May 19, 2011

the windy city looks mighty pretty

My big (shot) brother (a.k.a. Weevel) is graduating from the top-ranked Kellogg MBA school at Northwestern University next month. We're super proud and I super want to visit Chicago so David and I are leaving Will with his gramma for a few days so we can go watch the big event (and so I can smooch on my new pudgy niece Margot). None of us have ever been to Chicago and we're pretty lost as to what to do, what to eat, where to stay, how to travel, etc.
the strawbs and me - around 1988
Since David is an avid baseball fan Wrigley Field is a must. We've also heard that it's a good place to get an authentic street vendor hot dog (true?). Though maybe Hot Doug is the place to be for an original Chicago dog? Other than that, I don't know what I want to see but I do have a few restaurant recommendations from David's foodie sister, Elise.

Perennial: I heard a rumor they have a mac 'n cheese bar so . . . I don't need to continue that sentence.
Grahamwich: All their sandwiches sound amazing and I'm thinking I'll get the cinnamon stick ice cream with roasted apple, salted caramel and pie crust for a treat. Doesn't that sound fantastic?
Bistro 110: a Chicago trademark restaurant and the menu looks good - maybe a good place to take my parents out for a nice dinner? I've heard the location is unbeatable.
La Boulangerie: looks good for breakfast? Fresh, good bread is one of my favorite things on earth.
Penny's Noodle Shop: David is the Asian aficionado in this relationship but their menu looks tasty!
Potbelly Sandwiches: I know they have these in other cities but I've never been to one and I hear the sandwiches are amazing. They don't look like anything special but if they're good, they're good.
Custom House Tavern: pretty sure we could only afford lunch there but it looks like a sleek place to try.
Lure Asian Pub: a small plates restaurant. An interesting fusion place.
Pizza: David and I are pretty sure that we don't like Chicago style pizza. We're more of the New York slice type but we can't go to Chicago without trying pizza! So, where is the best Chicago pizza that won't make us die because it's like a huge pie of cheese and dough? We've heard Burt's Place, Louisa's, Lou Malnati's and Pequod's are good. Great Lake Pizza sounds good too, though not Chicago style.

Anything you have to add to the list or places I should cross of my list? Any tips would be really helpful!

P.S. you get five points if you know what movie my title is from.


  1. First of all, for sandwiches I would definitely recommend Southport Grocery over Potbelly...Potbelly is such a chain that I admit I've never tried them, but I LOVE Southport (plus they have great cupcakes). :-) If you haven't looked at Design*Sponge's Chicago guide, I'd check that out as well.

    If you're thinking about going to any museums, check out some of your local museums to see if they're participants with the ASTC ( Basically you can get in free to any participating museum once you have a membership at one, so, for instance, I bought a $60 family membership at our tiny local museum and now we can get into all the Chicago greats for free. :-) (Lincoln Park Zoo is always free, but I'm guessing you won't be going there without William.)

    Have fun! We're about 2 hours from Chicago and I LOVE visiting.

  2. Gene & Judes is probably the most popular Chicago style hot dog joint. And the most important thing to know about Chicago style dogs ketchup!
    If you wanted to go to a really nice place for lunch, try the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building (on Michigan Ave). Awesome views and a really good lunch buffet. It's usually quite expensive, but I think the buffet is a good value at $20.
    If you don't love Chicago style pizza, I'd skip it. The wait is always 2+ hours.
    Have fun!

  3. The title is from the doris day movie, but I can't think of what it's called. I sing it in my head every time I visit my sister in Chicago.

    'the windy city is mighty pretty, but they ain't got what we got...' :)

    We don't go out to eat alot while we're in Chicago, we're mostly in the Lincoln Park area, which is close to the Wrigleyville area. I love to eat at Potbelly's, even though it is a chain. I eat at the one here in Columbus (Ohio) all of the time! :) On my last visit, we tried Giordanos Famous Chicago Style Pizza and it was delicious. It is in downtown though, right beside Willis (Sears) Tower. We've also had 'The Art of Pizza' before and it was good. Both are Chicago style pizza.

    If you have time, visit the Navy Pier for a nice view of the city from 'out on the lake.' And 'the Bean' is in Millineum Park. And I've gone up in Willis Tower once and it gives amazing views.

    The Lincoln Park area has tons and tons of cute shops and boutiques and little restaurants. And they have Molly's Cupcakes and Sweet Mandy' B's, also a cupcake store.

    I'll be visiting again sometime in the next few weeks when my sister delivers her second baby, so I'm looking forward to walking around in the warm weather! :)

  4. You should check out

    She lives in Chicago and loves food!

  5. For brunch, you must go here:

    it is amazingly delicious.

  6. Any and all of Rick Bayless's restaurants. They're all amazing, and have different price points to suit whatever you are looking for.

  7. calamity jane!!!!

    sorry, have never been to chicago, but recognized the song lyric!

  8. Yetserday Oprah interviewed Ralph Lauren and she mentioned that his eatery RL is her favorite place in Chicago. That's all I've got.

  9. Never been to Chicago, but I just had to say your LO is the spitting image of least when you were little.

    Desi (I knew David from Mutual/church/school)

  10. I used to live there, and was married there. Swoon. Miss it so much. Bistro 110 is wonderful, breakfast and lunch especially. Watch out - Ghirardelli's is next door. ;) Also love Heaven on Seven for Cajun, for a Rick Bayless place - Frontera Grill (Topalobampo is also wonderful, more pricey). We love tapas, so we also like Cafe Ba-ba-reeba & Cafe Iberico. If there's time - tea at the Drake is lovely. Penny's Noodle Shop is awesome for lunch.
    Garrett Popcorn is another Chicago thing - long lines, though! I could go on and on. I'm sure your bro has some favorites, too! Enjoy!

  11. I love that you are doing this b/c we are going to Chicago in July!! So now I can benefit from it too! ha. I have only been in Chicago once...but everyone told us WE HAD to go to Giordanos Famous Chicago Pizza and since David is a pizza lover...I think you should fit this in...:-)

  12. If you go out for a brunch and you like potato pancakes, they are awesome in Chicago. I don't know why, I just know it's my reliable go-to at a Chicago diner.

    And off the food topic, they have an incredible modern/contemporary art museum. Small & do-able in an afternoon and they have never disappointed me with their exhibits. They get some really interesting, cool stuff there.

    And on a lame pop-culture note--I think I just saw on Oprah that the store at her studio actually carries clothes & shoes of hers that she sells & gives profits from to her school. Don't know where you stand on O but I am a terrible snoop and would go just for that.

  13. You're definiitely going to Navy Pier, right? :)

  14. Elizabeth- I grew up in Chicago, moved to San Diego and then moved back home. Hands down- the best "Chicago" pizza is Lou Malnati's. Deep dish with a cornmeal crust. A must eat in my opinion. Be sure to visit Millennium Park. It right down the street from the Art Institute. Another must do in my opinion and if you have the time is to do the Chicago Architectural Foundation boat tour. It is a wonderful tour to learn about Chicago. There are other tours but this one is the best. They have a docent doing the tour and they have a "boatload" of info. Another classic Chicago steakhouse is Gene and Georgetti. Old world with amazing steaks. You are coming at one of the best times of the year in my opinion. It was a visit just like yours that convinced me I have to move back to Chicago.

  15. Boy do I have a lot of opinions...LOL

  16. i say skip potbellys in favor of more authentic food. although they are decent (and my favorite of fast food sandwich shops) they are DEF a chain and if you have eaten a toasted sub anywhere, these aren't really anything special. they do have a good toasted mushroom/cheese skinny sandwich though. that's my fave

  17. I would recommend you guys check out for the noodles. Penny's is good- just not all that authentic in my opinion.

  18. I've been a reader for awhile, but never commented, so hi! I also live in SD & love reading your adventures.

    I think Chicago is my favorite city....even over NYC.

    Hot Doug's is a MUST! You can get a great traditional dog, but also experiment with fun stuff. Like the Gyro Dog....AMAZING!

    For a splurge, we LOVED mkChicago ( A lovely dining experience in an intimate & romantic setting.

    I've also heard RL & Frontera are great.

    Navy Pier is a must do & the top of the Hancock Building is an amazing way to get great views of the city.

    By far my most favorite experience (other than eating, of course), and the one I thought I'd like the least, was the Architectural Tour via boat. It was awesome! And a great way to get amazing pics. It's definitely the hour that I went from infatuation with the city to IN LOVE!!!!

  19. Hooray for Chicago! You will have lots of fun.

    If you like Vietnamese food, try Tank Noodle in Uptown - 4953 N Broadway. No ambiance to speak of, but it is crowded all the time for a reason! The specialty is basic beef noodle soup or "pho". It is Viet comfort food.

    For Jewish deli style goodies and takeout sandwiches, fairly near to Northwestern U.: Kaufman's Deli
    4905 Dempster St, Skokie

    Devon Avenue (Little India) is an experience all its own, great for people watching and exotic fruit shopping. You can go to many different good places, but I liked Mysore Woodlands, 2548 W. Devon Ave

    And for an expensive but extremely delicious Sicialian style pastry: Pasticceria Natalina, 5406 N. Clark St. Bring home a bag of cookies too.

  20. Potbelly's isn't worth it. It's probably better than Subway, but vacation meals are too limited and precious to waste on something that average!
    I completely agree with whoever said that the Signature Room at the Hancock is worth it. As I was advised by a local, you can spend $17 on an elevator ride to the top of the Sears Tower, or you can take a free ride to the top of the Hancock and spend $17 on some food and drink and get a more relaxed view without field trips of kids pushing you away from the window. The view is AMAZING, especially if you can get there at dusk and watch the city light up. If you go, do NOT miss the view of Navy Pier from the ladies room!!
    The architectural tour boats from Navy Pier are also very fun!

  21. Chicago is my favorite city too - I travel there for work and play when I can! For breakfast - Bongo Room is my favorite - both the sweet and savory items like red velvet pancakes and amazing omlettes. If you are off Michigan Ave, the Original House of Pancakes is good - like a traditional IHOP but their Apple Puff Pancake is fabulous. MKs is a great restaurant as someone else posted. Definitely the architectural boat tour for your first visit and time in Millenium Park is a must. Potbellys is average compared to local food I would agree. Navy Pier is fun but commercialized - I would focus on riding the ferris wheel and maybe catching the fireworks - and you can pick up the boat tour there. My husband loved the segway tour along the lake. Art Institute is always a crowd pleaser. And Garretts popcorn is a must, especially to take home. Definitely get the mix of caramel and cheese - fabulous together. They now have a location in O'Hare so you can pick it up fresh on your way home. Its a great gift to bring back but only lasts a few days. Worth any wait in line. Enjoy!!!

  22. *Calamity Jane! I have loved that movie since I was a girl, and now will have that song in my head all day.

    The boat architecture tour about the history and development of the city and the buildings is amazing. Also, the audio narration on the top floor of the Hancock building (with a 360 view of the city) is incredible on a clear day.

    Lou Manalti's is THE BEST Chicago style pizza, and if you like traditional Scandinavian fare, there's an awesome Sweedish bakery on the North side of the city (can't remember the name).

    Take a walk on the trail that goes along Lake Michigan on a sunny day; it's gorgeous.

  23. Yay for Chicago! Love it. If I could only go one place, I'd head back to The Publican in Fulton Market. Gwyneth noted it on GOOP this last week (which was slightly annoying as the restaurant has been great for a long time!). Get a table outside and be sure to order the french fries (cooked in duck fat with an egg on top!) and the waffle for dessert.

  24. Hi Liz,
    I'm old enough to be your Mother, but I still love your blog because you are such a sweetheart! We live about an hour out of Chicago and some of our favorite places/things to do are...
    Giordano's for pizza! The Chop House for steaks, the Architectural Boat Tour, the Lincoln Park Zoo (and it's free), Garrett's popcorn (get the Chicago mix), The Art Insitute, walking from the Museum Campus to Navy Pier where you could go to the Billy Goat Tavern - cheeseburger, cheeseburger fame and there is a Garretts popcorn there. I would skip Potbelly's it's nothing special but I hear Portillos has good authentic Chicago style hot dogs and other things that are fabulous. In any case I'm sure you will have a great time and don't forget the Magnificent Mile!

  25. I don't know anything about Chicago, but I Don know that you quoted Calamity Jane in your title!!!

  26. I have lived in Lakeview for the past year (about a mile south of Wrigley). Beyond a cubs game, I would highly recommend the architecture boat tour, although you MUST go through the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Other tours don't compare. Tip of advice: buy your tickets a day in advance if this is what you want to do!

    I second the vote for Southport Grocer!!! Plus, the Southport Corridor has lots of cute boutiques and fun restaurants! Similar, but more bakery style to Soothport Grocer is Floriole. Definitely skip Potbellys- no better than Quiznos. Hot Dougs is a for sure, although FYI, not open on Sundays. Gemini Cafe is also delish.... I haven't gotten around to it but Hot Chocolate in Wicker Park is also on my list! Toro Sushi on Clark- be prepared to wait but Mitch, the chef/owner is awesome. Nori is also really good for sushi!

    My biggest tips--
    1) Reservations! No matter if you don't think you need them, make them. It is a must in this town
    2) Skip any chain restaurants. Despite how good they may sound, Chicago is a foodie heaven and there are plenty of local spots that are just as good, if not better.
    3) Yelp! My best friend when it comes to finding a new place to eat. Seriously swear by it!
    4) All the touristy places are just that... Get into the neighborhoods!

    Oh, and unless you are bringing kids, Navy Pier doesn't offer much... Besides the view??

    Enjoy!! I love it here!

  27. Haha forgot my ultimate favorite... Uncommon Ground. Its just north of Wrigley on Clark! :)

  28. I lived in Chicago years ago... one of my favorite cities in America but too dang cold. Hopefully you'll get some good weather.

    Oven Grinders is one of my favorite restaurants. You won't be disappointed. In LIncoln Park & they only take cash.

    Also don't miss the Architectural Cruise through the canals... really interesting!

    I lived close to the Navy Pier right off Michigan Avenue. Lots of great shopping in the area.

    If your flying into Midway Airport they have a Potbelly's in the airport... yum! Have you tried the peanut butter and jelly? It's warm and melts in your mouth! Waiting for Potbelly to make it's way to AZ.

    Hope you have a great time!

  29. Love Penny's Noodle Shop. There is one right in our neighborhood and it's great! Lou Malnati's is my favorite deep dish pizza (and I don't like deep dish that much). We love the Bongo Room for brunch. The architectural boat tour is super fun! Lincoln Park Zoo is free, so it's nice for a good walk. Big Star is fun to sit outside, eat, and people watch. We live in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood so please don't hesitate to ask me for anymore info! I'm happy to help!

  30. Not sure if you already went or not but these are my recommendations. My SIL lives there and we've visited a few times...
    Giordanos deep dish pizza (heavenly)
    Garretts popcorn
    Dougs Dog (get the duck fat fries)

    and do the Architectural boat tour and Sears tower


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