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Top Five Fridays: Where Should You Take Out-Of-Town Guests?

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 22, 2012 4:00PM

Drinks at the Signature Lounge. Photo by nathanmac87.
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I get asked this more than any other food-related question: "My friend is coming in from Antartica/Brazil/Thailand/Ohio, and I want to show off Chicago's great food. Where should I take them?" I got tired of thinking about it, so i picked the brains of the brilliant Chicagoist food staff. This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's a great place to start.

Minna An - Head down to Pilsen.
Last time I played host to an out-of-towner, I took them to the 2nd Fridays Gallery Night in Pilsen, which ended in a feast of cocktails and ‘que at Honky Tonk BBQ and more cocktails at the eclectic Simone’s. It’s a fun time for non-traditionalist tourists and food fans alike, who are looking to take in Chicago’s art and food while avoiding the hordes underneath the bean.

Caitlin Klein- Go up in the air or down on the water.
I think the best place to take out of town visitors is the Signature Lounge at the Hancock Building. They (and I) never get tired of looking out over the best city on earth. A close second, if you are a member or know a member of the Columbia Yacht Club, the dining room on the MV Abegweit provides a great view of both the city and the lake. Despite what you might think about your lunch being prepared in a galley, the food at Columbia is very good, and they have a respectable wine and beer selection.

Amy Cavanaugh - Feed them Midwestern beer and sausages.
My love of Bangers and Lace is no secret, and when someone lets me pick a place to go out, I often suggest it. It's especially true for out of town visitors. You can try lots of local beers and have a solid Chicago-style hot dog. There's also a good bourbon list, and many excellent sausage dishes; I'm partial to the Sheboygan. My favorite part of traveling is trying regional dishes, and I think you leave Bangers and Lace with a good idea of what Midwestern cuisine is like.

Melissa Wiley - Go fancy but comfortable.
Bistro Campagne. This pick is a blatant attempt to show off Chicago's sophisticated side without trying too hard. Naturally it's French - and spectacularly delicious - and has one of the most serene patio spaces in the city. It's in a real neighborhood, so they'll get a taste of Chicago outside of River North. Plus, even after the end of a meal otherwise lovely in every respect, the pot-de-creme au chocolat always presents an unforgettable wow factor.

John Digilio - It's a no-brainer - Pizza.
Giordano's will always be my eatery of choice for out of towners, especially Chicago newbies. Yes, it's a chain. But so what? As a foodie, there is no greater pleasure than watching a visitor's eyes bulge with excitement and hunger when food is placed before them. To get that reaction, I can always count on the thick, gooey, deep dish pies at Giordano's. The oohs and aahs of the initial shock quickly give way to the sighs and groans of happily stuffed guests.  What more could a conscientious host ask?

Bonus Answers

Melissa Wiley - Pork and mussels, all the way.
The Publican. The seating arrangement alone is usually enough to delight my (admittedly easily impressed) out of towners. Plus, the beer hall atmosphere and the shameless homage to the porcine are immediate cause for celebration. Even though I always insist on ordering the mussels, the fact that we're diving into an undeniably meat-centered menu in the midst of Chicago's famed meat-packing district is also an easy crowd pleaser.

Anthony Todd - Opa!
I know that Chicago's more sophisticated fooderati like to mock Greektown, with its plaster columns and bad wine. But if you're bringing in a guest and you want to show them something totally unique to Chicago, Greektown is it. Most cities have Chinese, Latino, even Indian neighborhoods - but which other big city in America has a stretch of greek restaurants like that? Order the flaming cheese, drink the roditis, and just have fun.