The 2012 Guide to Chicago, the Universe, and Beyond

Nancy Terry


May 16, 2012

In This Article

Chicago is a destination of rich and varied attractions. The Windy City is home to world-class art, killer music, sizzling theater, intoxicating eateries, and soaring architecture, and for 1 week in June it is host to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. ASCO® may be what brings you to Chicago, but there is a lot of city waiting for you outside the McCormick Place convention center. When you are not absorbed in presentations, here are a few suggestions for what you might do.

Everybody's Gotta Eat

Whether you intend to snack or dine, Chicago is a gastronome's delight. Hot dogs are serious food here. People go on pilgrimage to sample the encased meats of Hot Doug's, Franks 'N' Dawgs, the skinless Chicago-style hot dogs of Al's, and the Italian beef of Portillo's. Did I mention pizza? The famous Chicago-style deep dish pie can be found in all its glory at Lou Malnati's and Pizzeria Uno (or its sister, Pizzeria Due). For the best burger in town, go straight to Kuma's Corner, but be prepared for its loud, heavy-metal "atmosphere." For a quieter but equally legendary burger, try Billy Goat Tavern, which is the inspiration for John Belushi's "Cheezborger Cheezborger" skit on Saturday Night Live. When you're out seeing the sights, pop into Garrett Popcorn (at several locations in the Loop) and treat yourself to their cheese- and caramel-flavored popcorns (with or without macadamias, cashews, or pecans).

For lunch and dinner, there is a wealth of options within a short ride from McCormick Place.If barbecue is what you hanker for, queue up for Chicago q. Located in the heart of the Gold Coast at 1160 North Dearborn, Chicago q serves up its barbecue from wood-burning smokers, seasons it with artisanal house-made sauces, and tops it off with Southern-quality service. It's great for groups, but it can be on the loud side. To check out their mouth-watering menu, go to

Billing itself as "the spice of life," Carnivale specializes in Nuevo Latino cuisine from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, and Puerto Rico. The atmosphere is fun and the food delish -- worth the cab ride to 702 West Fulton Market. See if their menu doesn't entice you:

Interested in a sit-down meal garnished with libations? Hub 51, at 51 West Hubbard Street, aims to please its customers with a laid-back atmosphere, a deep list of beers and spirits, and a varied menu. The Sunday brunch is a show-stopper. Check out its offerings at and consider making reservations, because this popular spot fills up fast.

If you're looking for dining with a capital D, a visit to one of Chicago's palaces of haute cuisine is in order. Spiaggiais considered to serve the best Italian cuisine in Chicago, but some say that a meal there may cost you as much as airfare to Italy. Café Spiaggia, its casual sibling, offers an authentic Italian sidewalk eaterie and trattoria in a setting that redefines la dolce vita. For information on either of the Spiaggia siblings, visit Alinea'smolecular gastronomy offers tasting menus of 24-course bite-size offerings that can change the way you view food -- or art. For a visual sampling, go to

If none of these options tickle your taste buds, check the restaurant page of Metromix Chicago, which features recent reviews and a calendar showing restaurants that are offering special deals on dates of your choosing. From sidewalk noshes to 30-course meals, Chicago is a wide-open frontier of fooderies. Come with an appetite for adventure.