Two of our editors will be attending the Chicago Midwinter Meeting, which means that the dental industry needs to eat enough for the editors who don't get to enjoy deep-dish pizza or Chicago-style hot dogs. So you can be sure to experience the best Chicago has to offer, we consulted with locals Nancy Rodriguez and Sheri Doniger to find their favorites. Here is a list of several Chicago restaurants that should give visitors a real taste of the Windy City. Restaurants with a * signify being recommended by both Nancy and Sheri. Leave your belts at home and bon appetit.
Nancy Rodriguez is the director of IT at the American Dental Assistants Association in Chicago and has shared her favorite restaurants. Unfortunately for you, she didn’t want to add her own comments because, as she told me, she writes code, not literature. So you get my comments on food. She does advise to hit up the West Loop and the Fulton Market if you have time.
508 N State St
Why you should go, according to Zagat: The setting of the restaurant is modern and spacious, including fireplaces, skylights, and a floating staircase. This Texas-based chain offers average to good Mexican food that doesn’t live up to the setting of the restaurant, but the service is good and the restaurant attracts a cool crowd.
223 W Jackson Blvd
Why you should go, according to the editor: This is where you should go for your Chicago deep-dish pizza, apparently. First of all, it looks amazing. I mean, look at that cheesy goodness. Look at the crust! And the sauce. Also, they have a sign in at least one location that says, “MMM GOOD WE CRUST,” which is kind of hilarious.
633 N Wells St
Why you should go, according to Google+ users: Amazing pizza, great crust, awesome atmosphere, and you can write on the walls with Sharpies (BYOS). Be prepared to wait about 45 minutes for your pizza to bake.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria – South Loop
805 S State St
Why you should go, according to Zagat: The Zagat review uses words and phrases like, “OMG,” “ooey-gooey, nicely stretchy cheese” and enough sausage to “feed an army.” What more do you need to know? There are, like most of these pizza joints, about a million locations in Chicago, so no excuses you guys. You should be eating this every day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Portillo’s Hot Dogs
100 W Ontario St
Why you should go: For the Chicago-style hot dog, obviously. According to their menu, a hot dog “with everything” includes: mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red pipe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. Also, they’re hiring, if you want to give up your dental career and spend your days serving hot dogs to people [read: spend your days eating hot dogs].
51 W Hubbard St
Why you should go, according to my research: Apparently, though this isn’t a sushi restaurant, they have great sushi. Bonus: it’s half-priced every day from 3 to 6 pm. Hub 51 specializes in “upgraded bar food,” so if you have a nacho or burger craving but someone else in your party wants sushi, this may just be the place for you. They also have a nice brunch, and after hours there’s a club downstairs – called Sub 51.
Sweetwater Tavern and Grille
225 N Michigan Ave
Why you should go: For the beer and people-watching. The food is average, but this is the place for some post-work (or post-convention) drinks with friends and colleagues. The restaurant features floor-to-ceiling windows and a full beer list, including those on tap, so you can sit back with a beer and watch the passers-by.
445 N Clark St
Why you should go: Of the three Mexican restaurants by celebrity chef Rick Bayless, this is the most upscale. Check it out if you want to fiesta, but you have to keep it classy.
445 N Clark St
Why you should go: Another Rick Bayless restaurant, located next to Frontera Grill. Go here if you want to be pampered. Topolobampo offers Mexican food in a nice atmosphere – and has great margaritas.
449 N Clark St
Why you should go: It’s another Rick Bayless Mexican restaurant, but it stands apart in one major way. According to Rick Bayless’s website, “If Topolo pampers and Frontera dances, then XOCO rocks.” One cuisine, three personalities. This is the most casual of the Bayless trio.
1500 W Taylor St
Why you should go: For the beautiful seafood and pasta dishes and rich interior decorating. The restaurant philosophy could be “Keep it simple, keep it good, and keep it coming.” That’s good enough for me. Also, these dishes:
Tip from Nancy: I recommend the Taylor Street location. The Grand location is nice, but to get away from downtown, hit up Taylor Street.
1531 W Taylor St
Why you should go, according to Google+ users: Not for the atmosphere, apparently. This place is a student favorite because it has cheap, tasty food. It’s cafeteria style and doesn’t provide much in the way of esthetics, but hey – it’s about the food, right?
Osaka Express Inc
400 S Michigan Ave
Why you should go: Go here if you’re looking for quick sushi at lunchtime. It’s a smaller restaurant, so it’s probably not great for groups, but if you have a craving for sushi and limited time, this is your place.
847 W Randolph St
Why you should go: Craving some chicken tikka masala? How about some veggie samosas or cheese naan? Head to the West Loop for authentic Indian food at Jaipur for excellent service and food in an inviting atmosphere.
Grand Lux Café
600 N Michigan Ave
Why you should go: For superb Eggs Benedict and mimosas. This place does brunch well, but it’s also known as an upscale Cheesecake Factory, which means they do a variety of things well.
Mart Anthony’s Italian Restaurant & Steakhouse
1200 W Hubbard Ave
Why you should go, according to fans: Go to Mart Anthony’s if you want to eat “grandma’s” Italian in an “old school Chicago feel” kind of restaurant.
Nancy adds: If you have time, hit up my favorite Italian restaurant, Mart Anthony’s in the Near West Side. It’s easy to get to, but hard to get a cab back – you cold be waiting a good 30 minutes, but the food is worth every bite!
Sheri Doniger told us that Chicago is “truly a foodie’s paradise.” Here are some of her favorites – “some known, some newer, and some off the beaten path.” I have a feeling that if you follow Sheri’s advice, your tummy will thank you.
980 N Michigan Ave
Why you should go: Included in the 2013 Michelin guide to Chicago restaurants, Spiaggia has received accolades from all over. It has received nominations for Outstanding Restaurant in America and for Outstanding Service multiple times. Chef Tony Mantuano was featured on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” and was awarded the 2005 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Midwest. Hungry?
217 W Huron St
Sheri says: Graham Elliot, named after its owner and judge on Fox’s MasterChef, is a contemporary fine dining restaurant, offering both regular and tasting menus.
615 N State St
Why you should go: Another Graham Elliot restaurant, Grahamwich is a casual restaurant offering sandwiches, salads, and snacks. It was created to “redefine what a sandwich shop could and should be,” according to the website.
841 W Randolph St
Why you should go: This bistro offers simple entrees that include three dishes or less in entrees and is open every day for dinner and on the weekends for brunch.
Joe’s Stone Crab
60 E Grand Ave
Sheri says: Specializing in steaks and seafood, Joe’s is always a great place to see and be seen. Many Chicago elite dine at this restaurant that was brought up north from South Beach.
And if you get out for breakfast, try these places:
Click here to see a map of these restaurants. Note: this map includes the closest locations to McCormick Place, but there are several locations of some of these restaurants. Check online for the best option for you if you're going to be traveling around the city.