A Weekend in Chicago
Downtown Chicago offers a multitude of meal options. If you plan to be in the "Windy City" for the weekend, venture out of downtown to taste some of Chicago’s real flavor, which can be found in some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods. The Daily Meal's Chicago Travel City Editor offers a handy food guide for downtown and beyond to get you through the weekend.
12 p.m.: When you’re just getting into town, the best thing to do is to grab a quick bite so you can get out and make the most of your time in the city. For a simple yet tasty lunch option, hit up Grahamwich on State Street. Opened by celebrity chef Graham Elliot, this fast-serve sandwich shop offers high-quality, inventive sandwiches along with delicious snacks like Parmesan-dusted popcorn and soft-serve ice cream.
3 p.m.: For a mid-afternoon snack, sampling one of Chicago's famous hot dogs or donuts is a must. If it's a savory snack you seek, head to The Wieners Circle for a classic Chicago dog (poppy seed bun and frank topped with yellow mustard, white onions, sweet relish, tomato slices, dill pickle spears, sport peppers, and celery salt). Asking for ketchup is a blasphemous request. For a sweet treat, Chicago has some of America's Best Donuts. Be sure to stop at the Doughnut Vault for its classic buttermilk and chestnut donuts.
6 p.m.: Grab a cab and venture to Little Italy for pasta and wine at chef Scott Harris' Davanti Enoteca on Taylor Street. The menu hits all the right notes: tender risotto, crisp pizzas, and an impressive wine selection served in a cozy setting.
9 a.m.: Start off with a quick brunch downtown at Atwood Café, a classic, upscale option that serves a range of eggs Benedicts, like a Southern-style version with pulled pork, cornbread, and potatoes, and eggs Chesapeake with crabcakes and potatoes. For a more casual option, head to Yolk, which has three convenient downtown locations. Menu options include a cheesy egg sandwich with fried eggs, sliced tomato, Cheddar cheese, and pesto sauce on a toasted bagel; pot roast Benedict, an English muffin with pot roast, topped with two poached eggs and homemade hollandaise sauce; and West Coast crepes, sliced avocado and mushrooms blended with scrambled eggs and melted Cheddar and jack cheeses folded into two sweet crepes.
1 p.m.: After brunch, head up to Andersonville. This neighborhood has Swedish roots and plenty of great shops for browsing. For lunch, grab a seat at Reza’s Restaurant, which serves up delicious kabobs and other Middle Eastern fare. Before leaving, stop by the Swedish Bakery for a snack to hold you over until dinner. Signature Northern European sweets to try are the Andersonville coffeecake, cardamom coffeecake, butter cookies, and fruit glazed cake.
6 p.m.: For dinner, check out Chicago's oldest sushi spot, Kamehachi. Since 1967, Kamehachi has been serving sushi in Old Town. The restaurant has expanded and so has its menu, which offers small bites, kamehachi skewers, sushi, sashimi, and rolls. Make your night even better by scoring tickets to Second City, the legendary Chicago improv comedy club located across the street.
8 p.m.: Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas' cocktail venture The Aviary is a destination for cocktails as much as it is for modernist cuisine. The bar creates over 25 types of ice from spheres to pearl-sized to put in its molecular concoctions.
10 p.m.: It’s Saturday night, after all, so there’s no reason to head back to your hotel room just yet. First, stop at the Signature Lounge at the 96th for cocktails or martinis. Located in the John Hancock Building, you’ll get sweeping views of Chicago’s skyline that will make your trip that much more memorable. Order the signature Sidecar martini made with Hennessey, Cointreau, and lime juice.
10 a.m.: Sleep in a little and then grab brunch at The Publican on Fulton Street, #63 on The Daily Meal's 101 Best Restaurants in America 2012. Executive chef Paul Kahan and chef de cuisine Brian Huston prepare a farmhouse-style menu served in a cavernous space evocative of a European beer hall. Another option is to head to Hyde Park on Chicago’s South Side for breakfast. Salonica has no-frills, delicious all-day breakfast options. The more exapnsive morning breakfast menu includes steak and eggs, waffles, and omelettes like the Salonica omelette with gyro meat, tomatoes, green peppers, and onion. Plus, you can stroll through the beautiful University of Chicago campus or the Museum of Science and Industry afterward.
12 p.m.: Maxwell Street Market, just south of downtown is a must. The open-air flea market has hundreds of vendors selling all manner of bric-a-brac but the Mexican food here is also noteworthy. Tacos al pastor and horchata are sure to keep your energy up while browsing the vast market.
6 p.m.: Your weekend is almost over, so make the most of it with one last delicious meal downtown before your departure. Don't leave Chicago without trying Chicago-style pizza at Pizano's, which serves deep-dish and thin-crust pizzas and was ranked number four in The Daily Meal's America's 35 Best Pizzas 2012. Try the Rudy's Special, a hefty pie with cheese, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Another option is Gino’s East, which came in at number eight on The Daily Meal's America's 35 Best Pizzas 2012, just off the famed Michigan Avenue strip in the heart of downtown (there are 11 locations in all). The buttery crust is stuffed with a range of toppings from pepperoni to pineapple. The walls of the restaurant are covered with graffiti, as it’s a tradition of Gino’s to carve your name on the wall if you’re a dedicated patron, which you most likely will be after trying the pizza.