Chicago Restaurant Recommendations from Food Bloggers
In exactly a week, a whole bunch of excited women and a few men will be heading to Chicago to celebrate their passion for blogging at the 2007 Blogher Conference. People who have been online friends are looking forward to meeting, we're planning on learning a lot, and many of us are excited about sampling some of the diverse food experiences Chicago has to offer. Of course everyone has their own opinions about what makes a great restaurant, but I thought it would be fun to hear from some food bloggers about where Blogher Conference attendees might have a memorable meal.
First, if you want to splurge on a meal at a place that's going to provide a truly fine-dining experience, Blogher editor Maria Niles has already shared some Chicago Fine-Dining Options in a previous post. I'd be thrilled to eat at either of the three places Maria writes about!
This Mama Cooks recommends Billy Goat Tavern for a dinner that will bring back memories of the famous SNL skit where you could only get "Cheezborger, no fries - Cheeps, and no Pepsi - Coke." If you're too young to remember that one, trust us. This place is highly-rated and has won numerous awards.
The Food Section reminds us that Frontera Grill was named Outstanding Restaurant of the Year at the 2007 James Beard Awards. Eating at one of the Rick Bayless restaurants is on my own 'must do' list for Chicago. For those who don't know, Chef Rick Bayless' other Chicago destination restaurant is Topolobampo. Both of these feature regional Mexican dishes to die for. You probably need to call now if you're wanting to get into one of these spots, but if you can't make it into these two you might be able to get into Frontera Fresca, a sister place inside Macy's department store. (And a bit of foodie trivia, when my brother lived in Chicago he worked out regularly at the same gym as Rick Bayless and pronounced him "very nice.")
I checked in with a few fellow bloggers living in and around Chicago who haven't posted reviews but have their own ideas about good places to eat. Terry from Blue Kitchen recommends a place downtown called Brasserie Jo, saying it's so Parisien it even has a zinc bar. (Note to self: find out what a zinc bar is!) Lisa from Champaign Taste recommends 312 Chicago and Rosebud. (I did have a great dinner at Rosebud once while visiting said brother mentioned above. It's traditional Italian food and really an excellent restaurant.) And if you want an upscale Chicago experience, there's always Morton's which Lisa says is consistently good.
One of the more well-known Chicago area foodies among food bloggers is Paul from Food Blog, who for years has maintained the biggest list of food blogs anywhere on the internet. Paul says if you're really interested in finding out where serious foodies eat in Chicago you must check out the LTH Forum - Chicago-Based Culinary Chat Site. Paul describes it like this:
It's the food board where all the Chicago foodies and experts hang out. It's also a model of online community - full of forceful opinions, but more civil and well-managed than any online forum I know of.
Susan from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen will be a speaker at Blogher, and she's looking forward to eating at two well-known vegetarian restaurants, Chicago Diner and Karyn's Cooked. And when Susan asked for suggestions for Vegan restaurants, readers gave a lot of ideas in the comments.
If you're coming to Blogher with kids, you might want to check out Scrambled Cake, a blog dedicated to eating out around Chicago with kids. Also Kim from Scrambled Cake has tipped me off that that Fox and Obel's, the city's finest gourmet market is literally down the block from Navy Pier!!
Finally two Chicago recommendations of my own. As I mentioned, my fabulous brother Rand lived in Chicago for years and I visited him there quite a few times. My top restaurant memory would have the be a place called Greek Islands, where I first experienced Saganaki, the cheese flamed with brandy. Every meal I ever had there was just fantastic. If you do eat there, don't miss the trio of Greek Dips that are eaten with bread!
The other place I remember lovingly was Mike Ditkas's Restaurant, a steak and potatoes place so completely different from the kind of restaurant I normally like that I was amazed how completely impressed I was with it. (I haven't been to Chicago for more than ten years, so I hope these spots are still as good as I remember.)
My other Chicago street food memory is Garrett Popcorn! Don't miss having some of this, and be adventurous and try the signature combo of cheese and caramel popcorn mixed. In the days I was visiting Chicago regularly I never missed having some of this popcorn.
Finally some traditional sources to find restaurants. Zagats names the top five Chicago restaurants. (You'll have to subsribe to see more than that, but seeing who the sometimes snooty Zagats reviewers choose as the top choices is kind of fun.) You can search by price, feature, or type of food on Chicago CitySearch. Finally, for local opinions, Chicago Reader also has a site where readers can rate restaurants.
Have you had a memorable meal at a Chicago restaurant? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.
Blogher Food Editor Kalyn Denny tries to stick pretty close to the South Beach Diet when she's cooking up tasty food for Kalyn's Kitchen, but once she hits Chicago, she will be on the "enjoy yourself, you're on vacation" diet for five delicious days.