Introduction and Welcome to Chicago (Pt. 2 Dining Out)

ALA Welcome Logo 2If at some point you start getting hungry during your stay in our fair city, I highly recommend that you concentrate on the three principle food groups making up the traditional Chicago Diet: Deep Dish Pizza, Ribs and Polish Sausage. Though at first glance, this may not seem like the healthiest combination, just remember that you’ll be leaving in a few days and so will probably avoid the worst consequences of indulging in such fare.

The problem is in order to get to the best places, you have to be willing to travel. I mean the best place I know for Ribs — at least on the North Side — is Smokin’ Woody’s on Lincoln and Berteau (the tips are heavenly). Ditto for a Polish (notice we omit the word ‘sausage’) where I make a monthly pilgrimage to a trailer marked “Maxwell Street” on Diversey and Damen. Even my favorite pizza place is a neighborhood joint called “Renaldi’s” on Broadway just north of Diversey.

Closer to downtown, you’ve got Twin Anchors which is a great neighborhood place at 1655 N. Sedgwick. They do a pretty good baby back ribs — just make sure you order the original sauce! On the Polish front, Portillo’s on Ontario and Clark is okay. For pizza, Gino’s East on Wells and Ontario and Pizzeria Uno a couple blocks east are pretty good.

(If anyone knows of good places near downtown, please help me out here!)

Where downtown excels is great places to eat for lunch. Lawry’s Prime Rib on Ontario just west of Michigan has a fabulous lunch menu till 2pm (weekdays only). My favorite is the 10 oz. “Lawry’s Cut” with mashed potatoes and spinach (don’t forget the spinach) for around $20! Another great place is the Stand-up bar at Berghoff’s on Adams and State. Great four-dollar sandwiches — corned beef and bratwurst, etc. Berghoff’s is also good for din-din.

Whatever you eat, make sure you’re got enough room left for Garrett’s Popcorn! People say, you have not lived till you’ve seen Paree. That is incorrect. You have not lived till you’ve had a bag of Garrett’s Caramel Corn! People wait in lines for this stuff — and rightly so.

To wash this all down, remember that Goose Island is the local brew. There are a number of varieties. You’re free to sample all 14 (depending on availability). My personal favorite is Honkers.

Lastly, once you’ve eaten, drunk and entertained yourself to your heart’s content, remember that Chicago is also a great city just to get out and walk around in. State Street and Michigan Ave., the lakefront and beaches — from the Field Museum to North Avenue — you’ve got some of the best walking areas in Metropolitan USA. In a matter of days, if not hours, you’ll find yourself wishing that ALA had its convention here every year. Enjoy it while you can!