Thursday, September 29, 2011

26.2 Places to Eat Over Chicago Marathon Weekend, the Last Half

Art Smith ran the Marathon, too, in 2010.
Have no fear, I wasn't going to leave you stranded at the 90/94 overpass right before you cross under the halfway mark banner at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Just like the race, we have to make it to the finish line with these eats. So for the second 13--and 0.2 for good measure--I've picked up right where I left off with a spot that's steps from the course when runners hit the north end of Greektown.

14. Greek Islands
I definitely ate here one year after the marathon, I remember my dad requesting it and I acquiesced—and I ran so hard during the race that I couldn’t get up from the chair when the meal was over. Besides, you ran through Greektown earlier in the day, you may as well dine in it—plus now’s your chance to overload on saganaki and bread, both of which are about as free flowing as the wine around here.

15. Grahamwich or Graham Eliot 
Some may disagree with me but I’ve enjoyed my meals at both the original (can I call it that?) and its fast casual cousin.

16. The Purple Pig 
Jimmy Bannos and Tony Mantuano behind the same spot? This is almost too good to be true. And they’re open late so if you need a near-midnight snack after the race, you won’t have to go hungry, you can go gourmet.

17. Eleven City Diner
I wish I could remember how I described this South Loop spot when I wrote about it as an along-the-course eat back in the days of Windy City Sports. It’s a stone’s throw from where the marathoners will be running, its food pictures remind me of East Coast Jewish deli and diners, and it’s crowded.

18. Blackbird or The Publican
You can’t come to Chicago and not go to a Paul Kahan restaurant. Here are two to choose from, one slightly more upscale and one serving more exotic meats (beef tongue, sweetbreads, blood sausage) than the other, but both hits.

19. Gene & Georgetti
You want institution? Here’s a Chicago one: It’s 70 years old. You get hearty portions of old-school classics from steak to pasta—or scallops the size of your palm. The only antiquated thing around here might be the service but that’s a good thing—they’re super attentive.

20. Chicago Q
One piece of advice: do not go here before the marathon, wait until after. I dined here the Friday before last year and my mouth was watering over the ribs and chips and hush puppies that I felt I needed to refrain from. But if you don’t have diet worries before running a marathon then by all means chow down—the bbq is darn good cause chef Leanne Womack is a ‘q champion. Another option to cab to: Lillie’s Q. I made the mistake of looking at this menu last night and I almost called in a take-out order.

21. Giordano’s or Lou Malnati’s
Sorry folks, but these two are my reigning favorites in the Chicago-style pizza department. Giordano’s I’ve loved since college days up in Evanston and not just for half-off Mondays—there’s something about the ridiculously thick crust that’s irresistible. As for Lou Malnati’s, a closer location opened near my house so when hubby wants a pizza he’s being going there, but it also turns out that I love the option to top the pie with lower fat cheese. Win!

22. Joy Yee’s
Hands down this is my favorite (and hubby’s even more so than me) Chinese cuisine in the city—or maybe I should say Asian since I tend to order the Vietnamese spicy calamari. It’s not expensive, it’s not fancy and it doesn’t take reservations, but it is so good and it’s like walking into a diner except you’re not ordering eggs, massive Greek salads or Blue Plate specials. And if you can get a trip to Chinatown out of it.

23. Piccolo Sogno
Forgive the Rachael Ray talk, but YUM-O. I’ve been eating here every Christmas Eve with my family, but I’d go back more often if I a. had a bigger wallet and b. could get a reservation on the fly. This popular spot can fill quickly for the simple reason of good food from start to finish, handmade pasta, a rocking antipasto platter (there’s some good pre-race sodium you can sweat off), and portion sizes perfect for big and small appetites. But if they’re already booked, just consider it for next year, or on a not-marathon-weekend trip to the Windy City.

24 Wiener’s Circle
If you have to have your Chicago Dog while you’re here, then this is the one you’ll want. Not because of the service (it’s known for servers who’ll yell at you, half in jest) but because you’ll run right past it during the race and it’s one of Ted Allen’s “best things he ever ate.”

25. Lou Mitchell’s
Mmm, breakfast. Eggs, pancakes, waffles, French toast—orders out and ready for feasting before you can finish the donut holes that come to the table first. Oh yeah, and Milk Duds, who doesn’t want to end a meal with chocolate and caramel? But timing can be everything…the line has been out the door on marathon Sunday (for the spectators wandering from Greektown back toward the finish or vice versa) and pretty much any time but early afternoon.

26. Joe’s Seafood
A few disclaimers: Joe’s is right along the marathon course, I used to have to eat here when my parents came to town and I tend to scout out Lettuce Entertain You restaurants because I know my picky stomach will pretty much always find something it likes (and wants again). While it’s been a while since I’ve been here, it’s a good, solid meal from starters to desserts—and if you hit stone crab season, you can’t get claws much better. It can’t be too bad—reservations seem harder to come by than ever and the closest second is hundreds of miles away in Miami.

26.2. Culture, The Yogurt Society
I LOVE soft serve--ice cream, yogurt, ice milk--and I especially love eating it after a race. One problem: my stomach and my waistline aren’t always fans (even when I run 26.2 miles). But the dilemma is solved with this food truck roaming the city and serving up a frozen yogurt treat, of sorts, complete with toppings from fresh fruit to cookie crumbles, all with the option of adding a Sweet Mandy B’s cupcake (my favorite red velvet cupcakes, period) to my order. The best part? They’re constantly traveling the city so if you follow their schedule on Twitter (@culture), you can track them down without having to walk your tired legs too far.

As for where I’m eating…I’m not telling. Just kidding, I already have reservations for my dinner must-haves over the weekend so I don’t have to worry about anyone reading here to go and steal my table. Plus I tend to be a weird pre-race eater (I think Monique Ryan would have cringed had she heard my night-before meal at Sunday’s Breaking Through the Wall seminar) so I doubt you’d want to partake. Friday, I have yet to make up my mind so I can’t divulge that one. Saturday, I’ll be at Hugo’s Frog Bar—it’s walking distance to my house so I can escape early to rest up for the next morning, I’m addicted to their muddy bottom pie dessert though I really shouldn’t indulge in it until the following night (thank goodness the table shares it), and I love their fish while my dad can order up a Gibson’s steak (the spots share the same kitchen as the wait staff is quick to tell you). Sunday, after a nap, tradition has it that I stumble my way over to Table Fifty-Two so my parents can get Art Smith’s Sunday-only fried chicken (it’s so worth it) and I can eat the huge slice of his Hummingbird cake (after dinner of course). And when Art’s in the house like he was last year after running the marathon—and looking far less damaged than myself—it makes it even better.

Where are you planning to eat over marathon weekend?

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