistro Campagne: 19840
Bistrot Margot: 9072, 22095
Bistrot Margot, Kiki’s Bistro, bistros in general: 15872
Blackbird: 14844, 22489, 28170
Bluepoint Oyster Bar: 28469
Le Bouchon: 19030, 25310
Café des Architectes: 18738
Café Iberico: 12432
Café Matou: 9038
Charlie Trotter: 9906, 16694
Chilpancingo: 26134, 13350, 22457
Crofton-On-Wells: 11174, 17145, 27300
Cyrano’s Bistrot: 20859, 11737
Le Deux Gros: 19157
Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton: 23811, 23835
Eclectic: 21919
Erwin: 29653, 18071, 14799
Everest Room: 23846
Fortunato’s: 11485, 17679 (pro), 16847 (middling)
Four-stars in general (Trotter, Tru, Everest etc.): 14809; also entire thread beg. at 14797
Le Francais: 12498, 25604
Glory: 22815, 20034, 20044
Jacky’s Bistro: 19466
Heat: 14549, 17702, 3841
Kevin: 19949, 10040
Kevin, Vivo, Printer’s Row, Crofton On Wells: 17145
Merlo: 12481
MK: 28764, 12730
Nine: 29164, 20578
Les Nomades: 23859 (positive), 13965 (semi-negative)
North Pond Café: 19945
Opera: 21507, 21520
Oysy: 23006
Pili Pili: 29361, 28910
Red Light: 22249
Speakeasy: 29693
Spiaggia: 14257
Spring: 24871, 15097
Sugar: 15524 (semi-negative, but a hilarious read)
SushiSamba Rio: 29736, 28125
La Tache: 22119
Tallgrass: 28370
Thyme: 10371
Tomboy: 11736
Topolobampo: 28886
Tournesol: 15897, 19840
Trio: 9811, 25468, 19501, 12926 (pro), 12476 (middling)
Tru: 8878
Le Vichyssois: 19414 (scathing; read follow-ups as well)
Yoshi’s: 28105
Zealous: 12805, 29409

6) ITALIAN FOOD

LA SCAROLA (721 W. Grand Ave., 312-243-1740; reviews at 19889, 10316, 8778) is the classic tiny, packed, patrons out of a Scorsese movie kind of place, located in an Italian neighborhood just beyond downtown. Beats the heck out of pack-em-in-for-big-portions-of-ordinary-food rackets like Rosebud or Maggiano’s.

Spiaggia (four-star Italian): 14257
Bruna’s Ristorante and Heart of Italy neighborhood: 14819
Tufano’s (Vernon Park Tap): anti, 29179, 28702; defense, 29273, 29335
Italian-style Italian: Follia, 23723, 17775; Fortunato’s, 11485, 17679 (pro), 16847 (middling); Ferrari, 24044
Modestly-priced Italian: 19634
Harlem Ave. delis/stores: 15833
Notes toward a treatise on Italian settlement of Chicago: 19351

7) MEXICAN FOOD

CHILPANCINGO (358 W. Ontario St., 312-266-9525, reviews at 26134, 13350, 22457). Does Chicago have the best Mexican food in America? Los Angelenos might sputter in protest, but Chicago hounds have made a case that at both the $1 end and the $100 end, Chicago Mex offers a more authentic representation of numerous regional styles than Cal-Mex--and that in Rick Bayless and his protégé Geno Bahena, Chicago has the best upscale Mexican chefs in the country. Though Bahena is still less well-known, his fine-dining River North restaurant Chilpancingo is much easier to get into, and worthy of comparison with, Bayless’ 4-star Topolobampo and casual Frontera Grill (note that the latter has had reports suggesting a slump). Eat there Saturday night, then hit the Maxwell Street flea market Sunday morning to compare.

Chicago, Best Mexican Food in the US?: 13513, 11823
Frontera vs. Ixcapuzalco/Chilpancingo: 13322
Mexican food stands in the famous Maxwell Street Market: 27125, 26522, 14822, see also 18069
Exploring Logan Square: 25283
Mexican vans in Humboldt Park, etc.: 25924, 25283, 25289, 25535
Pilsen: 19780, 21801
Little Village area: 3806
La Quebrada (Cicero): 22724, 17748, 8392
Best steak burrito: 25918
Mexican sandwiches: 25327
Pozole: 17539, 17851
Goat consomme: 22451
Mexican bakeries: 25289, 7449, 20340, 17453, 15307; Bombon, 18721
Michoacan food: 28099, 17359
Nayarit style seafood: 23219
Oaxacan: 12650, 11716, 4109
How Do You Spot A Good Mexican Restaurant?: 13885

8) CHINESE FOOD

MOON PALACE (216 W. Cermak Rd., 312-225-4081)-- Every Chowhound has a different Chinatown fave (see various citations below); Moon Palace isn’t the most exotic by any means, but it makes the familiar Chinese dishes with a more authentic and funky flavor to them than most places--and if that’s not out there enough for you, ask for the secret menu that reveals that Moon Palace is one of the few Chicago restaurants making Chinese food in the style of Shanghai (see threads beginning at 8406, 19911, 26920, 27029; also Shanghai-style dumplings at Phoenix, 28731).

Dim Sum: 5263, 5447, 11553; Phoenix: 20067, 10129, 11553, 28731
Secret menu at Ed’s Potsticker House: 28264, 22550, 19133; old school Chinatown/segues into Ed’s dumplings: 19900
Lao Sze Chuan & city’s most complete Chinese menu: 3875, 4104
Pretty amazing Northern Chinese threads: 19101, 19070
Taiwanese (Mei Shung): 10333
“Little” Three Happiness: 17166 (note: this is the one at 209 W. Cermak, not the larger “Three Happiness” on the north side of the street)
Silver Seafood: 27477
BBQ Duck: 27179
Red Light: 22249
Opera: 21507, 21520
“Non-awful fast [delivery] Chinese on the north side”: 29096

9) THAI FOOD

SPOON THAI (4608 N. Western, 773-769-1173; notes on secret menu at 23277, 27307, 21889, 19069, 26117)-- After much discussion of how to get “secret” menus and more authentic/hotter dishes at Chicago’s outwardly interchangeable Thai restaurants, two spots on the north side emerged as board favorites for their authentic and pungently fresh flavors. Spoon Thai wins the nod over Thai Aree (3592 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-725-6751; see 28097, 15596) because it’s closer to somewhere visitors might find themselves (the charming and rapidly gentrifying Lincoln Square area). Note that both restaurants still serve the standard Thai-American menu, so you are advised to come prepared with knowledge of what’s on the secret menu, and be ready to insist that you want the more unusual Thai items--at the heat level you desire.

Thai roundup: 20294
Secret menu discussions: 19048, 18151, 16852, 14373, 14201
Advice on how to get the heat you want: 22062
Arun’s, expensive 4-star Thai (pretty negative): 21971

10) JAPANESE

KATSU (2651 W Peterson Ave, 773-784-3383; see 19124, 23586) hides behind a modest storefront in an obscure north side neighborhood near Skokie, but the superb sushi (flown in from Boston) is rivaled only by the considerably glitzier and more expensive Heat, and there’s nothing cold fish about the welcome from Chef and Mrs. Katsu.

Sushi, general: 15664
Heat: 14549, 17702; kaiseki at, 22998
Oysy: 23006
SushiSamba Rio: 28125, 29736
Hatsuhana vs. Kamehachi (downtown area): 21750
Inexpensive sushi at Tampopo: 9759
Mitsuwa Market and other suburban Japanese grocers: 17104; restaurants in that area, 28015, 23602; Todai at Woodfield, 24700

11) BREAKFAST

WISHBONE (1001 W. Washington Blvd., 312-850-2663; also 3300 N. Lincoln) offers a yuppified but hearty and satisfying take on southern breakfast west of the Loop (near Harpo Studios), and in the Roscoe Village area.

General discussion of breakfast faves: 10191
Near McCormack Place, 15219
Roscoe Village: 18410
Edna’s: 6118
Cozy Corner: 22961
Tempo: 2572
Irish breakfast: 19094

12) ICE CREAM

THE PENGUIN (2723 W. Lawrence, Chicago, 773-271-4924; see 16124, 15342) is an Argentinean gelato and pizza parlor located in a dingy northwest-side stripmall between a laundromat and a Korean restaurant specializing in bone marrow soup. If that description alone isn’t enough to bring out the Chowhound in you, the astonishingly fresh-flavored gelato should do the trick, though Chihounds agree that the quality and freshness of the homemade product can be variable and you need to ask to taste different flavors until you find one that blows you away.

Vital Info’s Exhaustive Ice Cream Roundup: 28662
Ice cream: 27528, 27017, 22402, 22391, 9403, 13023, 9473, 5278
Margie’s Candies: 5437, 28092
Evanston Creamery: 25881
Mexican street vendors: 26947

13) OTHER CUISINES

A grab bag of references to posts on other cuisines:

INDIAN: Downtown: 14668
On Devon: 5417, 2767; nice overview of the street, 23653
24-hour cabbie joints: 28675, 10044
Hema’s Kitchen: 21493
Kababish of London: 21919
Arya Bhavan: 21352
Sher-a-Punjab: 21348
Al-Markaz/Bhabi’s: 24887
Bombay Chinese: 21641
Sweets/ice cream: 25758

VIETNAMESE: In Argyle Street “Chinatown”: 27263, 12979, 6522; Ba Mien Food Court, 29756
Pho joints: 23018, 29310, and many more, especially by Erik M. (who promises the definitive roundup someday)
Hai Yen: 23427
Not on Argyle Street: 17586
Sandwiches: 22368, 24199

KOREAN: 28088, 18928, 17441 (and others in thread beg. at 17360), 15321
Kalbi/BBQ: 26228, 18928
Dolsot Bibim Bop: 29566, 19514, 19404
Hae Woon Dae: 20060
Hourglass: 28458, 29691
As religious experience: 14820 and 14478

MALAYSIAN/INDONESIAN: 25852, 25722

MIDDLE-EASTERN: 13673, 8549; best falafel, 23620, 24286
Turkish: 12230, 7959
Noon-O-Kebab: 21995
George’s Shawarma: 25823
Shawerma King: 13673
Salam: 23620
Little Shedrak: 24678
Al-Ameer (now called Garden): 20834
The Pharoah’s: 20580
Sarah’s Kitchen: 26317
South Suburban Middle Eastern: 25855, 19159

GREEK: 8350
Western burbs: 24921

EASTERN EUROPEAN: 9365
Polish: 21467; Lutnia, 28338; Halina’s, 26450; Smak Tak, 23314, 25708; bakeries and sundry thoughts, 18193
Hungarian: Paprikash, 22327
Czech: 29146, Operetta: 21151
Serbian: Simplon, 28620
Albanian: 26982
Notes for further research on Bulgarian: 23726

RUSSIAN: 21838, 23490; White Nights: 28993
Georgian: 10100
Argo Bakery: 25840

GERMAN: 29452, 21322, 10797
Resi’s Bierstube: 28109
Berghoff: 21919

CUBAN: 21596, list of all then known at 25576
Café Cubano: 22500 (includes notes on restaurants too)
Ambassador Café: 22795
Rinconcito Cubano, 23625

CARIBBEAN: 18778 (good info on Jamaican, Puerto Rican, etc. within long wandering thread)
On North Side: 22473, 18939
Jamaican: 27803
Honduran: 12382
Puerto Rican: 25329, 24965, 24206
Dominican: 25273
Pupusas: 28378, 20974

SOUTH AMERICAN: 17830
Ecuadoran: 28621, 25289, 23243, 19848, 13123; La Humita, 24811
Peruvian: 25289, 28208
Colombian: chicken, 20059; list of all known, 18274
Argentine or Colombian steak: 23555, 23445
Brazilian/feijoada: 23991, 23668, 23306
Chilean: 26837, 23280, 19192

AFRICAN: 29166, 12029, 19193, 7755
Toham: 20853, 10666
Bolat: 12019
Lunch trucks: 26401

SOUL FOOD: overview at 22207; 9934, 9933, 5217
Army & Lou’s: 26171
BJ's: 9934
Homecookin' (Evanston): 22248
Soul Food History: 19326
House of Blues Gospel Brunch: 22219

BBQ: 11555, 9882, 7049
Lem’s: 18071, 12606 (picture), 9528, 3528
On North Side: 22092
On West Side: 11297, 23009
Fat Willy’s: 21606, 21472

DELI: 23657, 20913, 17637, 15988, 15900, 11009
Manny’s Vs. Kauffman’s: 20046
A.P. Deli: 17637

BAKERIES: 28489, 18756 (starts with pie, goes from there), 29451, 6514
Bread roundup: 28945
Croissant roundup: 29137
Cakes: 28800
Bagels: 28563
Mexican bakeries: 25289, 7449, 20340, 17453, 15307; Bombon, 18721
Asian bakeries: 28271, 26292, 25851, 24745
Polish Rye: 21094
Bittersweet: 9473
Vanille Patisserie: 28626
Corner Bakery (epitaph for): 28371

BURGERS: Best: 27657, 18104, 7971
Definition of "30s style": 20019
Bill's: 21919, 20021
Smith & Wollensky: 22510

VEGETARIAN: 28292

14) THE SORT-OF-FAQ:

I’M COMING FROM OUT OF TOWN, WHERE DO I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO GO?
Comprehensive eating tours: 27778, 27097, 25654, 14073, 12517, 10011
Best Chow Neighborhoods: 28707
“Best Chowblock in town”: 7179
“Best Only in Chicago Stuff”: 27040
Non-restaurant food attractions: 29648
24-Hour Chowathon: 8184
Westernathon: 21856
“The Thread Every Visitor Should Read”: Starting at 10011
A Much Earlier Attempt at Comprehensively Pointing To Ethnic Threads: 8395

WHAT’S GOOD IN THE LOOP? 26349, 15775, 12165, 6344, 6388
South Loop near Chicago Hilton: 22751
Choices near Merchandise Mart: 28557
Choices near Mag Mile/Navy Pier: 28807, 26349, 20177

WHERE’S GOOD TO TAKE KIDS? 21204, 23940

WHAT’S GOOD IN THE INDIANA DUNES/MICHIGAN SHORE AREA? 22788, 11645
South Bend: 22827

WHAT’S GOOD IN THE WESTERN SUBURBS?
Dim sum: 28390
Japanese: 27490
Vietnamese: 18687
Filipino: 18072
Greek: 24921
Mexican: 21183
Puerto Rican: 17731
Eastern European: 17308
For big groups: 27991
Naperville: 27725; Indian, 23077, 22826, 21840 (complete roundup)

WHAT’S GOOD AND CHEAP IN THE NORTHERN SUBURBS? 26617, 21331

I’M STAYING NEAR O’HARE, IS THERE HOPE FOR ME? 28706, 23673
Woodfield Mall area: 29046
Midway Airport area: 26872
See also section on Japanese near Mitsuwa/Woodfield

I WANT TO KVETCH ABOUT THIS FAQ, WHERE’S THE EARLIER KVETCHING SO I MAKE SURE I SAY SOMETHING NEW? 19255, 22592

WHERE DID THAT BRILLIANT POST BY DAVE HAMMOND THAT DIDN’T HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH FOOD GO? http://www.sptsb.com/Hammond.htm

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