There are few better ways to get a taste for a town than to do just that: Taste it.
No, we are not advocating literally salivating over the sidewalks or licking the light poles; but, experiencing the myriad palates of a city drawing its culture from numerous regions to create something uniquely Chicago is something that should tickle the taste buds of any traveler.
We are all aware of Chicago-style deep dish pizza and the interesting treatment they give their franks — often called hot dogs to those not in the know — but the Windy City also houses some lesser known gems that warrant a trip to a tavern or a restaurant rendezvous.
So, whether you are catching up with an existing account representative or colleague or you’re looking to establish a lasting business relationship, we have the skinny on where you should go to dine and show clients a good time.
While Giordano’s and Gino’s East get most of the acclaim for the Chicago deep dish, many Chicagoans know that Lou Malnati’s can’t be beat.
“But, a much better and lesser known spot, renowned for their amazing caramelized crust, is Pequod’s on the North side,” notes Andi Vance, director at Mulberry Marketing Communications. “Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder also gets a vote for its pizza pot pie, which is a pizza in a bowl.”
Hot Doug’s is the choice if you’re looking for a frank as unique as the city itself.
Owner Doug Sohn, who personally greets patrons and takes orders, has a motto for his Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium: “There are no two finer words in the English language than ‘encased meats.’”
According to locals, you can expect to wait in line for one of Sohn’s creative concoctions, but we are told it is well worth it.
If you are looking for something quick and fulfilling, we are told that Manny’s Deli on Roosevelt and Jefferson is for you.
“It’s a great Jewish deli — a little pricey,” states Jolynn Kennedy, marketing manager for Tornado Industries Inc. “But, when I want a good deli sandwich, I go there. The sandwiches are huge; I usually don’t have to eat dinner after eating there. Plus, they have the best homemade potato pancakes.”
Aside from deep dish pizza, franks and the like, there are some spots that simply scream Chicago.
For the authentic Chicago experience, Twin Anchors, a spot where Frank Sinatra purportedly hung his hat, is a must for ribs.
The Green Mill is another great gangster-era joint for music and a late-night beverage.
According to others at Mulberry Marketing Communications, the “speakeasy” thing is quite prevalent in Chicago now, with some recommending The Violet Hour and Untitled.
Ditka’s, a steakhouse bearing the name and likeness of Hall of Fame football player and coach Mike Ditka, is a place to go if you want to bump into a living Chicago legend.
Present in the restaurant most evenings greeting guests and diehard Bears fans, Ditka — affectionately known as “Da Coach” by many — says the food is big, bold and beautiful at his place.
And, on Thursday, October 18, Da Coach will be live and in person recording an installment of ESPN Radio’s Mike Ditka Show from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
You’ve read about this, that and the other place, but no food article is complete without mention of a couple high-end eateries.
“The two restaurants I believe ISSA’s Chicago visitors will most enjoy are Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House and Gibson’s Steak House,” proclaims Robert Kravitz, president of AlturaSolutions Communications. “Located next door to each other on Rush Street, this is the liveliest location in Chicago; every President since Truman, as well as virtually every celebrity or dignitary in town, has had dinner in one of these two restaurants. Make your reservations as early as possible and don’t forget to order desert — probably the biggest deserts of any restaurant in the country.”
If posh exclusivity is more of your thing, try RL, which is clothing designer Ralph Lauren’s only restaurant.
Located at the corner of Chicago and Michigan Avenues and adjacent to the largest Polo store in the world, Chicago magazine said, “RL looks more like the leather-padded, mahogany-paneled library of a corporate law firm than the pleasant restaurant it is.”
If you fancy the idea of being able to say you’ve dined at the best restaurant in America and one of the top 10 eateries in the world, you should make a reservation at Alinea — or at least try.
Without delving too deeply into the details, a recent patron’s review of the restaurant that received three stars from the Michelin Guide sums up the general sentiment: “It was whimsical. It was innovative. It was the best meal of my life.”
If you want to experience head chef and owner Grant Achatz’s progressive, experimental cuisine, bring your wallet or pocketbook, some fancy attire and enough time to indulge in the 18-course sampling menu.
These are just a few of the countless options you have when salivating in Chicago.
When in doubt about where to go or what types of crowds you might encounter, Yelp it.
Other great resources include your hotel concierge, a taxicab driver, friendly locals or a trusty Google search.
If you’re adventurous and not squeamish about riding the subway, hop on the Red Line and head North to one of Chicago’s eclectic neighborhoods.
“It’s a different world from the downtown scene,” quips Vance.
Wherever you find yourself, just be sure to bring your appetite and enjoy all of the food festivities the Windy City has to offer.